HL Deb 09 December 1958 vol 213 cc126-62

5.0 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Dundee.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair]

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

In the Schedule:

VISCOUNT STANSGATE moved to delete from the enactments continued Section I of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. The noble Viscount said: You may well believe with what feeling of real pleasure it is that I pass from the combative atmosphere of the last debate to the Amendment which I am moving from this Bench; because it is an Amendment which I hope will appeal—as I know it appeals to my own Party—to members of other Parties as well. This is the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and opinion about it is roughly divided between those who emphasise the word "expiring" and those who emphasise the word "continuance". Ministers always speak about "continuance" and the Opposition always speak about "expiring". I have listened to many such debates in my Parliamentary life.

The Minister speaks about this Act as if it were a sort of gift from Father Christmas—"Here is your opportunity. You can discuss anything you like about the administration of the year. What a chance! What a good boy am I!" But we really regard it in a different light. The Schedule to this Bill, the Expiring Laws Continuance, is a list of Acts of such a character that—it may have been through fear; it may have been through dislike, or it may have been because they were uncertain about them—the Government passed through Parliament on the condition that the power lasts only a year. Every year the Minister must come forward and ask for another year. Therefore it is the Ministry that are on the defensive in this particular matter.

Now let me explain a little about the procedure. It is out of order, of course, to move to amend any of the Acts mentioned in the Schedule, but what is possible is to move to omit one of the Acts from the Schedule, and therefore I have moved to omit the first item of the Schedule. And if my Amendment were carried then the Aliens Act would disappear. On that, of course, I should not divide the House, because it would be a quite impracticable suggestion. On the other hand, because I feel that noble Lords may say, "Well, what do you propose?", I have placed upon the Order Paper a considered draft of a statutory instrument. Needless to say, I am quite incompetent in the drafting of such a document, but I have had distinguished legal help, and I think that if your Lordships will examine the draft you will find that it is quite a passable legislative suggestion. Though I shall not move it, because I can say all that I have to say in moving the Amendment to the Schedule, I shall have to refer to the draft constantly because it is a sort of aide-memoire for what I should like to see done.

Now I am going to give your Lordships the story of the birth and growth of a lusty Government Department, the Aliens Department. Lord Winterton is not here; nor, unfortunately, is Lord Samuel. I am the only person in this House who saw the birth of that Department, and I have seen it grow from puny infancy to a great, sturdy giant which strikes terror into the hearts of Ministers who are supposed to control it. In 1903, when I became a candidate for the St. George Division of London Docks, which was the main port of entry for aliens, there was no Aliens Act at all. There was no question of aliens not being allowed in. If they wanted to come, they came. A great movement was organised which was called the British Brothers League—the very title would make one suspicious. We were told that the alien flood—they did not say "the number of aliens who came"; they always spoke about "the alien flood"—was going to submerge the East End, and that it was going to ruin us. Where did this flood come from? At that time the Czar and his Cossacks were rather more busy than usual murdering Jews. They used to do that from time to time, and in the early 1900's they were murdering on a large scale and driving numbers of them, including Chaim Weizmann and his family, out of Russia to the West. That, of course, was before the time of the Bolshevik tyranny.

These wretched people were appearing in East London. I was a candidate and, as a Liberal, I felt a great sympathy for them, and I thought it a great shame to attempt to prevent them from entering. We were told "Ah, yes, but if you let them in they will ruin the trade of East London." Well, a sort of compromise was arrived at. I do not know whether any of your Lordships can remember Sidney Buxton, a most distinguished member of this House. He was our Leader. He was the Liberal Member for Poplar. There was a compromise of sorts, and the first Aliens Act was passed. That was in 1905.

