HC Deb 23 July 1962 vol 663 cc1018-44

6.29 p.m.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

One of the great attributes of this House is that we can turn from very large issues to what seem to be rather small personal issues, but in this case we are turning our attention for a short time to deal with something which though it is, on the face of it, a small personal case, raises, as I think the whole House realises, very great and grave principles. There are two sides to it. I shall be as brief as I can, since our time is limited, but I must say a word about each of them. The first one is the personal case of Miss Carmen Bryan; the other is the great issue of how we are to operate the new and, for some of us, hateful Commonwealth Immigrants Act which we passed so recently.

The case of Miss Bryan has outraged a very large section of liberal public opinion. I shall not hide—it would be silly to do so—the fact that I have had a large post, most of which is bitterly hostile, almost all of it full of hate and prejudice; and it is the very fact that people, many of them, no doubt, quite decent people, can write in those tones that makes me, speaking for myself, quite determined to stand up in this case and be counted. This is exactly what we have seen happen before in the world. It is decent people who get misled, it is decent people who let themselves go; and it is because of that that we end up with the intolerable situation we saw happen in Germany, certainly and elsewhere, not so long ago.

The case has been dealt with in what I am sure the House realised last week is the most outrageous way. We were all very glad when the Home Secretary, on Friday, agreed to reconsider his attitude of the previous day. We all paid our tribute to him then for having done so. I certainly hope we shall be able to pay our tribute to him later this evening on going a little further. We shall know about that shortly, but when I heard the Minister say, on Thursday, that he was not prepared to reconsider the case I was absolutely shocked. That had nothing to do with a partisan attitude: it seemed to me to be a terrible attitude for a Home Secretary to take when an individual's liberty was involved. However, he did reconsider it, and we now have this brief opportunity to discuss the matter.

This is, I gather, not the first time that a deportation order has been signed and put into effect There has been an earlier one, but that did not concern one of our friends from the West Indies, but an Australian. The circumstances, I have ascertained, were totally different. That man's previous criminal record would have made him subject to a different part of the Act, which would have kept him out had his record been known and had the Act been in operation. Therefore, I cannot quote that as an instance in relation to this case. There are, I gather, 40 or 50 cases already pending, and I must say that it begins to look as though the judicial benches are applying the recommendation to deport almost as a matter of course. This is so contrary to what was said from the Government side would be the intention of the Act that, again, is a tremendously important reason for raising the matter now.

The history of the case is this. I shall deal with the personal side first. We have a young woman of 22 years of age who came here in 1960, who worked for quite a long time in a welding factory, fell ill, had an operation, lost her job because of her inability to go back to it for physical reasons, sought later other work, in particular clerical work, since she was learning typing, and found herself unable to get another job in that field. Then—let us not gloss over it—she engaged in a piece of petty larceny from a store, and was before the court on 12th June.

I am in a difficulty, speaking as a layman, but my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mr. Braddock) tells me from her long experience that a conditional discharge, since at a little time later it became expunged from the records if there is no subsequent offence, is, in fact, technically not a conviction. However, she was, if one likes to put it that way, technically convicted, but, in the circumstances of the case, given a conditional discharge. She had no previous criminal record from what I hear.

To the conditional discharge, which, if it was a conviction at all, was only technical, was added this remarkable business of a recommendation for deportation, and the same circumstances had occurred in other cases of which I now have the details.

Miss Bryan was then taken straight off to prison. She had been on bail before the court hearing. She was not put on bail after, while the Home Secretary decided whether to deport—because the court does not deport; it recommends, and the Home Secretary decides whether to deport. She was taken off to prison and kept there. As I read the Act, not only the court but the Home Secretary may provide for bail, for release, and I ask why, in this case, it was not done, why she was kept there?

What happened was this. It then took six weeks for the Home Secretary to do anything, and, indeed, he did not do anything at the end of it, until there was a row in the House. He may have taken six months or six years and, meanwhile, she would, apparently, have stayed there. I am bound to ask: why this extraordinary procedure—if she was to be in there, why did it take the Home Secretary so long to do anything about it?

It was four weeks before anybody was told anything about it. There was no reference in those four weeks to the High Commission. Repeatedly, during the passage of the Act, it was said that we would certainly not treat Commonwealth citizens worse than we treat aliens, but in the case of aliens, I have ascertained, it is the ordinary drill that a reference is immediately made to the embassy of the national concerned. In this case no reference was made to the Jamaican High Commission Office, and I gather, after inquiries, that there is no drill for an automatic notification when one of their people is involved.

I do not want—and they do not want me—to make relations difficult for them, and they told me that subsequently the Home Office officials helped them as much as they could and that their relations with the Home Office were good, but I cannot shirk my duty of pointing out that in this case, and not only in this one case, but in all the cases— accidentally, I am sure—we are treating Commonwealth citizens far worse than we are treating or have been treating aliens. Clearly, the whole procedure wants looking into.

