History - Postwar British Immigration

Six defining moments of Postwar British Immigration

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1948 - British Nationality Act


  • This act allowed treated foreigners from the Commonwealth as British citizens, giving them the same rights as British citizens who were born and have family in Britain. 
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1958 - Race Riots in Notting Hill and Nottingham

  • Notting Hill riots were preceeded by a weekend of violence in Nottingham. 
  • The Nottingham weekend of violence involved youths going on what they called "****** hunts" after pub brawls. 
  • The Notting Hill riots happened a week later. 
  • Notting Hill was an area that had become very run-down and had a large concentration of people from the Caribbean. 
  • One of the problems of the area was the number of unscrupulous landlords exploiting overcrowded and badly maintained housing.
  • Violence from both sides, youths attacking West Indians and then West Indians attacking youths. 
  • The police were unprepared and lack experience of dealing with race riots.
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1962 - Commonwealth Immigration Act

  • Limited the flow of immigration through a system of work permits called an 'employment voucher'.
  • Labour was against the legislation.
  • Nonetheless, the act caused a lot of people to enter to beat restrictions: 50,000 Indians and Pakistanis entered Britain in 1961, a large increasefrom the rate of 7,000 annually.
  • Also an act that would shake off commitments to the Commonwealth in favour of entry to the EEC which Britain eagerly sought to enter - the attempt in 1961 had been vetoed by de Gaulle. 
  • Clear evidence that politics had been racialised - the act didn't discriminate against the 'Old Commonwealth', it discriminated against the 'New Commonwealth'
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1965 - Race Relations Act

  • Whereas politics had become racialised under Macmillan, subsequent legislation sought to protect the rights of racial minorities already in Britain. 
  • The Race Relations Act outlawed discrimination on the grounds of colour, race or ethnic or national origins" in public places. 
  • Prompted the creation of the Race Relations Board (RRB) to consider complaints under the act - mostly dealt with housing arrangements.
    • RRB was unsuccessful, only 7/3000 complaints were brought to court.
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1968 - Second Commonwealth Immigration Act

  • Roy Hattersley, MP for Birmingham explained that: "Without limitation, there would be no integration"
  • Labour accepted the idea that limits on immigration were necessary and reduced the number of employment vouchers issued. 
  • This act restricted the entry of Kenyan Asians. 
  • The act did this by including a "PATRIALITY" clause - this clause limited entry rights of those without family or life ties to Britain (mostly non-whites).
  • Labour's decision to impose immigration controls was based on a fear of being 'soft' on immigration.
  • Plus, popular unease was prevalent. 
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1971 - Immigration Act

  • This act sought to clarify the Second Commonwealth Immigration Act and it's "Patriality Act".
  • This act made this distinction a more general feature of immigration legislation.
  • Being born in Britain was not sufficient; it was necessary to show familial links to British citizens. 
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1981 - British Nationality Act

  • This act was passed by a Gov't (Thatcher) that share many of Powell's instincts and nationalist populism.
  • Incorporated "patrialty" clause discrimination which was already present in 1971 legislation.
  • Because of this act, Visa controls became widespread and only limited numbers of affluent, skilled residents were allowed into Britain.
    • This happened when Hong Kong passed to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. 
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