HL Deb 02 December 1931 vol 83 cc274-9

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME had given Notice that he would draw attention to the practice of the Home Office in raising no objection to the re-admission of aliens (if backed by firms or individuals) who have previously been removed or withdrawn at the instance of His Majesty's Government on account of their subversive activities or propaganda in Great Britain; ask His Majesty's Government how many such persons have been re-admitted during the last twelve months; and move that this House requests His Majesty's Government to discontinue this practice and to give instructions to their diplomatic and consular agents to refuse a visa to such persons.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, some of your Lordships may recollect that a short time ago I put a question to His Majesty's Government concerning a certain Nicolas Klishko who had been got rid of on more than one occasion for his subversive activities. As I said on that occasion the answer which I received was most unsatisfactory, and that opinion has since been reinforced by several noble Lords who have expressed to me their grave dissatisfaction at the reckless attitude of the Home Office on the matter. A curious state of affairs was disclosed by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, on behalf of the Home Office. His words are reported in Column 52 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. He said: The object of his visits was stated to be the purchase of machinery, and the application that he should be allowed to come here was supported by an important British firm. My Lords, note that peculiar phraseology. "The object of his visit was stated to be the purchase of machinery." In reply to a supplementary question by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, the noble Earl said: I understand that he has to get a visa to come to this country, and he has to be backed by individuals or firms in this country, and in that case I understand that there is no objection raised.

The more I study the careful words used by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, the more apprehensive do I become.

Surely such a reply indicates a weak— almost an inept—attitude for the Home Office to adopt. It shows that the general outlook of that Department on the re- admission of undesirable aliens is, to say the least of it, disquieting, inasmuch as it appears from the noble Earl's answers that if an alien, however objectionable he may be, can get a British firm or even an individual to back his application for a visa to his passport he is automatically readmitted without let or hindrance. It is all very well for the Home Office to say that they have the matter well in hand, but why, I ask, should this country be put to the expense and why should that Department be given the extra work of watching the movements of such people here? It seems most suspicious that the Soviet Government should be so anxious to get such a person as Mr. Klishko into this country, that his rôle is changed from that of Assistant Official Agent of the Soviet Government in Great Britain to that of manager of the technical bureau of the metal department of the. Soviet Trade Delegation in Berlin, for one must bear in mind that when he was employed here before 1917 by an important armament firm, he was not employed by them as an expert but as a clerk. Even under the five-year plan I do not suppose a clerk would become an expert, which might entitle him to change his rôle.

On the occasion of my former Question I asked my noble friend the Earl of Lucan if he was in a position to state that no persons other than Mr. Klishko who had been parties to subversive activities here had been or would be readmitted, but as I received no definite reply I have ventured again to try to elicit an assurance on that by my Question. I now invite your Lordships to agree to my Motion: That this House requests His Majesty's Government to discontinue this practice and to give instructions to their diplomatic and consular agents to refuse a visa to such persons.

I suggest that once an alien has been pronounced so inimical to the Government of this country that his absence is preferable to his presence he should in no circumstances be allowed back here for however short a period. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House requests His Majesty's Government to discontinue the practice of raising no objection to the re-admission of aliens, if backed by firms or individuals, and to give instructions to their diplomatic and consular agents to refuse a visa to such persons.— (Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


My Lords, the noble Viscount has referred to the previous occasion on which he asked me a Question on the subject of Mr. Klishko and I notice that he now takes exception to my description of the reason for Mr. Klishko coming to this country. As far as the Home Office knows it was a perfectly good reason. He came over on bona fide business with the firm about which I told the noble Viscount. As regards the subject of the Notice as to what is the practice of the Home Office in the case of the re-admission of aliens, I can only say that he has read rather more than he was entitled to do into the answer which I gave to the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Newton. Perhaps it was owing to a mistake of mine in not making it perfectly clear. I said that he had to get a visa to come to this country and that it had to be backed by individuals or firms in this country, but I can tell the noble Viscount that that really is not sufficient. The fact that an English firm has asked for facilities for him is not sufficient in the case of a man who has been previously excluded. It does not automatically lead to the grant of a visa to enable him to come back here. It is one of many factors which are taken into account, and the decision of the Home Office as to a visa depends on whether, having regard to all the circumstances, it is deemed desirable to withdraw an objection which may previously have been raised with regard to the individual in question. Whenever an application for a visa is under consideration the whole previous history of the alien as known to the Home Office is weighed, and the Secretary of State comes to a decision on the question whether any objections there may be to a particular foreigner are outweighed by the advantages likely to accrue to this country from his presence here.

