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West Indies And Jamaica (Emigrants)

Volume 650: debated on Thursday 30 November 1961

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asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the forthcoming independence of the West Indies and Jamaica, he will now approach President Kennedy in support of their claim for quota-free entry into the United States of America as is accorded to other States in North and South America.

A Bill which would entitle the West Indian Federation to non-quota status is still before Congress. Meanwhile, legislation recently enacted in the United States has ensured that the current level of West Indian immigration will not be jeopardised by future political developments in the area.

However hypocritical we may look after closing our own doors, is not it important to put some pressure, if we can, on the United States Administration to give this quota-free entry? Does the Prime Minister realise that our pending restriction, and the legislation before the House on the entry of this very small number of people from the Caribbean into this country, may harm the chances of their having quota-free entry to the United States on the ground that people in the United States may well say, "Why should we open our doors when the Mother Country does not care to keep hers open?"

That is another point. On the point at issue, I have answered the hon. Gentleman. Of course, we are in touch with the United States Government.

Is the Prime Minister saying that he has already approached the United States Government and indicated the support of the British Government for the proposed quota-free entry? Does not he feel that in making representations of this kind he would be in a much stronger position were we not proposing to impose a quota on West Indians coming to this country?

No, Sir. As I told the House on 2nd May, I had been in touch with the President on the question which was then the problem, how to carry on the existing legislation pending the new legislation. This happily has been done. Now, of course, the larger they are able to make their quotas the better and more pleased we shall be.

I understand that the new legislation is to provide quota-free entry from the West Indies. As this is a matter of the highest importance to the West Indies, will not the Prime Minister make representations to President Kennedy in favour of the new legislation? Will he answer my further question; does he feel that he would be in a much stronger position today if we dropped the Immigrants Bill altogether?

No. I am told that quota-free entry should not be interpreted even if granted as unrestricted entry.

Can the Prime Minister say what is the quota figure in the United States and how it compares with the 80,000 we shall take this year from the West Indies?