HC Deb 10 June 1941 vol 372 cc22-4
39. Miss Ward

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the granting of a writ of habeas corpus in respect of Captain Charles Henry Bentick Budd, he will set up an independent committee of inquiry into the administration of the Defence Regulations governing the detention of British subjects?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

In the case of Captain Budd and certain others who were interned at the same time, there was an accidental irregularity in the documents served upon them at the time of their arrest. This irregularity occurred after the decision had been taken by my predecessor that the internment of these persons was necessary. There was no failure to consider fully the merits of each case. The Home Office records show clearly that the then Home Secretary gave his personal and close attention to the question whether in each case detention was necessary for purposes of national security; and, in my view, the necessity for these detentions was unquestionable. In these cases, however, where the liberty of the subject is affected, it is essential not only that the Home Secretary shall apply his mind carefully to the question whether detention is necessary, but also that there shall be no defects in the subsequent procedure after an order of detention has been made. In the cases in question, there was such a defect. A bad clerical mistake was made, in that the documents served upon the individuals whom the Home Secretary had decided to intern did not correspond with the order made by him. The error occurred in June of last year, when the Departmental staff was working under the utmost pressure, but I do not seek for a moment to excuse it. I much regret it, and I have taken steps to ensure that in future such documents shall be most carefully checked, and, in addition, that the records relating to all persons now under detention shall be scrutinised.

In these circumstances, while I recognise the wry proper desire of the House that the greatest care shall be taken in the administration of this Regulation, it does not appear to me that any Committee of Inquiry is necessary. I may add that, in view of the High Court decision in the case of Captain Budd, I ordered the immediate release of 12 other persons whose position was the same as that of Captain Budd. As, however, a release necessitated by technical defects of procedure does not relieve the Home Secretary of his responsibility for public safety, I warned them that the question of fresh orders of detention would have to be considered. I have since reviewed de novo all the cases, and as, in my judgment, it is necessary, on grounds of national security, that Captain Budd and II of the other persons affected should be held in preventive custody, I have, in pursuance of my public duty, made fresh orders for their detention.

Miss Ward

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his statement, might I ask whether, in view of the very restricted Press reports of the hearing before the High Court Judge, it would not be desirable to publish the findings in a White Paper, so that the House may see what actually took place.

Mr. Morrison

I gather that there was a full report in the "Times" newspaper, which, I think, covered the judgment. While I will give consideration to my hon. Friend's suggestion, I think that she will find that report a very full one.

Mr. Pickthorn

Has the Home Secretary consulted with the other Ministers concerned, to make sure that there is proper procedure for reinstating in ordinary civilian rights people who have been detained and then released, either by habeas corpus procedure or by other means?

Mr. Morrison

I do not think it would be right for me to prejudice other Ministers in considering re-employment. The papers are available to them, and they know—or can know—all the circumstances of the case. It does not follow, because release has taken place, that the person is necessarily suitable for public employment.