§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 7 and 8.
For the second year I wish to raise the question whether we should continue the legislation which affects aliens, because it is on this occasion that the House has the opportunity to consider the law upon which the lives, liberty and property of some 400,000 people depend. It is rather a peculiar way of doing it, to be asked to continue an Act of 1919 which, in its turn, continues an Act of 1914 which was passed on 4th August, 1914, the day upon which that Great War broke out.
531 It was not an occasion on which, hon. Members can well imagine, there was very much opportunity for detailed consideration, and, oddly enough, this law, which was contained in some 20 Orders made under that enabling Act, has continued without ever once having been discussed in detail in the House prior to last year. Last year there was a fairly detailed discussion, and that discussion has had some results, to which I shall refer the Committee later, but I think it is worth while to consider for a moment just what we are being asked to renew.
The 1914 Act gives an absolute power to the Executive, without any recourse to law or to the courts, to make Orders to prohibit the landing of aliens, to take their property away, to take their liberty away, to expel them, to say where they shall live, and, apart from this, it provides for conferring upon…such persons as may be specified in the order such powers with respect to arrest, detention, search of premises or persons, and otherwise as may be specified in the order or any ancillary matters for which it appears expedient to provide with a view to giving full effect to the order.I find it hard to imagine any more absolute police power given over individuals than that which we are being asked to enable the Government to have by that Act. Indeed, it is an Act that I feel would be considered adequate even by a Government beyond the Iron Curtain.
Yet, whilst on the one hand we are asked for these Draconian powers, and Parliament is being asked to extend them yet again, on the other hand we perceive in actual practice probably an administration which towards foreigners is more humane, more considerate, more reasonable than that which exists anywhere else in the world. Why should the powers which we are asked for be so utterly out of proportion to, so utterly different from, the most humanitarian performance which aliens experience at the hands of the Secretary of State? At every international meeting it lays us open to much misrepresentation when, on the one hand, we put on the Statute Book laws which are the total negation of such documents as the Declaration on Human Rights, and, on the other hand, behave with great respect to human rights.
This matter was discussed last year, and I then pointed out that one of the 532 great difficulties involved was that the law affecting aliens, the law which created an offence in an alien which was not an offence in anybody else, was contained in a large number of Orders which it was almost impossible for an alien to discover. I hope that, as a result of that debate, that aspect at least has now been rectified, and indeed I feel that those of us who have considered it our duty to examine in some detail the measures which the Government asked for, may perhaps add to a new Army Act at least the making of a new Order bringing up to date and making ascertainable the laws by which aliens are governed. The consolidating Order is a great improvement upon the Orders which previously had existed and been renewed from year to year.
I drew attention to a number of powers which seemed to me to be quite unnecessary, and the majority of those to which I referred have now been dropped—or, at least, will be dropped when the new Order comes into force in April. For instance, we no longer consider it necessary in peace time to prescribe areas that are not to be visited by aliens. Again, there was a provision renewed from year to year by which any club or restaurant which had a foreign customer could be ordered to open only during certain hours which the police specified, and if it opened otherwise then it could be closed down, it being deemed to have committed an offence—and without any recourse to the courts whatever. That Order, I am thankful to say, is also being dropped.
I think there is a marked improvement regarding the obligation to register at an hotel. A case arose at Oxford where two girls had registered in their own names save that they added the prefix "Mrs." instead of the prefix "Miss," and they were sentenced to imprisonment under the provisions of a Regulation to control the movements of aliens. They were British girls. I am thankful to say—and I congratulate him upon it—that the Home Secretary took immediate action to cancel those sentences, and has now introduced a provision whereby no prosecution of that sort against English people can be started save by direction of the Public Prosecutor.
That, I think, is an improvement, although I would just ask this question: why is it necessary for us to register at all whenever we go to an hotel? Why 533 cannot one control aliens merely by having a notice in the hotel, "If you are a foreigner, then you must register." Why should we all be required to go through the nuisance of registering for no ascertainable reason whatsoever whenever we go into an hotel for a night? I ask the Home Secretary to consider that.
That leads me to my next point. Surely it is wrong that this should be laid down by Order at all. After all, this is the law upon which the lives, liberty and freedom of no fewer than 400,000 people depend. Surely that is a matter which ought to be dealt with by statute. Surely it is a matter upon which the collective wisdom of this House, working in Committee, could provide most valuable suggestions. This is the sort of Committee point which cannot be raised on the consideration of an Order but which if we had a statute we could discuss and consider, asking ourselves whether the power was necessary. I respectfully submit that this matter ought to be dealt with by statute. It may be that it was convenient first to get it into shape with an Order and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to tell us that next year we shall have a Bill. If that were so, I should be entirely satisfied. This is surely a matter important enough and of its nature best suited to be dealt with in the proper legislative manner of a Bill and not by an Order.
I turn to the consolidating Order, which is, undoubtedly, in detail an improvement but which none the less does not deal with the fundamental objection which can be raised. In this country we have three classes of people. We have one class, which includes all our citizens, of people who are subject to the law. We have another class, the visiting forces, who are people above the law. We have a third class, the ordinary aliens, who are people beneath the law. Why cannot we have them all under the law, as is done in America under the great Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which states that no man shall suffer in his life, in his liberty or in his property save by due process of the law? Why cannot that apply to everybody in this country? After all, in practice we are far more careful of personal liberty and freedom than are the Americans. Why cannot we establish it on our Statute Book? It would be no great inconvenience to us.
534 In passing, I want to ask one question about the aliens who are above the law—the visiting forces. What is the position there. They are excluded from the new Order to be made and from the application of this Act. Has the Visiting Forces Act yet been brought into operation? Is it going to be brought into operation? What is the position until it is brought into operation? Is there any sign that the Americans are introducing reciprocal legislation? What is the position about this class of alien, men who are at present not subject to our law at all, nor, indeed, placed above it? Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to tell us.
The law about the other class of aliens, which we are being asked to renew, falls into three sections. First, there are restrictions upon admission to this country, and I say immediately that any country organised as countries are today must be able to say who shall come in and who shall not. If we organise a social security system, we cannot have it entirely open to everybody who cares to enter. I concede at once that those are restrictions which cannot be other than executive restrictions; the question of who comes in must be one for the discretion of the Government.
I concede that immediately, but there are two exceptions to it. First, I ask particularly about paragraph 2 (2, c) of the Order which forbids the landing of an alien who has not a certificate of health. Can we be told a little about how that is worked? I remember seeing the terrible distress in the displaced persons' camps among those in whom an X-ray had shown a tuberculosis scar. They were people nobody would have. I hope a lot of those scars were cured, but those people were condemned to remain there all the time because nobody would have them. After all, we have very effective control of tuberculosis, and where there is a family in this country whose relative has had this illness or some other illness, and where the family is prepared to care for the relative, I hope a very liberal attitude is exercised about the discretion which the right hon. and learned Gentleman retains. That is a very important humanitarian point.
Perhaps a more important political point is the fact that we have always prided ourselves upon the asylum which 535 we have granted to the politically oppressed. I suppose that at no time in the history of the world have so many people been persecuted for their opinions as are being persecuted now. I suppose that never in the history of the world was the need for political asylum as great as it is today. I should like to see us return to that ancient tradition of ours. It is still our law.
The Aliens Act, 1905, provides specifically that fugitives from political or religious oppression shall be allowed to come to this country. That Act is suspended by the Act which we are now being asked yet again to renew. Why should it go on being suspended? To a very large extent we have gone on living up to that Act. Why not let us proclaim to the world our intention to provide asylum to the oppressed, to those who are lucky enough to get away from the manifold oppressions which are injuring and fettering the world? It would be a proud thing for us to do. Cannot we return to our ancient law and our ancient tradition? Why should we continue to suspend that generous Act, the Aliens Act, 1905, which provides this right?
The second general aspect concerns registration. I take no objection to this, for I cannot see why registration, whether it be of aliens or of natives, should be regarded as an infraction of liberty. I cannot see why all our fingerprints should not be registered, although a great many people seem to regard that as a grave infraction of liberty. It is something which we impose upon foreigners without choosing to impose it upon ourselves. I take no particular exception to it.
The really important provisions, the vital provisions, are the deportation provisions. These are the provisions which affect liberty, affect family, affect the very lives of people, and the breadth of the power is quite untrammelled and unlimited. A man may have lived here, this maybe the only language he can speak, this may be the only sky he has ever seen with his conscious eye. His wife may be English, his children may be English, but at the will of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, without any resort or appeal to the courts, he may be taken from his family, from his children, from the only land he has ever known, from the only place he has ever called home, and ban- 536 ished. This is a tremendous power. He may be placed on a ship when one knows full well that the only consequence will be that he will have his throat cut the moment he has gone outside the three-mile limit, for when an alien is expelled it is, by this legislation, in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's power to direct upon which ship he shall be placed.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ There was the famous case of the Due de Chateau Thierry. He was a French Royalist who claimed to be a political refugee in this country. He had committed no extradictable offence. He had a ticket for America and a passport for America, and he desired to go there, but we—it was in war time—wished to hand him over to the French authorities, who wished to punish him for no extradictable offence. In spite of his American passport and ticket, on a French ship he was put, and back to France he was sent. These are formidable powers. They are powers to be exercised wholly arbitrarily without any right of resort to the courts. Is it right to take these powers of punishment?
§ Again, once a deportation order has been made, a man may be imprisoned indefinitely, without any charge and without any machinery by which his release can be secured. A number of deportation orders are made against a good many people whom everybody knows perfectly well cannot be deported because they have no nation, and nobody is prepared to accept them. There is the stateless person. A deportation order can be made against a stateless person and from that time onwards he is there to be imprisoned, without charge, without trial and without limit of time. These are the powers which we are being asked to give.
§ I ask the House to consider for one moment how these powers conform with the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, to which we were a party. I will for a moment refer to a few of those provisions to show how strongly in conflict what we are doing is with that Declaration.
In its Preamble, the General Assembly
Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly
in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I would ask this Committee, whether by taking these arbitrary powers we are bearing these things in mind. Here are some of them:
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour,…or…national origin.
Everyone has the right of recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
The alien, under the powers we are asked to give, has no protection from the law for any kind of action the executive may take.
No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
We are providing powers for these people to be arbitrarily arrested, to be arbitrarily detained and to be arbitrarily exiled.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
We recognize that deportation is a punishment; it is a sentence provided on criminal conviction; but none the less, although on the one hand we recognize that it is a punishment, it is a punishment which, even if the man be acquitted or even if his conviction be overturned on appeal, the Home Secretary retains the arbitrary power to order, no matter how much it may break up the home.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
We are conferring specific powers to prevent any alien from leaving by our arbitrary choice, if we say so, and we are equally conferring powers to provide that, if he does leave, he shall go to places where he does not choose and where, indeed, he may die.
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
We are denying that right.