This Act had two features. First of all, it specified precisely who were to be excluded. There were about five categories—people who were diseased, and soon. Secondly, in any case it gave them a right of appeal to a body called the Immigration Board—I do not know what exactly that was. There were two things: first, specified law, and, secondly, right of appeal. There it was left in 1905. Then—and this is the first important thing—the little infant, the Aliens Department, was born, and it began to get its toes well in. We shall see how big it got later in the story. Then came the war of 1914, and in one afternoon we passed a law giving absolute power to the Home Secretary. As always the Government operated through statutory instruments, and the Aliens Department could shut out anybody because we were at war and because we were in a state of grave national emergency. If your Lordships will look at Section 1 of the Act of 1914, which was re-enacted in the 1919 Act, you will see that it gives incredible power to the Government in this matter. That was right. The Department was needed. It went to work and it did good work and, I have no doubt, protected the country.

Then came 1919. The Department was there. There was no real need for those great powers. But, of course, you could not get rid of this well-founded bureaucracy, which said, "We are necessary", and invented a whole series of Amendments to the Act, in consequence of which they were able to pursue Germans—anybody could denounce a man of German origin who changed his name. It was an infamous thing. There were only twenty Liberals in the House, but I remember that on the other side there were people like Sir Samuel Hoare, Mr. Edward Wood, Mr. Walter Guinness and others who stood firm for a liberal policy in this matter. But we were all defeated. It was the worst Government of modern times, the Lloyd GeorgeBonar Law Coalition. That is the story right up to date. That Act has fully persisted. It is a fact that in these days of peace the Aliens Department—these bureaucrats—insist on retaining in this Schedule all the powers that they considered necessary in order to fight Kaiser William and defend this country in a state of emergency. They will not give up a single one of them. That is the gravamen of the argument against this Bill.

My proposition is a simple one and very limited. By the statutory instrument that I have drafted and put on the Paper I have suggested that, in place of the unfettered judgment of this Department and its agents, we should set out something in the nature of Statute Law; and my Amendment sets out things they must not do—they must not exclude for this reason or that. It also provides for a right which I believe everyone would agree is reasonable: that these people shall be able to make some appeal. So moderate is my proposal that it leaves the ultimate decision to the Secretary of State; but it introduces some element of law into what is now, as I shall proceed to show, a scene of chaos—almost comic chaos.

I come now to the events which have really produced the question and made it an issue at the present time. I learn from the Press that about 900 people are refused admission to this country every year for some undefined reason, just on the decision of the official. No notice has been taken of that, but suddenly a spotlight is turned on the whole thing because two very eminent men—Dr. Pauling and Dr. Niemöller—present themselves for admission. I am for complete political freedom but I may mention that these gentlemen were not supposed to be sympathetic with Communism—if anyone is interested in that point. What happened to them? The first thing I want to do is to ask your Lordships to observe the attitude of the Aliens Department to this problem, for it is essentially typical and exactly bureaucratic. When I saw that Dr. Niemöller—who is a very old friend of mine—had been treated as he had been treated one day, I immediately wrote a long letter to the Home Secretary, and it was delivered that very night at the Home Office. After some long delay, which was no doubt due lo the necessity of getting exact information, I received a reply which missed the point entirely. All that I was given in the letter was a list of times—at 12.40, this; at 12.41, that; "You say 12.15, I say 12.22." I am not in the least interested in clocks. The timing was so exact that it might almost have been a Naval signal—"Dr. Niemöller received his passport at hrs. 12.06 Greenwich Mean Time as observed by ships at sea." All that was nothing to do with it.

My point was: what kind of examination was given to this gentleman, and did the Home Secretary agree with it? Was there any Statute to warrant it? Was it something that we could tolerate? Those were the points I wanted to make. All that I had was a letter saying that there was a conflict of evidence. But if there is a conflict of evidence, let us have a law which settles what is the right thing to do. It is no good a bureaucrat saying that there is a conflict of evidence, and then shutting the office and going home. We want something definite, and the conflict of evidence really rests on one or two points which I shall proceed to put to your Lordships.

