Speech at Wolverhampton

25th March, 1966

It is absolutely absurd to say that immigration either is not, or ought not to be, an issue at this election [1966], especially for Wolverhampton and other parts of the Black Country. If by an issue we mean a problem which is felt to affect the welfare of every section of the community – repeat, every section – then immigration is pre-eminently such, and has been so for the last decade or more. It would be quite wrong that the policies on this matter of those presenting themselves for election to Parliament should not be known to their prospective constituents.

In my view there is really not one immigration problem, but two distinct and separate immigration problems. One is concerned with the immigrants who are here already. The other is concerned with control over entry to this country.

So far as concerns the immigrants who are here already – and many of them have now had their home in this country for ten years and more – I am for my part resolutely determined that they shall, as far as is humanly possible, have the same rights and the same treatment as anyone else, and I have made it clear as a Member of Parliament that they are as welcome to any help or support I can give them as any other of my constituents.

It will be not years but generations before the social impact of the massive immigration which took place in the decade to 1962 has been effaced. ‘Integration’ and ‘assimilation’ are easy words to say; but the things which they denote will only come about gradually over many years of mutual tolerance, as the immigrants slowly filter into all the classes and callings in our society.

Most of the immigrants, I am sure, will make a success – most of them are making a success already – in their new home; but a small minority are not and perhaps never will. We believe in the Conservative Party that help should be available to such of these as voluntarily desire it to return whence they came. It would be a humane provision, which could do nothing but good all round. Of course, I stress the word ‘voluntarily’: except for deportation after criminal offences, there could be no question of any kind of duress.

But there is one absolutely essential condition for solving this immigration problem – the problem of the immigrants who are here – at all at any time. That is that we solve and soon solve the other immigration problem, namely the question of control over entry. All our efforts at integration, all our determination that a ‘colour problem’ and ‘racial discrimination’ shall remain foreign to this country, will be overwhelmed and swept away if the tide of new immigrants continues to flow in, arousing anxiety and apprehension for the future in the minds not only of the native-born citizens but of the existing immigrant population itself. The Conservative Party asserts that even after the measure of control which we introduced in 1962 and which the Labour Party by a remarkable about-turn reluctantly accepted, still the rate of inflow is far too high.

We say therefore that the rate of admission must be further and greatly reduced. Indeed, for my own part and speaking as one who has represented one of the areas most directly affected, I believe there would be no small benefit in a period of years during which the inflow and the outflow roughly balanced. I repeat that this is a policy which is equally in the interest of all the inhabitants of this town, the newcomers no less than the native inhabitants; and many have been the Indians, Pakistanis and West Indians among my constituents who have expressed to me their support for measures of control and their anxiety at the consequences for themselves if the inflow continues unabated.