The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Again we are taking rights to break up the family, and it is so unnecessary. We have no intention of using these unlimited powers but if we take these powers and say, "You shall have no resort to the courts, you shall have no rights," and we take the powers to do these dreadful things in an arbitrary manner, what is our position before the world and before the United Nations when Mr. Vyshinsky talks about our conception of liberty, when we are asking for such illiberal laws in contrast to our liberal performance?
I referred last year, and I do so again, not only to the Declaration of Human Rights, but to a more ancient and simple law—the law of Exodus. There we find these words:
One law shall be unto the home born, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
Surely that is a very fine conception. Is it not one of the miraculous—if we care to use the word "miraculous"—qualities of the Bible that the ethical principles which it expresses are never old, but have a final quality, and I would again say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we should not lightly disregard ethical principles which have withstood the test of time as marvellously as have the Commandments of God.
§ I would say: Let us have a statute, let us look at this again, let us bring our law and our rights into line with our practice. So far as admission is concerned, let us return to that ancient proud privilege already upon our Statute Book. If my Amendment today were accepted, that would be once again the law of the land. The Act which we are being asked to renew suspends the old Act which granted the right of asylum to the political exile. Let those aliens within our land again come within the shelter of our law. The Americans do that. There due process of law applies to every human being whether he be a stranger or whether he be a native. Why cannot that right to due process of law apply equally to every human being within this island of ours, where liberty was in a full sense born.
§ In the case of that Act, surely we ought to draw a distinction between the mere 539 visitor to our shores, in whose case, if we do not like his behaviour, it is reasonable that we should ask him to go, and the man whose home is here, who has no other home, who was perhaps born somewhere else and came here when he was a few months old, the man who knows no other home but Britain, the man who is domiciled here. Surely we should draw a distinction in our law between the two classes. We merely ask the visitor to go, but in the case of the other man we impose banishment and the break-up of a family. It is a distinction which should be placed upon our Statute Book so that these men may be brought under the shelter of our law, for surely it is a wide enough tree to cover every human being who comes to this island.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I am sure the Committee is very grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) for having raised the matter and for the way in which he has presented it. I disagree with him on two matters. I shall give my reasons for disagreement in their chronological order. One matter was that he said that the crisis is worse today than it was 20 years ago or thereabouts. The other was that he said that every alien in the United States has the protection of the Fifth Amendment.
In what I say here I am speaking only for myself, and I may express some views which are not very widely held, but that is not a new experience for me. In what I say I imply no criticism whatever of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, except that I must say that I do not think a lawyer should be Secretary of State for Home Affairs. I should like to tell the Committee why.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is a very able, honest and distinguished holder of the Office, and I do not impute any criticism of him. But it is the job of a lawyer to maintain a very high standard of integrity vis-á-vis the practice of his profession. He tends to become attached to the practice and the rules of his profession, and it is one of the traditions of the lawyer that, on the whole, humanity in the law is a bad thing, that hard cases make bad laws, and that one must stand by the fundamentals and dis- 540 regard the needs of individual cases. That is bad training for the Office of Home Secretary.
The lawyer who maintains a high standard of integrity earns the respect of his fellows and may ultimately become Lord Chancellor. He gets his reward on earth, but the lawyer who turns towards humanity usually drifts out of his profession and may have some hypothetical reward in a world to come.
Still less do I impute any criticism of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who was a distinguished Home Secretary and is a very great Parliamentarian. I regard him as one of the kindest men I know.
My approach to the question is, in the main, that a world which contains anything like an alien or which talks about "foreigners" is a bad world, and I shall develop that theme later. I have no particular objection to nationalism as such. Pride in home, pride in race, pride in shire and pride in family are all part of the tradition of most races and are part of a healthy tradition as long as they do not become aggressive, chauvinistic, narrow or diverted to some race hatred or criticism abroad. Indeed, it might be appropriate for me, in addressing the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister for Welsh Affairs, to say that no more moving demonstration of nationalism can be obtained than by hearing five or six thousand Welsh throats singing "Men of Harlech."
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Nowhere on earth is narrow local nationalism more apparent than at Old Trafford when Lancashire play Yorkshire. A distinguished "Manchester Guardian" writer, Neville Cardus, has said that he was about to be married on the day when Lancashire opened their match with Yorkshire. He left the ground for a while for this purpose, but he came back to spend his honeymoon on the ground. He recorded that while he was away the score had advanced by 11 runs without a wicket falling, and that the excitement was intense and the antagonism almost unbearable. That is a local example which we may to some extent enjoy.
However, there is a bad type of nationalism, too. There is a bad type of nationalism that we can teach children. Indeed, the very theory that
there is such a thing as an alien or a foreigner is fostered by a type of nationalism. So long as we teach children to sing a national anthem which says
O Lord our God, arise, Scatter our enemies, And make them fall; Confound their politics. Frustrate their knavish tricks;
we are teaching something which is inherently vicious and disgraceful in the modern world. The time has come when the House of Commons in its prayers might consider ceasing to talk about "God, even our own God," as if He were a private God and we had some proprietary right to the Deity so that we could bring Him into our affairs, and sometimes into our colonial affairs, although not too often, because it is regarded as dangerous. I believe that the teaching of a narrow nationalism in the schools is one of the vitally serious influences in regard to the problem.
§ My hon. and learned Friend referred to the treatment of aliens. Those who love the history of the House of Commons will know that in years gone by there was no subject which more moved the House. Indeed, there were few subjects which more moved the country in the days when Kossuth was a visitor here, although he himself was a racially chauvinistic Magyar and a man who wanted to persecute the Croats; in the days when Haynau was, properly, punished by the brewers of London; in the days when Palmerston was asserting a narrow nationalism, which at least at times played its part in attempting to prevent cruelty in all parts of the world; and in days when, although we still had some responsibility for evil in the world, there was in this country an awareness of the brutalities committed in Europe, or in all parts of Europe except Ireland.
§ It will be remembered that when Palmerston made his celebrated remonstrance about the excesses of Kossuth in Hungary, Count Schwarzenburg replied that he had not presumed to advise the British Foreign Minister about the Government of Ireland under British rule and he expected reciprocal forbearance on the part of Britain anent Hungary. The circumstances were such as justified that.
In the reception of foreigners and in giving political asylum to the victims of autocrats in other parts of the world, we
used to have a very good record. My hon. and learned Friend has referred to the Act of 1905 which embodied that tradition on our Statute Book. What is the Act which we are considering today? It is the Act which was passed on 5th August, 1914, the opening words of which are somewhat remarkable. They say:
His Majesty may at any time when a stale of war exists between His Majesty and any foreign power, or when it appears that an occasion of imminent national danger or great emergency has arisen, by Order in Council.
and so on. Those are the controlling words of an Act which virtually consists of only one Section, although a very long Section, and the controlling words are
when a state of war exists.
§ What do we do by our emergency legislation? We omit these words and renew the Act year after year. In 1919, we said, "Well, the war has only just ended, and there is an alien problem." Perhaps it was then that the grave mistake was made, because when Sir Edward Grey said that lights were being put out in Europe which might never be relit, he never said a truer word. Many of them have never been relit.
§ It was on 21st December, 1919—and this is where I disagree with my hon. and learned Friend—that the s.s. "Buford" sailed from New York with its huge cargo of compulsory aliens deported on political grounds without investigation, without redress and without a hearing under the orders of the Attorney-General, Mitchell Palmer. It was one of the most vicious things that happened in regard to the treatment of aliens, and it was in the United States in December, 1919, that the first seeds of Fascism and Nazism were sown in the world. That is a lamentable piece of history, and what is even more lamentable is that our record has got considerably worse as the years have passed. We have nothing to complain about and nothing to boast about in this connection.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I am following the hon. Gentleman with a lot of sympathy, but will he not agree that this is not in isolation, and that the same period has seen the appearance of that unpleasant object the passport, the growth of world wars and great dangers to the world, and that, unfortunately, the mental climate for freedom has become less favourable?
§ Mr. Hale
Yes, indeed, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I am not for a moment suggesting otherwise.
My hon. and learned Friend made the point that aliens have the protection of the Fifth Amendment. I agree with the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) that, of course, there was a day when the British passport took one anywhere and when frontiers were places for an exchange of courtesies, and when a Briton could travel the world in freedom. But that day has long since gone. It was only recently that I found myself allowed to enter Northern Ireland without a passport.
If a committee were to investigate the matter, it might find that a vast sum of money is being expended in the enforcement of unnatural and unnecessary provisions in connection with it. But I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Barry. All I am saying is that that very respectable authority, the Dean of Law of Havard University, Mr. Zechariah Chafee who wrote the brilliant book entitled "Freedom of Speech in the United States," has reviewed the change which has come about since the war period of 1915–1919. I am not selecting the Americans for any discriminatory criticism at all.
The provisions that were sought to be obtained by this Act were perhaps the most comprehensive provisions ever made and have the least statutory protection. I do not doubt that the Home Office do not exercise these powers as ruthlessly as they could. I do not even suggest that they exercise them ruthlessly at all, although there have been cases which one has regretted. But that the powers are ruthless and provide virtually no protection for an alien, no one who takes the trouble to read the Section can possibly dispute.
The time when British authority and British respect in the world sank to its lowest was in those wretched years of the 1930s, when I know that whoever was in charge of the Home Office at that time—and I do not even remember who he was—was confronted with a great problem. It was not easy, but it was the time when refugees from Hitler's persecution were coming unauthorised to these shores and were being deported back to concentration camps or execution.
544 There was no time when Britain's own treatment of aliens or the treatment of Britons abroad showed less respect for Britain or less respect for the traditions which Britain represented in the past. I remember, as a minor incident, that in 1938 I found myself deported from Germany into Poland because I had not taken the trouble to ascertain the provisions of an order which the late Mr. Hitler had made about a quarter of an hour earlier. He made the order at 11.45 a.m. and I was tipped out of a train on the German frontier at noon. I was locked up in a refreshment room under an armed Nazi guard for some hours until we found a telephone which was working and rang up the British Embassy in Berlin. The reply received from the Embassy was that the Germans could not do it, but they were doing it at that moment. The fact that I survived to tell the tale is apparent to the House, and I survived without any obvious physicalharm.
But the bitter brutal tragedy of this persecution in those days was not merely the result of the failure of British policy, but almost a direct result of the foreign policy of the victors of Versailles who planned a treaty in which new boundaries were created without any consideration of the rights of nationalities and minorities. They created a new Europe and new countries, with the result that one of the features of those 20 years—perhaps the feature which will impress itself most on history out of all the features of the last 50 years—was this wretched story of minorities being driven from their country, of displaced and dispossessed persons being driven hopelessly and helplessly as refugees, and of the stateless persons, the people who have no tribunal to which they can appeal in law for any protection and no land to give them home or even house room.
We have seen in the last week or two the extraordinary case of Mr. O'Brien who, apparently, spent some years on boats of various kinds being deported from one country to another until he was received into a Central American country only a week or two ago after travelling for literally hundreds of thousands of miles. He was one of the fortunate ones. How many have ended their lives in despair?