First of all, Dr. Niemöller was here in April and again in May and October. Did somebody ask him: "What are you going to say in your sermons?" I believe it has been said that that was not asked. If that is to be the reply, then no doubt it will be supported by the relevant documents. I myself am working on letters written by Dr. Niemöller to his friends. I have never communicated with him. The reason why I have not done that is because I was afraid he would write to me and say, "for goodness sake! do not make me an object of contention. I am a man of peace." I am very glad to read in The Times that he is coming to Glasgow again next year. But I am not considering Dr. Niemöller, but rather our reputation and methods—for those are the important things.

Did anyone ask him: "What are you going to put in your sermons?" If so, it was a most unfortunate question to address to Dr. Niemöller, for only two people have ever asked him that question. One was Mr. Hitler and the other was Mr. Butler; and in both cases Dr. Niemöller has given a "dusty answer". As we all know, he was imprisoned for six years because he would not concede the very point that the Aliens Department wanted him to concede here—"Tell us what you are going to say and we will tell you if you can say it." In this particular case he said: "if I am not welcome I will go home". And he went home. There was no complaint there.

This was done at a very unfortunate moment, for it was just when we were doing our best to give a warm welcome to President Heuss. That very week-end President Heuss was preparing to replace the silver candlesticks at St. Paul's which had been destroyed in the bombing, and we were insulting the most famous German in the world. I am not here to criticise Her Majesty's Government in any form. This is a departmental affair, but it is putting it mildly to say that there was a lack of liaison. The second point that really puzzled the Department was this: Dr. Niemöller was asked, "What are you going to preach?" and he replied, "The Gospel of Christ Jesus." Fancy saying that to an official at the airport!—and imagine him saying, "I must ring Holborn 0041 and consult my superior officer on a question of that kind." The official went on to say, "You have been here before. Your name is in this book"—and he produced a book.

I should like to ask whoever is answering this question: Is there such a book? What is its purpose? Is Dr. Niemöller's name in the book? These are questions we should certainly ask before we give the Aliens Department carte blanche to proceed with their good work. I have nearly done, but I must express a word of gratitude to the Under-Secretary, Mr. Renton, who, for the first time, threw a flood of light on the working of his Department. He says [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 595 (No. 18), col. 1431]: In case there is doubt about the position of those holding Communist or crypto-Communist views, I hope we can agree, on both sides"— if there is an agreement it is usually on both sides— that we are all against Communism but in favour of freedom of speech. It really could not be better! He goes on to say: To the extent that that creates an administrative dilemma, which has to be resolved in the first instance by immigration officers, a careful balance has to be taken and common sense used. Is that not splendid?

We were charged also with accusing these gentlemen. No one accuses them. I am perfectly certain that airports are spangled with little Lord Chesterfields administratively using a level balance and common sense! It is very difficult to know exactly what the position is. If one is going to charge a man, one wants to know what is the offence. I see an eminent Law Lord in the House and he will tell me if I am wrong; but I believe that it is common to define the offence. So an irritated Socialist says in another place (col. 1432): The honourable and learned gentleman used the words 'crypto Communists' very glibly. I would like him to define exactly what is a crypto-Communist, so that the immigration officer may know. How can he exercise a just balance and exhibit common sense if he does not know what a crypto-Communist is?

Now Mr. Renton contributes one of the finest passages to the interpretation of the English law. He then says (col. 1432): When one enters into difficulties of this kind, one can say that one Member's definition is likely to be as good as any other's. That is the law as it is. My humble effort is to get the position made a little more definite in order to assist these young gentlemen who have protected us from all these outward dangers that arrive at our ports. I have put those questions which I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has noted; and in conclusion, I want to say just one or two general words, because I have had a long life with this.

First of all a word concerning old traditions. About 100 years ago a German arrived here, Karl Marx. Of course, he had not got a passport; nobody had then. What did we do for him? For some years we supplied him with pens, ink and paper, warmth and light, while he wrote the bible of Communism in the British Museum. Are we sorry we did that? Was it a mistake to do it? It established a reputation for the liberty of our land which was marvellous; and all the time the Imperialists were having their way, conquering India and briganding on a large scale in China. It did not unnerve the national hand; but it gave us a sense of moral pride which still persists in this country.

