By Norman St. John•Stevai M.P. THE news of the appalling riots in Los Angeles has unfortunately relieved the usual dearth of stories to report in the silly season. The riots are of much more than American domestic concern: they are a setback to the cause of multiracialism throughout the world.
As far as Britain is concerned, it is imperative that the right and not the wrong lessons should be drawn from the American experience. We should all be determined that this sort of violence should not happen here, but we should not conclude that the only way to stop this happening is to end coloured immigration into Britain altogether.
The problem would be with us if not so much as one further coloured person entered Britain for the rest of our history. In any case riots are not caused by persons being black but by the conditions under which they live.
Los Angeles erupted into violence because the Negro population of the city lives herded in sub standard housing in a ghetto quarter of the city. If we want to avoid racial violence in Britain we shall have to take steps to see that our own ghettoes are broken up and that those who live in them are given the chance if they wish to live and work elsewhere.
The most urgent immigration problem in Britain today is not control or the lack of it, but the lack of positive social policies to improve the lot of those coloured immigrants already here.
The recent Government White Paper was in this respect a non-paper. It put forward hardly one positive proposal for the raising of immigrants' standards. 1 want to put forward several here.
First, there should be special aid to those areas which have to shoulder a more than reasonably fair share of immigrants' housing problems. This should be applied on a non-discriminatory basis so that all in the area would benefit.
Secondly, the Government should use its control of vouchers to direct immigrant Labour into new areas so that the already overcrowded immigrant areas will not be further burdened.
Thirdly, the active co-op.eration of the trade unions should be sought so that the children of immigrants are given an equal chance with other citizens to advance in life. Lack of opportunity breeds hopelessness and cynicism and this in turn can be converted into violence. People riot when they have nothing to lose. This is the lesson we should learn from Los Angeles.
We hear a lot about Commonwealth immigrants but very little about aliens, yet the legal position of aliens in Britain today is a disgrace to a civilised country. It is difficult to believe that up to 50 years ago hardly any control of aliens coming into Britain existed.
Free movement of labour was a part of the Liberal free trade legacy which brought Britain and the world wealth and prosperity. In 1914 under the influence of a wartime panic all this was changed. An Act was rushed through parliament on a strictly temporary basis of course giving the Home Secretary power to refuse admission to any alien wishing to enter Britain and to expel any once they are here if the Home Secretary thinks it conducive to the public good.
From this exercise of administrative discretion the alien has no effective appeal. It is true that since 1956 he may go to a magistrates court and state his case against being expelled but the Home Secretary is under no obligation to pay any attention to magistrates' recommendations.
These conditions are in flat contradiction to the rules of natural justice and also to the various international conventions of human rights. Reform of the aliens law is long overdue and should he undertaken as a matter of urgency.
I am glad to see that the Home Secretary has had third thoughts and is now instituting a full judical inquiry into the Timothy Evans case. In opposition Sir Frank Soskice was a stalwart champion of a full investigation into what many people believe was a grave miscarriage of justice.
When he became a minister his attitude changed and he seemed to be setting his face against a re-opening of the case. Now he has had the courage to return to his original convictions.
The inquiry should he a thorough and painstaking one. British justice demands it and so do the relatives of Timothy Evans.