§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Aliens Order, 1953 (S.I., 1953, No. 1671), dated 19th November, 1953, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th November, 1953, be annulled.The case I should like quite shortly to put upon this Statutory Instrument is that the time really has come when the House should consider and be given the opportunity of considering and debating the whole of the law relating to aliens;and that while many of us on both sides of the House may approach this extremely important matter from different points of view, it is true that laws have been passed, Regulations have been made, actions have been taken over great number of years, without any Royal Commission sitting or any Select Committee reporting, and without the House being given an adequate opportunity of considering the very important questions which arise on this matter.
On 5th August, 1914, the law relating to aliens was introduced. It was admittedly a day not singularly appropriate for prolonged or profound consideration. The day before, the country had embarked on a war to end war, on a struggle for liberty, on a war to try to restore the rights of human beings, a war which was to end in a new conception of the rights of human beings, a new evaluation of the rights of humanity, a new approach to the brotherhood of man.
It is right to say, in fairness, that on 5th August, 1914, it was hardly possible to expect that an adequate opportunity would be taken of debating this matter. At the termination of Questions, when Orders of the Day were read, the House went into Committee of Supply and dealt with a very large number of Measures, including Navy and Army expenditure, a whole series of Revenue Resolutions and the Prize Courts (Procedure) Bill. At that stage the then Secretary of State for the Home Department, Mr. McKenna, moved the Aliens Restriction Bill.
It is important to say at this stage that, however short the time for consideration, this was something new in out procedure, that we had boasted, as one 1882 of the fundamentals of our unwritten Constitution and our approach to life, our belief in the rights of political asylum, our belief in the rights of distinguished people to seek asylum in this country from political persecution, our determination that we are going to preserve in this island the rights of the individual, even though the individual be not of our own race. There was no time to refer to that then. That is why I make the point now.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department, in formally moving the Bill, added only these words:One of the main objects of the Bill is to remove or restrain the movements of undesirable aliens, especially with a view to the removal or detention of spies. Information in the possession of the Government proves that cases of espionage have been frequent in recent years, and many spies have been caught and dealt with by the police. Within the last twenty-four hours no fewer than twenty-one spies, or suspected spies, have been arrested in various places all over the country, chiefly in important military or naval centres, some of them long known to the authorities to be spies. The arrangements contemplated by the Order have been designed with a view to cause as little inconvenience as possible to alien friends, while leaving effective control over dangerous enemy aliens."—[Official Report, 5th August, 1914; Vol. LXV, c. 1986.]That was the opening speech. It was the opening and closing speech on the moving of that Measure. It is right to say, in fairness—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
The hon. Member must not criticise the Act, only the Order which is before us.
§ Mr. Hale
Fortunately that Act has been repealed. I am merely giving the historical sequence of the matter. The Act was repealed by the Act of 1919, under which the Order has been made. It is fair to say that that is the last full debate upon the subject of aliens until today, the last really effective debate. We have, from time to time, tried to raise the limitations placed on the House in considering Statutory Instruments on aliens, or limitations, under Speaker's Rulings, which restrict discussion of the Schedules to the Expiring Laws Continuance Acts. It is only under those circumstances that the House has considered this matter. At that stage of the proceedings the Bill was ordered to be brought in by the Prime Minister. It was 1883 presented accordingly, read the First time and ordered to be printed. The House immediately resolved itself into Committee on the Bill and the Bill was considered in Committee—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The Ruling is quite clear. One must not criticise an Act of Parliament passed by this House.
§ Mr. Hale
I am making no criticism whatsoever. I am just telling the House what was said on the last occasion so that we can move from that, reinforced by the views then expressed, to consider what would be the appropriate course to take today. I am not in any way criticising the Measure. I am only venturing to express the opinion—I hope with all reserve—that on 5th August, 1914, for reasons well known to all hon. Members, there was not an adequate opportunity for very full discussion. Indeed, the next thing that happened was that a Mr. Barnes—whom I suspect of being an incipient Bevanite of that day—asked if the terms of the Bill could be read, and the Bill was then read in full from the Chair so that hon. Members of the House might know what they were about to pass.
Subject to an interjection of one, Sir William Byles, on Third Reading, two columns later:I suggest to the House that by this Measure we are putting a very dangerous power into the hands of the Home Secretary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th August, 1914; Vol. LXV, c. 1990.]those were his opening words, and then an hon. Member said "Sit down," and an intervention from Mr. Ronald McNeill to know if there was power to shoot spies wherever they ought to be shot and without unnecessary trial, that was the full extent of the discussion; because on that day the Bill was read the Third time and passed.
It is a tribute to the methods of the House, to the celerity of the House and to our adaptable Constitution that a great number of Bills were passed through all their stages and the House adjourned at 7.30 p.m. That really was the last discussion, apart from an Order adopted in 1919.
The House will have no doubt then that on 5th August, 1914, we abrogated almost every provision ever made for the 1884 protection of human rights so far as people not born in this country were concerned. Secondly, we abrogated on an undertaking that it would be used only in dealing with spies. Twelve months later a Committee of two was set up to consider and report whether the provisions were strong enough to prevent aliens entering into prohibited areas, or whether further measures were necessary. I wish briefly to—
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
Do you really mean that in 1914—[Hon. Members: "Order."]. Does the hon. Gentleman mean that in 1914 all the rights of aliens were abolished, that they could be executed without fair trial for murder? Does he mean that all the rights were abolished, or only some of them?
§ Mr. Hale
The suggestion of a Tory Member that spies should be shot without trial was not, in fact, carried. But the hon. and learned Member will recall that the reference was to "spies or suspected spies"—and these were the days of Sir Phillips Oppenheim.
But the hon. and learned Member, I will say in all seriousness, has made a fair point. There were some rights left. Let us consider this point in the light of what has happened since, in the years which have followed this abrogation of principle by this nation of ours. We have seen millions of people without rights at all, and I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for calling attention to it. We have seen—as was said by Hannah Are not, in "The Burden of our Times," one of the most moving books of our day—not merely totalitarianism, but the individual results of totalitarians. We have seen the alien driven from his home, driven away because of the lack of minority rights, wandering over Europe homeless and helpless, not knowing whether his family were the victims of internecine strife, of lack of justice, or driven into a concentration camp.
We have seen the alien become, in the years in which we have lived, the lowest form of life that politics has ever known—lower than the slave camp where there were still some rights. We have seen him become the man who not only has no hope, no family with whom he can communicate, but who has no language any longer which he can speak, no tribunal in the world to whom he can appeal for 1885 protection, with no laws of any kind to which he has the right of appeal. This is perhaps the most damning indictment of our modern civilisation that can be made in any one of the spheres in which it ought to be considered and ought to be attached.
It is not a small thing to say in this country to which Lenin and Marx came to seek sanctuary from persecution at a time when if we were to criticise it would be on the ground that we had too many people of foreign race. I am trying to speak in this manner because I am making no criticism today of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary. Many of my colleagues who follow me may do so. I am limiting myself to one simple point, which is that the time has come when the House ought to have an opportunity to consider this legislation. This is no longer a matter which should be brought to us in the form of 30 or 40 Articles, many of them penalty Clauses depriving individuals of their rights, taking away the right of appeal to the courts and making provision for the possibility of deportation. This is no form for such a Measure to be brought before us.
It is time, if we believe in human rights at all, for us peacefully to debate the matter and to consider all its implications to see what steps ought to be taken to provide such rights as can be provided. Our great fellow English-speaking nation across the water lived its most notable years and won its most notable fame in the days when the Statue of Liberty was shining a beacon light to the distressed people of Europe, when millions of people were herding into the steerage of boats seeking refuge there. They were welcomed by the words of Emma Lazarus:Send 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.If there is one thing which has happened in the history of the last few years, it is that it is no longer true. I say this in no spirit of criticism. It may well be that one of the real reasons for a more humane treatment of aliens is the fact that before long there may be coming across the Atlantic refugees from McCarthyism and the sort of political antagonism that is preached there, and 1886 we ought to have machinery to enable us to accept these people as a re-export from America.
On a previous occasion I mentioned that one would like reciprocity. One would like our example to be followed. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), one of the most distinguished Parliamentarians in this House, might well have gone over to New York and expressed his views there whether they be right or wrong. It was one of the most foolish things that our American friends did when they refused a visa for him. It is a silly policy when we do it in corresponding circumstances here, and I hope that we shall not continue.
I promised to make one other comment before I concluded. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) would have sought to catch Mr. Speaker's eye tonight to raise a matter of some importance which took place in the City of Liverpool within the last few days. Due to her unflagging energy, her initiative and her presence on the spot, it has already been brought very forcibly to the attention of the authorities. It may well be right that we should consider this case.
