History - Britain 1951-2007

  • Created by: bethany
  • Created on: 15-05-13 18:57

Britain's immigration policy 1951-2007, success?

A successful immigration policy needs to be defined. In my view, a government, in order to be considered successful needs to have a clear policy in terms of numbers entering Britain (and leaving), also having the appropriate systems in place so society is multicultural and not simply multi ethnic, that supports the ethnic minorities within Britain and calls for greater integration. Some historians, such as Sherwood, note that discrimination has continued throughout this period with examples such as prolific rioting and lynchings. Others would argue that Britain is a prime example of a multicultural society. Overall, I would argue that despite the shaky start in the 1950s and 1960s, British governments did begin to deal with immigration successfully, but i would acknowledge that within society there is always likely to be racial tension.

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Britain's immigration policy 1951-2007, success?

It can be argued that successive governments in the early periods typically restricted immigration rather than dealing with the racial tensions. In response to Britain’s first race riot in 1958, the government chose to implement the 1962 Immigration act, this was because the ethnic minority population has growing and by the late 1960s the figure was one million. Although the Labour government denounced the Act as ‘racialist,’ they implemented their own in 1968 that furthered the Conservatives act. This Act was in response to the growing number of Kenyan Asians who were fleeing to Britain, with British passports, to avoid persecution. In the same year, the Labour government attempted to reduce the criticism of the public by introducing a new Race Relations Act. However, as the historian Marquand suggests, “British sentiments were confused’ and largely I would agree with this; Society was being told that discrimination was wrong, but at the same time the government was saying it was legal to restrict British passport holders from entering Britain as they were not white. Heath’s 1971 Immigration Act continued this line of policy and further restricted immigration into the UK and it was said by many historians to be the toughest controls in the world. Thatcher’s 1981 Immigration Act attempted to reduce tensions that were beginning to arise during her time in office, notably the riots in Brixton and London in 1981. Similarly Blair’s Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 can be seen to have reduced fears about border controls which was arguably a success.

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Britain's immigration policy 1951-2007, success?

It is it not enough however, to simply restrict numbers, governments need to have in place clear workable race relation legislation in order to promote a multi cultural society. Arguably this was first seen in 1965 via the race relations act that forbade discrimination in public places on the grounds of colour, race or ethnic origins. This act was furthered upon in 1968, to include housing, employment and other social services. However, it was not until the 1976 race relations act when discrimination shown by the police could be made accountable, also making it illegal to use ‘threatening and abusive language.’ This was a clear move towards a successful immigration policy which would promote equality within society. In 2000 there was an amendment to the Race Relations Act to include statutory duty on public bodies to promote racial equality and work against racism. The promotion of equality has been slow, but i would argue that since the 1960s successive governments have take steps to do so, thus I would argue their immigration policy to be successful.

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Britain's immigration policy 1951-2007, success?

Examples of a lack of integration have occurred between 1951-2007. Riots have occurred during successive governments, the 1958 Notting Hill riots are echoed the 1981 riots, beginning in Brixton and spreading to Toxteth and Moss Side and the 2001 riots in Leicester, Oldham and Bradford.  The fact that riots have continued throughout this time period portrays the underlying tensions that can exist within a multi ethnic society. Sherwood highlights that the Muder of Kelso Cochrane in 1959 is very similar to that to Stephen Lawrence in 1993. Politically extremist parties have been a constant since Mosely’s Union moment in the 1950s to the formation of the National Front in 1967 who gained a seat in Leicter in 1973, to the BNP winning a local seat in East London 1993. In addition the alarming figure that there were 18 racially motivated lynchings between 1991 and 1997(Sherwood) seems to indicate an unsuccessful immigration policy, however the lack of overt public support for extremist parties such as the National Front, in addition to the idea that it was only a minority within Britain that partook in racist activities does appear to counteract this view, as I would argue that within a society, unfortunately there will always be some sort of discrimination. 

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Britain's immigration policy 1951-2007, success?

Positive examples of integration are in abundance between the years 1951-2007 and support the idea of Britain having a successful immigration policy. Television introduce black characters in ‘Z cars’ and ‘Emergency Ward 10’ in the 1960s, the BBC documentary ‘Black Man in Britain’ traced the history of black settlement and allowed for not only a multi-ethnic population with Britain, but allowed for the development of a multi-cultural society as it encouraged understanding between the citizens. As early as 1969 Beryl Gilroy became the first black head teacher and there was also political gains when the four MPs were elected in 1987 from ethnic minority groups. In addition, the fasted growing ethnic group of the noughties was mixed race, highlighting that the immigration policy must be successful if people themselves are integrating. Perhaps the biggest indicator of Britain having a successful immigration policy is that our multicultural society is seen as the norm, with vast amounts of restaurants, music styles and clothing being pulled together portraying a blurring of cultures together.

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Britain's immigration policy 1951-2007, success?

In conclusion, despite the racial tension that was evident throughout the time period therefore supporting Sherwood’s view, it was not widespread and did not include the majority. Although I would argue that it was not until 1965 that the government began to promote integration between different cultures within Britain, a thus these years cannot be regarded as successful as the latter government’s in terms of immigration policy. Therefore, I would argue that Britain has become a multicultural society by 2007 whereby society is integrated, and not simply multi ethnic.

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