As regards the second part of the noble Viscount's Notice—to ask His Majesty's Government how many such persons have beer, re-admitted during the last 12 months—I understand that in addition to Mr. Klishko only two persons falling within the category referred to by the noble Viscount have been admitted to this country during the last 12 months. Those were admitted for strictly limited periods. One left after three days. The other has been refused an extension of the period for which she was allowed to land. I understand that she was on the way to America and she has been instructed to leave this country at an early date. As regards the Motion made by the noble Viscount, "That this House requests His Majesty's Government to discontinue this practice," I hope that the noble Viscount will not press his Motion. From the answer I have given him he will realise that it is not the practice of the Home Office to raise no objection to the re-admission of aliens if backed by firms or individuals. I hope that the noble Viscount will be satisfied with my answer on this occasion.


My Lords, the noble Viscount spoke to me about this matter a day or two ago. I found that I personally had nothing to do with the gentleman named Klishko when I was at the Home Office, but I should like to explain that the Home Office in those days were very careful indeed about the admission of Russians to this country, and if any Russian had what I may call a black mark placed against him by having been requested to leave this country on account of subversive activities, it would have been very difficult indeed for him to get back again. The Home Office, I think, used to regard all Russians with suspicion—some more than others—and I think Mr. Klishko would undoubtedly be among the first mentioned. I see the noble Lord, Lord Snell, is smiling, probably because in another place he has questioned me in regard to these eases. I would, however, ask my noble friend who replies on behalf of the Government to express the view to those, who administer the Home Office at the present tune that there should be no weakening in this matter. The present is certainly not the time to weaken the regulations laid down.

I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Bertie, will forgive me if I express here my testi- mony to the way in which the work was done, not, of course, by the Secretary of State but by the staff during that period. I hope we may have the assurance that the same care is taken now. I should like him to suggest that in the case of a man who has been asked to leave this country for this country's good, it should be only under most exceptional circumstances that he should be allowed to come back again. I cannot quite believe that he would be allowed to come on the mere request of some firm desiring to do business with him, when there must be millions of Russians with clean bills of health who might be allowed to come over in his place. If Lord Lucan will express these views to the present Secretary of State I am sure they will be followed, and that the same careful regulations will be administered in this country as have been administered in the past.


My Lords, I am left in a slight doubt by the speeches which we have just heard from Lord Brentford and Lord Lucan, as to whether the practice has been altered in some way since Lord Brentford was at the Home Office. If it has been altered I should be glad to know when and, if possible, for what reasons.


My Lords, before the noble Earl answers might I just say this? I think the House will be very grateful to Lord Bertie of Thame for having brought forward this question. Prima facie, if a man is sent out of this country for having engaged in subversive activities, which mean danger to this country, it appears to me that only for the very strongest reasons should be be permitted to come back. Lord Lucan has said, very truly I have no doubt, that he is not allowed to come back simply because some firm or person desires him to come back, but what he has not told us is what are the conditions which the Home Office think ought to be satisfied before such a person is allowed to come back. Possibly he can tell us in general terms what points the Home Office consider before they allow a pernicious character of this sort, who has been turned out of the country, to come back and, presumably, renew his pernicious practices. Unless there is an overwhelming reason for allowing such a man to come back I think it would be better to keep him out altogether.


My Lords, we do not propose to oppose in any way the proposition put before this House that criminals, if convicted of crime, should be kept out of this country. We have no need to import criminals; it is possible to grow as many in our own country as we need. But I would just like to utter one word of reservation. Let us be careful in our interpretation of what constitutes a bad character. It does not always follow that because a man has a Russian name, and has happened to fall foul of the Government of his own country, and has got into a certain habit of advocacy which he continues in this country, he is of necessity a criminal in intention or a really bad character. All I ask for is that in dealing with this matter the Home Office should interpret as liberally as it can those feelings. Our country has, happily, for many generations had a great reputation among the nations of the world for offering hospitality to people who have come here, and I should be very sorry that we should do anything in our generation to narrow that and destroy what is a very precious heritage.


My Lords, with the leave of the House I would like to assure Lord Iddesleigh that there has been no change in the procedure of the Home Office. Each case is dealt with on its merits. As to what those merits are, I cannot put them on paper or into words, but I think the noble Lord, Lord Danes-fort, would know for himself what he would look for if he was very careful to keep out anything like a bad character. I can only leave it to the noble Lord's imagination when I tell him that the strictest care is exercised.


My Lords, I thank Lord Lucan for his reply, but I was rather shocked to hear that not only one but three of these undesirable people had been admitted. That being so I adopt the course which Lord Banbury took when he had his Motion negatived instead of withdrawing it.

On Question, Motion negatived.