HC Deb 18 November 1987 vol 122 cc1063-6 3.31 pm
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

(by private notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the decision to deport Mr. Larsen from the United Kingdom.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Tim Renton)

Mr. Larsen is in fact Mr. Viggo Oerbak, a Norwegian national and convicted criminal there. My Department has produced fingerprint evidence from the Norwegian police to the court, which was satisfied as to Mr. Oerbak's identity. Mr. Oerback's application for leave to move for judicial review against the decision that he is an illegal entrant was dismissed yesterday in the divisional court by Mr. Justice Macpherson.

Mr. Oerbak originally arrived in the United Kingdom in 1982 with a false Norwegian identity. He subsequently claimed yet a further false identity in the name of John William Pearson Lewes Parker, a British national. Both identities have been disproved and in particular Mr. Oerbak's claim to a British nationality in the name of Parker has been found to be false and I understand was also dismissed by the judge yesterday as "scandalously inappropriate and wrong". In view of his unlawful entry to the United Kingdom and the fact that he has no claim to remain, Mr Oerbak is being removed to Oslo today. His removal has already been deferred to enable him to pursue his application to move for judicial review of the decision to treat him as an illegal entrant. In view of the fact that that application has been unhesitatingly—the judge's words — dismissed, the way is now clear for Mr. Oerbak's removal to proceed. We see no reason for it to be further delayed.

Mr. Winnick

As this person was undoubtedly involved with the South African security service in trying to kidnap members of the African National Congress in London, and in other illegal actions, why are these matters not being proceeded with in the courts? Is it not a fact that he has become such an embarrassment to the Government that he is being sent off quickly? Would an agent who had acted for the Soviet security service have been allowed to get out of the country without any court action if he had no diplomatic status?

In view of the concern about the close co-operation between the British and South African security services, is the Minister aware that my hon. Friends and I remain most dissatisfied with the way in which the case has been handled?

Mr. Renton

I find it wholly incomprehensible that, in view of the answer that I have given, the hon. Gentleman should remain completely unsatisfied.

We have not been informed that there was any evidence of any involvement of South African Government agencies. As regards the hon. Gentleman's point that the court should be involved—it has been involved. As I have described, it has dismissed the man's application for leave to be given for judicial review. It is a clear-cut case of an illegal entrant and it is right that he should be treated as such.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Would it not have been better if the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) had done his homework before he asked his question?

Mr. Renton

Yes, Sir. The hon. Gentleman is engaged in a wild goose chase that does him no credit.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

We have already had the explanation for why the conspiracy charge was dropped. However, does the Minister agree that, during the police investigation into the African National Congress case, the man was found to be in possession of a number of classified documents — including those relating to Operation Layout—or in receipt, control or possession of various forged documents? Does the Minister agree that if a person is in possession of documents that are classified or forged, he should be charged with those offences and dealt with by the courts?

Mr. Renton

The points that the hon. Gentleman has raised were dealt with fully by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General on 23 October. He said: The Security Service advised that the documents purporting to be governmental documents were not genuine." —[Official Report, 23 October 1987; Vol. 120, c. 1101.]

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

I congratulate my hon. Friend. Will he be reassured that my hon. Friends and I take the view that anyone acting against the interests of the British people should be got rid of—so we are grateful to him?

Mr. Renton

I thank my hon. Friend for his support. I stress to him that as far as my Department is concerned, this is merely a question of treating this man as an illegal entrant, which is what he has been shown to be, and therefore of removing him from this country at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Will the Minister answer clearly the question that his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General did not answer? Is there no evidence that now, or at any time, Larsen— or Oerbak—has been engaged by British, South African or other security forces?

Mr. Renton

I refer again specifically to the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, on 23 October. He said: I am advised that none of the defendants in this case has at any time been employed in any capacity by any of the security or intelligence services." — [Official Report, 23 October 1987; Vol. 120, c. 1096.] I have already dealt with the point about South African involvement.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

Does my hon. Friend accept that the smokescreen put out by the Opposition about this man's involvement in South African and British security forces is designed merely to cover their own embarrassment? The man is obviously a deceiver and liar, and my hon. Friend was right to remove him as quickly and efficiently as he did.

