§ 12.32 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)
I beg to move,That the Southern Rhodesia (Property in Passports) Order 1965, dated 16th November, 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act. 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November, be approved.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bowen)
It may be convenient if the following Orders are taken with this one, namely:That the Southern Rhodesia (British Nationality Act 1948) Order 1965, dated 16th November, 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November be approved.That the Southern Rhodesia (Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962) Order 1965, dated 16th November, 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November, be approved.That the Southern Rhodesia (Fugitive Offenders Act 1881) Order 1965, dated 16th November, 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November, be approved.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I take it from the silence which greeted that suggestion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that hon. Members acquiesce in the proposal. I will, therefore, deploy the arguments in favour of the four Orders together.
They deal with matters of comparatively narrow scope. The first—the Southern Rhodesia (Property in Passports) Order 1965—is made under the enabling Act because the Government do not recognise passports issued by the illegal régime of Mr. Smith in Southern Rhodesia. In order that they may give effect to that, the Government wish to have the power to impound those passports when they come to official notice in the United Kingdom.
The Order provides that passports issued by the illegal administration may be dealt with as though they were the property of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. Otherwise, of course, they would technically in law be passports issued by private individuals and not Her Majesty's property. By the Order we seek to make them the property 697 of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, which would give the Government the power to impound those passports when they come to hand. That is the purpose of the first Order.
The second Order—the Southern Rhodesia (British Nationality Act 1948) Order 1965—has this purpose. The Government wish to provide that in certain circumstances citizens of Southern Rhodesia shall be able to acquire citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. The proposals are in two broad groups and this Order deals with the first of those groups. It adapts the provisions of the British Nationality Act, 1948, as subsequently amended, to produce the result that Southern Rhodesian citizens who, broadly speaking, are able to show ancestry on the male side in Great Britain, who can show a connection with Great Britain and the intention to reside in Great Britain shall be enabled to acquire a certificate under the 1948 Act making them citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies.
Those are not the only provisions with regard to the attaining of British citizenship of the United Kingdom which have already been announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but this Order deals with those particular aspects of Rhodesian citizens, namely, those who have descent from Britain on the male side and certain other characteristics, such as intention to reside.
The third of the Orders, the Southern Rhodesia (Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962) Order 1965 really corrects what would otherwise be an indirect consequence of the issue by the United Kingdom Government of a passport to a Rhodesian citizen. If we do not enact this Order the result of the issue of that passport would be to make its holder immune from the provisions of the Act of 1962. That would be the wholly untended and accidental result, and this Order prevents that result from ensuing.
I now turn to the last of the Orders, the Southern Rhodesia (Fugitive Offenders Act, 1881) Order 1965, which is somewhat wider in its scope. What this Order does is the following. As the House knows, under the Act of 1881, a Southern Rhodesian, or any other Commonwealth citizen, who takes refuge here can be demanded back by his own country 698 if he is taking that refuge in an attempt to escape justice—in this case, justice in Southern Rhodesia by the Southern Rhodesia authorities. The Act, of course, operates vice versa, and is the Act which applies throughout Her Majesty's dominions. What was thought to be necessary in present circumstances was this. In the Act as it stands, even if a case is not made out before a magistrate in this country supported by prima facie evidence, against a Rhodesian citizen, he can, nevertheless, send back the refugee if he thinks it is just.
It is thought that these words are far too narrow in scope to deal with circumstances which might now arise. The Southern Rhodesia authorities may now, under the 1881 Act, ask for the return of a Rhodesian citizen in order to face a purely political charge. It is thought that it would not be possible—or it might not be possible—within the scope of the wording of the 1881 Act, to refuse to send back the refugee, if I may so term the person. It might not be reasonable nor just if the grounds for the return were purely political, and it is thought that there should be a power not to send back if the evidence is such as to make it appear that the charge is of a political character, or was motivated by political considerations.