Then, finally, what is the real need to-day? I feel very strongly about this matter. I feel that what we really need is less shouting and more listening. People are always saying, "Why do you not have your propaganda multiplied? Why do you not get new stations to broadcast?" I say: "Why do you not find out what the other man is thinking?" To take a simple example, consider the way the American nation has been paralysed by the boycott they have imposed on China. They know nothing about China, and their policy is staggering along with no knowledge of what is in the minds of two-fifths of mankind. Look round the world and think of the things you would like to know. What about the Middle East? We have no diplomatic relations with the Arab League; we have no diplomatic relations with Iraq. We are getting out of touch.


My Lords, may I say that we have diplomatic relations with Iraq?


Did I say Iraq? I meant Saudi Arabia. Of course we have diplomatic relations with Iraq. As regards the East and Africa, the position is just too puzzling for words. One can spend hours a day reading about it. It is a great problem, and what we must do is get in touch, not with the people who agree with us, but with those who do not agree with us. Surely we are big enough to welcome them here and to work out our differences so that we may have a helpful policy. That is the last word I have to say. I am just asking to substitute a law for the "balanced view and common sense" of the official. I am asking your Lordships to give a right of appeal to the people who are turned away, and not to leave the final word, as it is to-day, in the hands of the Home Secretary. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 3, line 7, leave out:

9 & 10 Geo. 5. c. 92. The Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. Section one

—(Viscount Stansgate.)

5.26 p.m.


My Lords, I think it might be for the convenience of your Lordships if I were to state the Government's view on the Amendment of the noble Viscount before there is a more general discussion.


My Lords, does that mean that the noble Ear] is now stating a view regardless of what may be said hereafter in the debate? Would it not be wiser for him to listen to what others have to say before he expresses the Government's view?


The noble Viscount particularly asked that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor should be here, and I thought it would be in accordance with his wishes and to the convenience of the House if my noble and learned friend were to deal with any further developments in the debate. Of course, I will do whatever is more convenient to your Lordships, but I thought that the noble Viscount would like me first to reply immediately to what he has said.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, and especially to the noble and learned Viscount, who has done more than a day's work in defending an indefensible case all the afternoon.


My Lords, I thought it might be helpful to my noble and learned friend to have a short interval before he has to defend yet another "indefensible" case. I was going to say that we appreciate that the noble Viscount has put down this Amendment in order to save your Lordships' time and in order to provide him with an opportunity of discussing the proposals in the Motion which he had later on in the Paper. Therefore I will not take up time by pointing out that if the noble Viscount's Amendment were accepted, it would abolish the Aliens' Restriction Act altogether. We appreciate that the noble Viscount does not intend to do that, and that he merely thought this was the shortest and most convenient way to put the considerations he wished to put to your Lordships.

He began by saying on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill that it was always the Opposition who put the emphasis on the "expiring" and the Government who put the emphasis on the "continuance". I have never known any signs of "expiring" about the noble Viscount, although he told us just now that he first got into Parliament in 1903. I think he is plainly an example of a continuing rather than an expiring Parliamentarian. As I was telling the noble Viscount, I believe last night, I remember in 1911 or 1912 seeing a picture in the Parliamentary report of Punch depicting the noble Viscount and Mr. Asquith sitting together in a boat, and the caption was, "Youth at the Prow and Pleasure at the Helm".


My Lords, I must warn the noble Earl that if he continues to talk about 1910 we shall get into trouble with the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor.


I thought that the noble Viscount might be more amenable to reminiscences of 1910, and I was going to say, in regard to this caption, "Youth at the Prow …" that I think that he would perfectly well form an appropriate subject for a similar cartoon now.