During that four weeks during which the High Commission knew nothing about her and were not in touch with her Miss Bryan was never told what her rights were; she was never told she could appeal against the deportation order. She had pleaded guilty, so pleading against the conditional discharge was pointless, but she was never told she could appeal against the deportation order. Only she appears to have been told of a number of things that might happen to her if—you know—she did not fit in. Miss Bryan was very frightened, very worried. She thought that she was not only up against the law here, but that her friends, her own people, had deserted her, since no one came to her.

I think that, quite apart from Miss Bryan, we must really ask the Minister to look into the procedure under which the Department is operating to see that there is immediate notification—of the High Commission, in this case—and to see that proper instructions are issued to those whose job it is to see that these people are told exactly what their opportunities are and their rights are under the Act.

We want to know why nothing happened during those four weeks, why the matter just sat lonely and idle on somebody's desk. This does raise a large and very important issue. The Minister last week relied heavily on the fact that the girl had petitioned the Home Office to be allowed to go home, and he went so far as to imply that he was trying to be fair, to be kind, in doing what Miss Bryan asked, and that she asked to be deported, and that that was best in her own interests.

The petition exists. There is no doubt about it. Through the Minister's courtesy I have seen it. Let us remember that the girl had been there four weeks. She had seen nobody. She had had no advice. Then she was told, "Speed up your return home, and then you will be able to get out of this place and go back." What would any hon. Member expect her to do? Also, would she have made a petition had she been either on bail while the case was considered or in touch with her friends and her own people from the High Commission?

There is an additional problem. When the High Commission found out about it, messages were sent—telephone and written messages. But I am told that none of them got through to the girl. Right up to the point when she came out after six weeks she still had not had them. I do not suggest that anybody had been wantonly cruel or wickedly difficult, but there was in this case— and so I guess it may be so in a lot of other cases—a complete administrative breakdown which must be looked into.

To complete this personal part of the case, may I say that I have seen the girl. she is engaged to be married to a man who is working as a welder and who has, so far as I can gather, a good record. I have asked the girl—I ask the House to take my word for it, because it was not done in the presence of witnesses— whether she had been told by anybody she had seen since she came out of prison to change her mind from the petition, she told me, with the gay smile these people tend to have, "No, that is not so at all."

I told her, "Go away and write me in your own hand a letter telling me what you want me to know about your staying here or going home." I have the original letter here and a typewritten copy which I am happy that the Minister should have, although I have already told him the content. I will read it exactly as it is written: Since I have been out of prison I have felt much better and would be very glad if I would be allowed to stay here in England. And most of all, I am very thankful for all the people who have tried their best to help me. When I was in prison I was so depressed that I did not know my own mind and I thought it would be much better to leave the prison and go home rather than staying there. But now that I am out I feel much better. Miss Bryan does not want to go home. She wants to stay here. She wants to marry her fiance. Any suggestion of relying upon "her wish" or, as the Minister said on Thursday, in HANSARD, c. 639, "acting in her interest", I have no doubt whatever does not now apply. It should be on the basis of her own words and her own conduct The Minister can check that for himself.

So the issue here is not whether she wants to go, as the Minister suggested, and whether we should distort the process of law to enable her to go freely. I thought it was rather peculiar to suggest that we should operate our law in order to provide free passages for anyone who otherwise could not afford to go home, which was really the implication of what was said. The real issue is whether the Home Secretary should deport her. I suggest that the answer must be, "No".

I will not go into what the Act says, but the definition in Section 6 (1) is clear. It says: This Part of this Act shall have effect as regards those citizens who are convicted of offences punishable with imprisonment and recommended by the court for deportation. It might be said that this is technically an offence punishable in certain circumstances with imprisonment. But let us now look at what was said about it. It is perfectly true that the magistrates are covered by the law—one understands that—and not by ministerial saying. However, we are dealing not with magistrates, but with the Minister in the exercise of his discretionary power. The Minister surely has to take into account what was said by his ministerial colleagues when the Act was passing through Parliament.

As one might expect, the then Home Secretary, on 7th February, was careful. He was referring to what had been said by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and others. He said: It only remains for me to say that the power will be exercised with the utmost care and reticence. He said later, having described that it would operate only on the recommendation of a court following conviction for an offence: It is, therefore, carefully hedged about and much more carefully phrased than in the case of the aliens legislation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1962; Vol. 653, c. 517.] It has, in fact, been used much more carelessly than in the case of the aliens legislation.

As one would also guess, the present Lord Chancellor was much more careful than the Home Secretary. In answering some of my hon. Friends, he said: It does not advance the case one way or another to draw attention to offences of a trivial character which, in certain circumstances, could be followed by a sentence of imprisonment, because I do not believe that any court anywhere in the country would ever consider deporting someone for offences of that character. I share the view of hon. Members opposite that deportation is a serious matter and must flow from very serious misconduct. I accept those two propositions."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1962; Vol. 653, c. 540.] A little later he again emphasised that it was a matter for dealing with "serious cases which warranted deportation."