Therefore, this last Order makes it clear that the refugee is not to be sent back pursuant to the warrant from Southern Rhodesia until the Secretary of State is satisfiedthat the return of the fugitive has not been rendered inexpedient by any unconstitutional action taken in Southern Rhodesia or circumstances resulting therefrom.The object of those words is to give the Secretary of State a very wide discretion to say, "Just or not, it is purely a political offence for which this refugee is wanted. We do not propose to send him back for trial on a purely political charge." That is the purport of this Order.
I think that these four Orders are appropriately worded to achieve their four results, and I commend them now to the House.
§ 12.40 a.m.
§ Mr. Richard Sharples (Sutton and Cheam)
We have this evening discussed Orders relating to the overall constitutional position in Rhodesia, and Orders affecting the economy of Rhodesia. These 699 present Orders fall into a somewhat different category because they will probably affect, as individuals, a number of people at present living in Rhodesia.
The Orders fall into the category of those that follow logically from the steps that have been taken by Mr. Smith and his régime, so that it would in no way be our wish to oppose them. But having said that, I would add that perhaps the more because they affect people individually and not as members of organisations or Governments, it is the duty of the House to make some examination of their content. We are grateful to the Home Secretary for his explanation, but certain questions remain to be answered.
The first Order that I want to deal with is No. 1955—The Southern Rhodesia (Property in Passports) Order, 1965. This, as I understand it, invalidates passports issued by… it persons claiming to exercise any governmental functions in relation to Southern Rhodesia …I should like to know how a person at present living in Southern Rhodesia can obtain a legal passport. The Order refers to… any person or body of persons claiming to exercise any governmental functions …That provision would presumably rule out, among others, passports issued by the legal Governor of Rhodesia. He is a person claiming to be the Legal Government of Rhodesia. It may be a drafting point, but I think the wording should have been "any person unlawfully claiming to be the Government of Rhodesia."
Leaving aside that drafting point, which may or may not be important, I should like to know how the Home Secretary sees it possible for any person to obtain a legal passport in Rhodesia. The Order will surely prevent people from seeking to travel outside Rhodesia if they know that if they do so the only passport they can obtain is liable to be confiscated if they come to the United Kingdom. The Order refers to:any … passport or other document establishing a person's identity and nationality.How will that apply to documents which are issued to workers coming into Rhodesia from Malawi, Zambia or Mozambique? What is to be the status of the documents issued to cover those 700 people in their work and to cover their return to Malawi or Zambia?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to Order No. 1956, the Southern Rhodesian (Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962), and said that it closed a loophole which might be created by Order No. 1957, the Southern Rhodesia (British Nationality Act, 1948). It is difficult to see what is the purpose of that. One of the purposes, surely, of Order No. 1957 is to make it possible for those people who wish to leave Rhodesia and to come here and assume British citizenship and obtain British passports to do so. What I do not understand, and would like an answer to, is why it is felt necessary to bring those people within the scope of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act and therefore, presumably, within the scope of the quota which is being administered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Why is it necessary to impose that restriction on people who, surely, it is our objective to encourage?
The final Order to which I refer is No. 1958. That refers to the Fugitive Offenders Act, 1881. I agree very much with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about this and the purpose which lies behind it. It is obviously quite logical that this Order should be introduced. I hope, however, that when he or the Solicitor-General replies it will be made quite clear that this Order does not give the right of sanctuary to any person who commits a normal criminal offence in Southern Rhodesia or in Basutoland. I think it right that any doubt on that score should be removed completely.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mrs. Eirene White)
For the purposes of the record, does the hon. Member mean Bechuanaland?
§ Mr. Sharples
Bechuanaland, I am sorry.
Leaving aside the detail of the Orders, the House should be told how they are to be administered by the British Government. We all know that when people are travelling from one country to another or about their daily business they can be frustrated or penalised in a variety of different ways as a result of the administration of Orders. We have only 701 to look at the situation on the Gibraltar-Spanish border to see what can happen if bureaucracy is carried to the ultimate extreme.
The people affected by these Orders will be of a variety of political opinions and of all races. I hope that we can have an assurance that it will be the purpose of the Government to administer these Orders in so far as possible with humanity and not to impose unnecessary restrictions and handicaps upon those who will, in any case, probably be subject to some form or other of inconvenience, to say the least, as a result of these Orders, particularly that with regard to the confiscation of passports.