545 Surely, we have reached the stage when, if we are going to examine this whole problem of aliens, we ought here and now to summon a conference to deal with it on rational lines. The climate at the moment is at least right to the extent that quite recently there has been the ratification of the limited Council of Europe Declaration of Human Rights by a sufficient number of members to bring that Declaration into existence. I think it was only yesterday that in the House of Lords a conference on methods to enforce it was concluded.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies has told us, somewhat to our surprise—and I think not without a shade of cynicism—that he has extended the provisions of the Declaration of Human Rights to 42 British possessions beyond the seas. It is unfortunate that, as far as I can see, the only power to enforce this revision has not been ratified by Her Majesty's Government. There would be no difficulty—the machinery is there—in calling a conference at this moment in an endeavour to try to get a new approach in Europe to the whole problem of aliens.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ I wish to raise one problem which I have raised from time to time with the Foreign Office and with the Home Office which is symptomatic of these difficulties. It is the case of Mr. and Mrs. Jerko who live in Oldham, and who have been living there since 1946. They have engaged a highly reputable and energetic firm of solicitors in Oldham to look after their affairs. They were both born in the Balkans, in a village which is now part of Yugoslavia though, of course, there was no such country when either of them was born. They were driven away as refugees by wartime circumstances and found themselves in 1945 in the American zone of Germany. Their child was born there—I think I am right in saying their only child. They sought refuge in this country. They claim they were told that they could not take the child with them or that there would be difficulty about the child. I do not know whether this is one of the misunderstandings that happen inevitably when people talk in different languages or because of an unhappy, overworked officer having to deal with hundreds of cases a day.
§ At any rate, they left their child in the care of a relative now living in Poland. 546 For years they have been trying to get that child back, and for years every human effort that can be made has been made. I do not know what more can be done. I do not know what the Home Office can do—I attribute no blame to them. I do not know what the Foreign Office can do except write the kind of hopeless, helpless letter which they do to show willing, and which everyone realises will bring no result.
§ I have written to Poland and to the Yugoslav Embassy. I have had courteous replies from everywhere, but everyone says that nothing can be done. It is an incredible kind of world in which that sort of case can exist, and in which all the powers of State and all the organisations of embassies and all the provisions for consultation cannot prevent parents from being separated for life from their child because of a sheer accident, with each living in wholly different circumstances and wholly different countries.
To come back to the question of the United States for a moment, I would suggest that although the influence of the United States today in world affairs is due substantially to her enormous economic power—that great, almost Frankenstein monster of economic power—her influence in world affairs was at its highest when she had produced a system of receiving immigrants from all over Europe, and turning them in an incredibly short space of time into welcome citizens of a great new country. I think that was the greatest contribution any nation has made to a spirit of internationalism. It was well in the spirit of the Founding Fathers of the Constitution, well in the spirit of the Sage of Philadelphia, that for years the Statue of Liberty really meant what its title said. I want to remind the House of those words of Emma Lazarus:
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
§ I wish this was the kind of world in which one could send that little quotation to Senators McCarron and McCarthy in the hope that they would read it and take it to heart. I wish it was the kind of world in which we could get away from some of these animosities, from some of these dissensions, from some of these dichotomies. I see that there is a Motion 547 down on the Order Paper condemning the persecution of Catholic priests in Poland. I have signed it because I object to persecution. Some of my hon. Friends have put down a Motion condemning the persecution of Protestants in Spain. I would have liked to sign that also because I have always tried to protest against injustice wherever I see it, and perhaps there is no worse injustice than in this conception of an alien.
§ At some time someone ought to sit down and wonder what an alien is. It is to be remembered that we are aliens in most of the countries of the world and that the conception of a foreigner is not a static one. Nor, indeed, will the views of varying states or governments naturally conform to a specific idea. It may be well to remind the House that in the view of the Emperor Tiberius the only loyal Jew in Palestine was Judas Iscariot. But one should not test the views or opinions of a foreigner by his reaction to our particular democratic ideals. It may be that this is the worst mistake which is being made in the world today.
§ If we really are approaching this subject of aliens seriously; if we really are anxious to see substituted for this wretched Act, some cogent and comprehensive provisions with regard to the treatment of aliens, we have to decide what are our basic and fundamental principles and which way we intend to go. Everyone knows that it is easy for a back bencher to talk about these things and that it is very difficult for Governments to interpret them and put them into force. No one wants to indulge in purely fractious criticism. Everyone realises the immensity of the problem of dealing with aliens, and everyone realises what I regret to say, but what has to be said, that at the slightest sign of unemployment there is still a reaction to the presence of working aliens here. It is one of the obvious signs that the sense of international solidarity amongst the workers is not so strong as it was 20 or 25 years ago.
§ In those circumstances I suggest that we have to decide where we are going. On that, no thinker of today has had any hesitation. People who say that this is a remote ideal, that it is an impracticable conception, that it is the wrong method of approach, have only to take 548 up the writing of anyone on this subject in the years immediately past or the conceptions based on the Declaration of Human Rights, to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) referred. The ultimate objective must be a world in which foreigners have been abolished and in which there is a central federal government representing the whole world. That must be the ultimate ideal.
§ There are many people who think that in this rapidly changing economic world the problems it has to confront—the vastness of the problems of the shortage of raw materials and the increasing economic problems—will bring the countries together in planning the use of materials, and will force the creation of international organisations of greater power and greater complexity. And there are many who think that such an objective need not be so far away as we used to think it was in the days when we talked of it as a Utopian ideal.
§ If we could imagine for a moment that by the wave of a magic wand such a conception had been achieved, we would find what we had to do to advance towards it. If we could imagine that we had a world government in operation, that we had a world police force sufficiently powerful to control it; if we had international law based upon the fundamental conception of human rights, which is vital; if we had the basis of democracy given to all subject peoples, then our conception of an alien would have ceased to exist. The very necessity for passports would go. There might be some restrictions on vast industrial migration, but the whole of those circumstances would be altered.
§ I believe that there are many people on both sides of the House who have thought that we ought to be working towards that ideal. If we are doing so, there are two vital steps which we can take at once in that direction. The first is to reconsider this provisional Order in those terms and see to what extent we could modify and liberalise and improve it. I am very sorry that not one of those hon. Members opposite who on Tuesday talked about freedom is here to talk about freedom today.
§ Secondly, I suggest that we should have forthwith a conference, of the signatories 549 of the Protocol on Human Rights of the Council of Europe to discuss how far steps can be taken forthwith to make specific advances in certain territories. I believe that it can be done. President Roosevelt spoke no truer words than those when he said, "What one must fear is fear." I have often thought that what one must hate is hate.
§ The problem of statesmanship in every department is to remove from the hearts and minds of the people of the world, and in this connection immediately perhaps of the peoples of Western Europe, the fear that lies upon them, the legacy of hate that still survives from the hatreds of the war. That is the supreme task of statesmanship. It is in order that we may get some advance from the Government on these lines and may have a fuller explanation of their views on this matter that I support the Amendment.
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
I am sure that the Committee is obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) for raising this matter, and indeed for the manner in which they have put their case. The only quarrel that I have with the hon. Member for Oldham, West is that he referred to nationalism in very derogatory or critical terms. I do not think that it is possible after emergence from a great war to deny the nations of the world their nationalism. They have only been able to fight because of their nationalist spirit. Even Russia had to revive the spirit of the old generals and had to call on men to fight in the name of Holy Russia. They had to forget international brotherhood for the time being and I think that the hon. Member for Oldham, West, although idealistic in his conception, will have to wait a long time before he can eliminate nationalism, and I do not think that it is wise to eliminate it to the extent that he suggests.
§ Sir T. Moore
I wish that the hon. Member could sometimes depart from the parish pump and cast his eye to wider horizons than South or North Fermanagh, or wherever it is that he represents.
It is a horrifying and very disturbing thought that even today, some eight years 550 after the end of the war, there should be so many millions of homeless and hopeless aliens and refugees in concentration camps in Germany, for that is what they are. Although the reputation of this country as a sanctuary for wandering refugees throughout the world has been magnificent in the past, it seems to me that we have now become an over-populated country into which, whatever the desires of the Home Secretary might be, it is almost impossible to admit any more. It is impossible economically to give full rein to our natural sympathy.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ I wonder sometimes if the Government have taken the fullest cognizance of the Emigration Council, which has interesting and stimulating plans for taking refugees and homeless from Europe to countries beyond the seas. If they could take more interest in that council the Government would be helped and hope would be given to many who at present are hopeless. Some time ago the Home Secretary, I suppose in conjunction with the Foreign Secretary, agreed to the reception in Britain of 700 refugees from Europe. I admit that it would be terribly difficult to select them. The priorities and the conflicting claims of all those who would give their lives almost to come to this country or some place of freedom like it are almost beyond solution.
§ There is, however, one little body of men whose case I hope appeals to my right hon. and learned Friend. I have written to him already, but no doubt in the plethora of appeals that are made to him it has not yet come to his notice. It refers to old men who fought for us in the First World War in Serbia and Yugoslavia. Theirs was the only country that raised the standard on our behalf when we stood alone. They persuaded their young king to revolt against the decision of the Government and to stand by Britain and fight for freedom. They suffered terribly in consequence. In spite of our new-found friendship with Marshal Tito, they find it impossible to go back to their country.
§ There are only about 70 of them. They are former generals, ambassadors, men of letters, men of great culture, and they are living without money, without anything except such as can be sent to them from their friends over here. The Chancellor has allowed us to send money 551 to help them and there are many good and kind people who do so, but I appeal to my right hon. and learned Friend not to say in his reply to me that they must take their place in the queue. If they have to do so, they will be dead before their turn comes. This whole subject of refugees and aliens needs a great deal of thought and great sympathy, but if my right hon. and learned Friend deals with this one particular class it will go a long way towards relieving the consciences of people in this country with regard to the claim that weighs heavily upon them.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
I know that hon. Members have been much moved and impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), but it is right to ask the hon. Member what country has done better since the war in dealing with refugees than this country.
§ Mr. de Freitas
That should be said rather more emphatically than it has been said.
Let us remind ourselves and other countries of what we have done. We have more to do, but it is quite remarkable to recall what has been done already by this country under the administration of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and the present Home Secretary. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) mentioned the Council of Europe and wondered whether there could be a conference on this subject under its auspices. He quoted from the text of the Convention on Human Rights which has been drawn up by that Council. The present Home Secretary was the distinguished chairman of the committee that drew up that document. Since we were pioneers, both under the last Government and this Government, in the ratification of that Convention, I ask the Government whether we might not take the lead too in such an international conference. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has stressed a number of disadvantages of our present system. He is probably right in supposing that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages, but it is a close balance.