There was then the Lord Chancellor, in the Upper House, who first referred to it as a matter of "serious misconduct" only, but then went on to set out a whole list of the cases for which the Government wanted it. He made it perfectly plain that the reference was to cases such as assaults of certain kinds, repeated offences of soliciting for purposes of prostitution, brothel keeping and related offences. There is nothing in that which has anything to do with a first offence for shoplifting or a conditional discharge.

For good measure the Lord Chancellor said, a little later, that he did not want to accept an Amendment which someone else had moved because if he accepted it it would bring in a single case of soliciting, and he said that the one thing we did not want to do was to bring in a single case of soliciting. Do we want to bring in a single case of shoplifting involving £2 worth of goods and a conditional discharge?

It seems to me that if the Minister were to persist in this deportation order he would be in serious default of all the undertakings and assurances given by all his colleagues. I also ask him to think of the consequences. This could build up into something enormous. It could rock the boat in a host of cases. Also, it would introduce undesirable consequences on both sides—concerning people who want to find a way out and people with whom we ought not to interfere at all.

I ought not to say any more than that. Other hon. Members will add to it. But I would make certain propositions to the Minister. First, now that it has been shown that the girl has not asked to go home and does not want to go home, and that she was grossly treated during the six weeks, for whatever reasons, the Home Secretary must now, in justice, rescind the order. There are no grounds for maintaining it.

Secondly, I ask the Home Secretary to suspend all the other orders while a review is made of the way in which the Act is being operated. It looks as though magistrates are making these recommendations much too freely, and this ought to be looked into. Thirdly, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the whole purpose and intention of the Act. Fourthly, I ask him to issue some new administrative regulations which will ensure that these Commonwealth citizens of ours—I admit that the law has now been made; I am not now seeking to get round it; I am admitting that the majority of the House had its way—who are caught under this law, whether rightly or, as I believe, in this case, wrongly, know about their rights and are humanely and properly treated, and that we shall have no more cases of Commonwealth citizens being treated worse than aliens because of an administrative breakdown.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will assure us tonight that he will be able to do those four things and thus show himself to be so much more humane than some of us feared on the previous occasion.

6.49 p.m.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to follow the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). I took an interest in this question on Friday. There are two points. First, there is the individual case, and, secondly, there is the working of the new Act. As the right hon. Gentleman has given the detailed history so clearly, I do not intend to go over it again.

It was very generous of my right hon. Friend to agree to look into the matter again. I hope that in doing so he will look into the working of the whole Act, as the right hon. Member for Belper suggested. It must be remembered that my right hon. Friend was not responsible in any way for the Act. His predecessor was responsible for it. It has been very difficult for my right hon. Friend to take over in these circumstances. It may be—I do not know—that the deportation order had already been signed by the previous Home Secretary. There have been a considerable number of changes, and it is not easy for a Minister to take over a number of cases like this. Therefore, I think that it was a very good thing that he agreed to look into the matter again.

I, too, have received, even as a result of my one question, an enormous number of letters. I fear that this will bring up the whole racial question again. Therefore, this debate is particularly important and the reply of my right hon. Friend will, I am sure, help to quiet the fear that justice may not be done in the future.

I agree with the Act and I supported it because I was told that it would be interpreted in a liberal manner. Personally, I think that the decision about the Australian was correct, but the decisions in the 80 other cases that are waiting will cause some anxiety. The Act was made to deal with those who seriously offended. This, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper said, was a conditional discharge. In other words, if this girl had been deported she could not have carried out the instructions of the magistrates because she would not have been in the country to undertake them, so it was an illogical decision of the magistrates anyhow. I understood that deportation was for really grave offences. I agree that it was not possible to lay down in the Act what constitutes a grave offence, but I think that in this House we all have in our minds what are really grave offences. Although I should not like to say that shoplifting is a trivial offence, this happened to be a first offence by this girl under rather difficult circumstances, and I think that these facts must be taken into consideration.

If this girl had been detained in prison for six years, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it would not have been possible to deport her, because a resident in this country for five years cannot be deported. This is a point which needs looking into concerning the future of this Act. I think that the magistrates in this case should have bound over the girl on her own surety and have left the matter there. What worries me is the future working of the Act. There are 80 cases awaiting the decision of the Home Secretary. One has to remember that, although the courts have the right to recommend people for deportation, the final decision is with the Home Secretary.

I suggest, following on what the right hon. Gentleman said, that there should be perhaps a discussion with the Magistrates' Association and others as to the working of the Act. I should like my right hon. Friend to consider whether it would he possible for him to appoint a panel of advisers to deal with these cases in the future. I do not think that in dealing with his many other duties my right hon. Friend has the time to go into the details of every case. Obviously, the final decision must be his, but I suggest that in working out the Act some panel of advisers would be of great help to him. I hope that, in view of the circumstances and the feeling in the House, my right hon. Friend, whom we know has a very liberal mind and is very helpful in a great many cases, will be able to consider this case, for which he was not, I am sure, responsible, and that he will set up a new guiding light for the treatment of these cases in the future.

