HC Deb 26 February 1958 vol 583 cc379-81

3.37 p.m.

Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide that any British subject or British protected person who is deemed or declared to be a prohibited immigrant in any British colony, protectorate, United Kingdom mandated territory or United Kingdom trust territory, or who, being resident in any such colony, protectorate or territory, is refused a passport, may appeal against such decision or refusal to an advisory committee set up to advise the Secretary of State for the Colonies. My proposed Bill will, I hope, commend itself to hon. Members in all parts of the House. As hon. Members know, under the legislation which is now in force, in slightly different forms, throughout East and Central Africa, anyone may be declared a prohibited immigrant. I should like to read to the House an extract from an ordinance, the Kenya Immigration Ordinance, passed in 1946, which is typical of them all. A prohibited immigrant is there defined as Any person who, in consequence of information received from any Government through official or diplomatic channels, or from any other source deemed by the principal immigration officer to he reliable, is deemed by the principal immigration officer to be an undesirable immigrant. Then there is a proviso that Provided that every decision of the principal immigration officer under this paragraph shall be subject to confirmation or otherwise by the Governor in Council of Ministers, whose decision shall be final and conclusive and shall not be questioned in any court. Those provisions apply not only to persons who are seeking to enter the Colony, but to people who are already living there. Sometimes they are applied to people who have been living there for a considerable number of years, and who have made their homes and livelihood there. But under provisions of this kind they are suddenly required to leave, and in each case no reason is given.

The prohibited immigrant has no means of knowing the grounds on which he has been condemned. He has no appeal and no redress. Even if he comes to a Member of this House, it is of no avail to him because the Secretary of State invariably says at the Dispatch Box that he is not prepared to interfere with the exercise of the discretion of the local Government.

Even in the abstract, those powers, it seems to me, would be open to the very strongest objection, but there has, in recent months, been a growing uneasiness among Members of the House of Commons and people outside at the way in which they are being used. Only last Friday we had a debate on the case of Mr. Basil Davidson. He is a well-known journalist, and he is certainly not a member of the Communist Party. As my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) pointed out in that debate, Mr. Davidson is hated by Communists throughout the world because of the way in which he reported the Hungarian rising. He has been banned not from one territory, but from all of them—from Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Central Africa. In his case, as in every other case, no explanation has been given.

Mr. Davidson's is by no means the only case. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), in the same debate, drew attention to the case of Mr. Marles, who has been living in Nairobi for the last five years, practising as an architect and town planner, and who is now required to leave, without any reason being given. Recent Answers to Questions given in the House have shown that during the last year or two there has been an ominous increase in the number of persons declared prohibited immigrants.

It seems quite clear that, at any rate, some of these people are being excluded because of their political opinions, or because of what are suspected to be their political opinions. This becomes clearer still when we come to the other matter with which the proposed Bill deals, that is to say, the issuing of passports. Here again, there are decisions which are entirely arbitrary and capricious. Passports are refused, and no reasons are given. In the debate on the Gracious Speech, last November, I drew attention to the case of three African leaders, one in Nyasaland, one in Northern Rhodesia, and one in Uganda, all of whom applied for passports to attend an international socialist conference in Bombay, all of them being refused.

It is, I submit, abundantly clear that these powers are being used for political reasons, the nature of which we in the House are not allowed to know. Why should there be decisions which rest upon the unfettered discretion of colonial officials? It is no answer to say that the decision has to be approved by the Governor in Council; even Colonial Governors are not entirely infallible. There is no reason why we should tolerate a form of McCarthyism simply because it appears under a Governor's hat.

What is proposed in the Bill is that there should be an advisory committee, it being the duty of the chairman of the advisory committee to inform the person concerned of the reasons for his being declared a prohibited immigrant or for the refusal of a passport, furnishing him with sufficient particulars to present his case. If the man is in the United Kingdom, he will have an oral hearing; if not, he will be able to make his representations in writing.

These are very moderate proposals, but they are designed to give effect to the elementary principles of justice, that a man shall not be condemned unheard and without knowing what it is that is alleged against him. These are principles which we in this country certainly accept, and they ought to be accepted equally in other territories for which we in this Parliament are responsible.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Foot, Mr. J. Johnson, Mr. Hayman, Sir L. Plummer, Mr. Brockway, Mrs. Castle, Mr. Benn, and Mrs. White.