We sometimes forget one of the advantages of our present system of aliens control. It is that, provided we have a 552 vigilant Opposition, we can have a debate every year. If the Opposition is not vigilant, we will not have that debate, but last year, with a vigilant Opposition and particularly with my hon. and learned Friend, we were highly critical. The result has been a great improvement in the form and content of the Order relating to aliens.
One of the advantages of the present system is the degree of discretion left to the Home Secretary. That means that he can be under pressure from Members of Parliament on matters affecting aliens, for instance their admission and treatment. As Under-Secretary of State to the Home Department, I had to stand at the Box to defend the Department in an Adjournment debate which was highly critical of the action of my right hon. Friend. I have seen and heard many questions on this matter and dealt with many individual cases raised by hon. Members. That is a real advantage of having wide discretion left to the Home Secretary and having Members of Parliament prepared to bring pressure on him.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Can my hon. Friend explain how under the advantages of this system the average Member of Parliament ever hears of the average alien case?
§ Mr. de Freitas
I can only say, from my experience and from the experience of others in the Home Office over many years that aliens do come to Members of Parliament. Most hon. Members have had aliens come to them and there are organisations to protect aliens who bring their cases to Members of Parliament.
I think it is right that sometimes we should realise how much aliens on the whole appreciate what is done for them in this country. Here I quote from a letter which came to me when I was Under-Secretary at the Home Office three years ago. It is typical of a number which the Department have received:Dear Sir,Would you please excuse me for bothering you with this letter. I feel however it is not only my gratitude which I would like to express but also my duty to write.I came to this country under unusual circumstances, having left Czechoslovakia after the Communist coup ďetat. Here I found protection and political freedom and although I had left my own poor home-land I felt at home in this country.553Now when because of family reasons I have to go to Canada I would like to thank you for some kind hospitality which has been afforded to me here.I will always be grateful for it and I will never forget the charm, chivalry, and all the other good qualities of your countrymen, which put them in the first place among nations.May God bless your beautiful country and protect it from all violent changes.Yours faithfully,We have gone a long way from the days of 100 years ago when one of my predecessors, representing the ancient City of Lincoln, could get up in this House and say that one of the reasons why he was opposing the 1851 Exhibition was because it would bring foreigners to this country. This, he said, was in itself a bad thing because if foreigners came neither our silver forks nor our servant maids would be safe.
§ Mr. Gower
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) deserve our thanks, because this issue deserves attention. The hon. Member for Oldham, West painted a rather vivid picture of certain changes which have come over our thinking in the last 30 years. That change has not been confined to our attitude to aliens, but is concerned with many things affecting our international relationships. I thought perhaps the hon. Member pursued the argument dangerously far when he compared it with the situation in the 19th Century.
We can well understand why this country in the middle of the last century was able to afford asylum to political refugees who were escaping from countries where there was no kind of liberal democracy. They were coming here not to participate in our life, but generally to learn something of our system and, ultimately, to go back to their own countries. But in the last two wars we have been faced with a different problem of people escaping from their own countries. That may explain why a change has come over our thinking and why in some cases governments have been forced to take certain steps to protect their own communities. After all, one of the major duties of a government is to protect its own citizens. It is not surprising that after the Spanish Civil War when we learned—perhaps for the first time in modern times—the danger of 554 that new term "Fifth Column," governments all over the world have somewhat tightened restrictions on the entry of other nationals.
Nevertheless, I feel that within the terms of this Amendment there is a strong case for the attention of the Home Office. In my own area—in fact all over South Wales—there is a large community of Italians. Many of the children of those families were born in South Wales, while other children were not born there. Technically the children who were born in Italy and came here in their early days are still aliens and very peculiar cases arise. Recently I heard of a case of a man who went back to Italy to see his dying mother. He stayed there for a certain time after her death to put the affairs of the family in order. Now I understand he has imperilled his chance of returning to his own country—for this country is really "his own country."
While it is proper for the Home Office to have power in certain cases to deport people who are undesirable, and perhaps to refuse entry to this country, it is wrong that a person who came here in childhood should stand in a different position before the law than I do. Why is it that if I am convicted in a court for a certain offence the only penalty that can be imposed on me is the penalty fixed by the law for that offence, while another person who came here in childhood, being convicted of a similar offence, may not only be punished for that offence but may have this terrible additional penalty of being thrown out of the country which provides the only home he has ever known?
That is why I support the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, who said that this question should be carefully examined. I hope that in the coming months my right hon. and learned Friend will find it possible very closely to examine the Regulations affecting aliens. I feel that there is real need for some modification.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
We have at last heard the voice of the original inhabitants of these islands. After all, there was a time when the ancestors of all the rest of us, except you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, were aliens. Therefore, we must all welcome the way in which the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has been 555 reconciled to the presence of the remainder of the population of the country.
From my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), and my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) we have had a very fine exposition—with the bulk of which I concur and from none of which as far as I know do I very severely dissent—of the traditional outlook of this country on this issue. I regret that some of the restrictions that have been placed on the entry and retention in this country of aliens have had to be made. I was particularly grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West for the remarks he made about me.
I am not going to say that I think a lawyer is necessarily disqualified from being Home Secretary, although I think that some of my predecessors who were lawyers on occasion did take a rather pedantic view of some of the issues that have been raised today. But, so far as I know, there has been no hardening of the attitude of the Home Office towards aliens during the tenure of office of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton did give us, in a way which is peculiarly his own, a picture of some terrible things which might happen. A man might be put on a ship and the moment he got outside the 10-mile limit his throat might be cut. I should like to know if there is any instance—let us say within the last 20 years—where anything approaching that has happened.
§ Mr. Ede
The dreams of the Home Secretary are often quite as vivid as those of my hon. and learned Friend. If he dreams one way he must not be surprised if the Home Secretary dreams in another way, and his villains are not the same as those of the Home Secretary.
It must be realised that on accepting the doctrines laid down by the hon. and learned Gentleman and by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West one is faced with the day-to-day difficulties which confront one in the administra- 556 tion of the law and in current public opinion. While I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) asked the question which he did of the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore)—and I do not think any country in the world can claim a better record in this respect in the post-war years than this country—I always have in the back of my mind, because it revealed itself in my postbag, the fact that not very far below the surface, and always acting in opposition to the liberal sentiments of my hon. and learned Friend, is a xenophobia which can easily be roused and which in some past years has been as clearly expressed in this House as were the liberal sentiments of the middle of the 19th Century.
In the first 10 years of this century, which unfortunately I am old enough to remember vividly, there was a very strong xenophobia in this country about the tremendous number of people who had come into the country from Eastern Europe. That is always latent, and in a period of severe unemployment it may become very strong. The Home Secretary of the day has to bear that in mind in his administration of the law.
Neither do I think that the hon. Member for Barry put the matter quite fairly when he suggested that for a first offence in this country a man, who had no other country that he knew but this one and who was legally an alien, would be deported. I do not know of any such case, and I did administer this law, I can assure the House—and as I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does—with a heavy sense of personal responsibility. All my upbringing and personal sentiments coincide with the line of argument adopted by my hon. Friends, and it was a matter of grief to me that on occasion the public good did demand that one should take what appeared to be very severe action; although I do not think that on any occasion has action been taken as severe as that mentioned as the kind of ultimate power of the Home Secretary.
Let me give an example. I had to deal with a very difficult problem which arose out of the large number of Polish soldiers who remained in this country after the war. At one time there were over 100,000 of them, and we tried to deal with them through the Polish Resettlement Corps. A number of these men had never had 557 any other occupation in life than that of being a soldier. Some of them were officers who quite early in life had reached a comparatively high rank with quite a substantial income. When we asked what civilian occupation they would like, they said, "Colonel"—and a very good civilian occupation, too.
But as the Corps disintegrated, there were not enough positions of that rank to go round and I came across just a small group who had decided that the British people were so kind that, if they only stayed out long enough, no action would be taken against them. I had to remember that I had been a sergeant major. I took drastic action against 20 of them and then the rest of the colonels volunteered for civilian life. I give that as an example of the way in which one has as Home Secretary, to deal with a number of practical problems, which makes the application of some liberal sentiments very difficult. But I can assure my hon. and learned Friend, and others, that one adopts such an attitude only with the very greatest regret.
The Home Secretary has placed us under a debt to him for producing, before this debate, the Order which he proposes to bring into force on 1st April of next year. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton analyzed it, and I think he did so with fairness. After all, it was one lawyer dealing with another, and who am I to be umpire between them? But his analysis seemed to me to be a fair one of what this Order does. Undoubtedly it wipes out some of the features that wartime compelled, and that peace-time may enable us to get rid of, and that is something which I am sure we welcome.
I share the regret of my hon. and learned Friend that this is submitted to us as an Order, and I have no doubt that we shall have to put down a Prayer against it merely to elucidate it. I do not want it to be thought that what my hon. and learned Friend has said this afternoon, or anything I say, or which may be said by my hon. Friends represents all that hon. Members on this side of the House have to say on the matter.
When we adopt that course of action, and when Mr. Speaker is in the Chair, or, if it is in the early hours of the morning that we reach this matter, and you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, are in the Chair, we 558 shall have to vote on the Order as a whole. This is a long Order. There are a good many Bills, about which I hear from time to time from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, which are quite trivial matters compared with it, and compared with the number of detailed individual issues which arise from it. I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he considers that the time has arrived when this matter should be dealt with by a Bill.
It would seem to me that this Order would make a very good preliminary draft of such a Bill, which would provide the House with an opportunity to give attention to the various detailed matters which are raised. After all, the good standing of this country in our own consciences and in the eyes of the world, will, as the years go by, be determined very largely by our legislation and administration in this matter.
The Order is certainly better than the mass of Orders that we now have. If it does nothing else, it consolidates the position so that aliens and those advising them have now only one document at which to look instead of many. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) counted up the number that were revoked and found that 21 previous Orders are revoked by this one which, from now on, can be read by itself with reference only to the relevant Acts of Parliament on which its various paragraphs may depend. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider whether, among the matters which ought to be discussed as subjects for legislation in the near future, a Bill embodying this Order ought not to be one of the Measures his Department puts forward.
I would say to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton that I do not mind signing my name in an hotel register. I do not know how Middlesex would be able to get cricketers if hotel registers were abolished in that part of London which lies north of the Thames. I was once assured by a Surrey captain that the main claim to play for Middlesex was the fact that one had registered in such an hotel. He also added that they once found a man playing for Middlesex who had not that qualification—at least not in the name in which he was attempting to play for the 559 county. I do not see any special infraction of liberty in that.
The hon. and learned Gentleman does not object to my finger prints being taken, but I do. He objects to signing an hotel register, but I do not. I suggest that these are not matters that are of any serious concern.
§ Mr. Ede
While everyone has to sign that relieves the honest hotel keeper of a great difficulty which he has if he has to try to decide who is an alien and ask him to sign. He may overlook a case where a signature ought to have been, obtained. I do not like setting traps for tradesmen who are trying to carry on a perfectly honest business.
