HC Deb 07 February 1962 vol 653 cc561-5
The Chairman

With the next Amendment, in page 6, line 39, to leave out "three" and to insert "seven", the following Amendments may be discussed: In page 6, line 39, to leave out "days" and to insert "weeks".

In page 7, line 1, to leave out subsection (2).

Mr. MacColl

I beg to move, in page 6, line 39, to leave out "three" and to insert "seven".

The Clause deals with the question of the notice which has to be given to the subject of a detention order.

The Chairman

Order. It is very difficult to hear what the hon. Member is saying.

Mr, MacColl

This Clause provides that no recommendation for deportation should be made in respect of an offender unless notice has been given to him of the intention to make the recommendation. In the Clause as drafted the period of notice is three days. The Amendment is a moderate and conciliatory one. It is perhaps too modest. It suggests merely the substitution of seven days for three days. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in his first Amendment suggests a period of three weeks.

Like so many questions, it is one of judgment and balancing what is most convenient, and I am not quarrelling about a day or two. I am quarrelling with the proposal in the Bill that three days' notice should be given. This is much too short. This point was touched on when we were discussing the burden of proof, and the fact that the Government have rejected our attempts to shift the burden of proof from the offender on to the Crown strengthens the case for increasing the period of notice, because an offender will suddenly find himself faced with three days' notice that the Crown is going to ask for a recommendation that he should be deported, and this, as has been said time and again during the proceedings, is an extremely serious matter.

To decide whether or not he is to be deported, he has to establish whether he is or is not a Commonwealth citizen, and whether his period of residence in the country, and so on, excludes him from the provisions of the Bill. All this may take a considerable amount of research, to put it at its lowest. He may find that he has no birth certificate. In spite of the Attorney-General saying that no good man ever had any difficulty in establishing his nationality, I do not think that this is correct. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult for somebody quickly to find his birth certificate. It happens even in this country. A person may be fondly under the impression that he was born in the north of Scotland, but was in fact born in the south of England—ibis mother may have made a quick journey south without it being entered in the family record. A person may be under the impression that he was born in this country, but is not sure, and establishing it as a fact may involve a considerable amount of research.

10.15 p.m.

It also happens that people are registered under a different name from that by which they have been known. A person who has been known as Brown, for example, may find when he gets his birth certificate that his name is Jones. This means that it becomes more and more difficult to obtain the necessary facts and documents to establish whether one should be deported.

Earlier, the Attorney-General tried to brush off this argument. He said that if three days' notice was not long enough an adjournment could be obtained to collect the evidence. It is a sloppy approach to the problem to specify a thoroughly impracticable period of three days and then to say that the procedure can be made to work because people will apply for an adjournment if they want it. We are dealing with an important issue, the liberty of the subject and the right of a person to resist deportation. Therefore, we should lean over to give as long and as full notice as is necessary to enable people to establish their case against the recommendation for deportation.

In many cases, particularly those dealt with at magistrates' courts, it may happen that people are not legally represented. The Attorney-General is not limiting liability to indictable offences, because he wants to catch also some trivial offences which may occur more than once. He spoke, for example, of soliciting. It is well known that in magistrates' courts ladies who are charged with soliciting frequently are not represented when they come before the court. Out of the blue, they will be liable to get a notice that they are to be threatened with deportation. Then, they must try to get legal advice on whether they are subject to the provisions of the Act. To suggest that they can do this in three days is wholly impracticable. To suggest that in three days they can even find a legal representative who will appear for them and ask for an adjournment may not always be practicable.

If there is a question of applying for an adjournment, what is to be the position in areas where magistrates' courts do not meet every day? In my constituency, the court normally meets weekly. Therefore, if notice of intention to secure a recommendation for deportation is served on a Monday and on Tuesday the unfortunate victim obtains a solicitor and gets advice, how is the solicitor to make application for the adjournment? To whom is he to make it if the court does not sit until the following Monday? These are some of the practical difficulties which are involved in this matter and I suggest that the Government should therefore consider extending the period of notice.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) was very kind to me in some remarks earlier this evening. I hope to be able to reciprocate that kindness now, but a period of three days is not as disreputable as he may think. There is a good precedent in a comparable case in the 1948 Criminal Justice Act, for which his party was largely responsible. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman has made his case with his usual persuasive force, and I should like to tell him and the Committee that, subject to some difficulty, we hope to be able to meet him on this point at the next stage of the Bill. Seven days is obviously better than three.

There is the difficulty that in many cases it may be that if we give a minimum period of this sort offenders who do not wish to contest the issue, or something like that, will be kept waiting longer than they otherwise would. The case is, therefore, not quite so obvious as the hon. Member suggests. However, he has made his case, and I should like to say, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, that we look upon it with great favour, and hope to meet him on this issue at the next stage of the Bill.

Mr. S. Silverman

I do not want to detain the Committee, particularly in view of the offer that the Under-Secretary has made, but on this occasion, as when we discussed the last Amendment, there is a difference of opinion in two Amendments on the question of time. There is a much greater significance in the difference between seven days and three weeks than there was between twenty-four hours and two years, but it seems to me that my hon. Friend, who made out so powerful and unanswerable a case for the langer time, may not quite have appreciated that it was a case against seven days almost as much as against three.

The Committee having decided to keep the onus of proof on the defendant, we do not really make the position very much better by adding four more days, and I hope that when the hon. and learned Gentleman looks at this between now and the Report stage he will look at it from that point of view as well.

Mr. MacColl

For the second evening running I find my persuasive powers after ten o'clock seem to be greater than before ten o'clock. If it were possible for my Amendments always to be discussed after ten o'clock I might get somewhere. I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for his response, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 9 to 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.