Skip to main content

Immigration Rules

Volume 972: debated on Tuesday 30 October 1979

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It has been extensively reported that the Home Secretary has given detailed information about new immigration rules to a committee of Conservative Members. You may be aware that there has been much speculation for some months about when the information on the new immigration rules will be put before the House. It would be wrong for me to comment on the nature of the changes. I consider them to be acts of discrimination, but the matter will be debated at the appropriate time.

I am concerned about the manner in which the information has been given—and that fact has not been denied. I believe that there was a serious discourtesy on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. I have given him notice of my comments. I feel that there should be an apology. If such information on a delicate subject about which there has been much speculation is to be given, it should be given on the Floor of the House and not before a committee of Conservative Members.

Order. Whatever is reported in the press, it is not my responsibility to rule on a point of order about what should be said or not said at party meetings in this place.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. What has been said for about 18 months on matters of immigration, about registers and quotas, and so on, is of great concern to people in this country, who often do not understand the nature of what has been said. We have been told—not in this place—that the register and quota measures have been dropped. Yesterday we heard something about fiancées. Are we to understand that the policy will not be announced to the House for some months and that there will not be a White Paper on the subject? We deserve that White Paper and we should know when it will be published. The House should be assured that whatever is being said in other places the law is being applied as it is now and not in the way in which it will be once it passes through the House.

Order. I allowed the right hon. Gentleman extra latitude. It is no good raising the question of a debate on this matter out of the blue. As I understand it, the point of order refers to private discussions that became public. It will be a sorry day for this House if the Speaker can rule on what can be said in a party meeting upstairs.

The Minister of State, Home Office, when replying to a debate at the Conservative Party conference indicated to the conference that he was unable—

Order. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman submit his point of order, and not political arguments with which I cannot deal?

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I have to preface the matter with the background in order to put my point of order. That is all I am doing. The Minister told the Conservative Party conference that he was unable—

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is incorrect. He can raise a point of order with me only on the question whether the rules of the House have been breached. I do not wish to hear about the Conservative Party conference, or, indeed, the Labour Party conference. The House should realise that I can deal only with points of order that are points of order.

I do have a point of order. My point of order is that there is a convention in this House that a policy statement shall not be made outside the House but shall be made to the House. The reason why I referred to the Conservative Party conference and the hon. Gentleman's statement was, as the Minister is well aware, that the hon. Gentleman was reluctant to make a statement to the conference. Therefore, he acknowledged the convention. That being so, I feel that there is a serious point of order. A statement has not only been made to a private party meeting—I accept your limitation of rule on that matter—but has been made public and acknowledged publicly by the Home Office to be a statement of future policy.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that you would accept that Parliament is the guardian of the freedoms of the citizens of this country, and that that is within your ambit. A function of this Chamber is to hold the Government accountable for policy statements and decisions. If you, Mr. Speaker, have no jurisdiction whatever over the actions and words of Government spokesmen, the accountability that resides on both sides of the House is being eroded, which in turn affects the rights and freedoms of the citizens of this country, because we are their representatives. I therefore ask you whether you can emphasise and enforce that admittedly unwritten convention, which is important in order to retain the rights and privileges of the citizens of this country.

Order. I should have thought that the common sense of this House would make hon. Members realise that it would be a big mistake for any Speaker to assume responsibility for things that are reported to have been said in a party meeting upstairs. I do not propose to pursue the matter further.