The immediate future of this service will, we presume, be administered largely under the new Order which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has promulgated. I hope that he will bear in mind the request from this side that at an early date we should have an opportunity of considering this issue in a form that will enable the various details to be considered, so that the full sense of Parliament can be obtained on each and every one of these Regulations.
If that could be done we should probably find that there were some parts of the Order which could be improved and that the aliens—the strangers within our gates—who are subject to our administration in these matters would have the knowledge that this was a fully considered act of the British Parliament. I do not think anyone can say that is the position today. It is a position which we should attempt to reach.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
I certainly cannot complain about this debate taking the time which it has taken today. Last year I defended the procedure which arises in connection with the Aliens Order as providing a suitable opportunity for a general review of the administration of the Order. The Committee has taken advantage of the opportunity very well indeed.
560 I would say to the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that my right hon. and learned Friend has noticed his opening words to the effect that the administration in this matter is more humane and considerate here than it is in probably any other country in the world. Not only does my right hon. and learned Friend appreciate that statement, but I am certain that all those connected with the administration of the Order will appreciate what has been said by the hon. and learned Gentleman and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and other hon. Members.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields dealt with the matter from a practical point of view. It is important that we should always have regard to the practical needs of the position rather than to theoretical considerations. The present procedure is an anomaly. No one can defend that. Certainly it is not a procedure which was in any way designed in advance. On the other hand, it does not create practical difficulties and it has produced a flexible and useful piece of machinery.
There was a demand last year for permanent legislation. I do not think that the demand has been couched in quite the same terms today. But, of course, permanent legislation can mean two things. It can mean that the governing Act should be more comprehensive and made permanent in character. My right hon. and learned Friend has listened to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields and others have said in that connection. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that this matter has received careful consideration and that it will continue to do so.
He will appreciate that there are difficulties in this connection. It may well be better to leave the position as it is for a little longer. The world has not settled down altogether. It may be that at an early date we should need something in a different form from what is now contemplated when this matter is borne in mind in a sympathetic way.
The other meaning of permanent legislation, which is attached to the phrase by other hon. Members, is that the powers of the Home Secretary should be more precisely defined than they are today by 561 the whole body of this legislation, including the Orders. Hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House are concerned about the extent of the powers given to the Home Secretary and the method of the exercise of those powers, and rightly so. No one would complain of that. There are those who want to abolish all control of aliens. The hon. Member for Oldham. West (Mr. Hale) made a speech which indicated that he wishes to see all control of aliens in this country abolished—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
—and in the world. The implication was that he wants this country to give a lead. I assure him and the Committee that there is still a very strong pressure to immigrate into this country. It is not without interest to realise that since the war we have admitted no fewer than 250,000 aliens to come and live here on a permanent basis. Most of those aliens were refugees or displaced persons, about 120,000 of them being the Poles to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred. The pressure still continues, and while it continues, quite obviously, some sort of control is essential.
It has been suggested that there should be some inquiry to see what could be done; this was suggested last year by the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). Since last year, the Orders have been reviewed, and the review has produced the present consolidating Order. But if the suggestion is made that there should be a fundamental change of policy in this connection, I think that that would be quite wrong.
The sort of suggestion which is made—one hon. Member made it today—is that we should have something like they have in America, some form of quota system. That would be wholly inappropriate to a country such as the United Kingdom. America has a fixed quota, and provided that an individual complies with certain standards of health and so on, he can be admitted; but when the quota is filled no one else can come in until the next period begins. That would be quite wrong in this country. Our system is entirely different: it is the very reverse of that. The essence of our system is that it permits of each case being considered upon its own merits.
562 Perhaps I might say a word about the policy which we follow in this connection. Purely temporary visitors are welcome—indeed, the more they come and spend their leisure and their money here, the better; but it is not only those who spend money who are welcome. Tourists and students are all encouraged to come here, provided, of course, there is no intrinsic objection to the individual concerned.
Then there is a second class of visitor, who comes, in the first place temporarily, to earn his living. People in this class are freely admitted provided that they have a special contribution to make to our economy. Last year some 25,000 foreigners came into the country under the Ministry of Labour permit scheme. They come in for 12 months in the first instance, but if their work and behaviour is satisfactory they get a renewal as a matter of course. In the ordinary way, after four years' approved employment here the conditions are removed and they are able to stay under exactly the same conditions as any ordinary resident.
That deals with the case of the temporary visitor who intends to be temporary and the temporary visitor who intends to become permanent. Then there is a third class of case: the person who wishes to come here permanently from the start. At present this class is limited to the compassionate case in which near relatives are living in this country. The rules were worked out by the last Government. They have several times been stated in the House by the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) and, I think, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), and they are not in any way stricter today. On the contrary, they have been relaxed slightly here and there. I am not saying there have been any great relaxations, but it has been found possible in course of time to make relaxations in a few directions. Broadly speaking, however, we follow the same policy as did the previous Government.
Compassionate cases are by their very nature not capable of precise definition. They range the whole way from the widowed mother, the sole survivor of a Jewish family, with her only child in this country, to the case where a man wants to bring in a mistress when he already has a wife living in this country. There is that enormous range of extraordinarily different cases.
563 There must, therefore, be discretion in this matter. If there is to be any control of entry, it must be a discretionary control. We cannot lay down the rules in an Act or an Order or in a whole series of Orders. That is why this new Order is necessarily very wide in its terms. It consolidates some 20 Orders and, as the Committee has already heard, it goes a little further. The changes of substance are not very great but there has been a great deal of re-arrangement and clarification.
For example, Articles 8 and 9 of the new Order deal with aliens who are refused leave to land or who are stowaways. The old provisions dealing with this class were unduly compressed and were ambiguous. The new provisions set out the position fully and clearly. But no alteration of practice has been brought about. A number of obsolete provisions have been omitted. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton mentioned two of them; they were the old Articles 9 and 10 to which he referred last year. They had not been used for a long time, and it was unnecessary to bring them in again.
Perhaps I should say a word about the provisions regarding hotel registers, which have been retained in the new Article 19. Very careful consideration has been given by my right hon. and learned Friend to the need for retaining these provisions and it was decided that it was essential to do so for the purpose of keeping track of aliens who are in this country. There are, in fact, fewer restrictions in this connection in Great Britain than, I believe, in any other European country, and probably any other country elsewhere.
It is asked, "While these provisions may be necessary for aliens, why is it necessary to retain them as far as British subjects are concerned, even to the limited extent provided in the Order that they have to enter their name and nationality?" If a British subject need make no entry in the register, all that an alien need do if he wished to avoid having to enter his name would be to say that he was a British subject. Then, he would not be required to put his name in the register and there would be no trace of him subsequently, so that the 564 very man who was trying to avoid being traced could escape in that simple way. Of course, it goes much further than that.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
There is, at any rate, a significance in "Joe Smith, British." If the hon. and learned Member had waited until I finished my remarks he would have seen that the matter goes further than that. A great many people are not willing to forge their names and run the risk of severe penalties. Supposing that through carelessness an alien did not register, it would be open to the hotel keeper or to his servant, who would probably be employed in quite a humble capacity, simply to say "Well, he said he was a British subject," and the matter would then fall.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ It would be quite impossible to enforce this Order at all unless we required British subjects simply to write their names and nationalities. It has been found to work perfectly well in the past, and that is the best answer that I can give to the hon. and learned Gentleman. Of course, it is entirely wrong to use this Article for any purposes other than the purpose of this Order, and my right hon. and learned Friend has already issued advice to chief constables on this matter, and the new paragraph 4 of Article 26 requires the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which will ensure that the Article is not misused.
§ I do not think I need trouble the Committee by going into the methods of control employed under the Order, but I should perhaps mention that some 800,000 aliens came to the United Kingdom in 1952, and that of that total only 1,600 were refused entry. That, of course, does not give any indication of the number which the Order was effective to prevent, because it may very well be that a very large number made no attempt to come because they knew they would be unsuccessful, but I can say that, having regard to the very large numbers involved, both the immigration officers and the police do their work in this connection extremely well. They do it thoroughly. 565 quickly and tactfully, and I am certain that the Committee would wish me to bear testimony to that fact.
§ May I say a word about deportation, which has been mentioned? There have been 207 deportation orders made this year, and, in fact, in only two of these cases were the individuals concerned in this country before the war. They were both cases which were considered most carefully and in which there were strong reasons for deporting them, and that is really the answer to hon. Members who suggest that individuals who have spent their entire lives here are whisked away without their cases being considered.
It is quite essential to retain this power to deport as a counterpart to the control of entry of aliens. If we did not possess this power to deport, it would be open to anyone to come here on a visit and later on say simply, "I am not going away," and the control of aliens would disappear. Every sovereign State reserves this right, and if I may refer to the really relevant paragraph in the Declaration on Human Rights, it runs as follows:
In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
§ It is exactly for these purposes that we ask the House to renew these powers for a year now. The power must be discretionary, and we could not deal with it on any other basis.
§ For example, let us suppose that a worker with a Ministry of Labour permit simply gives up his job, which very often happens. We must have some power to be able to let him take a new job. Or, let us suppose that while he is here he marries a British wife or, indeed, let us suppose all the other possible circumstances that might affect him. We could not possibly provide by statute that a worker who comes here with a Ministry of Labour permit shall have to go as soon as he stops doing that particular job. We must, therefore, have some discretionary machinery, and the discretion is important, not from the point of view of being able to exercise any tyr-ranous power over the alien, but for the alien's own benefit. If we did not have this discretion, the alien would be at a disadvantage all the time. The decisions 566 which have to be made, both in particular cases and generally, are decisions which are properly Ministerial ones. They raise issues of policy which should be capable of challenge in this House and not in the courts. If there was no power to make a change, it would be found to operate against the alien concerned all the time.
§ For the reasons I have given, I would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman not to press his Amendment in order that we can conduct what he himself has described as a most humane and considerate administration for another year at all events.
§ Mr. Silverman
The Joint Undersecretary began his speech by saying that he had no cause to complain of the tone or temper of the debate, which I think we are all grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) for having introduced. If I may say so without presumption, none of us has any complaint whatever about the tone and temper of his reply.
The hon. Gentleman said, quite fairly, that this occasion has always been treated by the Committee as an occasion for reviewing not so much the nature of these executive powers as their actual administration in practice, and he himself, as did most other people who have taken part in the debate, defended, and not unreasonably, the spirit and temper in which these powers have, in fact, been exercised Perhaps I may say, since many hon. Members who have spoken had some personal point to make, that I am not the least qualified Member of the House to pay tribute to British hospitality to aliens, since I happen to be the son of one who came here in the first quarter of the 19th Century, and I recognize, therefore, in my own person, the merits of British hospitality to refugees. Whether the nation has had an adequate return for its hospitality is a matter on which, perhaps, there may be more than one opinion.