I appreciate that in presenting any case to the House one is inevitably presenting it ex parte, for one does not have the opportunity of hearing all sides. However, I will, without comment, put the case as it was put to me by the hon. Lady, who was here this afternoon and would have been here tonight if she had not had to fulfil a very important political engagement elsewhere to which she has been pledged for some time.
Last week in a court in Liverpool before the stipendiary magistrate a man of Chinese origin was brought up on a charge of opium smoking. It was not the first tune, I understand. I am informed that it was a case of a man harming himself and that there was no suggestion against him of introducing the drug to other people. Apparently he had become an opium addict. He is 73 years of age and has been in this country for 52 years. I am also told that he has been happily married to an Englishwoman for 25 years. He served in the British Navy for 19 years.
On that charge he was brought before the court and recommended for deport a- 1887 tion, and, until the hon. Lady intervened, bail was refused because he had been recommended for deportation and he was kept in custody awaiting a Home Office order for his deportation.
In speaking about these matters in the House, realising that one has heard only one side of the case, one needs to speak as temperately and as fairly as one can. I believe I can say that hon. Members on both sides of the House were really shocked when I related those facts, and certainly if those facts be true, both sides of the House would be shocked and would wonder how such an order came to be made. This man of 73 is to be deported, if the Home Secretary gives the order—I doubt very much whether he will; I say that at once in tribute to the right hon. and learned Gentleman—to a country of which he has no recollection. I forgot to add that the man's three sons in this country have expressed their willingness to give some undertaking about the man's future care.
This is what can happen when we get before a court this curious conception of the alien as someone who has to have a different type of justice from anyone else. This is what can really happen in certain cases. That is why I suggest that in moving this Prayer I am raising, with due moderation and with due reserve, an issue of first-class importance affecting humanity.
The House has spent the whole day discussing an issue in which human rights conflict with property rights, and every day in almost every subject we come up against that quite fundamental proposition. I do not believe that we shall have a proper approach to law at all until human rights are the foundation of law. I do not believe that we shall have a proper approach to international affairs until the brotherhood of man is the conception of the relationship of man and man, whether they be white or black, and no matter what language or faith may be theirs. I do not believe that we shall solve the major problems which the people of this country want the House to solve until we have tried to adopt that approach.
That is why, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, I move that this Order be annulled in order to give the Home Secretary an opportunity of producing to 1888 the House a Bill which will regulate our law relating to aliens, so that we may question it sentence by sentence and try to put the collective wisdom of the House at the disposal of people who for too long in this country have been deprived of full right to appeal to the law.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I beg to second the Motion.
Our debate tonight is possible under those enactments which, in the case of delegated legislation, enable the House to consider what is proposed and either to accept it or to reject it. That has long been accepted as business which is exempted from the Standing Order which would bring our proceedings to a close at 10 o'clock. The consequence is that in most cases the consideration of these Orders inevitably comes on late at night, when the House has had a busy day in other matters, and I suppose that it is to some extent a defect in our procedure—although a necessary one, because the time has to be provided somehow or other—that a great many most important matters are dealt with when the House is not very well attended, and when there is not the same opportunity for the full discussion which some of those matters require.
This is particularly unfortunate in the case of the Order against which we seek to pray tonight. I ask hon. Members to be a little indulgent about it, because, as my hon. Friend said, this is the first opportunity we have had for very many years—and if this Motion is defeated it will be the last opportunity we shall have for a very long time—to consider the most important constitutional questions which are involved.
I ask hon. Members to look at the Order. I do not ask them to read it now. It is entitled, "Statutory Instruments; 1953 No. 1671."It is a piece of delegated legislation. There are 27 pages. It has 35 Articles and six Schedules. The 35 Articles are divided into five sections. The first concerns landing and embarkation, and contains 12 Articles; the second concerns registration, and contains nine Articles; the third concerns special restrictions and exemptions, and contains three Articles; the fourth concerns offences and proceedings, and contains 1889 three Articles, and the fifth is supplemental, and contains eight Articles, dealing with arrest and detention, revocation of orders, the appointment and general powers of officers, and certain other matters.
I shall not trouble the House by going through the six Schedules, but the Sixth Schedule contains a list of Orders which are repealed by this Order. There are 20 of them, the first made in 1920 and the last in 1952. They represent the whole gamut of delegated legislation on this subject for 32 years. What is it all about? That is shown in the Explanatory Note, on the last page. That is not a part of the Order, as it states, but is intended to indicate its general purposes.
There is only one paragraph, which says:This Order prohibits aliens, with certain exceptions, from landing or embarking in the United Kingdom without the leave of an immigration officer and enables conditions to be attached to the grant of leave to land. It contains provisions for registration, control and deportation. The Order is based on the existing Orders in Council listed in the Sixth Schedule, all of which it replaces.I do ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to say whether a document of this kind is a suitable subject for delegated legislation. I have listened to many debates on delegated legislation in this House. In some cases I have been in strong sympathy with those who wished to pray against it and annul it. In other cases I have been opposed to those who wished to do that. I have never myself believed that in our modern complex society it is possible to do without delegated legislation.
I do not believe that in modern conditions any Government could possibly submit every necessary legislative enactment to the full process of Second Reading, Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading in both Houses of Parliament. Certainly not. But there are obvious dangers in delegated legislation however necessary, and for that reason the House appointed a Select Committee, of which I was for many years charged, among a number of other matters, with the duty of drawing the attention of the House to any unusual use by a Minister in any particular Order, of powers entrusted to him by the Act under which he had to make that order. I say that this is a document of unusual use of such powers. 1890 That is not saying that the Minister had no power to make it. Of course he had. And a great deal of it has been law for many years.
It may be said that this document improves the law as it was under the existing Orders listed in the Sixth Schedule. So it does. Year after year on the Committee stage of the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Bill attention has been drawn to the matter, and at other times hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have called attention to the unusual nature of some piece of delegated legislation in the Aliens Act. The right hon. and learned Gentleman and his deputy at the Home Office and the permanent officials there have done a very workmanlike job in this document. They have reviewed the whole of the delegated legislation, have dispensed with some of the powers they used to have, and have modified some others. I readily admit that the Order we now have is better than the series of Orders it replaces, but what the House must bear in mind is that in respect of no single one of these Orders, spreading over 32 years, has it had any opportunity whatever of proposing any amendment of any kind.
Under our procedure we have power if we wish, by a majority of the House, to pray that an Order as a whole may be annulled. We have not, and never have had, any power to alter, modify, change, add to or take away from it in any way. We must take it as the Minister presents it, lock, stock and barrel. If that is the case in respect of each Order in Council taken separately, how much worse a thing it is when it is presented in a document of this kind, extending over 27 pages, with 35 Articles, 5 Sections and 6 Schedules?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
There is nothing new about this. It is a consolidating measure.
§ Mr. Silverman
There is not very much new in it. What we are asked to do tonight is to repeal all the Orders in Council of 32 years and put this Order in their place. It is quite true that we 1891 could not amend them before, but what I am saying is that when we are placed in a position of having a piece of delegated legislation, which is, in effect, a consolidating measure, it is all the more regrettable that we cannot dot an "i" or cross a "t" throughout the whole thing. Is that really what any of us contemplated as an effect of delegated legislation?
It is true that we are not concerned here with a mere question of property. It is not a question of controlling industry, or rationing materials, or limiting prices or planning our economy. It would be an exaggeration to say that we are dealing with questions of life and death. Of course, we are not. What we are dealing with as things stand is a fundamental question of liberty, if not of life.
It is not a question of whether the Home Office exercises discreetly or indiscreetly, with mercy or without mercy, the arbitrary powers which this Order confers upon it. Some Home Secretaries will administer the powers more widely than others, but what we confer upon this and subsequent Home Secretaries is the complete power over the liberty of every alien in this country without recourse to the courts. It is entirely a matter of the administrative discretion of the Home Secretary, answerable to this House politically, but answerable logically and judicially to nobody in the world.
My hon. Friend, in the closing passages of a very eloquent speech, referred to an individual case. I know nothing about it, and I say nothing about the merits of it one way or the other, but it was a most dramatic instance of the exercise of the power of deportation, or would be if the power of deportation were exercised. What I want to point out to the House is that the deportation order made in the case is absolutely irrelevant. The court makes a deportation order, and it wastes its words. It has no judicial effect of any kind. It is only a recommendation to the Home Secretary, and the Home Secretary may act upon it or not exactly as he determines.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I do not want to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I differ from my two hon. Friends with very great diffidence. As I understand it, the 1892 position is that the court recommends that an order be made and the Home Secretary formulates and makes the order. The court does not make the order, and Home Secretaries, good and bad,—and who am I to differentiate between them—can ignore the recommendation of the court when they think fit.
