HC Deb 05 March 1963 vol 673 cc205-8
Miss Bacon

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if M. Georges Bidault is at present in this country, and in view of the fact that a warrant has been issued in France for his arrest, what steps the Secretary of State now proposes to take.

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

I have no ground for thinking that M. Bidault is now in this country. Police inquiries into the possibility of his presence here have been in progress for some time and are still proceeding, but so far without result. My permission for him to enter the country was neither sought nor granted. Since there is no record in recent months of his having been admitted in the regular manner, it is evident that he arrived illegally.

Miss Bacon

I am in favour of political asylum being given to genuine political refugees, but is it not really extraordinary that the Home Secretary should give us this reply this afternoon, stating that his immigration officials were unaware that M. Bidault had entered this country? Further, did the right hon. Gentleman really not know that he had entered? Is there no co-ordination between Government Departments? Has there been no co-ordination between the Foreign Office and the Home Office in this matter? I am not criticising the B.B.C. for its initiative in obtaining the scoop that it had last night, but can the Home Secretary deny the rumour which appeared in the newspapers today that the B.B.C. consulted the Government about this broadcast some time ago? If that is so, and if the Foreign Office was consulted, did the Foreign Office get in touch with the Home Office? Can the right hon. Gentleman really say that he did not know that M. Bidault was present in this country?

Mr. Speaker

It is not in order to ask a Minister to confirm or deny a rumour in a newspaper's future publication for which he is not responsible. The rest of the question is in order.

Mr. Brooke

In answer to the first part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question, it is not ridiculous for me to give the House an answer which is true in every respect. As to M. Bidault's having slipped through the control, no Home Secretary has ever claimed that the control is 100 per cent. perfect so that no illegal entrant ever gets into this country. What I do claim is that extremely few people do. There has been close co-ordination between the Government Departments affected throughout this matter. As I say, M. Bidault may have been in this country illegally at gone time, but I do not believe that he is here today.

Mr. B. Harrison

Since we have had the privilege of entertaining General de Gaulle here as a refugee from tyranny, will my right hon. Friend not look too closely for M. Bidault?

Mr. Brooke

I asked the police to discover whether there was somebody in this country illegally, and they have been doing their utmost to find him, without success. That is why I draw the deduction that he is no longer here.

Mr. Grimond

Can the right hon. Gentleman clear up one very important point? Is it the case that there is a charge against M. Bidault, or a warrant out for him, in France? If so, when was it issued? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that unless there is a charge against M. Bidault there is no reason why he should not come to this country? Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman says that people slip through the net. But the net is an extremely elaborate one and it is very tiresome for ordinary travellers. It appears that important people can slip through but the ordinary people are caught. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that this net serves a useful purpose? If Hitler had turned up at one of our ports or airports, would anyone have noticed? Lastly, what representations did the Government receive from the French Government? Have they been asked to take steps against terrorism believed to originate in this country?

Mr. Brooke

I cannot answer for the French Government as to the position of M. Bidault in France. All I can say is that some months ago the French Government furnished us with the names of certain people, including that of M. Bidault, whom they said were engaged in activities against the French State. We took note of that information. As for the matter of slipping into this country, the right hon. Gentleman is really incorrect in suggesting that it is easy for anybody, distinguished or undistinguished, to slip in. As he probably knows from some of his constituents, it is a difficult matter, although it is sometimes achieved.

Sir T. Moore

As M. Bidault was the Prime Minister of France who tried to keep France by our side in 1940, would it not be a reasonable and humane thing to welcome him here?

Mr. Brooke

As he has at no time presented himself to an immigration officer, that question is hypothetical.

Mr. Marsh

Amusing though some of the right hon. Gentleman's replies may be, does not he think that it is a matter of some seriousness that apparently, despite the representations made by the French Government, which were then followed by photographs in the national newspapers, a month or so ago, of M. Bidault in Piccadilly Circus, nobody in the right hon. Gentleman's Department took the matter seriously? Is he now prepared to regard this as a serious matter? How was it that photographs could appear of this gentleman in the national Press and the Government could say a month later that they still did not know whether he had been here or not—even the night after he appeared in a B.B.C. broadcast?

Mr. Brooke

We took this matter very seriously from the start. It is possible that the photograph which appeared some weeks ago was a photograph of M. Bidault, but if the hon. Member will look at it he might agree that it could well have been a photograph of somebody else. Nevertheless, we acted on the assumption that it was a photograph of M. Bidault, and we took the appropriate action.

Mr. Longden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, unlike the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon), many people in this country criticise the B.B.C. for what they consider to be an outrageous broadcast? Is he aware that this man is not merely a political opponent of the head of a friendly State, but an indiscriminate assassin who has murdered many scores of his own people? Will my right hon. Friend do something about bringing him to book?

Mr. Brooke

I cannot repeat too often that the Government are not responsible for programmes put out by the B.B.C. M. Bidault has never been in our hands.

Mr. Fletcher

Does the recent statement by the Home Secretary about the list he received from the French Government mean that, if he received a list of names from the French Government of people they did not want to enter this country, he would automatically prevent them from being allowed to come in?

Mr. Brooke

No, Sir.

Mr. Renton

Although my right hon. Friend is not answerable for what the B.B.C. does or fails to do, can he tell the House whether inquiries show that the B.B.C. knew, or did not know, when it recorded this interview with M. Bidault and broadcast the interview that M. Bidault had landed without permission?

Mr. Brooke

I have no knowledge on that subject.

Hon. Members

Why not?

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate this matter now. We have a great deal to do.