We have had tonight quite wide-ranging debates on the purposes of various Orders. We should be told what is the strategy lying behind them. We appreciate that they are legally and logically a consequence of the illegal declaration of independence, but what is the broader strategy of the Government behind them?
Although accepting the Orders, I see that they can have dangers. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in a Written Answer yesterday, said tht there could be no question of the Government having contact with the illegal régime. I believe this makes it all the more important that there should be continuing contacts between peoples of all races and all opinions and I hope that one effect of these Orders will not be to make it more difficult for people to travel between this country and Rhodesia and between Rhodesia and this country. I believe that certainly the first of these Orders could possibly have such an effect.
If we are unable to maintain contact and continue the contacts that we have there and which Rhodesians have with people here, then possibly we shall be a very much longer time than otherwise in achieving a solution to this most difficult of problems. I make no excuse for having raised these questions relating to individual people even at this time of night.
§ 12.53 a.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
I wish to refer to the Southern Rhodesia (Fugitive Offenders Act 1881) Order. The hon.
702 Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) mentioned the possibility of the case of someone who had committed an ordinary crime and he did not wish sanctuary to be given to such a person. It is precisely the definition of what may be a political offence and what may be an ordinary crime that I want to bring to the attention of the Home Secretary. I want to couple it with Section 2(1), which says… that the return of the prisoner has not been rendered inexpedient by any unconstitutional action taken in Southern Rhodesia or circumstances resulting therefrom.This seems to me to refer to the recent unconstitutional action, but when I was in Rhodesia, when Mr. Winston Field was Prime Minister and then Leader of the Rhodesian Front, a number of cases were brought to my notice in Salisbury and elsewhere in which people had been put on trial or had been pursued and then escaped for offences that would be regarded clearly as political offences in this country. That was a long time before the recent unconstitutional action taken by Mr. Smith and his colleagues.
I will give one example of a member of an African Nationalist Party who had been to New York and attended a meeting of the United Nations. He had spoken at a committee meeting of the United Nations, and the next day he received four copies of his speech. He returned to Salisbury and had with him two copies of the speech. He was arrested and put on trial, accused of wishing to create a state of rebellion in Rhodesia because in the evidence he had given to the United Nations there had been some discussions on actions which the United Nations might take in order to bring about an improved position of political democracy in Rhodesia.
This particular gentleman had no general report of the debate on him; he had no newspapers giving publicity to the hearing. He only had two copies of his own speech, nothing else. There are two conclusions which emerge from this. The first is that a man who might be accused now of such an offence would have committed the alleged offence at a time long before the recent unconstitutional action which, I take it, is referred to in this particular Order. The second conclusion is that it would be said by Mr. Smith and his colleagues that he had committed a crime by virtue of the fact that there was reference in the U.N. hearing to some 703 political interference, which is alleged to be an incitement to rebellion.
The point I would like to put to my right hon. and learned Friend is: will he see to it that what he called the widest possible interpretation of the discretion of either the Home Secretary or the Governor in any other territory means that the interpretation is wide enough to take in not only an attitude adopted by the Rhodesian authorities as a result of the recent unconstitutional action, and, secondly, that the Home Secretary or the Governor in any territory has the discretion to impose their own interpretation on what might be alleged to be a crime?
This links with the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite and it will clearly decide what is the interpretation of a crime and how the decision is made affecting the lives of the people so concerned.
§ 1.0 a.m.
§ Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith (Chislehurst)
I am concerned about the impact of the Southern Rhodesia (Property in Passports) Order, 1965, and I would like to take further several of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples). The Order says "may be dealt with" and "may" is used throughout—not "shall" perform certain duties and obligations. I would be grateful if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary could be more specific about the intentions of the operation of the Property in Passports Order. Is it the intention of the Government that passports issued by the Smith régime shall be automatically invalid? In that case surely the embarrassment is not going to be to the main supporters of Mr. Smith's régime? It will be no embarrassment to them because his much-travelled Government and senior officers will have their pre-11th November passports, which are still legal.