6.55 p.m.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

In the course of the discussion in Committee on the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill on 7th February last, I moved an Amendment the effect of Which would have been that a recommendation for deportation could be made only for an offence triable on indictment. I pointed out that if the power was left to the magistrate to make a recommendation for offences punishable with imprisonment, many offences of a trivial character would be included. I quoted cases involved small amounts in charges of larceny and embezzlement which might envolve the serious question of a recommendation for deportation. A considerable debate followed.

The present Lord Chancellor, the then Attorney-General, resisted the Amendment. He thought it better that the magistrates should have the power, and he pointed out that one of the reasons was that there might be more cases for committal if the Amendment were carried, and thereby the machinery of the law would be clogged. He said directly in answer to me: It does not advance the case one way or another to draw attention to offences of a trivial character which, in certain circumstances, could be followed by a sentence of imprisonment, because I do not believe that any court anywhere in the country would ever consider deporting someone for offences of that character. I share the view of hon. Members opposite that deportation is a serious matter and must flow from very serious misconduct. I accept those two propositions. He gave an example of cases in the magistrates' courts where it would have been proper to make a recommendation for deportation. The cases he gave were: … repeated offences of soliciting for the purposes of prostitution, brothel keeping and related offences of that character … He went further than that, and said: I assure the Committee that we have given considerable thought to this matter. We believe that the Bill is right about it. It must be an offence which is punishable with imprisonment. Unless it comes within that category, there can be no recommendation by any court. I cannot think that there is any prospect of any court ever being asked to consider a recommendation unless it is a serious case by a man of bad character, and I am sure that it would be carefully considered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1962; Vol. 653, c. 540ߝ2.] He said various other things with which I do not want to trouble the House, but those were the words that he used. He was pressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and he then gave an assurance that he would reconsider it. As a result of that assurance I withdrew the Amendment.

Now we have the case of a girl of 22 years of age who has been here since 1960, punished in this way with a recommendation for deportation for a first offence of petty larceny, shoplifting in respect of a sum of £2. I say to the House that that is entirely contrary to the whole spirit of the reply made by the then Attorney-General and the assurance which he gave, upon which I withdrew my Amendment.

During the course of the Bill we relied again and again upon protestations by the then Home Secretary that the Act would be administered in a humane way. I ask the House what is the value of the promise made by a Home Secretary when he is followed by another Home Secretary who repudiates it? I know what has been said by the Home Secretary regarding shoplifting as being a serious offence. Of course, it is a serious offence in some cases.

It may be a case where there are many previous convictions, but if the Home Secretary proceeds, in Miss Bryan's case, to carry out an order for her deportation, I submit that he will be guilty of a gross breach of faith and that the House will have been deceived with regard to the assurance solemnly given when the Act was before it.

7.0 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)

It may be convenient if I intervene now. I need not spend much time on the facts of the case, because on Friday I gave the main facts and they are on record in HANSARD. In order to inform myself as fully as I possibly could, over the weekend I have had a talk with the magistrate who heard the case and I have also had a talk with representatives of the Jamaican authorities who have been in touch with Miss Bryan.

Miss Bryan came to England just about two years ago. It seems that it was her mother who urged her to do so; she herself was not very keen. She was out of work for the first three months after her arrival. After that, as the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said, she had two jobs, each of which she held for a number of months, and she also unfortunately suffered a good deal of illness. She lost her last job in February and for three months she was again out of work and receiving National Assistance.

On 4th June she was in court charged with shoplifting. She pleaded guilty and asked for another offence to be taken into account. She was then remanded in custody. The right hon. Gentleman was misinformed in saying that she was allowed bail. She was remanded in custody until 12th June. On that date she came up in court again. The magistrate, she having pleaded guilty, gave her a conditional discharge and recommended her for deportation. I am in no doubt that he considered his decision carefully. This was the first case under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act to come before him.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

. Let us get the record right. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that on thai occasion the magistrate refused bail?

Mr. Brooke

I am coming to that, but it was not really a question of bail.

I have spoken to the magistrate. I thought that the House would wish me to do that. He had certainly considered his decision carefully—the more carefully because this was the first case under the new Act which had come before him. She seemed not to have settled down successfully over here, and he judged that it would be better for her in all the circumstances if she were to be back in Jamaica. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Those, I think, were the reasons why he recommended her for deportation.

As he was recommending deportation he deliberately refrained from fining her in addition for the offence to which she had pleaded guilty, and instead gave her a conditional discharge. A person recommended for deportation remains in custody thereafter unless the court orders his or her release pending deportation, which in this case the magistrate did not do.

There are two facts which at this point I should like to bring to the attention of the House. The first is that under the Act the Home Secretary can order a deportation only on the recommendation of a court. That is different from the case of aliens. Commonwealth citizens are treated more favourably. In the case of an alien there is no such restriction on deportation.

Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)

Has the Home Secretary authority to release the offender on bail in spite of the fact that the magistrate has not granted bail?

Mr. Brooke

That is so. Under the Act, the Home Secretary has that right.