The subject which is before the Committee is not in fact the actual spirit in which these executive powers are administered, but the much wider question from one point of view—though narrower from another—whether they are an appropriate subject either for the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill or for delegated legislation. 567 The essential point which always dominates these discussions is that the effect of this power is to create one class of person—and not a small class—in our community which is subject to the personal discretion of one Minister for its security and for its liberty.
No one ever thought, and I think that no one even now thinks in principle, that these are matters which, if things were normal in the world, this House and this country would tolerate. The hon. Gentleman himself said that he wanted us to continue them for another 12 months, with the implication that perhaps it might be necessary to do the same next year. In justification of that he said, "The world has still not settled down." It has been pointed out already that these powers were made under the war-time emergency Act dated 5th August, 1914. The world has not settled down in that 40 years. I doubt whether anyone who has taken part in this debate, or who is responsible at all for the administration of these matters, would dare to prophesy with any confidence that the world would settle down from that point of view within the next 40 years.
It is commonplace of our time that we are living in a time of transition. All times are times of transition. Our own time has been a time of violent and ceaseless transition, and the unsettlement, as the hon. Gentleman quite rightly said, is still there, and shows no sign of disappearing. Therefore it is artificial to treat this matter as if we are only being asked to continue it for one more year, after which there was some practical prospect of not having to renew it again. Assuming that every one of these powers, as now defined in the new, amending, and consolidating Order, were judged by the House of Commons to be right, reasonable and fair, and if we were prepared to give a unanimous approval to the continuance of these powers, even then they ought not to be done in this way. They ought to be done by permanent legislation in a form which would permit the House to review it and amend it.
On that point I do not think, with all respect to him, that the hon. Gentleman gave us a satisfactory reply when he said that the world had not settled down, and that these powers were necessary and should be continued; the more necessary 568 it becomes that the House shall have an opportunity not only of reviewing the general administration of the powers, but the powers themselves. I am not going to discuss the new Order but only to use it for reference. Look, for instance, at Articles 20 and 21, which are not new law but the existing law. Under them, the Home Secretary has absolute power to recommend for deportation, to deport, and to imprison indefinitely pending deportation. The hon. Gentleman said, reasonably enough, that the right to deport was a necessary concomitant of the right to admit or to refuse to admit. I suggest to him that that is not quite so.
The right to deport might be a necessary concomitant of the right to refuse admission in the case of temporary visitors who break the conditions of their admission, behave improperly and prove themselves in any respect undesirable. The Home Secretary, who has the obligation of saying whether they shall come in or not, ought also to have the right to say, "You came in, and I'm not satisfied with you. You shall go out." Is it reasonable that he should have that power in the case of a man who might have lived here for 30 or 40 years and has no other home or country? It is no answer to say, "But we never do it." We say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he ought not to have so wide a power as that, and that if there is to be such a power it ought not to be at the arbitrary, uncontrolled discretion of the Home Secretary or of any other individual.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ There has been some discussion about the practice in the United States. No one will expect me, especially having regard to some recent experiences of mine, to defend the McCarran Act. I do not defend it. If there were a Senate committee to inquire into un-American activities the McCarran Act would be the most un-American activity that it could inquire into; but there is this advantage in American practice, however wrong: there is a board of appeal.
§ If an alien arrives on the shores of the United States and is not allowed to land, or if he is a resident in the United States and the executive authority desire to deport him—I am merely dealing with the corresponding rights of the American—the alien has a right of appeal. He has 569 the right to an open hearing and to be legally represented before a board of appeal. He is entitled to hear what is the case made against him and on what evidence, and he is entitled to cross-examine and to call evidence in reply. The Executive have the right at the end of the day to say to the board of appeal, "What we did was right and reasonable, and you ought to support us." Only if the individual cannot get a certificate of that third-party judgment will the deportation be put into force. I am not an expert about American law, but I think I am right in what I have said about it.
§ I can see the case against and in favour of the Order, but surely Parliament at this time of day, nearly 40 years after the passing of the original emergency war-time legislation, ought to have some opportunity of considering whether or not the Executive's arbitrary powers in this respect ought to be limited or to be left as they are. I say nothing about what Parliament might do about it, but surely the time has come when Parliament ought to have the right to make up its mind about it.
§ What right have we got? This annual review of administration does not give it to us and the new Order will not give it to us. We can only pass or reject the Order as a whole as it stands. It may very well be that a great many of these powers are inevitably necessary and that some are not necessary at all. It may be that some of them would be right if amended or altered in some way. If we are dealing with the liberties of 400,000 people, it is not unreasonable to say that powers arbitrarily conferred ought to have Parliamentary sanction and the detailed Parliamentary review which they have never yet had and which, under the new Order, they are not going to have.
§ Let the Committee consider how inchoate is this body of executive powers. The new Order in Council tells the House how many Orders in Council are revoked by this new, consolidating Order. I am not dealing with the rights or wrong of it. I am only pointing out the state of the law. There are, as my right hon. Friend said, 21 Orders in Council revoked by this new Order. These 21 Orders in Council are spread over a period of more than 30 years. So has this body of executive power grown up under delegated legislation.570
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary was telling us only two days ago what he thought were the limits of continuing delegated legislation. I hope he will not mind if I quote what he said, and if I adopt the words that he used. Dealing with transitional powers, he said this:
…first, that administrative convenience alone was not a sufficient ground for keeping any Regulation or part of a Regulation, but that retention of a provision could be considered only if it could be demonstrated positively that its continuance was necessary in the public interest;
Demonstrated to whom? Demonstrated surely to Parliament, which would have the right to agree or disagree with the proposition.
…secondly, that the retention of powers which might be necessary or useful in a future national emergency, but were now in abeyance, could no longer be justified;
That is the whole of the matter. The powers must have regard to an existing war situation, a consequence of one or in anticipation of one.
…and thirdly, that in the circumstances of 1953 a less comprehensive range of control and enforcement was appropriate."—[Official Report, 24th November, 1953; Vol. 521, c. 200.]
Perhaps the last one is not so much in point as the other two.
§ There have always been two views about encroachments on the liberty and rights of the individual. We on this side of the Committee have for many years believed that some restriction on the rights of property was essential in the interests of the community as a whole. We believe in planning. We believe that the necessity nowadays at any rate is that the community itself should direct, organise, and co-ordinate all material resources for the common good. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were of opinion that we were wrong about that, or that we went too far, or that the application went further than the necessity of the case demanded.
§ But on the other aspect there has never been any difference of opinion in this House. There has never been any difference on the subject of not interfering with liberty in the sense of personal freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom before the law and freedom from arbitrary executive disposition. All that is the very basis of our British democracy.571
§ This is really an exception which was taken long ago under delegated legislation by Order in Council for an emergency purpose. It has become a permanent feature of our life, and what we have been saying to the Government—and let it be said in fairness that, when we sat on the other side of the Chamber and our right hon. Friends formed the Government, we said it, too—is that the time has come when these matters should no longer be dealt with by delegated legislation by Order in Council under executive authority, but that the extent of them, the continuance of them and the effect of them should be determined by Parliamentary legislative action, as the rights of all citizens under other matters have always been determined.
§ Mr. Paget
I feel we have much to be grateful for from the Government both in the administration of this scheme and in the consolidation that they have done. I hope very much by next year that they will have considered permanent legislation and also whether they can draw a distinction between the alien who is here on a temporary permit and concerning whose deportation, of course, there must be powers if he does not comply with that permit; and the alien who is not here on a temporary permit but whose home is in this country. I feel myself rather strongly that some form of appeal or some process of the law should be brought into operation before an alien of the second category is banished from his home. With those concluding remarks, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 20 to 35.
I wish to call the attention of the House to the continuance of the Prevention of Violence (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1939. Last year we had a very useful debate on this subject. It is becoming increasingly difficult to complement Her Majesty's Ministers on anything, so with alacrity I take this opportunity of saying at once that last year we got a very sympathetic response from the Home Secretary, and I am sure the whole Committee appreciated the action he then took.
I am sure also that we in this Committee regret—a regret which is shared 572 by all responsible opinion both in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland—that there has been some evidence of a return to terrorism and violent activities. I, for one, recognize the difficulties of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary. I concede at once that we have learned from experience that democracies are entitled to protect themselves against terrorism from whatever quarter it may come, and I appreciate the difficulties which the Home Secretary previously explained to the Committee arising from the fact that the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, which we have just been discussing, does not apply to the citizens of the Irish Republic. At the same time the citizens of the Irish Republic have freely chosen not to come into the Commonwealth.
I recognize, too, the perpetual dilemma of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in trying to reconcile the rule of law with the individual rights of each citizen. Nevertheless, we must constantly remind ourselves now that legislation we are considering arose and in what circumstances it was born. In fact, we resorted to this legislation only after those operating the "S" plan decided to abandon all regard for human life and when the Government of the day believed that those conducting these operations were partially at any rate in league with a foreign Power and this country was facing a very real risk of war. In other words, this legislation arose out of very peculiar circumstances and its continuance can only be justified on the grounds of absolute necessity. It is for that reason, I am sure, that the Home Secretary expects this matter, very properly, to be reviewed each year that he seeks the continuance of these powers.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ I have referred to the sympathetic response that he gave and the constructive action that he took last year. I think he went a long way to meeting those of us who have doubts regarding the continuance of this legislation. He then told the Committee that there had been no new Orders, and that he only wished to maintain this legislation to preserve the validity of the present Orders. He also said—and this is one of the reasons I am raising this matter this afternoon—that he would keep under constant review those Orders which were being kept in force. He told us 12 months ago that the position was 573 that there were then no registration Orders in force, that he had reduced the number of expulsion Orders by nine in the previous 12 months, and had reduced the number of prohibition orders by four. I should like the Under-Secretary of State to tell the Committee what further progress he has been able to make in the past 12 months, and also to consider this further method of review.
§ Personally, I do not think it is politically expedient to allow avoidable martyrdom. If we can prevent people, however hard they may seek it, from wearing that mantle, we should do so. I therefore ask the Under-Secretary and the right hon. and learned Gentleman to review these cases, regardless of whether requests are made, and if the right hon. and learned Gentleman feels that he has sufficient evidence before him—and I do not know what his resources are in obtaining such information—making it reasonable to terminate some of these Orders, even though no request has been made, I think it would be a wise and sensible thing to do.
§ In view of the concession which the right hon. Gentleman made last year, it would be unreal to expect him to forgo absolutely his powers, but in view of the circumstances out of which this legislation arose, I hope we can have an assurance that the question of the lapsing of this particular legislation will continue to be anxiously reviewed. I realise the Home Secretary's difficulties, because I know there is a very valid argument that if we allow irresponsible behaviour by a few extremists it aggravates the good relations between ourselves and the Irish Republic. On that ground I know there is a very powerful argument to continue the Orders, or some of them, at present in force, because most of us accept that there has been a recurrence of terrorism, and that the very terrorism itself can aggravate relations between our two countries.