If there are moderate-minded people, if there are students wishing to come to this country to pursue their studies and who are opponents of the Smith régime, will they automatically have passports which they may have had to acquire after 11th November? If the only ones available to them in their country are what I might call Smith régime passports, will they automatically have them impounded 704 when they get here, or will it be possible for them to apply for a United Kingdom passport so that they will have a legal travel document and can still continue to enter a university or perform the type of work or training which, one would assume, we should be anxious for many people from Rhodesia to continue?
If they have to have a United Kingdom passport, how will the machinery operate? How will they get their applications through to the Home Office in England if it is felt they are entitled to have such a travel document and passport? Obviously, the lawful Governor in Rhodesia has neither the staff nor the facilities there to carry through the administrative work of providing such passports.
The crux of the matter is whether the Government intend to apply discretion through the immigration officers here as to whether there is valid reason for a person being in the country and to cover him by a legal document, which he has been unable to obtain if he is an applicant for a new passport in Rhodesia, or whether it is intended to make his document invalid and, therefore, put at risk in this country any visitor from Rhodesia bearing a Smith régime passport.
If the intention is to make all such passports invalid, have there been consultations with the other Commonwealth countries and with foreign countries to ensure that a Smith régime passport will be regarded as invalid? This is of importance in maintaining the friendship which we wish to maintain with those who do not want to see severance from Britain. Clarification should be given so that if these people come with an invalid document they do not find themselves stranded here with no legal passport. I shall be grateful if the Home Secretary will be a little more specific about the intention of the Order.
§ 1.3 a.m.
§ Mr. Peter Kirk (Saffron Walden)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) has said, this is a matter that concerns individuals and, therefore, a matter to be scrutinised with even greater care, because the liberty of the subject, even though we may be temporarily separated from people in Rhodesia, is a matter with which this House has always been closely concerned. Certainly, both in the matter of passports 705 and identification documents and in the matter of the Fugitive Offenders Act, I can remember in my short ten years in this House many occasions when strong argument has developed across the Floor of the House. Before anything arises under these Orders, we must be clear what we intend to do as well as what the effects are likely to be.
I wish to refer to only two of the Orders, Nos. 1955 and 1958, the first and the last, the two which, in the main, were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith). The question of passports is a vital matter.
We all know of occasions when people have found themselves without the necessary identification papers, and sometimes the situation has been farcical. I recall the case of a man who travelled on the ferry between Macao and Hong Kong for years because he did not have a proper document. I do not suggest that that would happen in this instance, but considerable inconvenience could be caused to Rhodesian or British subjects by the fact that they might not know precisely their position under the Order.
Order No. 1955 applies, according to Section 1, toany document … issued on or after 11th November".We all know that it is within the power of certain authorities to extend the validity of documents at the time of their expiry. A British passport can be extended for only five years, and I should like to know the position concerning a Rhodesian passport. It would be perfectly possible, therefore, for the illegal authorities in Rhodesia, so far as I can see, to place subjects whom they wish so to place in a very difficult position, by extending certain documents of certain people indefinitely, so that people we did not want to come here could come here without any difficulty at all, while withholding from others extension of documents, or new documents.
Does this, therefore, apply to the normal extension of a passport at the time of its expiry, or does it apply to a passport throughout the whole period during which it would normally be extended and no longer? This is a point which ought to be cleared up.
706 The second point may or may not affect quite a number of people. This appliesto any document … issued on or after 11th Novemberbut it did not come into operation until 18th November. What is the position of anybody who was given permission to land, because this Order was not in force before 18th November, and who, presumably, is here in possession of an invalid document? What is the intention of the Government? Are they to issue a temporary document to such a person? Is he to be issued with a British passport? Or is he to be allowed to go from this country on what we recognise to be an invalid document, on the clear understanding he does not try to come here again? I do not know, but there may not be any people in this category; but I understand direct flights from Salisbury were not interrupted during that period, and, therefore, there may be some people affected. Their position ought to be cleared up on this point.