The second point I should mention is that the Act ensures to every Commonwealth citizen who is recommended for deportation a right of appeal against the recommendation. In this case, therefore, Miss Bryan had a right of appeal within 14 days which she could have exercised but did not. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am satisfied that her right of appeal was fully explained to her on at least two occasions. There can be no doubt whatever that she knew all about her right of appeal.

Mr. Fletcher

Again to complete the record, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm what Miss Bryan has told me— that she applied for legal aid in order to appeal and was told that it could not be granted to her for that purpose?

Mr. Brooke

I am quite satisfied that that is not the case. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I think that it will be helpful if I continue my speech, because I have informed myself extremely fully about what happened.

No decision about making a deportation order can be taken by the Home Secretary before the expiry of 14 days in such a case as this. That is obvious, because he must give time to see whether there is to be an appeal. The 14 days in this case expired on 26th June. I am advised that normally—I say "advised" because I have been Home Secretary only a week, so I have to rely on the information I receive in matters like this —in the case of an alien, the Home Secretary would quickly reach his decision as to whether or not to make a deportation order. But there has been, until now, no experience of Commonwealth cases, and that I think was the reason, as I explained to the House on Thursday, why an unusually long time elapsed before a decision was reached in Miss Bryan's case.

The week before last, she decided to submit a petition to the Home Secretary. I have that petition here. In it she said she had no relatives in England, and that she was not against being deported because she could not keep in good health here and it was always difficult for her to get a job. That, in fact, confirms a statement which she had made to the Prison Reception Board when she first went into prison at the very outset —a statement that all she wanted to do was to go back to Jamaica.

She said in the petition that her mother was in Jamaica but could not afford to send her money for her fare home, and she herself had not the money either. The object of her petition was to beg that she should be sent back to Jamaica as quickly as possible.

Mr. G. Brown

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to give the wrong impression. I cannot remember the exact words, for I read the petition only once—and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in letting me see it—but as I remember it she said that she did not want to stay in prison.

Mr. Brooke

I am quite sure that she did not want to stay in prison. She also said that she wanted to go home to Jamaica as soon as possible. I must make the point that she had informed the Prison Reception Board at the very outset that what she wanted to do was to go back to Jamaica and not to stay in England. I can only suspect that that was the reason why she decided not to lodge an appeal—but that was a matter entirely for her.

Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary appears to be quoting from a document. Under the rules of the House, should not that document be laid on the Table and made available to the House?

Mr. Speaker

That is so, subject to what the Home Secretary has to say.

Mr. Brooke

I have no objection to making the text of the petition, or the petition itself, available. I am prepared to put it into the Library of the House or elsewhere.

I want to say here that it was not the case, as was alleged at Question Time, that she was kept in prison incommunicado and given no opportunity to consult anyone. The right hon. Member for Belper said this evening that whilst she was in prison for four weeks she had seen nobody. The fact is that a friend visited her every week, that she was allowed to write as many letters as she wished, and that the moment she said she would like to be put in touch with the Jamaican authorities that message was conveyed to them.

The right hon. Gentleman suggested that there was differentiation of treatment, that aliens were treated in a different way. There are consular conventions with about eight foreign countries by which a communication is made to the consular authorities when any of their nationals is detained in prison. That is the position, but it is not a general rule which applies to all countries, and I should make it clear that we have acted in strict accord with those consular conventions.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

Surely it ought to apply to the Commonwealth.

Mr. Brooke

That is one of the matters which I should like to consider. It is not a point which has been raised with me as yet. I was about to say that there are several matters which I wish to consider further.

I consider that as things were she was detained in prison too long. I expressed my regret about this in the House on Thursday. The reason it happened was not through neglect of her case, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to allege, but through the detailed attention it was being given in the Home Office as one of the first cases of its kind, if not the very first, arising under the new Act. I intend to see that this does not happen again. I am quite sure that where a person, recommended for deportation without being sentenced to imprisonment is detained and not released by the court pending deportation, the decision whether or not to make the order should be reached as quickly as possible after the period allowed for lodging an appeal has elapsed.

When it was decided on 13th July to make a deportation order and when I was answering questions about Miss Bryan in the House last Thursday, the facts were in front of the Home Secretary—the facts about her stay in this country, the facts about the decision by the magistrate not to fine her but to recommend her deportation, and the facts about her own petition to be enabled to return to Jamaica as soon as possible.

It was quite clear that the House wished to go into the matter further. For a technical reason, it was not possible to interrupt the arranged business of a debate on the Adjournment at seven o'clock on Thursday, as might have happened on a normal day. In the circumstances, I felt that the House thought that I had a right to hold up the arrangements which were in train for her to return to Jamaica on Saturday and to exercise my power under the Act to release her from prison meanwhile so that the debate could take place today without prejudice to her or to anybody.

