HC Deb 13 June 1961 vol 642 cc383-94

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Gibson-Watt.]

12.1 a.m.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

I wish to raise the question of the refusal of a visa to Captain Galvao, a matter which was brought to the attention of the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) in a Question to the Home Department on 1st June. Captain Galvao has recently won fame by the exploit of the "Santa Maria," but I think that I should refer briefly to the previous claims which he had to be a famous figure, because he had played a considerable part in the politics of Portugal for many years. Originally he was a supporter of the Dictator Salazar in Portugal and helped him to get into power in 1926. He served in many prominent positions in Portugal. In 1947 he was sent out to Angola to conduct an inquiry into conditions there. He brought back a report which made very strong criticisms of what was happening in Angola. I pause to remark that, if Captain Galvao's report on Angola had received more attention from the Portuguese Government at that time, many lives might have been saved in Angola subsequently.

However, Captain Galvao was refused the right to divulge his findings about Angola to the Portuguese Assembly. Instead, he was charged with subversion and put in prison first on a sentence of three years. He still continued to preach the doctrines in which he believed, and he was subsequently, I think in 1958, sentenced to imprisonment for a further period of sixteen years. Taking that record of Captain Galvao and his part in Portuguese politics, at any rate on the face of it, it can be said that he is the kind of person whom the British Government, if they had any interest in freedom, would prefer to associate with rather than Dictator Salazar.

Captain Galvao escaped from his imprisonment and found asylum in the Argentine Embassy in Lisbon. I pay tribute to the Argentine Government, although I never expected to see the day when the Argentine Government would be able to set an example to the British Government in liberal practices. However, that appears to be the case, because the Argentine Government have given facilities to Captain Galvao and the British Government have denied him the right to come to this country.

What are the excuses made by the Home Office? They were given by the Joint Under-Secretary in answer to a Question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury. The hon. and learned Gentleman said: it has never been our tradition to allow foreigners to come here to advocate insurrection against our allies…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st June, 1961; Vol. 641, c. 410.] The advocacy of insurrection is a very wide term. A considerable part of the history of this country has been provided by persons who have come to this country to advocate insurrection against their own Governments, whether their own Governments happened to be allies of ours or not.

Perhaps we had the wrong spokesman from the Government—I do not wish to criticise the hon. Gentleman in that sense—but the Under-Secretary made it clear that the Home Office had consulted the Foreign Office before they took this action. The Under-Secretary then went on to plunge into historical analogies. When he was told that there were possible examples of this country having given shelter or having provided facilities for people to make speeches in this country in order to object against tyranny in their own countries, some of my hon. Friends referred to the case of Garibaldi. The Under-Secretary replied:

"…there is a considerable difference between the Portugal of today, which is a member of N.A.T.O., and the Italy of Garibaldi's time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st June, 1961; Vol. 641, c. 411.]

It is not a crime against the Italy of Garibaldi's time that Italy could not be a member of N.A.T.O., since N.A.T.O., of course, was not in existence then.

Let us see what was the comparison between the Portugal of today and the Italy of Garibaldi's time. One of the most famous statements ever made by a British Government on their attitude towards people who were attempting to oppose tyrannies in their own country was made in a famous passage given by Lord John Russell on 27th October, 1860, when he described the attitude of the British Government at the time when Garibaldi had been denounced as a pirate, in much the same terms as Captain Galvao has been denounced. Lord Russell said in that famous passage: There appear [he said] to have been two motives which have induced the people of the Roman and Neopolitan States to have joined willingly in the subversion of their Governments. The first of these was that the Governments of the Pope and the King of the Two Sicilies provided so ill for the administration of justice, the protection of personal liberty, and the general welfare of the people, that their subjects looked forward to the overthrow of their rulers as a necessary preliminary to an improvement in their condition. That is the description which Lord John Russell gave of the situation in Italy at that time, and I cannot see how anyone can deny that that could apply to the conditions and affairs in Portugal today.

Certainly it is the attitude taken by Captain Galvao—an attitude taken at grave risk to his own life on numerous occasions. He is, therefore, not a person to be sneered at, as certain hon. Gentlemen opposite sneered when questions about Captain Galvao were raised in the House.

It appears that the only reason why the Home Office has deserted the honourable traditions of this country in providing asylum and facilities for people of foreign countries protesting against tyrannies in their own countries is because they wish to crawl and curry favour with the Portuguese Government.