It seems to me strange that on a subject of this importance we should not have a proper Act on the Statute Book and that it should simply be part of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. On the other hand, as the noble Viscount said, this does give your Lordships an opportunity of discussing it every year. I have listened with great pleasure to what the noble Viscount said and it is a matter of regret to have to say, as I expect the noble Viscount knew I would say, that my right honourable friend is unable to accept the proposals which he has put forward, no doubt owing to the fact that my right honourable friend is terrified, or terrorised, by the Aliens Immigration Department!


Of course, the Home Secretary and the Government cannot possibly accept the Amendment to exclude this paragraph from the Schedule. But is the noble Earl referring to the draft statutory order which I put on the Order Paper? Is that rejected also?


Of course I am; I am sorry that we cannot accept the proposals of the noble Viscount which are printed on the Order Paper and which we realise he intends to discuss on the Amendment. We are not going to waste time to discuss what would happen if the Amendment were accepted; that is quite a different matter. The noble Viscount proposes that no person shall be refused leave to land on the ground that he holds or has advocated any religious, economic or political opinion. I do not think that anybody ever has been refused leave to land on the ground that he holds or has advocated any religious, economic or political opinion. Whether he may have been refused leave to land on the ground that the Home Secretary expected that he would put some of his views into practice is a more difficult question. We might perhaps have a man seeking leave to land whose religion approved of cannibalism. If he merely approved of it, he might be allowed to land; but if the Home Secretary thought he was going to start a cult of cannibalism in this country, my right honourable friend might then use his discretion under the Aliens Act and withdraw the landing permit.


A helpful suggestion!


The Communist Party in this country is not an illegal Party. People are allowed to hold Communist opinions, and I do not think that anybody has been refused leave to land simply on the ground that he holds Communist opinions; but sometimes people have been refused landing permits because the Home Secretary has thought it likely that they were going to take part in activities on behalf of the Russian propaganda machine, whether designedly or not. There is the actual example of the Sheffield Peace Congress in 1950, when a number of people were refused leave to land, and there have been various other cases when this power under the Act has been exercised, not at the instance of the immigration officials at all, but by deliberate decision of the Home Secretary as an act of policy, the Home Secretary instructing the immigration officials to act in this way.

The noble Viscount proceeds to propose that there shall be a committee of appeal appointed by the Lord Chancellor, consisting of three persons, one of whom shall be appointed by the Home Secretary, to advise whether a person who has been refused a landing permit and who wishes to appeal should receive a permit or not. The noble Viscount mentioned that about 900 people were refused permits every year. No doubt the noble Viscount was saving time by not mentioning the fact that about 2,600 people are refused permits every year on an average, but I understand that the distinction is that about 1,700 are refused permits for reasons to which the noble Viscount does not object and therefore we are not considering them. So that leaves the 900. A great many of these are refused because the people concerned do not come within certain categories which the Home Secretary thinks it desirable as a matter of policy to allow to come into this country. It is not a question of the immigration authorities refusing a permit and the Home Secretary having to accept it; it is a question of the Home Secretary telling the immigration authorities what he wants done. If the matter was referred to an independent immigration appeals committee, it would simply be a waste of time. If it was at the instance of the Home Secretary that these people had been excluded, the Home Secretary would have to refuse the advice of the committee and the whole procedure would be a waste of time.

The larger part of the 900 are people whose intention it is extremely difficult to assess. For instance, there are people who say that they are coming here as tourists but who, in the view of the immigration authorities, are obviously coming here with the intention of permanently settling here. If a man is found to have a waiter's kit and an alarm clock in his luggage, he is obviously seeking employment. En such a case the authorities would use their discretion and not give him a landing permit. If we were to give all cases like that the right of appeal to an immigration appeals committee, what is likely to happen? In the first place, it would probably vastly increase the number of people who try to get into the country. They would think that it would take several weeks for their appeal to be heard. What would happen to them during that time? There is not room in the detention room of London Airport for the number of people who would be involved and I do not know where they would be detained, unless in some camp or prison, which would be most unfortunate. If they were allowed to proceed to their destinations, it would involve great difficulties in rounding them up and deporting them, as would happen in most cases. It would be a rather cruel proceeding in many ways and possibly result in an enormous addition to the difficulties of the Home Secretary.

The noble Viscount was good enough to give notice that he was going to instance what took place at London Airport when Dr. Niemöller landed on October 18 and when Dr. Pauling landed in August. Of course, I understand the distinction which the noble Viscount made, but both these gentlemen were given permits to land and to do exactly what they wanted to do. So I do not think that that affects the argument for an immigration appeals committee. What the noble Viscount said, I think, was that the misunderstandings or incidents which took place between these gentlemen and the immigration authorities were an example of the unfortunate political manner with which these applications for landing permits are dealt. I think it has already been said by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary that he very much regrets any inconvenience or pain or offence which might have been caused to Dr. Niemöller. At the same time, I think it is necessary to defend the public servants who were accused of discourtesy and cannot answer for themselves.

The noble Viscount said that he was not interested in time-tables. I quite understand that. But in this case the timetables are relevant to the question of discourtesy, because after Dr. Niemöller got back to Germany he published a statement which, I am bound to say, was misleading in several respects. The timetable is an important one of these respects. One thing he said was that he was kept standing the whole time, whereas in fact he was offered a seat, which he refused to accept, no doubt because he was feeling angry. But it is not fair to say that he was kept standing.


I have not said that. I do not know who said it.


Dr. Niemöller said it. He also said that his aeroplane landed earlier than it did and he was kept waiting for three-quarters of an hour, whereas in fact he was kept waiting for exactly six minutes. I do not think it is unreasonable that that should have happened, because he was only asked three questions which it is perfectly reasonable to ask: first, where was he going and what would his address be; secondly, what was he going to do; and thirdly, how long was he going to stay here. With regard to his address, which caused a slight misunderstanding, he gave it as the Albert Hall, Manchester. To begin with, the official, perhaps not unnaturally, could not understand how that could be his address, and Dr. Niemöller appears to have thought, because of this misunderstanding, that the official was suspicious, and this irritated him. But as soon as the official understood that this was the address to which Dr. Niemöller wanted letters forwarded, and that he was being looked after at Manchester by a clergyman, he accepted that. Dr. Niemöller was then asked what he was going to do. He first said that he was going to preach one sermon at one place, or give one lecture at one place, and then he produced his programme which showed that he was going to give eight lectures at a great many places.




The immigration officer immediately rang up the Home Office to ask what would be the appropriate length of time to put on the landing permit. The time before that it had been one or two days, and the time before that a week. This took only a few minutes, and Dr. Niemöller was then told that a fortnight would be the appropriate time, and he put down a fortnight. By that time it was exactly six minutes from when Dr. Niemöller handed in his passport: he handed it in at 12 noon and it was handed back to him at 12.6 p.m. He was apparently offended by the fact that he had been asked any questions at all, and he went back to Germany.

I am sorry that this has happened; but there it is. I am sure that many of us who have been questioned by customs authorities, immigration authorities or currency exchange authorities when we have been travelling must often have felt irritated and annoyed by being asked questions which it is really the duty of the official to ask, and perhaps when we got home if we had written an account of it our irritation might have led to our account being rather exaggerated and misleading. I should not complain of that if it did not involve unfairness to the official concerned. I think it is right to make it clear that we do not think the allegations of discourtesy and lack of consideration are at all serious, and we want to defend the servants of the public from the very much exaggerated and unfounded allegations of discourtesy which have been made. I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, is a friend of Dr. Niemöller, and I am sure that we all wish to share that friendship with this man. We do not want to pursue a quarrel with him. We think that a misunderstanding has occurred, and we regret that misunderstanding; but we want to be fair to everybody else as well as to Dr. Niemöller himself.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, I should not have intervened in this discussion except that we are here concerned with the freedom of the individual, and perhaps on that subject a lawyer may take some part; because next to Parliament the courts of justice have done as much as anybody to preserve the freedom of the individual. Here we are concerned with the essential freedom: the freedom of mind, of conscience; the freedom of each man to think what he likes and to say what he likes; the freedom to hold and express his opinions, no matter how unpopular they may be and how distasteful to the Government. Everyone is free not only to express opinions of which we approve, but also opinions which we cannot abide. That is the principle of our law, subject only to one exception: that no person must express views which are subversive to the Government of the country, or a danger to the fabric of society—in other words, sedition. That principle must be kept, because when we have freedom of speech we cannot allow it to extend to those who by its exercise would destroy that freedom, any more than that we should allow freedom of movement to people who would use the road to block it for others. Subject to that exception, the freedom must be intact, and applied not only to our own people, but also to those coming here.

In our law all down the centuries, as to people coming here, the Crown, the Executive Government, have always had a complete discretion to refuse entry; and even if this order were repealed, that power would remain. But what are the principles on which it should be exercised? I should like to read the principle which was stated in 1946, when the followers of Dr. Buchman, in the Oxford Group, sought to come to this country and some people said that they should be excluded. My right honourable friend Mr. Chuter Ede, the then Home Secretary, made this statement of principle which I do not think can be bettered: I am not prepared to apply religious or political tests to people who desire to come into this country unless it can be established that they desire to come here to carry on subversive propaganda. Let us hear all things. For I believe the common sense of the British democracy is such that in the long run they will winnow the chaff from the wheat. I desire that the ancient record of this country as a place of free speech where the flow of ideas from all parts of the world is welcome may be maintained. So long as that principle is applied by successive Secretaries of State, there can be no difficulty. The question, as I see it, is whether there should be anyone to guide the Secretary of State; whether there should be an advisory committee or some body of that kind.

Let me ally this question—for it is allied with it—to the question of deportation of aliens. At Common Law, while the Secretary of State could exclude anyone from coming in, once he was here any alien friend was equal under the law to any citizens of this country. So long as his country was friendly he was entitled to the full benefit of our law. So much so that Professor Dicey, in his Law of the Constitution, said that we had gone too far. He put this instance: suppose a group of foreign anarchists came to this country and conspired together to blow up the Houses of Parliament—


A splendid idea!


—he said that if we could not prove enough against them to arrest them for conspiracy the Home Secretary could not detain them, and he could not even deport them, because they were entitled to the privileges of the law of this country. Therefore, we certainly need this Act and this Order. There should be a power of deportation in appropriate cases.

But what about this power of deportation? It is given by this Order but, in- deed, under this Order, when the Secretary of State makes an order for deportation now, if the person has been in this country for more than two years there is a revision by the chief magistrate of the Metropolis. Out of seventeen cases which have been referred to him he has confirmed fourteen of the deportation orders, but three of them he has not concurred in; and those people still remain in this country. Does that not show the value of a revision of this discretion by the Executive? Does it not show that, on this higher discretion (even more important as to people coming in), while certainly there must be the general rules, there is a case to be made for having an independent advisory committee?

Is it not rather like the cases we remember during the war? In the 18B cases, one could not prove that a person had done anything wrong. Action was taken on suspicion. I happened to be a legal adviser on the regional committees dealing with the 18B cases, and they were all carefully inquired into before any recommendation was made for detention. Because it is not a question of an offence having been committed; it is not a judicial matter. The proposal is simply for an advisory committee to help the Secretary of State in his most important task of discretion—a discretion which affects the liberty and the freedom of the individual. Is there not a case to be made, therefore, for having some advisory committee—whether exactly on the lines proposed by the noble Viscount, I would not say—to see that the freedoms which we have done so much in this country to maintain shall be applied to all people in this country and those coming to it, so that we may know we are surely the home of freedom?

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to follow the rights and wrongs of the case of Dr. Niemöller but to discuss rather the large arbitrary powers which lie in the hands of very junior officials. As the noble and learned Lord has said, these are mainly prerogative powers, not based on carefully considered Statute Law. When for two years before the war I had the honour to work in the Home Office, one could see how Parkinson's Law worked in effect: the desperate slowness of getting any cases through; valuable German scientists and doctors we were trying to get out, the slow working of the bureaucratic machine and how much depended on a few junior overworked officials.