§ In spite of that, however, I feel that the aggravating thing, in connection with our relations with the people in the Irish Republic, is the continuance of the main legislation. It might be quite illogical but it is a fact that this is regarded as a slur by a very large number of Irish people who have no sympathy at all with the I.R.A. and its activities. This is something which has repercussions, not 574 only in the Irish Republic but, as we have said every time this matter has been reviewed, wherever Irishmen happen to be—in the United States and throughout the Commonwealth.
§ Bearing in mind that, while this Act continues on the Statute Book, Irishmen the world over will argue about its injustice, and the unfairness of the reflection it casts upon them, I hope the Home Secretary will be able to give us the assurance that, the moment he feels the Act can be allowed to lapse, he will allow it to do so. With its lapsing we can then look forward to much happier relations between ourselves and the Irish people, and the disappearance of the bitter animosities which often I feel very unnecessarily divide us.
§ Mr. Healy
Perhaps I may intervene, as Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone—and I am sure that in this my colleague is with me—to protest against this legislation. We represent an area amounting to roughly one-third of the total area of Northern Ireland. We speak for the majority of the people there, and we think that, in view of the comparatively good relations that have existed for a considerable time between this Government and the Government of the Irish Republic, there was no need for the introduction of powers so drastic as these appear to be.
When the original Act was introduced in 1939, certain conditions then existed in this country, and I appreciate, as do others on this side of the House, the difficulties of the Government at that particular period. But a lot of water has flowed under the bridges in the meantime. That was 14 years ago and no one can compare the conditions existing between the two peoples today with those prevailing in 1939. The upheaval and disorder in 1939 was due entirely to the indignation of the Irish people at the partition of their country.
Unfortunately, that indignation was not confined, and cannot always be confined, merely to constitutional protests. At that particular time they had seen the great success of the Tory people of Northern Ireland in their physical force movement, and naturally they were tempted to think that what had proved so efficacious in the case of the Northern 575 leaders might be very much more effective than any constitutional protest they might make.
This 1939 Act is directed against the Irish people. It will be so regarded by a great many people, not merely by those who reside in the 26 counties, but by the people in the North and in the Colonies. We are not a great nation, we have not any great power, we have neither bombs, Navy nor Air Force, but we have a spiritual dominion which extends to every part of the British Commonwealth and our influence there is probably far greater than the Government of the day comprehend.
I feel that we should be conscious of the need for good will, particularly in the United States of America, where our people are very numerous and influential. There will be considerable indignation expressed there when they read of this Act of 1939 being continued into 1953. Here we have power put into the hands of any constable to apprehend any man going about his lawful occasions. It is a case where the police force have the power of the judiciary. I know that some things can no longer be done, but we can still deport.
§ Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Hyde (Belfast, North)
I think the hon. Member is under a misapprehension. The main purpose of this part of the Act is not to apprehend any individual but to make certain Orders preventing certain individuals from coming into the country.
§ Mr. Healy
Surely the hon. Gentleman does not pretend that we can deport a man without apprehending him. He cannot be blown out of the country by some process. The man has to be apprehended first; that is my interpretation. The Ireland Act irritated the Irish people very much indeed. It enables a minority of people to stand in the way of Irish unity so long as they please. The Government are now seeking to keep alive an Act which is equally repugnant to all sense of decency and any idea of freedom.
I know of young men who were in gaol for years because they would not give an undertaking not to do something which they had no thought of doing. They objected to giving such an undertaking because they had not offended, and it was 576 merely because somebody thought that they had offended or were about to offend that the Order was made. Take my own case. I was interned and I was asked to give an undertaking that I would keep the peace. I took the view that I had not broken the peace. How could I give an undertaking that I would keep the peace in the future unless I admitted my offence? I think the idea of the Home Office was to get me to make that admission, and I refused to make it. They had to discharge me in the end.
Suppose this Act had been in force in 1914; what would have been the position of Northern Tory leaders? It was a time when arms were imported from abroad, with the intention of setting up a government opposed to the Government of the King. Everyone would have been interned. I appeal to the Home Secretary to consider this matter rationally and reasonably, and to think what will be the feelings of ordinary Irish men, whether in Ireland, the United States or in this country, when they hear that a police constable can take a man into custody merely because the constable has an idea that the man may do something which he probably has no intention of doing, and that then the right hon. and learned Gentleman will make an order against him. Such a state of affairs would involve the admission by such a person that he was going to commit an offence which he had no intention of doing.
This legislation is directed entirely against the Irish people. There is a better feeling existing today, and we hope it will continue. But there is no justification whatever for the Government to retain these arbitrary powers if they are not going to use them. If they are going to use these powers, the Government wilt replace that good feeling by another sort of feeling which will not help this Government in its relations with other countries, especially the United States.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hyde
I had not intended to intervene in this debate but for the remarks of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Healy), and I only do so briefly to answer a few of his misconceptions.
The hon. Gentleman said that the Act is directed against the Irish people. That is not in accordance with the facts. It 577 is not aimed at the Irish people but at a few irresponsible and irrepressible elements who believe in the use of physical force to achieve their objectives. The hon. Gentleman may hold different views from my own about Ireland, but I am sure that he would be not be a party to the use of physical violence to achieve his aim of a united Ireland. The Irish Republican Army is an illegal organisation both in Eire and in the North. I have never heard a responsible political person in Southern Ireland advocate anything other than the achievement of Irish unity by constitutional means. The people against whom this Act is directed believe in the use of the bomb and the gun.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hyde
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) who raised this matter, and to whom we are all grateful for the clear way in which he did so, has referred to the regrettable fact that during the past year since this matter was previously before the House, there has been some return to physical violence. There have been reports of the importation of arms and ammunition and of a revival of activities of the I.R.A., and I hope that when the Minister replies he can give us an assurance that he has sufficient powers to enable him to meet this possible danger.
In Northern Ireland as well as in this country, in view of these rather alarming reports, I think there has been some disquiet and fear that there might be a recurrence of the outrages which disgraced their perpetrators at the time of the passing of the original Act. I believe that I am speaking for everyone, certainly on this side of the House and particularly in Northern Ireland, when I ask for that assurance.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
The hon. and gallant Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde) speaks of a new danger looming, and of the necessity to retain certain powers which, it has been suggested, we all hope to see terminated at some time or other. I feel that keeping legislation of this sort, which is in line with the process of shaking our fists at people we fear, in itself creates the dangers that threaten us. I believe that there has come into our relations 578 with Ireland a new feeling of good will which later on might crystallise into something of a permanent character.
I realise that when this legislation was first brought into being there was an outbreak of violence which the Government of the day thought could not be controlled except by some extraneous legal process, such as that laid down in the terms of this Act. Although I am never sure that one is right to take that point of view, I am quite sure now that, at a time in our history when we can select the process of dealing with these matters, the Government should be much more willing than they are to put an end to their reliance upon Orders and legislation of this sort.
I am quite sure that Ireland is prepared and capable to settle down into the same relationship as now exists between ourselves and India. Not very many years ago we were treating people in India on the basis of their unreliability and willingness to resort to violence. We were putting them into prison and keeping in being extremely repressive laws which we know now, by the new relationship which has come into being, were not capable of producing the results we thought they would produce.
The process of dealing with those extreme Irishmen who, from time to time, seem willing to break out into violent measures, cannot be helped by a continuance of repressive legislation. It means that we are confessing our inability to use the ordinary law for dealing with the sort of offences against which this Act is directed. I am not at all moved by what my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Healy) has said about the necessity to do this, that or the other because of what America may do. We have to face the fact that if Irishmen can settle down in America, with the injustice of the McCarran Act hanging over them, together with the other measures which modern America is now practising, there is no reason to expect that Irishmen in America are going to wax furious because we continue to introduce legislation which is not anything like as bad as the legislation which America has introduced.
It is because I feel that the retention of a special provision against violence weakens our sense of belief in the 579 ordinary law that I say we should get rid of it as early as possible, and trust in those more reconciling processes between Ireland and ourselves that were going on without the help of this kind of legislation.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Last year my right hon. and learned Friend gave an explicit assurance that the Prevention of Violence (Temporary Provisions) Act would be used only to maintain the validity of then existing Orders. Upon that assurance an Amendment similar to that moved by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) was withdrawn. As the hon. Member for Sunderland, North has said, my right hon. and learned Friend has gone rather further this year, and the Committee will see that it is not proposed to continue the Act at all for the purpose of making Orders but only for the purpose which he mentioned last year.
In 1939 there was a series of outrages by the Irish Republican Army. It must be remembered that the Irish were not, and still are not, aliens. The Act which was then passed gave the Home Secretary power to make three kinds of order. There was the expulsion order, which enabled him to expel from Great Britain persons concerned with acts of violence, there was the registration order, which compelled such persons to register with the police, and there was the prohibition order keeping them out of the country.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North asked for some figures, which I shall gladly give to the Committee. The total number of Orders made—and they were mostly made in 1939—were, 190 expulsion orders, 29 registration orders and 71 prohibition orders. Last year there were still effective 117 expulsion orders, no registration orders, and 57 prohibition orders. My right hon. and learned Friend undertook to look carefully into the position. He has done so, and a very large number of these orders have since been revoked. I shall give the present position, but I should tell the Committee that some of the persons concerned have died, or have probably died, in the meantime, and I cannot distinguish such cases completely, so that there may be some revocations which are not altogether real.
580 The present position is that there are now effective nine expulsion orders and 48 prohibition orders. In other words, there are 57 persons of whom the Government feel such suspicion that we have thought that they should not be allowed to come into this country. I should tell the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Healy) that all those persons, as far as I know, are perfectly free in Ireland, and will remain free unless they try to come into Great Britain.
I should mention that it is open to any of the individuals concerned to apply for a revocation of the order against them. If they so apply the position will be considered. I can give that undertaking to the hon. Member, and also the undertaking that the Government are keeping the position generally under review. Having given those assurances, the hon. Member for Sunderland, North will probably be willing to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. F. Willey
I very readily respond to that invitation. On this occasion two Members for constituencies in Northern Ireland have taken part in the discussion. We enjoyed seeing both of them here. As far as I know they never resort to violence, although their differences are very marked. I hope that this spirit will extend to Irish political discussion generally. For myself, I once very nearly became a citizen of Northern Ireland. If I had done so, under the peculiar electoral arrangements in that part of the Commonwealth I doubt whether I should ever have come to this House. That may be a matter of indifference to the Committee, but it would have been a great loss to myself.
In asking leave to withdraw this Amendment, I would pay a real tribute to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has done. He has certainly made very great progress during the past 12 months, and I hope that very soon for all practical purposes, we shall see the end of this legislation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 57 to 59.
581 I do so not in order to terminate the operations of the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946—which is what would happen if this Amendment were by any mischance to be carried—but in order that we may have some short discussion on the operation of this important Act which, otherwise, we could not very well have. That is why the Amendment is signed by, perhaps, a rather curious mixture of hon. Members of this Committee—from both sides.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ First I would express my sorrow to hear that the hon. Gentleman who may reply to the debate has recently had to make use of some part of the National Health Service—I hope with no pain to himself. We shall understand if his reply is, perhaps, a little more curtailed than otherwise it might have been.
