HC Deb 17 June 1968 vol 766 cc701-3
35. Mr. Hastings

asked the Attorney-General what further information he now has about foreign student participation in political demonstrations in the United Kingdom.

The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)

I have received no information of organised participation by foreign students in political demonstrations in this country since the Grosvenor Square demonstration on 17th March.

Mr. Hastings

Does not the Attorney-General agree that, in the interests of all taxpayers, this matter can no longer be ignored or made light of? Has he taken account in particular of the views and experience of Lord Butler, Chancellor of Essex University? Has the Attorney-General any idea of what Tariq Ali is studying currently and at whose expense, and what will happen if and when he asks for a British passport?

The Attorney-General

I cannot oblige the House with biographical data concerning Mr. Tariq Ali, but perhaps the more he is advertised the worse. The tradition of this country to allow students from abroad to take part in peaceful demonstrations is well established, and there are no reasons to think that, at any rate since the Grosvenor Square demonstration, there has been any abuse of that privilege.

Mr. Lubbock

Has the Attorney-General noticed the ridiculous Motion, signed by 19 Tories, on the Order Paper condemning the B.B.C. for inviting certain foreign students to this country to take part in a broadcast? Does the Attorney-General agree that the peaceful disappearance of M. Cohn-Bendit and his colleagues back to the countries from which they came shows how foolish the Tories wore to exaggerate the whole affair?

The Attorney-General

I have no responsibility in respect of the matters mentioned by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock). I feel sure that Herr Cohn-Bendit must have benefited considerably from his visit to this country.

Mr. Orme

Is the Attorney-General aware that this freedom of access allowed by Her Majesty's Government is widely welcomed in the country and that we want to see this exchange not only of students but of other people and organisations in different countries as one means of expressing democracy?

The Attorney-General

International exchanges are of great value, provided the purpose is peaceful and law-abiding. If it is contrary to that purpose, then appropriate action would be taken.

Sir C. Osborne

Would the Attorney-General use his influence to persuade the Cabinet to extend this liberal and generous attitude to people from overseas who wish to express their opinions in this country to include the Rhodesians and Mr. Smith?

The Attorney-General

We shall be debating this interesting topic in the course of the day. There is a distinction between those who seek to come to this country to foment and support revolution and those who come here for lawful, peaceful purposes.

Mr. Mendelson

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that his re-affirmation of the right to peaceful demonstration will be widely welcomed in this country? Is he further aware that it is in marked contrast to what I witnessed when I was last in Salisbury, Rhodesia, when police dogs were put on a peaceful demonstration by citizens?

Mr. Hastings

On a point of order. In view of the flippant and totally inadequate nature of that Answer, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible oppotunity.

The Attorney-General

After that flippant intervention, I shall answer Question No. 36.