HC Deb 14 July 1955 vol 543 cc2105-7
63. Miss Bacon

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that several of the delegates to the Socialist International Women's Conference, held at Transport House on 9th and 10th July, were subjected to prolonged and detailed interrogation by the immigration officers; that a woman of over 80 years of age was kept standing for 25 minutes during questioning; and if, in the interests of international good will, he will take steps to stop procedure of this kind.

Major Lloyd-George

From the inquiries I have made it does not appear that any delegate was subjected to a lengthy immigration examination. The particular delegate mentioned in the second part of the Question has been identified and I am assured that in her case the examination took less than five minutes.

Miss Bacon

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that his information is quite different from the information I received at first hand from the woman concerned, and that it really was embarrassing for those of us who were Members of the House and hosts to these women, most of whom are well known and respected women in their own country, to hear them comparing notes of the way they were received here on Monday?

Major Lloyd-George

I am not in a position to give the hon. Lady information other than about my immigration officers. I do not know what happened before, but the actual examination by the immigration officer took only five minutes. I made all the inquiries I could. I am making further inquiries which, I hope, will give more information. If any examination appears to be lengthy, the senior officer immediately takes the person being questioned to somewhere where he can sit down. I am assured that in this case the examination took five minutes.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman have a thorough look at the procedure adopted by immigration officers and special branch men, particularly at airports and other places of entry into the United Kingdom? Will he listen to representations made to him on this subject, if one or two of my hon. Members want to get in touch with him?

Major Lloyd-George

Of course, I will listen to anything the hon. Gentleman or any of his hon. Friends brings forward. I am able to judge only on the information I have. For example, there are instructions that infirm and elderly people are given special consideration. But I would be happy to look at anything he brought forward, because I am quite satisfied from the information I have that the immigration officers do their duty with efficiency and great consideration.

Mr. J. Griffiths

In view of the undesirability of these women going back to their countries with unhappy memories of this kind of thing, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman make an investigation and inform the House of its results?

Major Lloyd-George

I will certainly do that, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will realise there may be causes of delay which have nothing whatever to do with immigration officers. It may well be that the lady in question took 25 minutes from the time she landed at the airport to the time she got to the Customs. I do not know. I was concerned only with what the immigration officers did, and my information is that they took only five minutes.

Mrs. Braddock

Have the immigration officers any prior knowledge of the type of conference to which people from abroad are coming? Does he not think, in view of the fact that this creates very great difficulty and very great upset for people who are coming to the conference, that giving some information to immigration officers about these conferences should be considered so that these difficult situations can be avoided?

Major Lloyd-George

I do not know whether we can give them a list of all the conferences. It would be a fairly long list, especially at this time of year. The point is that all people coming to this country, whether coming to a conference or anywhere else, should be treated properly. From the information at my disposal, I have no reason to believe that this was not done.

Mr. S. Silverman

Why was there a complaint?

Major Lloyd-George

Even the hon. Gentleman can be mistaken occasionally. It is possible for people to mix up the total time between arriving at the airport and going through the immigration office with the time they spend in the office. The time spent in the office in this case was five minutes. I had this Question only the day before yesterday. Further inquiries are being made, and I shall be happy to communicate with the hon. Lady when I get the result.