§ I think it will be generally agreed that the rent tribunals set up under the Act which is to be prolonged by this Bill have done very valuable work throughout the country and have enabled very many people to secure more reasonable rents than they would otherwise have been able to do. Although there has been discussion from time to time of the operation of the rent tribunals, I do not think there is any doubt that the tribunals throughout the country have endeavoured to interpret their duties fairly and properly, or that they have done a great deal to help many tenants who otherwise would have paid unconscionably high rents.
§ I think there are two matters of some concern to hon. Members, at any rate on this side of the Committee. What is the attitude of the Ministry today about the closure of rent tribunals? Some months ago many hon. Members were concerned at reports of the closure of quite large numbers of tribunals, particularly in Lancashire. I think that in 1952 about 15 tribunals were closed down. In the last year, as far as I can work out from some figures that I got from the Department a little earlier tonight, some six additional tribunals have been closed.
§ It is of importance to know whether they have been closed because there are no further applications being made to them, or whether it is because there is an attempt slowly to reduce the number of tribunals in any case and, indeed, as it were, to make the Act less operative. In 582 my view it is of the greatest importance that these tribunals should be kept in existence and that their activities should be well known, even though it may well be that they should operate very much on a part-time basis. Therefore, I should very much like to know from the hon. Gentleman what his views are about the continuance of the work of the rent tribunals.
§ Under the 1946 Act—and it is the tribunals under that Act which we are considering at the moment and not the work done under the 1949 Act, which is not prolonged by this Bill—the rent tribunal with which I am most conversant, the one in Newcastle, dealt during the last quarter with something like 66 cases, which is a fairly considerable number when we consider the amount of investigation that has to go on. It is noticeable that, in all the cases the tribunal has taken, there has been an average percentage reduction of rent of something like 28 per cent. That does show of what enormous value these tribunals have been. Other tribunals have had a higher percentage than that. We do want some reassurance that there is no intention to close down this valuable work.
§ The second point we are concerned about is the fact that in the minds of many of us the tribunals have to some extent been stultified in their work because of the effect of recent court decisions and judgments. I say "recent," although in fact a judgment was laid down some 12 months ago or a little more. Unfortunately, however, we have not had an opportunity to raise the matter before, in this form at any rate. It is the fact that some of the court judgments have had the effect of frightening potential applicants under these procedures from making application to the tribunals for rent reduction, because they feared that their tenancies would not be secure.
§ Under the 1946 Act there is only a three months' guarantee of tenure to applicants for reduction of rent who apply to the rent tribunals. Another Act did extend that provision, but the extension has been called in question by the courts, with the result that many tenants who might no doubt have made use of the procedure of the rent tribunals have been dissuaded from so doing, and many officers of tribunals, not only in the North 583 but elsewhere, have told me they are quite satisfied in their own minds that these court decisions have undoubtedly had a bad effect on the use of the tribunals and the tribunal procedure during the last year or 18 months.
§ I have noted that the opportunity afforded by another Bill we shall be considering some time later on—therefore, we cannot refer to it now—has been taken to amend certain provisions of the tribunal Acts, and I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman whether any consideration has been given to any possible amendment of the 1946 Act in order to meet this feeling, which is widespread, that there is not as wide an opportunity today for tenants as we hoped there would be when the Act was passed.
§ Although we attempted to raise this matter a year ago, we were prevented from doing so by the Government's following a rather out-dated procedure to stop discussion which, in their view, had been going on a very long time on other parts of the Bill that year. I thought it was unreasonable that the Government should not at that time 12 months ago have been willing to give us any information at all about their views on the operation of this important Act, and particularly about the possibility of any reform or amendment of it. It will be understood that this is the only opportunity we have of discussing the operation of this Act and of hearing the Government's views about it. It is with the object of elucidating the situation and getting some further information that I move the Amendment.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ House counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
I rise to support the Amendment, and I do so for similar reasons to those succinctly and cogently given by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop). The 1946 Act introduced these tribunals for the purpose of giving an opportunity to those who wished to find out whether the rent they were paying was reasonable by having the matter decided by such a tribunal. In my view, the tribunals have done their work extremely well. My hon. 584 Friend said there were occasions, as there must be, when some tribunals made an error but, taking it by and large—and I have seen the working of these tribunals in a number of districts and have followed it very closely in Leicester—I am satisfied, and I think everybody who has any knowledge of their working is satisfied, that they have fulfilled and are fulfilling a very useful function.
Are the Government serious about continuing the 1946 Act? If they are, why are they taking steps to reduce the effectiveness of the Act? This is not the first time I have raised this point, and I think it is highly important that we should know where we stand by ascertaining the Government's intentions. On 10th November, I received a reply to a Question in which the Parliamentary Secretary stated that 17 tribunals will be closed down by 31st December. Only two of them remain to be closed. In other words, 15 have been closed already.
I do not know whether the Minister considers that by depriving a district of a tribunal this means nothing more than that another tribunal will do its work. I do not think that the reduction in the number of tribunals is a wise policy. On the contrary, unless and until it is proved beyond a shadow of doubt that a tribunal mo longer has effective functions to perform, that tribunal should remain for the benefit of the people in the district.
It is not only necessary to remember that the tribunals deal with a large number of cases, although that in itself would be sufficient because they have reduced rents very considerably. The tribunal has another effect in that the influence of a tribunal regularly sitting in a town is to prevent excessive rents from being charged. A reasonable landlord—and there are very many reasonable landlords—is enabled to settle differences by going to the office of the tribunal with his tenant and receiving the advice and the benefit of the experience of those who are concerned in the tribunal's work in adjusting the matters at issue.
What is the idea about Leicester, for example? The tribunal is being taken away. It is true that arrangements have been made for an occasional session in the town itself; there is to be a regular session on one way a week. But the general advantage of the regular office in the town is lost. That is quite apart 585 from the fact that Leicester seems to be chosen by the Government on so many occasions when they wish to remove useful offices to other towns—as, for instance, their attempt to remove the probate office and the bankruptcy office. There are constant attacks on that town in comparison with amenities possessed by other towns.
I do not see why Leicester should have been selected on this occasion. Apart from the work which has been done by the tribunals in the past, I understand that the Government propose to utilise those tribunals set up by the 1946 Act for even greater and more extensive purposes in the future. Why close them down? It is the duty of the Government under the Acts, including the 1946 Act, to make known to the community their right and so to use these offices not merely for the purpose of dealing with applications as they arise but in order to advise on the law where possible. In a vast number of tenancies that information is still not known, and I venture to suggest that hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions of pounds, have been paid in rent by tenants throughout the years during which the tribunals and the Acts have been in existence because they have been entirely ignorant of their rights under the Rent Acts.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ I hope that the Minister will tell us that the Government intend to keep the 1946 Act going and that, instead of reducing the number of tribunals, they will maintain those which are in existence and will change their mind about those which are to be closed in Leicester and Watford. I hope he will set up other tribunals so as to cope not only with what is essential in the 1946 Act but also to deal with the provisions of the Bill to be considered in the immediate future.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Ernest Marples)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) for moving this Amendment, which he moved purely for the purpose of getting an assurance from the Government. I am also grateful to him for his kind references to my slight dental mishap this afternoon. It was not dealt with under the National Health Service, however; I could not get an appointment. 586 If I curtail my remarks in reply to the debate, it is not because of lack of courtesy but because of difficulty in making myself audible and understood
A curious mixtures of names is down to the Amendment, as the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East said. He reproved the Government for attempting to curtail this discussion last year, and I thought it was singularly appropriate that immediately afterwards one of his colleagues, the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) should use the well-known procedure of calling a count which, had it been successful, and had not many of my hon. Friends entered the Chamber to the rescue of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East, would have prevented this discussion altogether.
The attitude of hon. Members 12 months ago was naturally one of apprehension that the number of rent tribunals would be reduced to too small a figure to cope with the work involved. I think that was a genuine apprehension, not only amongst hon. Members but in some cases—not all—amongst the tribunals themselves. It was a natural thing. As time has passed, it has been proved that those apprehensions were misplaced, because the work which the reduced number of tribunals have had to do has been such that they could cope with it quite easily.
I have been asked for some statistics. At the peak, there were 80 tribunals, whereas at the end of this year we hope there will be 61. It is not so much a closure of tribunals as an amalgamation. As the work gets thinner on the ground, as is bound to happen as the years go on—I think the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East will agree with that—we have to find a different method of dealing with applications. Instead of having a large number of static tribunals, it is better to have a smaller number of mobile tribunals which can go to the tenants. We have made the procedure much easier inasmuch as the tenant can go to the local authority, obtain his application forms from it, and, if necessary, make application by post. The tribunal will then inspect the property and any hearing will be held in the locality to suit the convenience of the tenant. I think that is a good service.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that one of my anxieties is that if there are moving tribunals—and I appreciate the value of them—people cannot get information as well as they can when there is a fixed office for all general inquiries?
§ Mr. Marples
There are always the local authority and the Citizens Advice Bureaux which can give a comprehensive reply to any rent problem which arises, and if not, it can be referred to the tribunal when it next comes round. In the case of Leicester, I think the hon. Gentleman said it was there every week.
§ Mr. Marples
That means that people would have to wait seven days to get their queries answered if the Citizens Advice Bureaux could not answer them straight away.
The number of cases decided under the Act of 1946 over the year to 30th September, 1951, was 7,848, and to 30th. September, 1952, 6,221. This year, taking the date, for the convenience of statistics, to 30th March, 1953, 5,516 cases were dealt with and reductions were granted in 3,730 cases. The average reduction was 29 per cent.
The hon. Gentleman asked for an assurance about the effect of the closings. We are making no reduction in the service given to the tenant. We may make a reduction in the number of tribunals for administrative purposes and economy, but there will be no reduction in the service given to the tenant. The Government's view will be made quite clear next week. I do not want to get out of order, but possibly I may mention, in passing, that there may be additional duties which will be put upon the rent tribunals. If it is found that they cannot carry these duties—and that can be found only by trial and error—there will have to be an adjustment. If, on the other hand, it is found they can carry these duties easily and that there can be a further reduction, this will be made.
I can give the general assurance that we are not closing down these tribunals to make their work less effective, but to make economies and to secure efficiency, and at the same time to give the tenant the service intended under the Act.
588 I think that I have dealt with most of the points raised. There is one further matter concerning security of tenure. There has been only one case, I think, in which the House of Lords has reversed the decision of the lower courts. That was the Pickavance case. The position has now been restored to what we always thought it was, namely, that these tribunals have power to give tenants extended security of tenure. I hope that this may be given more publicity, and that it will prove to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West that the assurance of the Government means something.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
In view of that explanation and the information received, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Preamble agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.