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|Immigration Legislation in Britain|
The Commonwealth Immigrants Bill was announced in the Queen's Speech on 31 October 1961. It passed successfully through the various stages of Parliamentary procedure and, after some minor amendments, the Act received the Royal Assent on 18 April 1962, becoming law three months later on 1 July.
The Act was in three parts. It made temporary provisions for controlling the immigration into the UK of Commonwealth citizens. It authorised the deportation from the UK of certain Commonwealth citizens convicted of offences and recommended by the courts for deportation. It also amended the qualifications for citizenship required by Commonwealth citizens applying under the British Nationality Act of 1948.
Under the new Act, the categories of Commonwealth citizens able to enter Britain were now limited to: holders of employment vouchers issued by the Ministry of Labour, students, members of the armed forces, and entrants who could demonstrate their ability to support themselves and their dependants without working. Registration for citizenship now depended too on a residence qualification.
The initial response to the Act was a tremendous drop in the number of migrants entering Britain. This was partly because the promise of the Bill had sparked off a rush of people trying to enter Britain before the doors were closed. In comparison to Indians and Pakistanis, there was, a slow take-up of the employment vouchers amongst Caribbean migrants and, after 1962, the bulk of Caribbean entrants tended to be dependent family members of Caribbeans already settled in England.
The Act was to operate initially for 18 months and then be reviewed annually. Because of this, it provided a framework for the various pieces of immigration legislation which appeared throughout the 1960s.
After the introduction of the Act, the political conditions which had led to its creation cooled. But the lull didn't last long. Racist agitation was at its most virulent in the Midlands, particularly the West Midlands in such areas as Birmingham and Smethwick. This was partly because it had been a major site for the recruitment of Caribbean labour and the competition for jobs opened up opportunities for extremists to exploit the resulting tension.
Creators: Mike Phillips
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