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Illegal Immigration

Volume 895: debated on Thursday 17 July 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the operation of the controls on illegal immigration.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he intends to take to improve the existing arrangements for preventing illegal immigration from the Commonwealth.

The Immigration Service and the police are constantly on the alert to prevent illegal entry. They already take all reasonable and practicable measures to stop evasion of the immigration control, but we shall keep these measures under review and, in the light of experience, they may be adjusted from time to time.

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm recent Press reports that during the first quarter of this year, 1,500 immigrants were smuggled into this country? Is he aware that this figure, which represents about one-quarter of the total number of immigrants and dependants admitted each year, is far higher than the public have been led to believe? Does he agree that this is a scandalous situation at a time of high unemployment, and will he make representations through the usual channels to those Continental countries which may be harbouring these immigrants and the headquarters of their smuggling organisations?

The report which has upset the hon Gentleman appeared in the Sunday Telegraph three weeks ago and was a scandalous falsehood. It is not true—there is no basis in fact for the assertion—that there is a Home Office report, or that there was any estimate of the figure of illegal immigrants. By the very nature of the operation, there could not be. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, from all the facts in my possession, I suspect that the estimates given for illegal immigrants are wildly exaggerated.

Does the hon. Gentleman therefore believe that the figure published in the official Home Office statement on 19th June that, in the first quarter of this year, there were 56 illegal immigrants, is as accurate as he claims the other report is inaccurate? Would it not be better for everybody for a realistic estimate to be made of the real scale of illegal immigration, since uncertainty merely stokes up irrational fears?

Then it should not be assisted by the Opposition Front Bench. The figure of 56 is a factual statement of how many illegal immigrants were sent back. Those are the people we knew about and sent back. Any other estimate about the number of illegal immigrants can only be an estimate and, while we accept that there are, no doubt, many illegal immigrants, the figures are, in my view, well below any of the published estimates, although that must be an opinion.