§ Mr. Silverman
With great respect to my right hon. Friend, I thought that that was exactly the point which I was making. I said that the court made a recommendation and I thought I did, to that extent correct, if I may presume to say so, my hon. Friend who moved this Prayer; because he said the court made the deportation order. Of course, he knows as I know, and as I imagine all other hon. Members know, that the recommendation of deportation made by the court is completely irrelevant. It adds nothing to the powers of the Home Secretary, and it takes nothing away.
§ Mr. Silverman
I should not think that it required long consideration before the right hon. and learned Gentleman decided to act, or rather not to act, upon this particular recommendation if the facts which my hon. Friend disclosed are correct. But that is not my point. My point is that the Home Secretary would have the power, if the court expressly refused to make an order. He would still have the power, and the alien concerned would have no right to an appeal; no right to trial, no right to be heard and to call witnesses; no right to make a case of any kind.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
Am I to understand that it is a fact that the Home Secretary can make such an order without the case having ever gone before a court?
§ Mr. Silverman
Certainly; and he could make it in the case of an alien who had committed no offence of any kind; and I should be very surprised indeed if, in 40 years' exercise of these arbritrary powers, no mistake had ever been made. Of course, one readily admits that the greatest care is taken to avoid mistakes being made, but this House ought not to 1893 give to any Minister, or to any Government or any executive authority, unlimited discretionary powers of this kind.
Supposing that every hon. Member of this House tonight agreed, perhaps after a man had been resident here for some agreed number of years, that the Home Secretary should have no power to deport without presenting some kind of petition or case to a court and having it tried and heard with full rights of representation on both sides and obtaining the judgment of judge and jury upon it, would that be an eminently reasonable thing to do? Supposing we say that it would. Supposing that we say we should like to see the powers of the Home Secretary limited so as to secure just that. There is absolutely nothing which this House can do about it unless we are prepared to reject the whole of this Order and leave the Home Secretary with no powers over aliens at all. I say that position is wrong, that it has gone on too long and that it ought to be changed. If it is necessary to reject this Statutory Instrument in order to persuade the Government to bring in the appropriate Bill which the House can consider at all the appropriate stages and amend in any way it sees fit, we ought to take that drastic course.
It is not irrelevant to point out that the Act under which originally delegated legislation of this kind became possible was passed 40 years ago, on the day after the declaration of the First World War. It passed through all its stages, the debate being recorded in three or four columns of the Official Report without, apparently, there being a print of the Bill in the hands of hon. Members. All sorts of things are justifiable in wartime for war purposes, but we have continued this for 40 years and it is time to stop. It is time that a democratic society like ours, based on the rule of law, gave up these powers over liberty of movement without recourse to the courts as distinct from the rights of other citizens.
At the time that the Home Office was considering its view on this delegated legislation and producing this document it would have taken no more administrative time in the office to prepare a Bill in the same terms. If the House had devoted a little time to a Second Reading, a Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading in order to make sure that the 1894 legislation that we have about aliens is the legislation we want about aliens, the time would have been well spent—much better spent than the time of Parliament is being spent under the direction of this Government in very many ways.
I wish to draw attention to one abuse, as I assert with respect it is, of the powers of this Order. I do not make a party point about it, because it has been done by Home Secretaries of both parties in recent years. I think I may make the point that if I criticise the Executive tonight for doing it, I did criticise the previous Government for doing a similar thing in somewhat analagous circumstances. Article 1 of the Order says:Subject to the provisions of this Order, an alien shall not land or embark in the United Kingdom except with the leave of an immigration officer, and shall not so land or embark elsewhere than at an approved port or such other place as an immigration officer may in any particular case allow.That seems harmless enough, but it gives the Home Office, which is responsible to this House for the acts of immigration officers, complete power over the admission or refusal of admission of aliens. It is a power that they can exercise twice. They can exercise it when a foreigner makes an application for a visa. The visa may be refused. If the visa is granted it confers no legal rights on its holder because the immigration officer—visa or no visa—may still stop the foreigner or alien at the port when he presents himself for admission. I suppose that is a power which, even if there was a Bill, the House would confer—with safeguards and limitations—upon the Home Secretary of the day, but I do not believe that it was ever contemplated, or that this House really desires, that it should be used for mere purposes of political discrimination.
Let me give an instance. There is an organisation of teachers calling itself "Teachers for Peace." It is a familiar kind of organisation. I do not know how many Communists there are in its central authority. I would not be surprised if they had a controlling voice in it. I dare say they have. The organisation proposed to hold a conference in this country, and a German teacher in Berlin who is 75 years old applied for a visa to come to this country to attend the conference. Whether that was stated in his application I do not know. It seems clear that the visa was granted, and he arrived in this 1895 country with his passport in order, and with a visa permitting him to land.
When the immigration officer discovered the purpose of his visit he was told that he would not be allowed to land, and that as there was no flight back to Berlin that night he would be detained. He was locked up for the night in a detention building on the airport, and was guarded by police officers all the night. The next morning, before he was put on an aeroplane to be taken back, he was asked how much money he had. He had £8 10s., and this money was taken from him to pay for the hospitality we had afforded him—to pay for his detention.
Two French teachers arrived to attend the same conference, and were turned back. They wrote a charming and courteous letter to "The Times," which hon. Members may have seen. It was not a bitter letter, but a charming, civilised letter. Do hon. Members think that we were really doing our good name in the world any good by these acts? Were we really protecting our liberties when the German teacher went back to Berlin and said, "I wanted to go to England to talk to other teachers about peace, and was sent back? How different it would have been if I had been a Nazi war ace going to Great Britain to be trained for the next war."
This is not new. There was something like it in 1950—the Sheffield Peace Conference. I am bound to say that there was a difference between the attitude of my right hon. Friend, the then Home Secretary, and that of the present Home Secretary. Any hon. Member who reads the speech of my right hon. Friend, on that occasion and compares it with the answer given by the present Home Secretary the other day will see that we have advanced in repression since the change of Government. My right hon. Friend, did not exclude all the foreigners who wished to attend that peace conference. He did let in some of them.
It was very difficult for me at the time and since to appreciate the grounds upon which he discriminated between some of the people about whom he had to decide. He seems to have decided that whereas Picasso was a harmless, non-political figure—which surprised me and a great many other people all over the world—he thought that Shostakovich 1896 was an active politician, although I do not know what means there are for active politics in that case. I did not quite appreciate the grounds upon which he discriminated, but the right hon. Gentleman did not rely for his justification of his arbitrary powers merely on the fact that someone was coming to a meeting or conference at which political ideas would be expressed of which he did not approve. He distinguished between the sheep and the shepherds and the dogs—the active leaders and those who merely came to listen.
I think he was quite wrong, but if I understand what the Home Secretary said. the other day no one who comes to this country, no matter how worthy or distinguished, no matter what his antecedents may be, no matter his sincerity or integrity, if the ideas he wishes to advance are not those of the major political parties he will not be allowed to land. This is a denial of all liberty.
§ Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
I remember the hon. Gentleman's speech when his right hon. Friend made the decision to which he has referred, and I remember the hon. Gentleman saying on that occasion that it would be logical if he refused all or none, but that to discriminate would be wrong. Apparently on this occasion his logic is being carried out.
§ Mr. Silverman
If the hon. Gentleman will pay me the compliment—and it would be a very high one, which I am sure I do not deserve—of comparing the speech I made then with the remarks I have made tonight, I do not think he will find any discrepancy. If he does, I will be grateful if he will point out the discrepancy, but as I understand it, I am saying now what I said then, that the exercise of these powers for the purpose of preventing people from making purely political speeches is a wrong exercise of powers, an abuse of the discretion vested in him, and in itself an offence against the liberty of speech upon which our society and civilisation is founded.
It is all very well to say that people may say or think what they like as long as a majority agree with it. You can do that in any country, no matter how totalitarian. As long as you say what everyone likes to hear you are perfectly free, whether you are in a democratic, 1897 Fascist, Communist, or any other kind of country. The test whether you believe in free speech is whether you are prepared to permit those whose opinions you most detest the opportunity of expressing them.
We have always said here that if people conspire against our liberties, institutions or laws we are entitled not merely to protect them but to impose penalties, but we have always added that so long as their views, however subversive, do not go beyond the stage of thinking, talking and advocating them they commit no offence under our laws. Indeed, no one contests that. But what is being sought here is to say that what is right, permissible and legal for our own citizens, or aliens normally resident in our midst, is not permissible for other people. I say that is contrary to the long tradition of liberty in this country and that we ought not to tolerate it. That power is repeated in this Order.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Hyde (Belfast, North)
The House has listened to two interesting, if somewhat lengthy, speeches, and I have found myself in agreement with some of the things which have been said, particularly in regard to delegated legislation.
