§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)
With permission, I should like to make a statement on a matter arising at Question Time yesterday, which, owing to the rules of the House, it was to my regret not possible to debate fully last night.
On 4th June a young Jamaican woman appeared in court charged with shoplifting. She pleaded guilty and asked for another offence to be taken into account. The case was remanded until 12th June. On that date the magistrate gave her a conditional discharge and recommended her for deportation. She had a right of appeal within fourteen days, which she did not exercise. Last week she petitioned the Home Secretary, raising no objection to deportation but asking that it should be put into effect as soon as possible, as she wished not to stay in this country but to return to Jamaica. She had, in fact, been dismissed from her last job in February and had been unemployed since then and in receipt of National Assistance, and she states that she has no relatives in this country.
In the light of all the circumstances, it was decided to make a deportation order and arrangements were made to fly her back to Jamaica tomorrow. I was yesterday, and indeed am today, in the difficulty of wishing to respect the desire of the House to debate the matter further, and at the same time not wishing to delay her return to Jamaica, to which she desires to go as soon as possible. As the first opportunity for debate would appear to arise on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill on Monday, I have had the air passage cancelled which was arranged for her for tomorrow.
I do not think it would be fair both to delay her return to Jamaica and to detain her longer in Holloway prison. 816 I have accordingly exercised my powers under paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act and directed her to be released from detention meanwhile.
§ Mr. G. Brown
May I, on behalf of those who felt strongly about this yesterday, thank the Home Secretary for having been willing to look at this again and taking the action that he has taken? Thus we are, in the meantime, being fair to the girl and allowing the House an opportunity to discuss this case. There are certain detailed matters which to us still seem to be open to question, but I shall not raise these today. I content myself with thanking the right hon. Gentleman and asking the Leader of the House if it would be possible to rearrange the business for Monday so that we could debate this matter.
§ Mr. Grimond
May I also thank the Home Secretary for his reconsideration of the case, and ask him two questions. What is happening to the girl now if she has no relatives in this country and she is just being released from prison where she has been for some time? Secondly, if she wants to go back to Jamaica, has she the funds to go there, supposing the order is rescinded?
§ Mr. Brooke
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentlemen for what they have said. It appears to me to be quite clear that, as it was not possible to debate this matter at 7 o'clock last night, I should take the necessary action for it to be debatable, without prejudice, on Monday. I hope that the young woman has somewhere to go. She was living in London before. I wish to be in a position to answer all questions that may be raised on Monday. I agree with the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) that it would be wiser to defer full debate until then.
§ Mr. Fletcher
May I add my appreciation of the way in which the Home Secretary has responded to the representations made to him yesterday? Is he aware that when I saw this young girl last night at Holloway Prison her chief wish was to be released from prison today and return to the place where she had been living. The right hon. Gentleman is probably aware that the representatives of the Jamaican High Commission in London are also keenly 817 interested in looking after her on her release from prison.
§ Miss Vickers
May I say from this side that we are very grateful to the Home Secretary for the action he has taken and I am sure that a satisfactory solution will be found. Does he not agree that it would be a great pity to set up the principle that anyone who commits a minor crime, such as shoplifting, shall be deported? Does he not think that this would encourage many people to do the same if they wished a passage back to their country of origin?
§ Mr. Brooke
I am entirely in agreement that the treatment of one particular case, which has some special features, is not to be read as a precedent for what would happen to anybody who committed some offence of an otherwise than grave nature. I think that hon. Members and the whole House will appreciate now the difficulty that I was in yesterday in knowing the girl's desire to return and at the same time finding it hard to see how an opportunity for debate could be secured. I hope that we have found a comprehensive solution, at any rate until Monday.