5 SEPTEMBER 1958, Page 4

White Mischief

Tvvo proposals are being canvassed to prevent racial strife from spreading and recurring in Britain : that there should be restrictions on entry of immigrants from the Commonwealth; and that the law should be amended to allow immigrants who are considered undesirable to be deported. Nobody, not even the immigrants themselves, can feel that the present system of unrestricted entry is satisfactory : the difficulty is to think of a way in which it can be regulated without jeopardising the agreeable homogeneity of the Commonwealth, and without creating a barrier which would in practice discriminate against colour.

No doubt some of the white rioters in Notting- ham and Notting Hill are moved by simple racial antipathy, but in general it can safely be said that colour is not —not yet—a serious problem in Britain. The real trouble arises not from the num- bers of coloured immigrants but from the ghetto style of living into which they are forced by the fact that so little accommodation is available for them. They flood into a few slum and near-slum areas, creating antagonism among the poor whites already installed there, and providing the kind of community where crime and gangsterism can easily breed. The real requirement, in fact, is not so much to restrict immigration to men who have already secured jobs (most of them come for casual labour, where there is still a very real need for them, even if it is not quite so great as it was) but to prevent those who arrive from overcrowd- ing certain districts. For such overcrowding coloured people are by no means solely respon- sible; the Irish come in at almost as fast a rate; they, too, tend to gravitate together, at least until they are acclimatised; they, too, create dissension in the neighbourhoods they invade.

That deportation should follow criminal activi- ties by immigrants seems at first sight a reasonable suggestion: but it should not be forgotten that the crimes with which they tend to be identified are frequently the product of their environment—of conditions created by the community's inability to absorb them. And in some cases the trouble might be more satisfactorily remedied by legisla- tion, which is long overdue, to deal with activities that would continue to be a public scandal whether immigrants participated in them or not.

The growth of prostitution in London is a typi- cal example. From being a city which was, at least to outward appearances, quite respectable, Lon- don has developed into a hive of prostitutes second to none in quantity, if somewhat deficient in quality, in the world. Whether the recom- mendations of the Wolfenden Report, if put into practice, would help to deal with this repellent spectacle, or whether they would merely sweep vice 'under the carpet,' must remain a matter for dispute; but clearly something must be done. The proposals should at least be given a trial. As it by doing nothing the Government has helped to precipitate, if not actually to cause, the recent race riots; for xenophobia has been inflamed by the suggestion that vice is all caused by wops or niggers—rather than by its customers.

In any case, whatever is undertaken to deal with the immediate problem of race rioting, there is certainly a need for a detailed investigation of the whole colour problem in Britain: and the sooner it is undertaken the better.