In the closing sentences of his eloquent contribution, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) seemed to spoil his speech by casting a slur on British justice. He suggested that there was one kind of justice for the alien and another for the British citizen. He might have said that there are special laws or regulations which apply to aliens, but my impression of his suggestion was that there was an unfair kind of justice for the alien—
§ Mr. Hale
I did not mean to say that. One knows that miscarriages of justice are apt to occur in this or any other country when one is not dealing with one's nationals whose customs one knows, and I said that there was always that danger. There was the case of the charge against an Italian and his remarks about stilettos, and there are other instances which could be cited. One should be very careful when trying other than one's nationals.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hyde
The hon. Member has somewhat modified the suggestion that he made in the closing remarks of his speech.
1898 It has been made clear that the Order is a consolidating Order and that there is not a great deal in it which is new, and I shall confine myself to the one or two things in it which seem to me to be new.
Article 12 deals with the disclosure of documents by aliens landing and embarking. It says that:Any alien…shall, on being required so to do by an immigration officer or constable…declare whether or not he is carrying or conveying any documents…and:…produce to the officer or constable any documents which he is carrying or conveying…It also empowers the immigration officer or constable to search an alien and his baggage for any documents. It defines documents as:…letters, memoranda, plans, photographs, pictorial representations and other written matter of any description.In the original Order of 1920 there appeared in addition "printed matter," and it would be helpful if the Under-Secretary would say why that has now been omitted. It may be that the Article is aimed at the control of obscene material as well as objectionable political matter. At all events, it would be helpful if we might be told why this is done.
It is clear that the Article does not apply to aliens arriving in the United Kingdom who have first entered the Republic of Ireland and then come over to this country, whereas, if the alien had come direct to a British port the Article does apply, and he would be subject to search in respect of any documents he is carrying. I wonder why the fact that he goes to the Republic of Ireland confers an immunity on the alien in respect of search laid down in this Article.
The other Article I should like to refer to briefly is Article 24, which deals with a particular exemption, and I should like to point out that there is something new in this Article in that—and I think it is quite satisfactory and gratifying—among the exemptions are members of the Armed Forces of all the N.A.T.O. countries who happen to be serving in the United Kingdom, and they are deemed not to be aliens for the purpose of this Order. We should welcome these exemptions in favour of the citizens of those countries contributing to Western Defence, but, 1899 personally, I could wish that this exemption could also be enjoyed not only by members of the N.A.T.O. countries who are serving here in the armed forces of their country, but by citizens of those European countries who are striving to achieve a measure of political and economic unity. I mean those of the States of the Council of Europe.
There is a feeling which I certainly detected in the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, that it is the Government of the United Kingdom, in particular, which constitutes a stumbling block to the simplification of frontier formalities for travellers wishing to visit this country. Certain things have been done at Strasbourg, resolutions have been passed recommending various kinds of simplification of frontier formalities, and have gone up to the Committee of Ministers, but nothing yet has been done. What a gesture it would be for this country to extend the same preferential treatment to all citizens of the Council of Europe States as the N.A.T.O. countries enjoy in respect of their armed forces.
Some progress has been made in this country, which has concluded agreements for the abolition of visas with all countries which belong to the Council of Europe, with the exception of Western Germany. It is perhaps too much to hope that the extension which I suggest should be adopted immediately, but I would urge my hon. Friend and my right hon. and learned Friend not to lose sight of the possibility of bringing the peoples of Europe more close together by removing unnecessary travel restrictions, and at least in one important respect promoting the ideals and objects of the Council of Europe.
§ 11.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I do not intend to detain the House for more than a very few minutes, but as one who had the duty in the post-war period, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) so pointedly reminded me, of administering the Orders that are now consolidated, I think I should be shirking my duty if I did not say a few words to the House.
I regard the duties falling on the Home Secretary under the Aliens Act, under 1900 which these Orders are made, as being the most responsible that he has to discharge. It is quite true that matters of life and death may not be involved here, but there are residents of this country who, if deported to certain countries on the Continent, would have a very short life after they walked down the gangplank. A deportation order would be a sentence of death, probably preceded by torture.
I am not going over the grounds that we debated in 1950. I could explain to my hon. Friend, if it were worth while at this stage, why I admitted the painter and rejected the musician—it was possibly because I am tone deaf. I support the plea of my hon. Friends that this matter should now be the subject of detailed consideration by the House, and that this consolidating Order—which I welcome as an improvement—should be presented to us in the form of a Bill. Part of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde) was an argument in that direction. He found certain points to which, I gather, if this were submitted in the form of a Bill, he would move Amendments, if merely to get an explanation from the Home Secretary why he wanted those particular powers.
I very much doubt whether the House has ever realised the tremendous power put into the hands of the Home Secretary by this series of Orders. Let me read Article 20 (2):A deportation order may be made in the case of an alien in the following circumstances, that is to say…(b) if the Secretary of State deems it to be conducive to the public good to make a deportation order against the alien.If the Home Secretary, in time of peace—I am not talking about a time of war—or as near peace as we are ever likely to get in this troubled world nowadays, deems it conducive to the public good that any alien should be removed, he makes a deportation order, the man is picked up, put on a ship or aircraft and sent out, and attempts made by lawyers to get writs of habeas corpus in the circumstances have been repeatedly rejected by the courts. The order of the Home Secretary is sufficient.
That is why I say that this is the most important duty that the Home Secretary has to perform. Is it not a tragic commentary on the deterioration of civilisa- 1901 tion in the world that for the last 30 years this power—which I cannot think would have been given by any other Parliament, even in the beginning of this century—has been exercised, and is now regarded almost as one of the rightful duties to be discharged by the Home Secretary? I ask the House to realise that none of these powers which are now consolidated has ever been properly discussed by the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) dealt with the way in which the original Act was passed. We cannot blame the Parliament of 5th August, 1914, which faced the end of a hundred years of peace and was embarking on war in circumstances that no living man in this country had ever had to contemplate. We cannot blame them for the steps they took.
I would suggest to the Under-Secretary that he should urge his right hon. and learned Friend that this House should, in the next Session of Parliament, have an opportunity of considering this Order in circumstances that will enable each Article to be subjected to the analysis made by the hon. and gallant Member for Belfast, North. I am sure that in that way we should be discharging our duties as the guardians of the public liberties, and I hope that we shall not be too much impressed by the suggestion that other countries do very much the same thing.
In this matter this country has for centuries been a place where the alien and the outcast has been welcome to our great advantage. It is true that the Huguenots came in: others, who were turned out by the Edict of Nantes at the same time and came with them, declared themselves to be Unitarians and so lost the benefits of the Act of Toleration. They were determined to be persecuted. It is a great and noble tradition which this country owes it to the world to see re-established as soon as possible.
I plead guilty to all the sins of which my hon. Friend accused me. I am not going to attempt to defend myself. All I can say is that from my great experience I think there ought to be some method of reviewing the great powers with which this House has invested the Home Secretary, and we ought to consider whether we cannot make his position vis-a-vis this House a great deal more plain than it is now.
§ 11.22 p.m.
§ Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
I think that the speech we have just heard from the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has been most impressive. I believe that this Order should go through, but I agree that further consideration should be given to those points which he has brought forward. I am sorry he referred to the Huguenots as he did, because one part of me is Huguenot.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I must admit that neither side is Unitarian. I never realised the Huguenots adopted the Unitarian faith.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
The Huguenot immigration here had, by and large, some valuable results. Some have not been as valuable as others. I have had brought to my notice recently a case in Scotland in which a deportation order is now under consideration. I shall not give the details, but it has shaken me considerably to think that this particular person is to be deported, that he is, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, under sentence of death.
I do hope my hon. Friend will assure the House that, while insisting that this Order, largely a consolidating Order, should go through, he will ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary whether an opportunity at some not too distant date will be given to review the whole subject in detail. I do not understand why the Home Secretary deports a man from Scotland, but perhaps my hon. Friend will also explain that in his reply.
§ 11.24 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
Everything that has been said this evening has put me in greater difficulty. The House has listened patiently, and with great interest, to people with constitutional knowledge dealing in the abstract with great principles of the liberty of the subject in this country.