In the words of William Wordsworth, I say to the Government: That an accursed thing it is, to gaze on prosperous tyrants with a dazzled eye.

12.9 a.m.

Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) for his initiative in raising this subject on the Adjournment tonight. Of the many disturbing aspects of this matter, not the least are the details of the reply of the Under-Secretary on 1st June to the effect that the Foreign Office had to be consulted before a decision was made in regard to the granting of a visa to Captain Galvao. Why was the Foreign Secretary consulted about this visa? We can only assume that it was because he had been warned that the Portuguese authorities would regard it as an unfriendly act if Captain Galvao came to this country.

We understand also from the hon. and learned Gentleman's reply on 1st June that it is important to bear in mind the circumstances in which he wishes to come, namely, to give lectures, and by whom those lectures are sponsored We all want the British public to be as well informed as possible about the situation in Portugal and, in particular, in Angola. How can we expect intelligent decisions to be taken about our policy towards Angola in the United Nations and elsewhere if we do not have access to the facts? What better man to inform us about the facts than Captain Galvao himself?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale said, Captain Galvao has held many responsible positions in Angola, in the last of which, as Inspector-General, in 1947, he produced a really historic report. What are the reasons for not allowing Captain Galvao to come to inform the British public about his investigations? We are entitled to know in Britain what are the true circumstances in Angola.

There are many precedents for allowing distinguished leaders of movements in countries suffering from colonialism to come to this country and explain the situation to the British people. We do not have to go as far back as Garibaldi. There is the precedent of Habib Bourguiba who came here after the war and held lectures in this country although he was at the time the leader of a rebellion against French colonialism in Tunisia. We have the example now of Algerian rebel leaders in Britain who are given freedom of movement and who are able to address meetings and explain the facts of the situation in Algeria, where a war is in progress involving one of our closest allies in N.A.T.O. These Algerian leaders are even allowed to broadcast on the B.B.C.

What are the special circumstances which have influenced the Home Secretary in his decision? We ask not to be fobbed with a series of evasive replies tonight. We want to know what is behind the refusal to allow Captain Galvao a visa to come to this country, and I hope that we shall have an adequate reply from the hon. and learned Gentleman.

12.12 a.m.

Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)

What has happened within the last two years or so to make the Government change their mind in this matter? About two years ago, Captain Galvao came here. He came to this Palace. I had tea with him along with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). He spoke to other hon. Members. What has happened in the interim to make the Government change their mind? Why has this man suddenly become dangerous or criminal? What are the changed circumstances?

12.13 a.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)

I am glad that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) has raised this matter this evening, for it gives me an opportunity to affirm yet again our traditional policy of granting asylum to political refugees and of allowing foreigners who are in this country to express themselves as freely as British subjects may. It enables me, also, to point out that that traditional policy of allowing foreigners to visit this country freely has certain necessary limitations.

Although the Home Secretary is not obliged to give his reasons for refusing visas, I shall be glad to explain in this case, in answer to the request to do so, why a visa was refused, and refused after proper consultation with my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary. First, I shall give what appear to me to be the essential facts about Captain Galvao, some of which have already been given by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale.

As the hon. Member said, Captain Galvao was once in the service of the Salazar Government, but some time between 1947 and 1951 he had a serious disagreement with them over colonial policy and, as has been pointed out, he was in 1953 sentenced to three years' imprisonment for subversion. In 1958, while he was still in preventive detention, he was sentenced to a further period, this time 16 years' imprisonment.

Early in 1959 he escaped from custody and sought political asylum in the Argentine Embassy in Lisbon, and was granted it. In January this year he led an armed group of 69 people who boarded the "Santa Maria", a Portuguese liner, apparently as ordinary passengers, at her last two ports of call. They seized the ship off Curacao, and did so by overpowering the crew of 300, who were unarmed. The conspirators killed the third officer and wounded several other members of the crew and made prisoner the captain.

General Delgado, who visited this country in 1959 and, while here, I should point out, made inflammatory speeches against the Portuguese Government.

Mr. Driberg (Barking)

Quite right, too. Why not?

Mr. Renton

That is a matter of opinion; but he made them.

Mr. Driberg

Whom did they inflame?

