HC Deb 20 December 1906 vol 167 cc1677-8
MR. STUART SAMUEL (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether his attention has been called to the procedure of the London Immigration Board; whether he is aware that there is no power to administer an oath to witnesses; whether it is possible for alien immigrants to be represented by legal men should they so desire; whether he is aware that the immigration officers consider that it is not within their duty to inform relatives and friends of immigrant appellants that they should appear at Blackwall, and that as a consequence the Board has come to a decision on the uncorroborated testimony of the inquiry agent; and whether, seeing that MR. Vallance, the chairman of the Board, on Friday, 7th December, gave it as his opinion that the officers should render all possible assistance to the relatives of immigrants to insure their attendance as witnesses, and that the procedure is due to regulations drawn up by his Department, he will appoint a Departmental Committee to inquire into the working of the immigration boards with a view to secure efficient and uniform administration.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Gladstone.) An immigration board is not a court, and has no power to administer an oath. The Board has an absolute discretion as to the persons whom it will hear; but there are obvious objections to establishing anything like court proceedings, e.g., counsel, legal evidence, etc., before a body which has not the powers of a court. It is no part of the immigration officers' duty to secure that relatives attend the Board meetings, and at the time when preliminary inquiries are being made the day and hour of the meeting is often not known. When they are known they are communicated on application, and in any case any person who is really interested in an alien immigrant can always obtain the necessary information, by inquiries of the master of the ship on which the immigrant is or otherwise. Attention is paid to the working of the regulations which govern the procedure of immigration boards, and they can be altered if experience shows it to be necessary, but full information on that subject is always at my disposal, and I have no need to appoint a committee in order to collect it.