I rise to draw attention to a somewhat more local and personal aspect of the 1903 matter, something concerned with the moral behaviour of aliens, rather than their political beliefs and thoughts. It is precisely on Article 20 (2, b) that I base the subject of my speech and I ask for clarification, although I think my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has already given it. The Article says:A deportation order may be made in the case of an alien in the following circumstances, that is to say—The House will remember that, in 1951, the Minister of Fuel and Power was anxious to recruit Italian labour for the coalmines. The National Union of Mine-workers concurred in the project, but in Nottinghamshire and certain other districts it met with opposition, though small colonies of Italian miners were accepted in other places. Since then the National Union of Mineworkers has withdrawn its approval, and I believe that no Italian miners now work in the coalmines in this country.
- …(b) if the Secretary of State deems it to be conducive to the public good to make a deportation order against the alien."
The opposition to these miners was not based on trade union grounds, but arose out of the apprehensions of the villagers as to the effects on the life of the community through men of alien extraction living in hostels without their own womenfolk. Nottingham miners were criticised at the time and their fears were ridiculed. From the story that I have to tell perhaps they might be considered to have been wise in their generation.
Some of these Italians were diverted to Cornwall to work in the tin mines there. The trade union raised no objection as it was difficult to get labour for various reasons, including the high rate of silicosis in the history of Cornish mining. The Italians came and about40 remained in Camborne, living in a hostel on the mine property. On 1st January of this year two girls, aged 13 and 12 respectively, were brought before a juvenile court as being in need of care and protection. This is the extract from a newspaper report of the case of the elder girl in the juvenile court:…as a result of the diary entries—one of the girls kept a diary—the police had interviewed men mentioned therein. Medical examination of the girl estab- 1904 lished that offences had been committed. The facts had been reported to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who had decided that no action could be taken against the men because of the lack of corroboration.In the case of the second girl of 12 a medical examination disclosed that an offence had been committed against her.
Much has been said about the laxity of parents and the decline of the parental influence these days. One of these girls, her mother thought, had been attending week-day functions at her church; so it will be seen that there was no laxity in the home from the religious point of view. Both girls were intelligent; their school records proved it, and as a result of what has happened, I asked the Home Secretary to read the newspaper report and to begin his investigations at that point. The evidence produced before the juvenile court appeared to establish that these intelligent children of tender age had been violated and, without hesitation, I say that it is the worst case ever to come before our juvenile courts in my part of the country; certainly during the 30 years that I have lived in Camborne and I can claim a considerable connection with the juvenile court because, as a district education officer for many years, I countersigned every school report which went to that court.
These children are, in effect, convicted, because they have been put on probation. It is not for me to comment on the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions, but I have asked the Home Office to make the fullest investigation into this newspaper report which states that the names of some of these men were mentioned in the diary which was kept by one of the girls. It is not my purpose to ask that all the Italians working here should be repatriated but, after investigation, it would seem that some of these men have an evil influence on our community; it appears that their presence is not conducive to the public good.
§ Mr. Hale
I do not want to be unfair to my hon. Friend who, after all, is making a constituency point; but what he is saying, in effect, is that either we should collectively deport a number of Italians because they have done something which they ought not to have done, but which has not been proved, or that we should deport a smaller number against whom the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided that there is no 1905 evidence. If my hon. Friend cares to rely on organs of public opinion, he might also refer to, I believe, the "News of the World," where he will find that Englishmen, from time to time, commit offences of this kind.
§ Mr. Hayman
I have every respect for my hon. Friend's point of view, but this is the worst case of its kind which has ever come before a juvenile court in Cornwall: and if we recruit foreign labour for our mines, we have also to take this factor into account.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
Is the hon. Member seriously suggesting that aliens convicted of no offence should be deported; that they should be deported because there might be some hypothetical case against them on the evidence of a young girl?
§ Mr. Hayman
I am not a lawyer, but I believe in liberty and I do not know how long it has been within the power of the Home Secretary to take the action which this Article gives him. It seems that these powers have been exercised so surely to goodness they ought to be exercised where our young children are concerned.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Does the hon. Member not realise that if a case was brought to the notice of the Home Secretary after a trial this Order could be brought into effect? But the hon. Member is talking of a hypothetical case where there cannot be action by the Home Secretary, as he suggests.
§ Mr. Hayman
I have read the newspaper report and that will appear in the Official Report. I feel that this is a matter which should have the consideration of the House when we are dealing with questions regarding aliens.
§ 11.35 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset. South)
The hour is somewhat late and my hon. Friend shortly will want to reply to the debate. I do not want to detain the House unduly. I only intervene because I happened to take part in that rather famous debate when the former Home Secretary stopped persons entering this country for the purposes of attending the Sheffield peace conference.
Since then he has changed his ground a good deal and now he comes to the House and makes a plea for a vast reconsideration of these Orders in a liberal 1906 sense. Then he was exclusive, rigid and iron-minded, but now he poses as a liberal of extreme persuasion. But I am not sure that the plea the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and others made for a considered review of all these Regulations and their framing in a new Bill would really serve the purpose at all. It may be that we could have a long debate about excluding from such a Bill Article 20 (2, b):if the Secretary of State deems it to be conducive to the public good to make a deportation order against the alien.On that I agree that something could be done, but what is the good of putting into a permanent Act of Parliament Regulations which the House tonight is united in thinking are in the present age perfectly monstrous to persist in?
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) showed that this began with the 1914–1918 war and in the Sixth Schedule we see that it is by and large a series of wartime measures which have been consolidated and maintained in peace. I cannot believe that as we move forward into peace this House will be satisfied in having these Regulations brought forward in a Bill and having the Whips on in the debate, no matter which Government were in power. What I think would happen is we would debate lengthily about certain things and the Opposition would talk about excluding certain measures, but they would not succeed because the authorities behind this House would be arrayed in defence of the status quo and the powers in the Regulations would in the end be transcribed into permanent law. This House and the country will have to go through a considerable change of thought before we dare settle on what is to become permanent.
The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) mentioned trade unions. I do not wish to be partisan in this matter, but, until we can persuade the trade unions to modify their attitude to those coming to this country to seek work I do not see how we can make this change. I am not talking principally about Italian miners. Hardly anyone can come from France, Germany, Italy, or anywhere without going through this rigmarole purely because the trade unions have asked for it. It is not as if there were a situation of extreme unemployment There is full employment and 1907 many think that the advent of these people from abroad would help our production effort. But the view has prevailed that not only must a Briton not be put back in the queue for employment by a foreign worker but also, in a situation of full employment, the last Briton must be given his right to move up to something better before a foreigner is considered for anything at all. The same sort of exclusiveness prevails over the entry of those of a different political persuasion. Until we can alter our frame of mind to a more liberal way of thinking it is not worth devoting the time of this House to the passage of these measures at all.
§ 11.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
I well remember the contribution of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) to the debate at the time of the banning of people who wished to attend the Sheffield peace conference. It was a notable contribution to the debate. The noble Lord is nothing if not ingenious. What he said tonight is not as wise as what he said before, but it is ingenious. He says, "We do not want to have a full discussion on a Bill, because we do not want many of these provisions to be permanent. Therefore, it would be wiser currently to leave these proposals in the Order until the mind of the country has changed on these questions of liberal immigration." But how is the mind of the country to be changed? I doubt very much whether the mind of the country will be dramatically changed by a debate at 10 or 11 o'clock at night which, for obvious reasons, cannot be fully reported.
If, on the other hand, we had a Bill presented to the House of which notice has to be given, and which is given a Second Reading and a full Committee Stage, there can be discussion at meetings outside this House—and there are bodies all over the country which are passionately interested. If the noble Lord wished to convert the country to the kind of liberal views which he holds on this subject it would be better to follow that procedure than to rely on a consolidated Order such as we are discussing tonight.
Other hon. Members have begun their speeches by apologising for continuing the debate. I do not think that any 1908 apology is needed. Those who have listened to the debate must recognise that we are not discussing a trivial issue. No one can complain about the continuance of the debate following the statement by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), with his knowledge as a former Home Secretary. He said we were discussing what he regarded as the most responsible duties which had to be discharged by the Home Office. If we are doing that we are entitled to examine the issue in considerable detail, even though it is late at night and we are not able to scrutinise all the parts of the Order, or to pick and choose which parts of the Order we like or dislike.
The responsibility is all the greater because the position of aliens today is different from what it was before the war. It was bad enough then. The whole problem of those seeking political asylum increased during the years between 1930 to 1940; but since the end of the war it has been greatly increased in many directions. Many who have spoken in this debate have called to mind those who have been driven from Communist countries, and who can only be sent back to meet the penalty of death. They form the most important category of people we have to consider when discussing what sort of alien Orders we ought to have.