I have naturally considered the matter carefully over the weekend. I have decided to cancel the deportation order. I should like to explain my reason for doing this quite clearly, because I should not like it to be thought that a Home Secretary lightly disregards a recommendation by a magistrate, still less that he lightly overrules a decision by his predecessor. Indeed, the procedure laid down in the Commonwealth Immigrants Act when the question of deportation arises—only on a recommendation from a court and with a right of appeal specifically provided—makes it particularly incumbent on the Home Secretary to give full weight to the court's conclusions and to whether or not there has been an appeal.

But there have been developments since the order was signed and, indeed, since I answered questions in the House on Thursday. One is that the proposal to send her back to Jamaica on Saturday, which would have accorded with her petition which was in the Home Secretary's hands at that time, could not be carried out. Another fact is that whereas all the evidence up to Friday was that she wanted to leave this country as soon as possible, the evidence now is that she now wishes to stay— and I certainly do not doubt the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has and of which I have received confirmation from another quarter. In effect, she has withdrawn what she said in her petition.

Mr. Niall MacDermot (Derby, North)

Before the right hon. Gentleman turns to the detailed facts of this case, are we to understand from what he has just said that his general approach to this problem is that it would be only in exceptional circumstances that he would reject a recommendation of a magistrate? If so, that is a disturbing approach, because magistrates will approach this matter on this basis: "The Home Secretary has no power to make a deportation order unless I make a recommendation; that will be the precondition and the real decision will be for the Home Secretary; this seems to be a case where it ought to be considered, so I will make a recommendation". Is there not a real danger that someone who ought not to be deported will be deported if that is the Home Secretary's approach?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood my point. I was going on to dead with that before the end of my speech. My point is that the Home Secretary has to take these decisions himself. I doubt whether an advisory committee could help him to do it better. I believe that the Home Secretary has to give personal attention to these cases, however busy he may be with other issues. The Home Secretary has to take account of all the circumstances of a case—the fact that the court has made a recommendation, the question of whether there has been an appeal and the undertakings given on behalf of the Government during the passage of the Act about the way in which the Act would be administered. That is what I propose to do.

Finally, may I return to the course of events and the reason—and there is one reason—why I have decided to take the action I have; if she now wishes to stay in Britain, it would be unconscionable to deport her when she has already spent six weeks in prison. That and that alone is the reason for my decision in this case. I warn people that they are not to think that if they commit an offence and are recommended for deportation they can count on escaping deportation because of the case of Miss Bryan. I should equally warn people that if they want to return to their own country free of charge, they had better not imagine that the simple way of securing that object is to go thieving in shops or elsewhere and rely on that to get them home at the taxpayers' expense.

Of one thing I am quite clear—that every case where a deportation order is recommended by a magistrate under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act must be looked at very carefully by the Home Secretary on its merits. No general conclusions are to be drawn from the case of Miss Bryan except that I am certain that it would be wrong to impose on a person convicted of shoplifting without being sentenced to imprisonment both the experience of six weeks in prison and the penalty of deportation against her will. I intend to see that we have no more cases of this long period of detention pending deportation unless, of course, a sentence of imprisonment is imposed.

I do not think that Miss Bryan's will be the last difficult case to have to decide but, for the particular reasons I have explained, I hope that it will be the last case of its kind. As I have already made clear, I must pay special attention to any recommandation from a magistrate. Equally, I intend to pay attention to all that was said on behalf of the Government in both Houses of Parliament during the passage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. There may be no great difficulty in the case of serious offences and there may be no great difficulty in cases of trivial offences which involve no moral obloquy.

Looking ahead, I can see that some of the most difficult cases might arise where a person has obviously not succeeded in settling down in this country, and in earning his or her own living as an ordinary person does, and then starts committing offences, perhaps because he or she has been out of work for a long time. I know that the one thing which the House would wish me to do is not to seek to apply a priori principles rigidly, without sufficient reference to particular circumstances, but rather, as I have said, to seek to decide each case on its merits in the light of the information at my disposal from the court proceedings and elsewhere and in the light of the Government's undertakings given during the passage of the Bill.

Mr. C. Royle

Following on everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said and the assurances that he has given, will he now send magistrates a directive setting out the assurances that were given by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor and the then Attorney-General with regard to deportation when the Bill was being considered by the House? Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear to all justices that simple offences of this kind do not warrant a recommendation for deportation?

Mr. Brooke

The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) is a former Home Secretary, and I think that he would advise me not to comply with the request to send a directive to magistrates. I think that everybody, whether a magistrate or otherwise, is able to read and study what is said in this House. I have stated my policy to the House and it will be on record.

7.21 p.m.

Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)

The one and only redeeming feature of the way in which this case has been handled is that the Home Secretary has had second thoughts and has cancelled his deportation order. Apart from that, the whole matter has tended to confirm the grave anxieties which many of us had about these powers when the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill was going through the House.

I want to refer to three matters. I find it disturbing that the Minister regarded this as a suitable case in which to make a deportation order. It was contrary to the whole approach both by the then Home Secretary and the then Attorney-General when the Bill was in Committee. I do not want to repeal some of the quotations which have been made, but the Attorney-General talked about deportation in cases of a serious nature involving people of bad character. I cannot conceive that this case fell into that category, and it is disturbing that the Minister initially thought fit to make this order.

