HC Deb 16 May 1957 vol 570 cc545-7
3. Mrs. Castle

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he will give an assurance that in future, before making any adverse report on a British citizen to a Commonwealth Government, he will inform the person concerned of the nature of the report and give him a chance to refute any charges made against him.

Mr. Alport

No, Sir. As I informed the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) on 9th May, it is the duty of the Secretary of State to satisfy himself as to the reliability of any information which may be passed.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Under-Secretary aware that, since I raised the case of Mr. Miller in the House of Commons last week, I have received a large number of letters from people to say that they have similarly suffered from adverse reports made against them? I have one here from somebody who wants to emigrate to Canada and has been refused for no known reason. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that this may seriously affect a large number of British citizens and that they ought to be given the same safeguards as the Privy Councillors' conference on security wanted to see applied to the Civil Service?

Mr. Alport

The hon. Lady should not assume that the reason for the refusal of entry to Canada, which was referred to in the letter from her constituent or correspondent, has anything to do with the subject mentioned in the Question she has asked.

4. Sir L. Plummer

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations from what sources he obtains his information before making reports on British citizens to Commonwealth Governments.

Mr. Alport

It would not be in the public interest for my noble Friend to disclose the sources of such information.

Sir L. Plummer

If one of the sources of information is M.I.5, will the Under-Secretary ensure that in future his Department checks very carefully what this notoriously incompetent organisation has to say about British citizens?

Mr. Alport

I have said in answer to a previous Question that it is the duty of the Secretary of State to satisfy himself about the reliability of any information that may be passed, and I can assure the hon. Member that that is done.

5. Mr. W. Griffiths

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in how many cases he has made adverse reports on British citizens to Commonwealth Governments during the last twelve months.

Mr. Alport

It would not be in the public interest to disclose the number of such cases.

Hon. Members


Mr. Griffiths

What protection has the House of Commons in these circumstances? Is the Under-Secretary not aware that there is really increasing concern about the whole operation of security procedure in this country? In view of the public alarm, of which we are all aware, may I ask what possible defence—and there is ample evidence of an innocent person being involved—an innocent person can have against this kind of Star Chamber procedure which brings the House into disrepute?

Mr. Alport

I cannot accept the statement about public alarm, but I can say that these reports are not very frequent in either direction.

6. Mr. Swingler

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations for how long his Department has been rendering secret security reports on citizens of the United Kingdom to Commonwealth Governments; and to what extent such reports are rendered on the initiative of Her Majesty's Government or at the request of Commonwealth Governments.

Mr. Alport

Information has been exchanged with other Commonwealth Governments on a reciprocal basis in the common security interest for well over thirty years under Governments of all parties. Such exchanges sometimes take place at the initiative of the Government which is in possession of information, and sometimes in response to requests.

Mr. Swingler

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this now reveals to me a most unsatisfactory situation? Is it not high time that there was an inquiry into it? Is it not time that Parliament had some control over this situation and was able to have information about what goes on? Does the hon. Gentleman not think it an elementary principle of justice that a person against whom serious charges are being made should be informed that the charges are being made and should have some chance of defence?

Mr. Alport

The arrangements have been of great advantage to this country and to other Commonwealth Governments in the security field, but there is a Question on the Order Paper to the Prime Minister relating to this matter which, no doubt, will be considered later today.