But it is only fair to recognise that there is a new type of refugee in the world, of whom there are some in this country already, namely, refugees from the United States of America. I know many of them personally. [Interruption.] An hon. Member apparently muttered, "I bet you don't." If he is accusing me of being a liar, let him have the courage to get up and say so. I can give facts. These persons are refugees from the U.S.A., because of the McCarthy persecution. Some of them are in the British film industry. Some were referred to in an article in the "News Chronicle" recently. I have sent particulars of cases to the Home Office. The difficulty is, at any rate in one case which I recall, that I cannot raise the case in the House of Commons; I cannot give the name of the person concerned, because the immediate effect of doing so would be to cause difficulties for his family in the United States.
If any hon. Member likes to contest that statement I will show him the corre- 1909 spondence I have had with the Home Secretary. I would be glad to raise the case. I went to the person concerned and told him I could raise it and probably get it reversed. This is the case of a distinguished American, and I do not wish to identify him by quoting all the facts, but I have known him for many years. He wanted to come and work here, and in normal circumstances he would have been allowed to do so, but he was denied the right by the decision of the Home Secretary. It is impossible to raise the matter publicly by quoting his name openly for fear of what would happen to the man's family in the United States.
There are a certain number of cases in which the Home Secretary has refused the right to Americans to come and live in this country. I recall one case where the passport was absolutely clear as far as the United States was concerned, but the man was denied the right to stay in this country by the Home Secretary, to whom I took the case; and the only thing which prevents me raising it in public is because of the victimisation which would befall the man's family. Therefore we are not only dealing with persons from one side of the world, but refugees from another part as well, and I want to see this country retaining its traditions of liberalism, both in regard to Communist refugees and to American refugees.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) referred to the cases of those who were refused the right to come to this country to attend the Teachers for Peace conference. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields said he was not going to go over that ground. I understand his reasons, but I think it is a pity because if he looked into the details of these cases he would see that this Government and the Home Secretary have been applying these measures in a quite different way from what he did.
As an illustration I will quote what was said by the right hon. Gentleman when he was Home Secretary. When we presented the case that he was wrong in excluding these persons he protested very strongly that it was wrong for us to suggest that the thing was done in any slipshod way. He said that the scrutiny of these persons had been done with the greatest care. He added: 1910I resent the view being put forward from both sides of the House that these decisions were left to some obscure person at the ports. May I say from the moment I knew that I should have to deal with this matter I have insisted on handling each of these cases myself."—[Official Report, 14th November, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 1685.]For a Home Secretary to say that was surely an admission that the use of these powers to stop persons coming to a conference was a novelty. Obviously a Home Secretary cannot, in all cases of persons coming into the country, examine every detailed case himself, but in the case of the Sheffield conference he insisted on examining all the cases and deciding each of them for himself.
I should like to know from the spokesman of the Home Office whether in the case of the four Frenchmen, two Belgians and two Germans who were prevented from coming to the Teachers for Peace Conference the decisions in each case were handled by the Home Secretary in the fashion outlined by my right hon. Friend or whether the matter was left to the immigration officers. If the latter was the case, it would certainly be resented by my right hon. Friend, because when in the previous case we suggested that it might have been left to the immigration officers he said that he strongly resented any such suggestion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne referred to the letters which appeared in "The Times" from people who were prevented from coming to the conference. I do not see how anyone with any sense of the liberal traditions of this country could read those letters without some feeling of shame. I propose to read some extracts. As my hon. Friend said, they were written in extremely courteous terms. This is the letter from three Frenchmen who were prevented from attending the conference:We should be extremely obliged to you if you would bring the following facts to the knowledge of the British public. We suppose the same facts have been more or less commented on in different quarters of the Press, but we think some direct and personal relation would be of more value to impartial readers. We had all intended to spend part of our holidays in London. We are three French teachers, and, as we had heard that a conference organised by the National Committee of Teachers for Peace was to take place in London on December 29 and 30, we intended to go and attend at some of the debates. We also wanted to visit London as tourists.The three of us were refused permission to land in Great Britain because we meant to go 1911 to that conference. Our luggage and handbags were thoroughly searched and it was obvious, in spite of the perfect correctness and consideration with which we were treated, that we were suspected of some serious offence which we were at a loss to guess. None of us attempted to hide the truth. We answered straightforwardly to the questions that were asked us, but we all have the impression that it took some time for the immigration officers to believe us when we repeatedly asserted that we had also come for other motives than the conference itself.We asked if the conference had been forbidden in London. The answer being negative, we asked why, then, we were hindered from attending it and refused permission to land. To which question they all answered, both at New-haven and London Airport, that they could not tell us why, that it was not a personal matter, but a Cabinet decision concerning foreigners intending to attend the conference. It was a heavy blow, both morally and materially. Morally, we had trusted the British democratic institutions, and, materially, people of our station cannot afford such a loss of money for nothing. We have just applied to the Home Office and asked wheher we could be given compensation, as we could not be supposed to know there were such arbitrary decisions against foreigners.We still cannot understand why, if a thing is legal in your country, we have no right to take an interest in it. That is the crucial point. In this case, has not the law been superseded by special police regulations? We will say no more about it except that our holidays are ruined and that we left England with a terrible feeling that the mere fact of crossing the Channel is in itself trespassing over—what?I am sure that any hon. Member reading that letter will feel at any rate a little ashamed at the discourtesy shown to people coining to this country. To put it at its lowest, it is not a trivial matter that people who decided to spend part of their holiday in London and made all their preparations for doing so should have no indication beforehand whether they would be allowed to come in or not. They arrived and were met by the immigration officers and sent back, and their holidays were ruined. To put it at its lowest, it is a piece of discourtesy, but the issue of principle goes rather higher.
So perhaps, as a matter of manners, the Home Office spokesman will tell us what answer has been sent from the Home Office to the letter which asked whether any compensation would be given to the people who were sent back in that fashion. After all, if they had studied the matter in advance, all they could have discovered as to how the Regulation would work was what was 1912 said on the subject in our debate by my right hon. Friend. They might have said to themselves, "Well maybe at any rate we have a chance of being treated like Picasso instead of Shostokovitch, and how are we to know we are to be regarded as dogs instead of sheep?" It seems to me that when three people want to come to this country they should be treated in a different fashion.
This letter in "The Times" provoked another interesting letter, a few days later from the Headmaster of Alleyne's Grammar School, Stevenage. I do not know what his political views are, but from what I know about him from reading his letter he seems to have an archaic view about the liberal traditions of this country, and is rather shocked. In his letter he says:On the second occasion a friend of mine, a French surgeon of some eminence, and an active member of the Radical Party, was refused entrance in the same way as your correspondents from Paris because he wished to attend a peace conference being held at that time in Sheffield.I am not sure whether that case occurred at the time of the previously mentioned Sheffield peace conference or not, but here is a member of the Radical Party in France—not the Communist Party—and an eminent surgeon. He is turned back, and apparently, if the test was being applied by the right hon. Member for South Shields, he was turned back because he was a dog, not a sheep. But here it is quite clear that this man had every right to come to this country and, on any liberal interpretation of the laws, we had no right to exclude him.
But there was a third letter that appeared in "The Times", and perhaps in one sense it was the most remarkable of all. This was the case of a man who was sent to this country, invited by his own embassy here in London, to come to London on some official business, to discuss cultural relations. The letter did not disclose the name of the country, but it is a Western European democracy and a member of N.A.T.O. He carried a letter from his own Foreign Office, in English, stating the purpose of his visit. He happened to be a teacher, so when he got to the airport they said, "What are you coming for?" and when they looked down the list and saw that the man actually followed the "criminal" profession of teaching they were highly sus- 1913 picious and said, "We have got to look out for you. Are you here to go to the Teachers for Peace Conference?" He had never heard of it before, but said, "I am going to London, and very likely I will look in at the conference". After the authorities had spent several hours apparently telephoning the Home Office to find out whether he was to be allowed in, eventually he was allowed in. Again, it is a very polite and courteous letter, but it is a letter which also condemns the whole doctrine which the Home Office is seeking to apply in these cases. So I hope that in that case also a humble apology has been sent from the Home Office to this gentleman, if only in the interests of good manners.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not know whether he did or not. It seems that eventually the authorities lost track of him.
It would be interesting to know exactly how these Regulations are applied, because if the Home Secretary is not deciding each case, as was done in the case of the previous Government according to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, what exactly are the rules, and are they left to the immigration officials to decide? What do the Home Office do? Has it a list of all Communist meetings taking place in London, all the conferences being organised by the Communist Party in London, and has it seriously got members of the Civil Service employed in the Home Office going through the list of all the conferences and various organisations which the Communists are arranging, and sending out edicts to all the ports saying that they must watch out for all the people coming to these different conferences?
That would really make the system watertight, but I imagine that if we are to do that a very large sum of money must be spent on it. But if we are not doing that, and are only picking them out here and there and saying, "We will spoil this man's holiday in order not to encourage others who want to take their holidays in Britain," it does not make any sense at all.
On the grounds of sheer expediency, what is the use of doing it? What purpose does it serve? If these four French- 1914 men, two Belgians and two Germans had been allowed to go to the Teachers for Peace Conference, it would not have done us any harm. Nobody would have heard that this conference—which, I gather, only about 100 people attended—had taken place if it had not been for the mammoth publicity given to it all over the world by the ineptitude of the Home Office.
If all those people I have mentioned were raging Communists, which I strongly doubt, what harm would it have done? It might have done them good to stroll around London for a little while. They might have found that there were very few Fascist cannibals in this country, and they might have taken that impression back to their own countries. What the Home Office has done is to send each of them back a petty martyr, and a standing proof that we have departed from many of our liberal traditions.
What is the principle which underlies the policy of the Government? It has never been clearly defined, although the Home Secretary has said that the principle laid down by my right hon. Friend and adopted in fuller measure by him is not to allow propagandists into this country who intend to subvert our system of society. We are apparently screening the people coming to this country and, if we think they are going to seek to subvert our system of society, we are not going to let them in.
"Propaganda" is a much-defiled word. The most famous people who have ever come here from foreign parts have been propagandists. On this definition of propaganda, St. Augustine would never have been allowed in. William III would never have been allowed to land at Torbay—and we should have been cursed by the House of Stuart ever since. Indeed, if the Prime Minister's ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, had vigorously applied this Order at that time, the present Queen would obviously not now be on our Throne. One could go on through the whole of our history and show how absurd it would have been, in century after century, if this principle had been applied by Home Offices in days gone by.
I ask the Government to abandon this silly notion of trying to prevent people from seeing how we live in Great Britain. 1915 It cannot do them anything but good to be allowed here, and it cannot do us any harm. But it does harm all over the world if people believe that we are abandoning our liberal traditions. How long will it be before we discover that the way to defeat the Communists is not to behave like them?
§ 12.4 a.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)
Some of the anecdotes quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) reminded me of the unfortunate experience of the elderly Frenchwoman who was obliged to come to this country as a refugee fairly early in the war. She was armed with a document of some kind which described her profession as "journalière," which, I understand, is French for "charwoman." She thought it advisable to translate this into English and consulted somebody as to its meaning in our language. She was given the too literal answer, that "journalière" should be rendered in English as "daily worker." Armed with that document, describing her as a "journalière; daily worker," she had the greatest difficulty in getting into this country.
I am afraid that I have allowed some of the points made by my hon. Friend to divert me from what I intended to say. We have urged that it would be wise to annul this Order so that the law relating to aliens could be brought before this House in the form of a Bill. Many forcible reasons have been given why that would be the better course to adopt. I think that it would be better, not only for us in this House, but for the people in the country to have the facts and the law relating to the problem of aliens put before them with the publicity which a debate on a Bill would secure. All classes of people in this country have, since the 19th century, in the main, wanted to behave in a humane and civilized manner to aliens living here. In earlier periods of our history our record is not so good.
In recent years the problem has become rather more difficult, and rather more likely to create the kind of problem which my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) mentioned. That is because of the increase in the number of aliens, partly because of the war and partly because 1916 numbers of people found themselves swept here by the tide of persecution or came here to take part in the war side by side with us and found it impossible to return. After the war there were many tragic cases of elderly relatives and young children living in Europe with no one to care for them, whose nearest relative had been planted by the tide of war in this country.
That was the problem which my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) had to cope with, and as reference has been made to his conduct of those responsibilities at the Home Office, I should like to say that the way he dealt with that problem should command the highest praise. He dealt with it with a prudence and wisdom, which prevented the growth of violence and xenophobia which might have occurred, and with a compassion and generosity which means that many people in this country who are alive today owe their lives and liberty to his conduct of his responsibilities. But it resulted in an increase in the number of aliens in this country.
It is true that when measured by the total population that number is but a tiny percentage, and no one except the most malacious would suggest that any of our problems, social or economic housing or food, is rendered any more difficult by the presence here of any aliens. It is true that the alien population of this country, naturally and inevitably, is not spread evenly over the country. There are certain areas where it is to be found in exceptional proportions. Those of us who represent divisions in great cities or certain parts of London have had this problem presented to us.
What I want to put to the House is the position of an Englishman whose life in recent years has been such that the problems of housing and the cost of living have pressed with special weight on his family. He may be living in very overcrowded conditions, finding it difficult to make ends meet, has always been law-abiding and his interest and inclination has been to be decent and humane towards any human being of any race and colour. As time goes by he reads in a newspaper a paragraph describing an alien family—perhaps without parallel anywhere else in the country—well housed and perhaps well off, and someone tells him of an alien who has broken the 1917 law in a particular manner. Gradually, in his domestic difficulties, with the scraps of information he gets, he begins to wonder whether he should continue with the ordinary civilised standards with which he has begun. That is where a certain amount of danger lies.
As I have said, since the 19th century we have been clear in this country of the ugly disease of xenophobia, hatred of foreigners because they are foreigners. If it has affected one or two people, it has never become general, and I think we ought to give attention at the present time to the fact that there are certain districts in the country where, if we do not consider the problem properly, this ugly disease might spring up. My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne pointed out the kind of problem which can arise.
In considering the conditions of aliens in this country and how to treat them humanely, we have to remember they are packed together and living in hostels. Is that really conducive to good relations between them and the rest of the country? I should like to see this matter dealt with, not in the inevitable hasty way in which we have to deal with it when it is brought before us as delegated legislation, but carefully and fully, not only for the advantage of hon. Members here, but because it would put the full facts of the law before the country as a whole. Once that was done, any danger of a growth of foreigner-baiting and mere stupid and vicious hatred of foreigners in any part of this country would disappear.
This is a special reason which I would urge in addition to those that have been forcibly and eloquently put forward by my hon. Friends and by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields as to why this Order should be annulled and the Home Office made to bring forward a Bill that will help us and the country to understand this problem properly.
§ 12.13 a.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretory of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
This is the second debate which we have had on this Order in the last two months. I do not complain about that, because the subject is an extremely important one, and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said, it is one of the gravest 1918 responsibilities which my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has to discharge.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), who moved the annulment of this Order, and the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who seconded the Prayer, were not correct in saying that this would be the last opportunity we would have to discuss the Order. The Order rests upon an Act which is renewed annually, and, therefore, there will be an opportunity to discuss it year by year until such time as there is permanent legislation.
This Order is largely consolidating. It replaces 20 Orders and reproduces, for the most part, their principal features. It rearranges those features and it rewrites the orders and clarifies them. That fact has been acknowledged in all parts of the House. Some of the obsolete provisions have been omitted and the Order removes inconsistencies and anomalies. In my speech in November last I dealt fairly fully with the changes it makes, and it will not be necessary for me to go over that ground again.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields pressed very strongly for legislation. To do that he had to wear a white sheet, because he was Home Secretary for some six years and he failed to produce the legislation. He wore the white sheet very ostentatiously, and if I may say so penitence is one of the compensations of being in opposition. It is not so easy to indulge in it when one is on the Front Bench defending a situation.
It would be out of order for me to pursue the question of legislation this evening, but I think I can say that there is something to be said, from the point of view of those who argue for legislation, for delay at the present time. This is not the opportune moment to go ahead with the most liberal form of legislation, and my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) emphasised that point in his speech.
I should like to deal with the various points which have been raised. The hon. Member for Oldham, West and other hon. Members have spoken about the Home Secretary's powers of deportation under the Order. It is extremely difficult to try to define the grounds on which it 1919 would be proper for deportation to be carried out and, therefore, it would also be extremely difficult to fix, either in legislation, or in an Order, the grounds on which we think deportation should depend. If we tried to lay down rules in so many words, the result would inevitably be more hardship to those concerned. The Home Secretary, under the very wide discretionary power given him by the Order, can, and does, take into account all personal, family, and other considerations affecting the individual whose deportation is being considered.
It is true that some cases for deportation do not come before the courts. The hon. Member for Falmouth and Cam-borne (Mr. Hayman) referred to a case in which, I think, it is now known that the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided not to prosecute, but the hon. Member pressed that the Home Secretary should make an order for deportation. The effect of his argument would be that if rules for deportation were reduced in any sense to writing, they would have to be so drawn as to provide for the deportation of someone of whom he disapproved in the kind of way which he has mentioned tonight.
