§ 2.39 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what further steps they propose to take to obtain reciprocity in visa regulations and to remove the humiliating exaction of finger-prints by the United States Government.]
THE MINISTER OF STATE, FOREIGN OFFICE (THE MARQUESS OF READING)
My Lords, it will be recalled that the visa requirement for United States citizens coming to the United Kingdom was waived in 1948, in pursuance of the late Government's policy of reducing to a minimum the formalities connected with private travel. This was unilateral action on the part of Her Majesty's Government, but the hope was expressed to the United States Government at the time that they would feel able to reciprocate in some measure.
560 The United States Government responded by abolishing visa fees and doubling the period of validity of the visas for British subjects, but they explained that their special immigration problems made it impossible for them to go further. Her Majesty's Government see no reason to depart from the policy pursued in this matter by their predecessors.
As regards visa formalities in general, the United States Government is entitled, as is every Government, to lay down such rules as it thinks fit for the admission and registration of aliens. Applicants for United States visas were first required to have their finger-prints taken under the Aliens Registration Act of 1940. Her Majesty's Government had no valid grounds for making representations on the subject, either at the time or later. We have, however, expressed the hope that visa formalities for British subjects visiting the United States can be reduced to the minimum consistent with American law.
My Lords, arising out of the noble Marquess's reply, I should like to ask him whether he can confirm that Venezuelans and other South American nationals are exempt from these Police State regulations, and, if that is so, whether Her Majesty's Government acquiesce in the assumption that we, who are friends and Allies of the United States, are a greater security risk than these nationals of South America.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I have no knowledge that the position is as the noble Viscount states it to be, but I will look into the matter and communicate with him. However, of course it is for every Government to make its own regulations, and, provided that they do not unduly discriminate, it is difficult for any other country to take exception to them.