Turning to the Order under the Fugitive Offenders Act, I find it very difficult to understand why this Order has been made at all, as we do not recognise as valid the authorities at present holding office in Salisbury. Therefore, it is impossible for them to make any application, anyway; because all applications can be made only by someone exercising valid powers, as I understand it. But even if they do, as I understand it, the previous discretion granted to the Secretary of State was almost absolute.
I can remember the discussions which we had in this House—what was it, nearly four years ago?—about the position of Chief Enahoro, but I do not remember any suggestion at that time that my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), had he so wished, could not have prevented Chief Enahoro from being sent back to Nigeria on political or other grounds. The reason why my right hon. Friend decided he should send the Chief back was not because he had not got discretion to keep him here, but because he felt it was necessary that he send him back. That was clearly a political case.
What worries me about this is that this new definition may be more restrictive than the old one. It contained a 707 phrase which was pretty wide and by which any Home Secretary with his wits about him could justify any action, but here, in this case, we are limiting it to the case in whichthe return of the fugitive has not been rendered inexpedient by any unconstitutional action taken in Southern Rhodesia …This brings up the point raised by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). It does not cover any case before 11th November at all, and it seems to me limits the ones after 11th November to a certain specified class.
What I should like an assurance about from the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that the definition in the original Act of 1881 and the one in this Order will be read together, and that the widest possible discretion will be taken by the Secretary of State, whoever he may be, to ensure that anyone here accused on a purely political charge cannot be sent back under this Order. I think this is a matter of very great importance.
I am one of those who believe the Government, in the circumstances, should be given all the powers, virtually, they want, although, as my right hon. Friend said, we should like from time to time explanations of precisely what they want to achieve by them, but I am worried about this. I must admit that my experience in this House has taught me that Orders, particularly Orders from the Home Office, have to be looked at with very great care. There are one or two aspects about these Orders which need further explanation before we actually pass them.
§ 1.10 a.m.
§ Sir F. Soskice
With the permission of the House, may I speak twice in order to answer the questions that have been raised? I will group them together, because they fall into certain categories.
The first category of questions related to what was to be the position, broadly speaking, of a person who was the holder of a post U.D.I. passport. We recognise that there is some difficulty in that sort of situation, and we will be prepared whenever possible to issue a temporary United Kingdom passport.
A person who holds an invalid passport may be in Rhodesia, he may be here, he may be on the Continent, he may be in South Africa, or he may be 708 in all sorts of places, and one has to consider the case of the individual, wherever he is, and the actual circumstances in which he finds himself. If he is in Rhodesia, what we will try and do, through the instrumentality of the staff of the High Commissioner who may be left at the time, is to issue him a temporary United Kingdom passport so that he can travel outside Rhodesia.
He may find himself in some African country outside Rhodesia. If he does, we will arrange that a United Kingdom passport will be issued, on surrender of his illegal passport, by the nearest British High Commission or the nearest British Embassy. He might, for example, get his passport in South Africa, or he might get it in one of the other Commonwealth countries in Africa, or from the British Embassy in a non-Commonwealth country in which we have an ambassador, if he finds himself there.
He may find himself in Europe with an invalid passport. What we will try to do then, if he has recourse to the nearest British Embassy, is to substitute a temporary United Kingdom passport for the surrender of his illegal passport.
The right hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith) mentioned the case of students and the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) mentioned the case of other people who find themselves here before 11 th November. To a person who is in this country, on surrender of the illegal passport there will be a proper United Kingdom passport issued in its place. The appropriate instructions for that purpose have already been issued.