§ Mr. Hayman
I have put to the Home Secretary in correspondence that he should exercise these powers now. I said in my speech that the powers have been exercised in matters of a dangerous sort. Here, it is a question of whether the aliens were conducive to the public good; the question I have raised is one of moral import, and Hansard will show, and as the hon. Gentleman will recall from the newspaper report, the Director of Public Prosecutions really withheld authority to prosecute because of lack of corroborative evidence. True, that is the legal position, but here we are concerned with something operated on those which are not strictly legal grounds.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
It is clear that the hon. Member wants very stringent powers to be given to the Home Secretary, that he wants them to be very stringently exercised. I can tell the hon. Member that the case is now before the Home Secretary and will be considered most fully and carefully in the way in which my right hon. and learned Friend always does consider such cases.
1920 There are many cases which come before the courts where a recommendation for deportation is made, but where the recommendation is not carried out for the very good reason that the Home Secretary takes account of things which cannot be before the court. Perhaps that would be more in line with the case raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan). That is a case under consideration and I cannot say any more about it than that.
Perhaps it would be right for me to say that of the 232 people against whom deportation orders were made last year there were only two who had come to this country before the last war. I think it would be of some value to the House if I gave the facts of those two cases. One was an Austrian woman who entered a mental home shortly before the war as a voluntary patient. She had come over here to take up domestic work. She was prevented from being sent back to her own country by the war. The Austrian authorities themselves suggested repatriation and the hospital authorities advised that it would be beneficial to this woman to return to her own people. An order was made for the benefit of the woman to enable her to be sent back free of cost.
The other was the case of a man who had been recommended for deportation after conviction by a court. The Home Secretary—I believe it was the former Home Secretary—decided against deportation and that the man should be given another chance, and warned, but he committed another offence and, in those circumstances, one cannot have much sympathy with him.
The hon. Member for Oldham, West, on behalf of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) raised the case of a Chinese man. The man, aged 73, was recommended for de portation in Liverpool. He was sentenced on 18th January and fined £50 or three months in lieu. He could not pay the fine at once and was sent to prison—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The information I have is that he could not pay the fine at once and so was sent to prison. He was released on bail on 22nd January on payment of part of the fine and I can 1921 give the firm assurance that he was never detained under the Alien Order power at all. My right hon. and learned Friend is considering the case and, of course, he is empowered to accept or reject the recommendation of the court in the light of all the circumstances, The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne complained about the arbitrary character of the powers of the Home Secretary.
I think there is fairly general agreement in all parts of the House that there must be some measure of control over aliens. There is strong pressure from certain countries where there is substantial unemployment to immigrate into this country and some measure of control is necessary to deal with that. The choice before the House is whether we are to have fixed rules or whether we should give a wide discretion to the Minister who is to operate the controls. There are really serious objections to having fixed rules which could not possibly meet the infinite variety of cases one has to consider.
If one attempted to draft such rules the control would be bound to be inelastic, and it would be impossible to consider individual cases on their merits. The advantage of the system we have is that cases can be, and are, considered on merits. The fact that there is discretion does of course mean that the question whether an alien can be admitted, or must be deported, rests on policy and not on a decision of the courts. But I think it is right to tell those who press for something more like fixed rules, or some system of appeal, that where you have a decision resting on policy, as we have decided to have, there is an appeal to the Home Secretary against the decision of the immigration officer. Advantage of that right of appeal is freely taken.
§ Mr. Hale
The appeal is from Caesar to Caesar, from the employee to the boss. For the Home Office to be putting the view to the House that this can be regarded as some form of appeal is unfortunate. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not press that. Perhaps he will tell us about the Chinaman. If he does deport him, can he say whether he will deport him to Chiang Kai-shek or to Mao Tsetung?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I should like, first, to know whether he came from 1922 Formosa or the mainland. I do not want to put too much weight on this, but I do tell the House that it is open to anyone who feels aggrieved by a decision of an immigration officer to take up the matter with the Home Secretary or with me.
Several hon. Members raised the question of the admission of "Teachers for Peace." There is no restriction upon a person coming to this country because of the political views he holds. There is no ban upon Communists coming to this country as such. They are freely admitted to make private visits, to attend meetings of reputable bodies, and even to attend meetings of the Communist Party. The only ground, in such circumstances, for refusing them admission is one which is applicable not only to Communists but to anyone, namely, that they are personally objectionable in some way. But they can, and do. come here to attend Communist meetings.
Meetings of the kind organised by the World Peace Campaign are quite different from those of the kind I have mentioned. That was recognised long ago. It was recognised by the late Government. The best definition has been given by my right hon. and learned Friend, who described them as meetings held under the guise of some harmless name intended to deceive the public about their aims, and which are the instruments of Communist propaganda. Those are the meetings for which we do not allow aliens to come in. I think that the reason will be self-evident to the people of this country.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Whether they agree with it or not, anyone could follow the argument that such a meeting for such a purpose with such a concealed object would be a meeting proper to forbid, but what is much less easy to understand is why perfectly responsible persons should not be allowed to attend a conference which is perfectly lawful.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
A great many things might be done, but for the present purpose I think there is agreement both between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields and my right hon. and learned Friend—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
—that the right way to deal with this is to stop aliens 1923 coming in for this particular purpose. The meetings for which aliens have been stopped are all quite clearly of that character—the Sheffield Peace Congress. 1950; the National Peace Month, 1951: the National Assembly of Women, 1952, and again in 1953; the British Peace Committee's National Conference, 1952: the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, 1952; the Authors' World Peace Appeal, and the recent Teachers for Peace Conference.
I quite agree, of course, that some non-Communists have been involved in these conferences, and indeed I have no doubt that some non-Communist aliens have been refused admission on that score, but that is of the very essence of the reason why there has been refusal. It is because innocent people are brought here to be used for Communist propaganda purposes.
Every alien wishing to enter the United Kingdom must obtain leave to land from an immigration officer. The United Kingdom visa is not, therefore, an entry visa. It is nothing more than a preliminary inquiry to save the possibility of difficulty and trouble afterwards. The visa issuing authorities are, of course, kept fully informed of Home Office policy, and a visa holder is very rarely indeed refused admission to the United Kingdom. But the visa issuing officer does not necessarily see the applicant and cases of refusal do occur for that reason.
For example, a visa holder may come with a Ministry of Labour permit, and he or she may be found to be suffering from a serious disease when interviewed by the immigration officer. Obviously, notwithstanding the existence of the visa he cannot be allowed in. In Dr. Oesterreich's case the position is that he obtained a visa by telling the visa issuing authority that he was coming to this country for a personal visit to two friends. He did not say when applying for the visa that he was coming for the purpose of attending the Teachers for Peace Conference. That was discovered when he had come to the country and was being interviewed by the immigration officer.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Hon. Members must put their own interpretation on the facts, but the facts are that he did not say he was coming to attend the conference, and that only became known when he landed in this country.
§ Mr. Foot
Is the Under-Secretary going to say anything about the three Frenchmen who came on holiday to attend the Teachers for Peace Conference, but were sent back? Is he going to say anything about compensation for their holiday which was ruined? There is also the person who came with a letter to the embassy of his own country in London and who was put through all this rigmarole and nonsense at the port. Is he going to try and escape all those questions? Is it good manners the way we treat people in this fashion?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
A very large number of questions have been raised, and to answer them in detail would take some hours. I have tried to answer the main points and give the gist of the Government's policy. As this does involve a question of policy I think I can say that in such circumstances no possible question of compensation can arise.
As regards foreign forces in this country, which is a point of some substance raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde) the position is that members of the armed forces of Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the United States if they are not on leave for more than 21 days, or absent without leave, are deemed not to be aliens for the purposes of this Order The reason is that the parties to the N.A.T.O. agreement, except Greece and Turkey, undertook to exempt from the 1925 normal aliens' requirements of their own countries serving personnel from the other N.A.T.O. countries. I understand that our forces in those other countries to which I have referred enjoy full reciprocity in this matter, and perhaps I should say that it has nothing whatever to do with the Visiting Forces Act.
I have tried to deal with the principal points that have been raised. I recognise there are other points, and I will examine them carefully and, if necessary, I will let hon. Members know the answers. I believe that this Order generally commends itself in all parts of the House, and I hope that the hon. Member for Oldham, West will be willing to withdraw his Motion.
§ Mr. Hale
I am sure that the whole House will feel that the Under-Secretary has replied most courteously to this debate, and has been most helpful. It would be flattering to say that I think that his explanation that aliens who carry Communist cards in their pockets or who carry muskets can come in, while people who do not carry either one or the other are subject to special powers. The Under-Secretary referred to the further possibilities we shall have of investigating this matter, and I am sure we will seize them when the time comes. I believe I am expressing the feeling of the House when I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.