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Immigrants (Unemployment)

Volume 639: debated on Wednesday 3 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Labour, in view of the fact that there is still a high rate of unemployment in many areas amongst coloured immigrants, if he will consult with the Secretary of State for the Home Department with a view to the introduction of legislation to stop all further immigration until the existing problems of employment, housing, and health have been solved; and if he will make a statement.

As my hon. Friend knows, this is a matter which is being closely considered by the Government. I have nothing to add to recent statements on the subject.

Does the unrestricted immigration of coloured people into this country cause my right hon. Friend no anxieties at all?

As I have just said, the Government are considering the position, and statements have been made recently by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider again the suggestion I put to the Government in 1954 that they might convene a conference of local authorities particularly concerned in this matter with a view to finding a reasonable solution to the problems involved?

I am grateful for what the hon. Member has said. The Government are studying the problem and will take into consideration the views of local authorities and others.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the majority of people will probably be very much opposed to any control of immigration, and that the real way to settle problems such as that created by West Indian immigration is to provide living conditions in the West Indies which will be a magnet for employment there, and that this can be done only by safeguarding Commonwealth trade?

As is obvious, there are differing views on this question. There is a problem, and the solution must be thought out very carefully. The Government are doing that.

Did we not hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day that he proposes to introduce a payroll tax because of the shortage of labour in this country?


asked the Minister of Labour which are the six areas where coloured immigrant unemployment shows the highest figures; what they are in each case; what percentage they are of the total for the area; and why they are finding difficulty in obtaining employment.

The six Ministry of Labour regions with the greatest number of unemployed Commonwealth immigrants are London and South Eastern, Midland, North Western, East and West Ridings, North Midland, and Eastern and Southern. The greatest concentrations are in London and the Midlands. I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the latest available figures for which the hon. Member asks.

The majority of Commonwealth immigrants are unemployed for relatively short periods. Some of them, however, find difficulty in obtaining employment because they lack the necessary aptitude and experience for the vacancies which are available.

In view of the fact that it was publicly stated in one of the London districts that half the unemployed were coloured people, and in view of the fear expressed by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) which shows that hon. Members now fear unemployment, does not my right hon. Friend think that something should be done to control the flood into this country if only through a threat from an employment point of view?

I do not wish to weary the House by repetition. There is a problem, and that is why the Government are considering it. I think it important, however, in view of my hon. Friend's Questions, that I should say that, of the unemployed coloured immigrants we are considering, one-third are women and two-thirds have been unemployed for less than eight weeks.

RegionNumber of immigrants unemployed on 7th February, 1961Total adult unemployed on 13th February, 1961Immigrants as a percentage of total register
London and South Eastern7,80057,67113·5
North Western78348,2411·6
East and West Ridings58218,9613·1
North Midland48319,4222·5
Eastern and Southern48336,1451·3

Will the Minister confirm that the total number of immigrants, coloured or otherwise, is infinitesimal in relation to the population of this country, and ought not any civilised nation of 55 million people to be able easily to absorb about 300,000 people? Is he aware of the infinite damage done in the Commonwealth by the racialist prejudices of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne)?

I could not more strongly deny what the hon. Member has said. There is no racialist prejudice here. All thinking people realise that there is a problem. It must be looked at fairly and without prejudice, and that is what the Government are doing.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) dragged my name into his supplementary question, almost indicating that I share his racial views, may I say that I do not, and that I regard them as obnoxious?

Did my right hon. Friend intend to convey—if he did, I think it unfortunate—that the stress should be on colour? It is a non-racial Commonwealth. The problem is not one of coloured immigrants. It is a problem of immigrants.

I hope that I did not give that impression. In answer to a supplementary question from the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), I denied that my right hon. and hon. Friends were motivated by colour prejudice in any way.

Following are the figures: