HL Deb 25 October 1955 vol 194 cc8-12

2.54 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill is short; and it is, I think, uncontroversial. None the less, it is of some importance and. I believe, interest. Its object is to place the control of aliens employed by the Crown under statutory provision. This will enable the Defence Regulation No. 60D, under which the control is regulated at the present time, to be withdrawn. The practical effect of the Bill will be to continue the existing situation virtually as it is at present—at least so far as the individuals affected are concerned.

It is perhaps natural that Parliament should be anxious to regulate the manner in which aliens are employed in a civil capacity under the Crown, and indeed it has been very closely regulated for a considerable number of years by the Act of Settlement, 1701, and the Aliens Restriction Act, 1919, whereby, in effect, it was impossible for aliens to be employed in the Civil Service. The object of this Bill is to continue the existing arrangements—that is to say, that aliens may be employed in one of three circumstances. They may be employed in an appropriate capacity outside the United Kingdom; they may be employed inside the United Kingdom, if a certificate is issued by the responsible Minister, either on account of the special qualifications of such aliens, or where no qualified British subject is available. Thirdly, they may be employed in general classes of employment in the United Kingdom for which suitable British persons are either not available or not available in sufficient numbers. Such certificates issued by the responsible Minister can be revoked at any time, but they will in any case come up for general review at the end of five years.

In order to enable Parliament to keep this matter carefully under review there will be laid before Parliament annually particulars of all certificates which are in force. This is necessary because, while in time of high employment we are glad to employ a certain number of aliens, if at any time it should happen that the level of employment fell, Parliament would, I think, necessarily be most anxious to keep this matter under close review. The effect of this Bill is really to issue a certificate in respect of aliens who are at present employed under the Crown. Under this Bill the term "alien" has the same meaning as under the British Nationality Act, 1948, which means that it includes all persons who are not British subjects or British protected persons. I would add that we are proposing to put forward an Amendment in order to make the position of British protected persons beyond any doubt. The only other point I need mention is that under Clause 2 (3) the Government of Northern Ireland are specifically authorised to make such statutory provisions in regard to this matter as they may think wise.

I very much hope that this Bill will commend itself to your Lordships as being a sensible and reasonable way of getting rid of the Defence Regulations, which I think we are all glad to see being gradually diminished. Thereby we are putting this matter under a permanent statutory provision and allowing the employment of aliens in special circumstances, at the same time ensuring that the matter will he kept under careful control. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second lime.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(The Earl of Selkirk.)

2.59 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Earl has said, this Bill needs very little said about it. I should first make it clear on behalf of my noble friends that we arc thoroughly in sympathy with the Bill and will assist its passage through Parliament. We particularly welcome this further step in the elimination of the Defence Regulations and their replacement by legislation. There are, however, two or three questions on this subject that occur to me. One concerns the question of naturalisation. It surprises me to read that numbers of refugees from Europe who have been here a great number of years— in fact, ever since the last war—have not acquired British nationality, apparently because they come under the provisions of this Bill. I wonder whether the noble Earl can say something about that point. I believe that the five-year duration of the certificate is the same as the five-year period of qualification by residence for naturalisation as a British subject. It is somewhat surprising that aliens who come to this country and take up employment under the Government do not for the most part, apply for British nationality.

As regards the employment of aliens overseas, this provision applies only to civil employment. All noble Lords will know that in any overseas country where we have diplomatic representatives, or any of the defence Forces, large numbers of local citizens are employed by our Forces in ancillary jobs. There is no mentior here of military employment under the Armed Services. Surely there are a number of cases where aliens—people who are neither British subjects nor British protected persons—are employed by the Forces. Surely there are armed guards and the like at depots in overseas countries who must he aliens. The outstanding example here is the question of the Brigade of Gurkhas. They are aliens, yet they have for a long time been members of the Forces and have borne a very distinguished part in British military history. I wonder what is their position and whether this Bill is in any way relevant to that matter.

Finally, a question was asked by a right honourable gentleman in another place, to which I believe no answer was given, in regard to British protected persons: how can British protected persons be safeguarded in employment against the competition of aliens? If there is unlimited power to employ aliens, say, in a British protectorate, how is the position of British protected persons in that territory to be safeguarded in face of competition from alien immigrants? That question is worth pursuing and I should be glad if an answer could be given to it. Apart from those questions, I have nothing but welcome for this Bill.

3.2 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, for the support he has given to the general principles of the Bill; also to congratulate him on the ingeniousness of his questions. Generally I try to anticipate most questions, but one or two of these were questions which I had not thought of at all. The question of the Brigade of Gurkhas and British military personnel does not arise here, for there is no question of this Bill's affecting anyone in Service uniform. No guards, nor anyone in the position of military staff, would therefore be in any way affected. Frankly, I doubt whether, except in very exceptional circumstances, we employ aliens in uniform doing guard duties, if we do, I should think such cases are extremely rare.

I imagine that, in speaking of British protected persons, the noble Earl has in view some of our protectorates. I admit that, as the Bill is drafted, it might be possible to employ aliens, but that possibility appears so very unlikely that apparently it was thought unnecessary to make any special provision. This Bill seeks to regulate people primarily concerned in this country, and we are not particularly concerned here with what happens overseas. I will look at the point to see whether there is anything in it, but I do not think that British protected persons will be in any position of disadvantage under the Bill. I would, however, add that the Amendment which I am going to move will put British protected persons in exactly the same position as British subjects.

On the question of naturalisation, I believe that the noble Earl is not quite right in saying that people have not been naturalised on account of this Bill, for obviously that is not the case: they have not been naturalised on account of the Defence Regulations. The reason, I take it, is simply that they did not want to be naturalised. I imagine that a certain measure of naturalisation goes on, and I am told that some of these people may, in due course, want to return to their own countries. There are various reasons why they do not want to be naturalised, but it would be quite wrong to assume that this Bill is in any way a bar to naturalisation or an alternative to it. I believe that I have answered the questions which the noble Earl raised, and I should like again to thank him for saying that he supports the Bill.

On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.