Mr. Renton

At the time the "Santa Maria" was seized on the high seas General Delgado was in South America, and after the seizure he said he had given orders for it to take place. After the "Santa Maria" episode, Captain Galvao was given asylum in Brazil, and he still enjoys the hospitality of the Brazilian Government. So far as the British Government are concerned, there is, of course, no question of political asylum. That is not at issue tonight, because what happened was that Captain Galvao applied in May to the British Consul at Sao Paulo for a visa to visit this country and said the purpose was to give lectures during a period of ten to fifteen days. In other words, he applied for a visa for a short visit. He produced to our Consul a telegram from a Portuguese doctor in London called Veiga Pires, who is the leader of a group calling themselves the "Group of Portuguese Democrats in England". Their expressed aim is the overthrow of the present Government in Portugal.

Mr. Foot

Hear, hear.

Mr. Renton

On 16th May our Consul at Sao Paulo, on instructions from us, refused the visa. When the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary considered this matter they naturally bore in mind our traditional policy, which is also our current policy, of normally allowing aliens to come here and to express themselves freely.

In parentheses, I should say that the distinction we make between those allowed to come for short visits and those granted permanent residence did not arise because this was merely an application for a short visit.

The Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary had to bear in mind, among other things, that Portugal is a member of N.A.T.O. besides being our oldest ally. It was therefore necessary to consider Captain Galvao's real intentions in coming here. Was he coming here merely to give lectures in the accepted sense of the word, or was he proposing to do what General Delgado had done—namely to make most inflammatory speeches advocating insurrection against the Portuguese Government?

In deciding this matter, it was relevant to consider not only the experience which we had had with General Delgado and Captain Galvao's earlier history of disagreement with the Portuguese Government, but also—and here I come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy)—his recent activities as leader of the armed conspiracy to capture the "Santa Maria." No reasonable person looking at the matter objectively could have doubted Captain Galvao's intentions, and, indeed, the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale plainly and candidly appears to justify those intentions, namely, that Captain Galvao should be allowed to come here in order to advocate the overthrow of the Portuguese Government.

Mr. M. Foot

The hon. and learned Gentleman's Department, rightly in my view, allowed into this country a large number of people from Hungary who fought against what they considered to be tyranny. Why will not he allow a Portuguese into this country who also wanted to fight against tyranny? He lets in one lot, why not Captain Galvao? And a number of the Hungarians also gave lectures in this country.

Mr. Renton

If the hon, Gentleman will allow me to continue, I think that he will follow the line of my reasoning. Meanwhile, may I say in reply to his intervention that the Hungarians who came here asked for and were granted political asylum. It was clearly a case of political asylum. And also I think that surely there must be a distinction between the Government of Hungary at the time of the uprising, which was a Communist Government, on the one hand, and the Government of Portugal, a member of N.A.T.O., on the other. The main point about the men who came here from Hungary is that they were granted political asylum and, so far as I know, there were not the same circumstances as applied in Captain Galvao's case.

As I say, nobody looking into the circumstances of this matter objectively could have doubted Captain Galvao's intentions. As there was strong reason to suppose that he was going to advocate insurrection against the Government of a friendly ally, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary decided that a visa should be refused.

Mr. Driberg

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Renton

Comparison has been made between Garibaldi and Captain Galvao. My recollection is, in spite of what has been said by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, that the circumstances are utterly different. When Garibaldi came here in 1864 and was granted the freedom of the City of London and was received as a hero, he had already played the great part which he did play in the defeat of the Kingdoms of the two Sicilies and the establishing of the first Kingdom of Italy.

Mr. M. Foot

The hon. and learned Gentleman means that his subversion was successful.

Mr. Renton

The point is that he did not come here to advocate armed insurrection against the Government of a friendly ally.

Mr. Driberg


Mr. Renton

The achievements of Garibaldi had already been accomplished by the time that he came and, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, it was an aim which had the sympathy and indeed I believe on one occasion the active help, of the British Government of that day.

However, my duty tonight is not to deal with the case of Garibaldi but with the case of Captain Galvao, and that I have done. The circumstances are perfectly plain, and for the reasons which I have given my right hon. Friend refused the visa.

12.25 a.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

We have had a most shocking statement from the Joint Under-Secretary, It is no wonder that he felt thoroughly uncomfortable in having to make it—

Mr. Driberg

He would not give way.

Mr. Fletcher

—in having to try to justify, as he was quite unable to do, the refusal of the Home Secretary to allow a visa for Captain Galvao. The hon. and learned Gentleman started by referring to the traditions of this country, but the attitude of the Home Secretary in refusing a visa is a complete negation of the whole traditions of the British Government through the centuries in allowing people to come here. He has not given a single reason why Captain Galvao should have been refused a visa for the perfectly legitimate and desirable purpose of coming here for a visit of fifteen days to give a series of lectures to the British public.

