HC Deb 10 July 1941 vol 373 cc292-4
18. Earl Winterton

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the practice of some agents who exact exorbitant fees from interned aliens and their friends in return for making representations on their behalf to the Home Office; and whether he can take any steps to put an end to this exploitation of human distress?

Mr. H. Morrison

As the Answer is rather long, I will, with Mr. Speaker's permission, make a statement at the end of Questions.


Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir: from time to time such cases come to my notice, and I am always anxious to take such action as is possible to put an end to conduct of this character, which I am sure the House will join with me in condemning. In any case where it appeared that an agent had obtained money by false pretences, e.g., by pretending that he is in a position to obtain preferential treatment for his client, the papers would be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to consideration of the question of instituting proceedings. In cases where there is no evidence on which a criminal charge could be instituted, communications received by the Home Office from such agents are ignored and replies are sent direct to the. alien concerned. People who make a profitable business of acting as agents for aliens usually avoid exposing themselves to a charge of false pretences, but nevertheless they frequently by suggestion or innuendo convey the impression that by their intervention they can secure for the alien some advantage which he would not otherwise gain. There is no foundation for such claims. A communication from an alien, however imperfectly expressed, commands the same consideration as an elaborate memorial from an agent who represents himself as an expert in the transaction of such business or even from a solicitor. Indeed, a communication at first hand from the applicant may often be more effective for his purpose. The idea—unfortunately common—that it is an advantage to have influential support is entirely mistaken. The best support for any application to the Home Office is a simple and frank statement of the facts. If in any case an alien feels difficulty in framing an adequate statement of his case owing, for example, to imperfect knowledge of the language, the voluntary organisations which befriend refugees are always willing to give assistance free of charge. There is accordingly no reason why an alien should employ touting agents to write to the Home Office on behalf of himself or his friends. I am taking steps to make this answer known both in the internment camps and at the offices of the refugee organisations.

Earl Winterton

If the right hon. Gentleman's attention is called to cases where firms of solicitors have asked an unduly high charge for professional services for making application to the Home Office— one such case has been brought to his notice— will he report the matter to the Law Society?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, I will certainly do so in cases which prima facie require investigation.

Sir Irving Albery

In view of the statement that such cases have been brought to the right hon. Gentleman's notice, what action has he already taken?

Mr. Morrison

I have taken the course in the case which has been indicated of putting it to the Law Society, but I have not yet had a report.

Mr. Buchanan

Is there any evidence that the great mass of solicitors have abused their privilege, and is there any objection to an alien going to a solicitor in the ordinary way to advise him on such a matter?

Mr. Morrison

I do not think there was any allegation that the mass of solicitors are behaving improperly. On the contrary, I should say the great mass of them are acting quite properly. These cases are exceptional. As far as the Home Office is concerned, there is no objection to an alien having the assistance of a solicitor. I only felt it right to say in my Answer that he would thereby, in my experience, get no better consideration from the Home Office than if he wrote himself.

Sir William Davison

As the Regulations are very complicated, will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that an alien will not be prejudiced by getting advice as to what his rights are?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, I will do that, and that is, of course, the case. I only wanted it to be understood that the contrary is not true and that he will not get an advantage by obtaining assistance.

Mr. Lathan

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the desirability of refusing to recognise these agents?

Mr. Morrison

In cases where we know that they are agents we refuse to recognise them.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

In the case that has been referred to, when the report is received from the Law Society will it be made available to Members of the House?

Mr. Morrison

I must consider that.