HC Deb 09 May 1957 vol 569 cc1160-3
20. Mrs. Castle

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what information was supplied by his Department in Karachi to the Pakistan Government in response to a request for information regarding a permit to Mr. Keith John Miller, a citizen of the United Kingdom, to take part in the expedition to the Karakoram Himalayas.

23. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what communication he has had with the Pakistan Government regarding their refusal to allow Mr. Keith John Miller, of 42, Queens Ferry Close, Rugby, to enter their territory in preparation for his forthcoming Himalayan expedition.

Mr. Alport

Information is, in certain circumstances, exchanged between Commonwealth Governments about persons proposing to travel from one part of the Commonwealth to another. But it is not the practice to disclose whether or not such information has been furnished to any other Government in regard to named individuals.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that the hon. Gentleman's noble Friend the Secretary of State, whom I have seen on this case, has refused to make representations to enable this young man to take part in a mountaineering expedition which he has spent a number of years in organising? Is it not a fact also that the Secretary of State refuses to give me or the boy any reason why he will not make representations? In view of these facts, is he not condemning the boy without even stating what the charges are or giving him a chance to clear his name, thus leaving him under a smear for the rest of his life?

Mr. Alport

The hon. Lady does not, I think, advance the interests of the young man concerned by couching her question in those terms. All I can say in connection with the Question which is on the Order Paper is that I cannot add to my reply.

Mr. Johnson

In the context of what my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) has said, does the hon. Gentleman not honestly feel that mountaineering of this type is completely above politics, that it knows no class or colour bar, and does he not honestly think, looking at the matter again, that it is a scandalous business? Will he not have a second or third look and consider the matter once more on behalf of my constituent?

Mr. Alport

I am glad to be able to inform the hon. Genlteman that the Pakistan Government have agreed to withdraw their objection to the inclusion of Mr. Miller in the expedition, and therefore he will, I understand, take part in it.

Mr. Callaghan

Whilst I am sure that we all welcome that piece of information, which might well have been conveyed in response to the original Question, may I ask whether it is the case that it was the British Government which originally supplied the information upon which the refusal of a visa was based, and, in that case, was it not rather cowardly of them to shelter behind a refusal made by the Pakistan Government?

Mr. Alport

It is entirely a matter for the Pakistan Government to take what action they decide with regard to the entry of persons from other countries into their territory. It is not a question of sheltering behind the Pakistan Government in this matter. They have their own responsibilities, and they will carry them out. So far as this particular case is concerned, I am glad to say that Mr. Miller is now to be included in the expedition.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

This is a personal case, and it seems somewhat involved; I have not been able to follow it very clearly, though I have listened with care. I think that if hon. Members wish to pursue it with any advantage, it ought to be raised on the Adjournment at some time.

21. Sir L. Plummer

asked the Under Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what conversations he had with the Dean of the City and Guilds College on the character and political associations of Mr. Keith John Miller, a student of the college, before refusing to make representations to the Pakistan Government to secure a permit for him to take part in the forthcoming Himalaya expedition to the Karakoram.

Mr. Alport

There has been no conversations with the Dean of the City and Guilds College about Mr. Miller.

Sir L. Plummer

We have had an example of the way in which the Government failed to present the case for a British citizen. May I ask, so that we do not get a repetition of that in the future, whether an opportunity was given to Mr. Miller to present references from his professor and from other tutors, and, if not, would the Minister in future see to it that a person put in this position shall be entitled to produce evidence on his own behalf?

Mr. Alport

I do not accept the assumption made by the hon. Member. The important point in this is that Mr. Miller is now available to join the expedition.

Mr. Albu

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Mr. Miller, who appears in this matter to have been treated badly by Her Majesty's Government, has the very highest references from the authorities of the college from which he graduated last year, of which I happen to be a governor, and is supported by all his student colleagues, including the President of the Imperial College Union, and the City and Guilds Union, of which he himself was president last year?

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Under-Secretary not aware that the important point here is not that Mr. Miller has now been given a visa to go but that the British Government should have supplied to the Pakistan Government in the first place information which led them to refuse a visa, without communicating anything at all to Mr. Miller? Is the Under-Secretary not aware that those of us who have studied these papers think that there are elements which are unworthy of the Commonwealth Relations Office or whoever is responsible in this, which really smack of "McCarthyism", and that the matter will have to be raised again?

Mr. Alport

The position with regard to raising the matter again is, as you pointed out, Mr. Speaker, entirely for those hon. Members concerned. I have already said that information is, in certain circumstances, exchanged between Commonwealth Governments about persons proposing to travel from one part of the Commonwealth to another. I would say that that practice is not exclusive to the present Government but has been followed by successive Governments for a very long time.

Mr. H. Morrison

Whilst one follows that point, it nevertheless is the case, is it not, that although information was passed from the British Government to the Pakistan Government which apparently had some consequence, the Under-Secretary now says that he is glad that Mr. Miller is to be given the necessary facilities? In these circumstances, is there really not an obligation on the hon. Gentleman to tell the House what was the information furnished by Her Majesty's Government and what was the objection on the part of the Pakistan Government, in order that we can more fairly judge the situation?

Mr. Alport

I am certain that, had the right hon. Gentleman been answering the question in similar circumstances during the period of office of his Government, he would have felt obliged to make exactly the same replies as I have been able to make.