Mr. Renton

I agree with my hon. Friend. The affair shows the willingness of the Opposition to run with any fantastic story or allegation that could lead to the disadvantage of our security services.

Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)

Does the hon. Gentleman understand that when questions are asked about the security services it is too easy to refuse to answer them by pleading security considerations that cannot be disclosed? A possible alternative explanation is that someone has something discreditable to conceal. Given that our security services have been under question in the past two years in a way that they have not been under question since the Napoleonic wars, will the hon. Gentleman consider with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the establishment of some body or group that enjoys general confidence and which can consider the merits of these matters?

Mr. Renton

I have to say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who is very expert in these matters, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General made a very full statement to the House on these subjects on 23 October. In the light of what he said there is absolutely no need for an inquiry—if that is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman's question was leading to. I am answering now on the question of this man's position as an illegal entrant, and I must make it plain to the House that the judge found very clearly in favour of the evidence lodged by the Home Office that this man was an illegal entrant and was not a British citizen.

Mr. John Watts (Slough)

Is my hon. Friend aware that he is to be congratulated on his speedy action in deporting this undesirable? Will he take steps to ensure that this man does not have the opportunity to strip off on the tarmac to delay his departure? Can he understand the willingness of the Labour party to rush to the defence of any illegal immigrant?

Mr. Renton

I sympathise with my hon. Friend's second point. It is a great pity that when we follow immigration procedures the Opposition should immediately seek to load them with political allegations. We seek to enforce immigration procedures as quickly as possible—as the Opposition often urge us to do—and that is what we are doing in this case.

Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central)

I have listened very carefully to the Minister's explanation to the House. Can he answer two questions? First, why is there urgency to deport this gentleman, especially when there are further actions in the court, particularly by Mr. Solly Smith, the chief representative of the African National Congress, about compensation for the conspiracy to kidnap? Secondly, the Minister said in his statement that all the evidence was forged. Can he tell the House whether that evidence will be available to the African National Congress so that it can scrutinise it carefully and decide whether it has been wronged?

Mr. Renton

On the first point, I stress to the hon. Gentleman that—to use his word—there is no urgency whatever to deport. The man is not being deported; he is being removed as an illegal entrant. The procedures to remove him were held in suspense when the judicial application was lodged. Now that the judicial application has been dismissed, it is perfectly right and proper for us to proceed under the procedures that we were planning to use two or three weeks ago. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the ANC prosecution. I understand from the press that the ANC may be contemplating a civil action against those who attempted to kidnap its members. However, as that would be a civil action, it cannot be allowed to influence the removal of Mr. Oerbak in connection with the offence of unlawfully entering the United Kingdom.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)

Is it not hypocritical of the Opposition to object to the deportation of a convicted criminal to Norway, the country of his citizenship? If any further questions are to be asked about this entire affair, should they not be asked in the Norwegian Parliament rather than in this one?

Mr. Renton

There is a lot of sense in that. Mr. Oerbak is a Norwegian citizen and it is absolutely right that he should be returned to Norway as soon as possible.

Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

Is the Minister of State aware that I have absolutely no objection to the removal, but merely ask questions about the details? First, on 23 October the Attorney-General announced that this man was guilty of masquerading as a police officer. Why was he not charged with that offence in open court? Secondly, this man claims that he had impounded papers that implicate the security services in his activities and also implicate Members of the House. Are those papers to be returned to him or to his legal representatives? Thirdly, in replying to his hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), the Minister of State accused the Opposition of following any course that would lead to the disadvantage of the security services. What did he mean by that? How could pursuing this case lead to the disadvantage of the security services?

Mr. Renton

The right hon. Gentleman misquotes me on the last point. I said that this exposes the willingness of the Opposition to run with any fantastic story that could lead to the disadvantage of the security service. That is precisely what this afternoon's performance shows.

On the first point, those matters are clearly for the police. Whether they decide to pursue other charges is a matter for them, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General made plain in the House on 23 October. On the second point, there is nothing to stop Mr. Oerbak's legal representative from going today—or having gone any day in the past—to collect any documents that Mr. Oerbak wishes to be collected.