Winston Churchill expressed alarm about an influx of non-white immigrants to Britain in the 1950's
Sir Winston Churchill expressed alarm about an influx of 'coloured people' in Fifties' Britain and looked for a chance to restore punishment by flogging, newly released cabinet papers from the national archive reveal.
On 3 February 1954, under the agenda item 'Coloured Workers', Churchill is quoted, with abbreviations, by Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook as saying: 'Problems wh. will arise if many coloured people settle here. Are we to saddle ourselves with colour problems in UK? Attracted by Welfare State. Public opinion in UK won't tolerate it once it gets beyond certain limits.'
Florence Horsbrugh, the then Minister of Education and Conservative MP for Manchester Moss Side, is recorded as adding: 'Already becoming serious in Manchr.'
Then David Maxwell-Fyfe, the Home Secretary, gave a figure of 40,000 compared to 7,000 before the Second World War and raised the possibility of immigration control. He said: 'There is a case on merits for excludg. riff-raff. But politically it wd. be represented & discussed on basis of colour limitation. That wd. offend the floating vote viz., the old Liberals. We shd. be reversing age-long trad[ition] tht. B[ritish] S[ubjects] have right of entry to mother-country of Empire. We shd. offend Liberals, also sentimentalists.'
He added: 'The col[onial]. pop[ulations] are resented in L[iverpool], Paddington & other areas by those who come into contact with them. But those who don't are apt to take a more Liberal view.'
Churchill intervened: 'Ques. is wtr it is politically wise to allow public feeling to develop a little more before takg. action.'
Adding that it would be 'fatal' to let the situation develop too far, the Prime Minister is recorded as concluding: 'Wd lke also to study possibility of "quota" - no. not to be exceeded.'
The documents give an insight into attitudes of the time and echo modern concerns about border controls. Handwritten notebooks were kept as a record of cabinet meetings separate from the official minutes.
At another meeting, on 20 November 1952, the cabinet discussed corporal punishment, which had been abolished as a court sentence by the previous Attlee administration. Churchill is quoted saying: 'Shd we clutter ourselves up with enquiry when p.[ublic] opinion may give us chance to restore flogging for all crimes of violence & cruelty. Alternative is to devise much stiffer cond[itions] of imp[risonmen]t. What about a plebiscite on c.p. - a suitable subject. What of re-introducg. for 3 or 5 years, to see if it does reduce crime. If we can't act, I wd. sooner not have an enquiry.'
But Viscount Simonds, the Lord Chancellor, objected: 'Every civilised country, save Brazil & some States in US, has abandoned this penalty.'
Archives expose Churchill's true thoughts on immigrants
Churchill called for quotas on influx of 'coloured people'