HC Deb 08 March 1954 vol 524 cc1721-4
17. Mr. Yates

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been made to the Government of the United States of America regarding the requirement under the McCarran-Walker Act that British citizens, including Members of Parliament, should be finger-printed on British soil before they are permitted to leave this country for the purpose of visiting the United States of America.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Applicants for United States visas were first required to have their fingerprints taken 13 years ago under the Aliens Registration Act of 1940. The United States Government are entitled, as is every Government, to lay down such rules as they think fit for the admission and registration of aliens, and Her Majesty's Government had no valid ground for making representations on the subject either at the time or later. We have, however, expressed the hope that visa formalities for British subjects visiting the United States can be reduced to the minimum consistent with American law.

Mr. Yates

May I ask the Minister a question which I can assure him is not put in any unfriendly spirit to America, since I have reason to acknowledge the courtesy extended to me? Does he think, from the discussions that he has had with the American authorities, that they fully appreciate the resentment caused by this method of finger-printing, which is quite repulsive to British citizens except in criminal investigation cases, and will the Government continue to impress on the American authorities the wisdom, in the interests of international good will, of not continuing this practice?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman wants to be helpful over this, and I hope he will support me when I say that all the American authorities concerned are trying to do their best to make the granting of these visas as easy as possible.

Captain Duncan

Would my hon. Friend agree that, if he is going to press the American Government further, he should not press for a distinction between British Members of Parliament and other British citizens?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Yes. I think, with respect, that hon. Members of this House must be extremely careful not to claim for themselves in their private capacity privileges and facilities not given to the ordinary British visitor.

Mr. W. Reid

May I ask whether or not the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary were obliged to give their finger-prints before they were admitted into America?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I think that when they paid their recent visit it was an official one. This formality is applied only to those who go in their private capacity.

18. Mr. Yates

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what countries other than the United States of America require British citizens including Members of Parliament to be finger-printed on British soil before being permitted to enter those countries.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

The immigration laws and regulations of other countries are not a matter for which Her Majesty's Government are responsible. My information is however that finger-printing is one of the visa formalities imposed by at least two of the countries, other than the United States, with whom no reciprocal visa abolition agreement exists. Diplomatic representatives and others travelling on official business are however exempted from this formality.

Mr. Yates

Whilst I would not press the Minister for any discrimination for Members of Parliament, is he aware that, in the case of Canada, Canadian citizens are not finger-printed if they move from Canada to the United States of America, and, therefore, would he ask why there should be discrimination in one part of the Commonwealth?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

That is an entirely different question, relating to an agreement between Canada and the United States, who have a particularly advantageous situation with a 3,000-mile frontier.

Mr. Younger

Does the Under-Secretary think that, if an exception is made for Canada, it indicates that this is not governed by some completely hard-and-fast United States law but is a matter of discretion? Could he not represent that, as we have abolished visas for American citizens, this is one of the things that might be extended to us?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I think the American authorities are well aware of the view of this country, but they have a difficult problem on their hands, and I am sure they will continue to be as helpful as they have tried to be in the last five years.

Mr. S. Silvennan

Whilst freely admitting the right of any country to admit or not to admit any alien to its territory, and to impose such conditions as it thinks reasonable, and whilst expressing no personal grievance of any kind, does the hon. Gentleman realise that many of us feel that the cause of Anglo-American friendship would be advanced by abandoning the censorship of opinion rather than by the censorship of finger-prints or photographs?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

That is an entirely different question.

19. Lieut.-Colonel Upton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in granting visas, he will require visitors from the United States to comply with similar formalities to those required of British visitors to the United States of America.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Since there are no visa requirements for United States citizens entering this country, the Question does not arise.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

In order to make the position quite clear and that the United States Government should be aware of what the hon. Member has been referring to, is there any reason why there should not be a 100 per cent, reciprocity between the citizens of this country and those of the United States? In other words, is there any reason why we also should not ask for finger-prints from U.S. visitors to this country, and so maintain that parity of esteem which the citizens of this country have a right to expect?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Even if the hon. and gallant Member considers that what is being done is wrong, I do not believe that he is arguing that two wrongs make a right.

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of order. As the only Member who has been refused a visa to the United States, I want to indicate my dissatisfaction with the answers given and to give notice that I shall raise the matter when a suitable opportunity arises.