The British public want to know what Captain Galvao has to say. They are interested to hear what he has to say about the Portuguese Government, whether that Government is our oldest ally or not and whether it is a member of N.A.T.O. or not. This country is always anxious to hear anybody who comes from abroad to protest against tyranny. In my view—I think that the House will agree with me—it was contrary to all the traditions of British policy that a visa should have been refused.

The Joint Under-Secretary has made a series of lame excuses. He has not given one reason. This gentleman is entitled to come here. He is entitled to lecture. The Home Office has no right to assume that he is coming here for the purpose of fostering insurrection. Even if he did, it does not justify the action of the Home Secretary. It is a disgraceful decision that the Home Secretary has made, something which he should regret and which is contrary to all our traditions.

In view of the speeches which have been made in the House tonight and the general feeling in the country on this subject, I hope that the Home Secretary will reconsider the decision and will allow Captain Galvao to have a visa to come here so that the British public can hear what he has to say from his own knowledge about what is going on in Angola and about the actions of the Portuguese Government.

12.27 a.m.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

If he is not already ashamed of it, I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will be ashamed of his contemptible and shabby little speech when he reads it in the morning. What I particularly objected to in it was his misuse of words, or his use of words without sufficiently explaining what he meant. He kept on saying that inflammatory speeches had been made in this country by a previous visitor—General Delgado. Surely, inflammatory speeches by the thousand are made every week-end in Hyde Park. The point is, whom do these speeches inflame? Did they seriously inflame insurrection in Portugal at the time? Did they inflame the British public?

What does the hon. and learned Gentleman mean when he uses these emotive words like "inflammatory"? How does he then dare to go on and claim to be speaking objectively when he uses other emotive phrases such as "our oldest ally" and all that sort of claptrap? What does he mean by "objectivity"? The hon. and learned Gentleman should be ashamed of himself. His speech was a disgrace to the House of Commons.

12.28 a.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

I want to express my strong disapproval of the speech we have heard tonight from the hon. and learned Gentleman. He has no title or right to say that it is his job to protect the Portuguese Government. The interests of the British people are with the people of Portugal and not with the Government of Portugal. The people of Portugal are, as I know, simple, dignified and poverty-stricken and are living under a Government whose attitude of mind towards the problems of today is at least 200 years out of date. If we are real friends of the Portuguese people, we would help those who want to bring them into the twentieth century and not try to retain in power by preventing the expression of opinion a Government which is so out of date as the Portuguese Government is.

The hon. and learned Gentleman's argument is in complete and flagrant defiance of our tradition of friendship with peoples of other countries as distinct from Governments of other countries. I think that on reflection, when the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks about this—and I hope he did before he came here tonight—he will not feel satisfied that it is sufficient to say that because a Government like Portugal is in N.A.T.O., whereas the Hungarian Government is a Communist Government, we differentiate between the two. That is no basis on which Government in this country or admission to this country should be based. I believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman in his heart knows this.

As an ordinary Member of the House, I deplore very much the hon. and learned Gentleman's departure from standards which, I believe, he has tried to adopt in the Home Office. I believe that left to himself, he would not have adopted this policy, but that it has been foisted on him by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Home, who is trying to work out a policy that will maintain in power a reactionary and repressive Government in Portugal and that the Home Office has unwittingly—or, perhaps, wittingly—allowed itself to be made a pawn in this game by the Foreign Office.

In so doing, the Government have departed from the traditions of ad- mission to this country of people who want to attack their own Government and to express their own views freely. I regret very much that the hon. and learned Gentleman has fallen below that standard.

12.30 a.m.

Mr. Renton

I wish to make it abundantly plain that this is a decision of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He wishes me to make it plain that it is so. He naturally consulted his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary before making the decision, as it was perfectly right for him to do. I am astounded at the indignation which hon. Members opposite have expressed on behalf of a gentleman who, as all the world knows, has been guilty of—

Mr. F. Foot

Before the hon. and learned Gentleman casts any further slur on Captain Galvao, does he not think it a rather filthy Thing that he should come into this House to attack the reputation of Captain Galvao, a man who has risked his life for sixteen years to fight against Portuguese tyranny?

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock on Tuesday evening and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at twenty-nine minutes to One o'clock.