My second ground for anxiety is that despite the delay—reasonable or otherwise does not matter for the moment— in coming to a decision on this matter the Minister did not choose to invoke the powers that he has under the Second Schedule of the Act and release this young woman while the matter was under consideration. This was clearly a suitable case for the exercise of those powers because the magistrate did not regard this as a case which called for imprisonment. Despite that, this young woman spent 47 days in custody. I welcome the assurance given by the right hon. Gentleman that he will expedite decisions in cases such as this, but I should also like an assurance that when, for good reason, the matter will take some time, in suitable cases he will invoke his powers and release the person concerned pending such a decision.

The third matter to which I want to refer is that under Section 8 of the Act a statutory notice has to be served at least seven days before a recommendation for deportation is made by a court. I do not know what happened in this case, but it would be interesting to know whether the prosecution, on its own initiative, served the notice, or whether it was served at the request of the court. If it was served by the prosecution on its own initiative, it is disturbing to think that the prosecution thought that this case was one in which serious consideration should be given to the question of deportation.

This is not a matter of interfering with the judiciary, but it appears that proper guidance should be given in those cases in which the prosecution takes the initiative of serving a notice which enables a court to consider its powers of recommending deportation. This clearly was a case in which the Home Secretary would not have dreamt of exercising his powers under the Aliens Order, 1953, and it is monstrous if Commonwealth citizens are to be placed in an invidious position vis-à-vis aliens in relation to substantially the same matter.

I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle) about what the Minister should do on the question of magistrates. One has to be careful about any possible interference with the judiciary in the exercise of its functions, but the fact remains that this order would have stood but for the intervention of this House, and it would have been poor guidance to magistrates if a young women of previously good character who had committed one offence of shoplifting and asked the court to take into consideration another similar offence on the same day was to be considered as a suitable case for deportation. I am not suggesting that the powers which now exist should be ignored. That battle is, unfortunately, over for the moment, but if immigrants are told that they had better behave themselves or they will be deported, they will develop a state of affairs which will accentuate the colour problem in this country.

One part of the Minister's speech which caused me considerable anxiety was when he talked about immigrants being threatened with deportation. I think that this is utterly wrong. Let the courts exercise their powers in suitable cases, but it would be disastrous if people in authority went about saying to immigrants, coloured or otherwise, "You behave yourselves, or else we will invoke our powers of deportation."

Mr. Brooke

I must get the record straight. I never mentioned the subject of being threatened with deportation.

Mr. Bowen

It may be that the word "threatened" was not used, but the Minister clearly gave the impression that it should be made clear to immigrants that this power existed and would be exercised in suitable cases. What are suitable cases? We shall create two different standards of citizenship in this country if we approach the problem in that way, and nothing could be more conducive to aggravating the colour conflict.

I warmly welcome the Minister's second thoughts, and I hope that what happened in this case will lead to a more sympathetic and understanding approach to the whole problem.

7.28 p.m.

Mr. Norman Pannell (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I welcome the decision of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to revoke this deportation order. As hon. Members know, I have been one of the most persistent advocates of deportation for Commonwealth citizens who infringe the law in this country, but all my efforts, over many years, were in vain, despite asking many Questions and taking part in innumerable debates on the subject.

When the Government at last changed their mind and introduced the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, containing a Clause dealing with this matter, I was still not satisfied. I considered that a period of five years' residence should not exempt a Commonwealth immigrant from deportation for serious crimes, but I was unsuccessful in my attempt to introduce an Amendment to this effect. But I must confess that I have never had in mind deportation for offences such as that for which Miss Carmen Bryan was sentenced. I had in mind, and I concentrated on, the question of living on immoral earnings.

In my many questions to my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary I pointed out that Commonwealth immigrants were responsible for 50 per cent. of those cases in the Metropolitan Police area. I was also concerned with the question of traffic in drugs such as Indian hemp, for which Commonwealth citizens are largely responsible. I never had in mind trivial offences such as petty larceny. I am still of that opinion, and although I recognise my right hon. Friend's difficulty I cannot help feeling that many magistrates think that they are under an obligation to make a recommendation for deportation if the offence for which the accused is convicted involves a term of imprisonment, even if such a term is not imposed or if the offender is given a conditional discharge because of the triviality of the offence or because he is a first offender.

It is interesting to note how the law with regard to aliens is applied in this respect. Last year, 59 aliens were deported from this country and of those 31 were deported for offences against property. Ten of the 31 cases were charges of larceny. I do not know whether it was petty larcency, an aggravated offence or a first offence. We are without details, but whatever they were, I should still hold the view that Commonwealth immigrants should be treated more leniently than aliens. I am most anxious that the Commonwealth Immigrants Act shall be effective. In many respects I think Chat it is not being sufficiently strictly applied, but I am equally anxious that the Act shall not fall into disrepute by the general assumption of the public that its interpretation is both harsh and vindictive.