It is impossible to cater in advance for every possible case, and I can only say that we will do our level best to avoid difficulty arising. If the arrangements which I have envisaged are brought into effect, what we anticipate is that the great majority of cases should be covered and passports supplied in a very short time. I take the point that steps should be taken to maintain contact and not to impose difficulties in the way of Rhodesians other than Rhodesians who are going out of their way to assist the illegal Rhodesian government. I am talking about the student and the normal traveller who has no sinister intent and who wishes to continue his travels or stay here.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that the facilities which he has just mentioned will, in addition, be granted not only to those who opposed the Smith régime but to his strongest supporters? Only in that way can we reach some meeting of the minds, particularly if they should come to a new plane, which is the avowed policy of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Sir F. Soskice
It is rather a long way for us to extend the facilities to assist supporters of the illegal Government. I can give no undertaking at all with regard to them. I am talking about the inoffensive Rhodesian citizen who is travelling about on ordinary business—a student, a businessman, a visitor, a tourist, or whoever he may be. We will do our level best to avoid any inconvenience being sustained by these people and as soon as possible on surrender of the illegal passport we will see that it is replaced with a valid United Kingdom passport.
I was asked what would be the position of workers from Zambia, Malawi, and places like that. They are citizens of those countries, and it would be for the Governments of those countries to provide for their citizens in the same way as we would provide for our own citizens in this country. I cannot answer as to how they will deal with the difficulty as it presents itself to them, but I have no doubt that they will adopt a reasonable approach to try to assist their own citizens as the need arises.
§ Sir F. Soskice
In the case of the extension of an illegal passport, the original passport would, under the existing law, be a passport which belonged to Her Majesty under the Royal Prerogative, and therefore it would be liable to surrender. If it was extended by the illegal Government, we would not recognise the extension as valid, but, without having to have recourse to the Order—because the passport would already be the property of Her Majesty—we would consider that we were entitled to impound it, and in return for such an impounded passport—the instructions about this have been issued—we would issue in the 710 ordinary way a proper passport which the holder could use.
I come next to the question of the application of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, and the provisions with regard to the acquisition of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. If I may say so to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples), they are two separate things. The issue of a passport by the United Kingdom Government to a Rhodesian citizen would, under Section 1(2) of the 1962 Act as it stands, have the automatic effect of making that Act inapplicable to him. He would then have an unrestricted right of access to this country, and that would apply to anybody who had such a passport, but it is not possible completely to throw open the doors without any qualification to anybody who is in that position, and therefore we thought it desirable that in his case we should preserve the status quo.
He is now subject to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. We want him to remain subject to it, and by the Order which we propose we seek to avoid by a side wind his being taken out of the Act unintentionally. That is what the Order does, but then one looks to the other Order, and one asks of the Rhodesian citizen: in what circumstances should we make him a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies; and it is for the purpose of answering that question that we propose the other Order dealing with British citizenship.
Broadly speaking, the proposals are as follows. Persons of British descent on the male side, the persons of whom I spoke when I was moving the Order, will, under the existing provisions, as amended, of the British Nationality Act, 1948, I think Section 12(6), if they possess the necessary qualifications as to intention to reside here, connection, and descent, be able to obtain from the British Government a certificate of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. In other words, they will be able to obtain what is the equivalent, in the case of an alien, of a naturalisation certificate. They will be completely incorporated into our community if they qualify for the purposes of Section 12 of the 1948 Act as amended by later Acts.
Then there will be a number of Rhodesians who will not so qualify, because they cannot trace their descent 711 from Great Britain in the male line. In the case of those citizens we propose—again under Section 12(6) of the British Nationality Act, 1948, as amended by various later statutes which I need not recite—that if they are in this country and have been resident here for five years they shall be entitled, under the terms of the Act, to a certificate of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. But in the case of those citizens the Home Secretary has the power to abbreviate the five years as much as he thinks appropriate. He can grant a certificate after one year, or six months, or two years, as he thinks appropriate.
As has been announced by the Prime Minister, the circumstance that a citizen, by avowed loyalty to the Government at Westminster, had rendered himself open to some degree of persecution and brought difficulties upon himself because of his loyalty to the Queen, would be regarded as a matter of great importance in the exercise of the Home Secretary's discretion in abbreviating the five years. It might lead to a very substantial reduction, and he would be allowed access.
Again, if he were broadly a person who came within all the other circumstances that we would describe as applicable to a political refugee—if he were open to any sort of pressure or persecution in Rhodesia owing to his demonstrated loyalty to the Crown he would have access. He would become a resident, and the question would then arise as to when he should obtain his certificate of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies—and he might obtain it after a very short time.
