HC Deb 22 October 1919 vol 120 cc128-30

The Secretary of State may, if he thinks it necessary in the interests of public safety, direct that any of the provisions of this Act as to former enemy aliens shall in particular cases be applicable to other aliens, and thereupon such provisions shall apply accordingly.—[Sir J. Butcher.]

Brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The reason for this Amendment is that there are in this Bill certain special provisions as regards former enemy aliens. There are, for instance, Clause 8, which refers to the turning out of such aliens from the country; Clause 9, preventing the admission of former enemy aliens; and Clause 10, saying that no former enemy alien can be employed as master, officer, or member of the crew of any British ship. I think the Home Secretary agrees that it is desirable he should have the power of extending these restrictions in the case of aliens other than enemy aliens. The only difference between him and myself is as to whether this Clause should go into the Bill or whether it should go into an Order in Council. I beg the Home Secretary to allow it to go into the Bill. I do not desire to repeat what has been said in nearly every quarter as to the necessity for legislation by Parliament and not by the Home Secretary. I do not see any reason why we should not have this in the Bill. The Home Secretary said something to the effect that he did not want his discretion hampered. It is not desired in the least to hamper his discretion. It is not suggested that he must apply these powers, but that in his discretion he may apply them. There was one other argument the right hon. Gentleman used. He said that if the French saw a power like this in the Bill they would be very much annoyed. I am sure that our gallant French allies would not be so intensely foolish. They know perfectly well that we are not going to treat them as though they were undesirable and to prevent them from coming into the country. We are not going to treat them as if they were Germans. Any Home Secretary who attempted such an outrage would, I hope, be turned out of his office in ten minutes. Therefore, let it not be said that we are going to insult the French or any of our allies by taking powers of this sort. I hope that the Home Secretary, after having achieved a very partial victory in the recent Division, will now come forward magnanimously and accept this.


I beg to second the Motion.

We had a discussion in Committee on this subject, and the then Under-Secretary, who has passed to the more serene climes of the Foreign Office and to an atmosphere much freer from the responsibility for which he can be called to account, then read to us what he declared was proposed to be put into the draft Order and designated Article II.

The Secretary of State may by Order impose on any alien or class of aliens such restriction in addition to the other restrictions imposed by this Order— I invite the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme to consider what is the power proposed to be taken in this new draft Order. as to the residence, reporting to the police, registration, use or possession of any machinery, apparatus, arms, explosives or other articles, or otherwise, that may be deemed necessary in the public interest, and any alien in relation to whom such Order is made shall comply with the terms of such Order. There is the proposed new Order in Council, and I understand that that Order has gone through, and so much the better.


That Order which has gone through is an Order under the 1914 Act.


I shall not be surprised if, as a result of this Debate, throughout the country there will be a demand not to do it now but to put it in the Bill. I do ask that this should be a matter dealt with by substantive and definite legislation, and that it should not be left to those behind the scenes to work it according to their own purposes, or according to what they are pleased to think, and not the House of Commons, are the interests of the State.


There is something to be said for this Amendment which does not require to be supported by talk about general legislation by Order in Council. This particular proposal does deal with certain permanent provisions in the present Bill. It gives the Secretary of State certain power limited to particular cases, and if the imaginary Home Secretary arrives who is not going to carry out the provisions of the Act at all, it will not be of much value, and it will not be any protection against what hon. Members might consider a contumacious Home Secretary. It does not give anything that does not at present exist. It seems to me to be superfluous, but, personally, I have no objection to it, and, therefore, if the hon. and learned Member cares to put it in the Bill I am quite prepared to accept it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause accordingly read a second time, and added to the Bill.