7.32 p.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

The speech which the Home Secretary has made is a complete justification of the steps taken by my right hon. Friends and myself in raising this subject as a matter of urgency last week and pressing for this short debate which, fortunately, the flexible procedure of the House has enabled us to have. In the case of Miss Carmen Bryan I, of course, welcome the Home Secretary's decision and I am glad that now, belatedly, justice has been done.

It emerges quite clearly that in her case no recommendation for deportation should ever have been made. She ought to have been out on bail. She ought never to have been kept in Holloway for five or six weeks. The deportation order by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor ought never to have been made and she ought to have been told her rights about appealing and obtaining legal aid. In her case justice has now been done, but I am disturbed by other things which the Home Secretary said. They have left in my mind a profound sense of disquiet about other people in respect of whom a deportation order has been made and about the way they are being treated.

Magistrates are making recommendations for deportation in circumstances which were never envisaged by the House when the Act was passed. There therefore arises, and there arose in this case which would have been implemented if we had not been vigilant in this matter, a complete abuse by the Executive of the powers of deportation given by the House. Solemn pledges have been ignored. One passage by the former Attorney-General, now the Lord Chancellor, has already been quoted by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman). I should like to quote another. He said, in resisting an Amendment to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, which was subsequently withdrawn in reliance on the assurance then given: I cannot think that there is any prospect of any court ever being asked to consider a recommendation unless it is a serious case by a man of bad character. …."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1962; Vol. 653, c. 541.] We now find, in complete betrayal of this assurance, recommendations being made by magistrates in various parts of the country. Therefore, my hon. Friends have asked that this assurance, on which Parliament gave the Executive these powers of deportation, should be firmly brought to the notice of magistrates.

Secondly, now that the Home Secretary finds that magistrates are making recommendations for deportation in cir- cumstances which were not envisaged, and which would not have been tolerated by the House, we must insist that the Home Secretary, in many cases, should ignore and certainly, in every case, should examine the recommendations most scrupulously.

What is the position of people who are at present subject to recommendations for deportation? There are 50 or 60 cases. Some may be precisely in circumstances analogous to those of Miss Bryan, or in every case the circumstances may differ. How many of these people are in prison? The right hon. Gentleman said that he would consider each case carefully. In how many of these cases is he receiving letters or, as he calls them, petitions from these people?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind in each case that any such letter or petition written from prison is presumably written under duress? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes. It may well be written in circumstances in which the person recommended for deportation thinks that the only alternatives, as Miss Bryan thought, are staying in prison indefinitely or going back to his or her own country.

The right hon. Gentleman must, therefore, look at each of these cases scrupulously. I ask that he should give an undertaking that he will not make any order for deportation in any of these cases until he tells us the principles on which he will act, because this case of Miss Bryan's, in which justice has now been done, is symbolical of others. This debate has exposed the whole faulty and absurd administration of the Act, in view of the recommendations for deportation which have been made.

I should have thought that ail those who are in prison ought to be released. If the Home Secretary's argument is that they should be deported, what is the justification for keeping them in prison unitil the moment of deportation? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the wickedness of what he was going to do to this girl if we had not intervened? He was going to keep her in Holloway Gaol until Saturday and put her on an aeroplane without the opportunity of going back to her home, without any opportunity of saying goodbye to her friends, and without any of the ordinary civilities that humanity and justice require.

That was scandalous treatment which could not possibly be tolerated. Although it has been rectified in this case I am worried that the same kind of treatment may be meted out in the other oases where magistrates have quite wrongly made recommendations for deportation —recommendations which right hon. Gentlemen should ignore, certainly if they flout the assurances given by the then Attorney-General to the House.

I think that enough has been staid to show that we cannot rest content with the rescission of this particular order of deportation. All the others must be examined on the same basis. The Home Secretary should say that he will not deport anybody until he has told us the principles on which he will act and the safeguards which he is to introduce to see chat Commonwealth citizens have the elementary rights which both justice and humanity demand.

I am not objecting to the powers of deportation which were given to the Executive in certain circumstances to which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) has referred. I agree that the Executive should have them and that they should be limited to the serious cases of people of bad character whom we were talking about when we considered the Act in Committee, but they should not be extended to these petty cases.

In another passage of his speech it was not clear from what the Home Secretary said what weight he would give to the wishes of some of the Commonwealth immigrants who might be recommended for deportation. At one time, he seemed to suggest that in Miss Bryan's case he would have regard to her wishes. At one moment, he thought of sending her back. He must make up his mind whether he regards deportation as a punishment or a privilege. It cannot be both. There must be some sense in this arrangement.

No one condones the petty larceny which this young girl committed. No one condones crime, but we must insist that Commonwealth immigrants who have come to this country, whether coloured or not, are treated fairly and equally before the law with all other British subjects. There can be no second-class citizenship for British subjects, whether they are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies or elsewhere. Justice is indivisible, and Commonwealth immigrants, whatever faults they may commit, must have the same rights before a court of law and the same access to justice as all other citizens.