We believe these proposals to be adequate, on the one side, for the Rhodesian citizen who can trace his descent to the United Kingdom on the male side, and, on the other, for the Rhodesian who cannot. I hope that I have succeeded in pointing out that the Commonwealth immigration aspect and the citizenship aspect are two different questions.
The third group of questions related to the provisions amending the existing Fugitive Offenders Act. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden was suspicious of my Department, and said that Orders emanating from it required special consideration. I hope that he will think that 712 this Order stands up to that special scrutiny, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) will form the same opinion.
Under the existing law the Secretary of State can refuse to return a citizen if he thinks it is just. The hon. Member referred to the Enahoro case. He is a little mistaken in thinking that no question arose as to what was the true interpretation of the words "if it is just". There was a substantial question about that, and it is open to question whether we can refuse to send a citizen back on the ground that he is wanted for a political offence, on the basis that it is not just to do so. There is a question about that. Therefore, what we have done is substantially to enlarge the scope of those words by the words that we have put in the Order.
We have discarded any question whether it is just or not—whether he will receive a fair trial or not. We ask from the House a power to look to the very broad question, whether it is expedient—one could not think of a more wide term—as a result of unconstitutional action, or as a result of circumstances arising from that unconstitutional action. Therefore, I would point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone that we are really deliberately spreading the net as wide as we can. I have just been told that this is in addition to the discretion which I already have. That is true. It is instinct in what I am saying.
My hon. Friend said that he had had experience of a certain case. I do not know the exact circumstances, but I would have thought from the account that he gave that it would be within the scope of the words I have chosen.
§ Mr. Mendelson
Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves that point. He has just quoted to the House that part of the Order which refers to two conditions:… has not been rendered inexpedient by any unconstitutional action … or circumstances resulting therefrom.That does not cover the point about an offence alleged to have occurred before the recent unconstitutional action.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I do not agree. If an offence occurred in, say, October, and the result of the unconstitutional proceedings is that the person accused of the 713 offence will not receive a fair trial in November, December, January, February or March, these words are wide enough to apply to that case, as I interpret them. They have, to that extent, a retrospective effect, and could not be wider.
The note handed to me points out that the Order is additional to the discretion of the Home Secretary, which I think I have said. Obviously, the Home Secretary could say one of two things. He could say that it was not just to send the man back—he is not deprived of the power to do that—and if he has any doubt about whether he could say that it was not just, there is no question but that he could say, if he genuinely thought so, that it was inexpedient. That is a much wider form of words and is designed to enlarge the boundaries of the words "it is just" in order to cover every case which could reasonably call for such an attitude by the Home Secretary.
On the question about sanctuary, the answer is that there will not be sanctuary. When we were considering the terms of the Order, we were faced with two alternatives. We could simply have abrogated the terms of the Fugitive Offenders Act: we could have said that we would never send a fugitive offender back and that the Act would not apply. We did not do that. We purposely left this discretion in order to avoid a sanctuary being created for the criminal. There is a door which can be shut in case of need. There was one other question, but I cannot remember it, though if hon. Members remind me of it I will do my best to reply.
We hope, therefore, that the Orders cover those various situations. No proposition put forward in the debate has led me to think that we have slipped up anything, but if there is, no doubt hon. Members will let me know.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Southern Rhodesia (Property in Passports) Order 1965, dated 16th November 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under
the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November, be approved.
§ Southern Rhodesia (British Nationality Act 1948) Order 1965, dated 16th November 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 [copy laid before the House 17th November] approved.—[Sir F. Soskice.]
§ Southern Rhodesia (Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962) Order 1965, dated 16th November 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 [copy laid before the House 17th November] approved.—[Sir F. Soskice.]
§ Southern Rhodesia (Fugitive Offenders Act 1881) Order 1965, dated 16th November 1965, made by Her Majesty in Council under the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965 [copy laid before the House 17th November] approved.—[Sir F. Soskice.]