Some of us have seen in the Manchester Guardian two extremely interesting articles on the training of immigration officers. They are carefully selected and trained, but they are very young men, and like the rest of us, they can get tired and impatient; they may find the hour late, and they may be irritated. They are the most charming and courteous men, but they are all liable to the human frailty which encompasses us all. It is too big a responsibility that the whole future of some immigrant may depend on what must be sometimes the hurried decision of a junior officer. Consider the case of the immigrant. He arrives in this country perhaps hardly speaking our language at all, or speaking it very badly. He is probably very nervous. He has come from a country where he may have regarded the police and officials as his natural enemies. He has no friend beside him to advise him or help him. He is hardly likely to make the best of his case in those circumstances. Surely it is right, on the score of humanity, to give some form of appeal against what must be the speedy judgment of a rather young official at the port, or sometimes the judgment of a comparatively junior official in the Home Office.

I do not accord to the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, that verbal infallibility I deny to the Pope, and I am not going to say that this is a perfect draft clause; but I hope it will be considered sympathetically. During the war I saw the sort of trouble that can come from power in the hands of good, well-meaning junior officials. If your Lordships will permit me, I will tell you the story. There was an Austrian who escaped from Hitler and went to Iceland. When the war started he joined the French Foreign Legion, and got a commission. At the time of the French Armistice he was in Syria, and escaped with a party of Free French. But when they got to Egypt the Free French 'were rather nationalistic, and said, "We do not want any damned German with us." So he was put back on the British.

At that time things were going well, and the British said, "We do not want a German in Egypt", so he was sent to Palestine. In each of those cases he was sent by a junior official. In Palestine, an official said, "This is an immigrant not on the quota—pop him into Jaffa gaol." There this man languished for months. He happened to remember my name, and he wrote me a letter. I tried to get the official machine working, and after a matter of months they agreed that there was nothing against this chap. They said, "The Palestine authorities do not want any more immigrants because he is not in the right place on the list, and you had better leave him in Jaffa gaol." The British had no facilities for taking on foreigners, and only through the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, and his Embassy, did we manage to get that fellow out of gaol and in a job in one of the French African Colonies, where he served very well.

That shows the sort of injustice that can happen when comparatively junior officials have these great powers over an unfortunate immigrant, when there is no revisionary tribunal and no power of appeal. If there had been any form of revisionary tribunal in that case, that man would have been out of gaol in a matter of weeks, instead of languishing there for over a year. That, of course, is not a complete analogy, but it does show the importance of having, as the noble and learned Lord said, some form of appeal where the case can be stated, where witnesses can be heard, and where a person can be represented by a lawyer and a friend.

We are entering shortly into a notable experiment of British initiative backed by Her Majesty's Government, namely, the International Refugee Year. Her Majesty's Government have sponsored it, and the United Nations have given it a most generous financial donation. Already the Home Office have liberalised the categories of immigrants who may be allowed into this country. We hope when this Year starts to see the closing of the ghastly refugee camps where people still languish twelve years after the war. We want an attitude of sympathy, and not merely of justice, from Her Majesty's Government. So many refugees are tubercular and are not a great asset to the country of immigration, but yet have children who sit in these camps and whose future must be considered. Surely if we are going to take, and I believe we should take, a liberal attitude towards the immigration of our coloured fellow subjects from the West Indies or India or Pakistan, if we can afford to take in unlimited numbers, surely we can be equally generous to our fellow Europeans of whom, after all, we have a great many in this country—the Jews, the Germans, the Poles and the Hungarians have settled equally successfully. And because I believe in the unity of Europe as well as the unity of the British Commonwealth I hope that Her Majesty's Government will revise the whole machinery under which immigrants come into this country, so that there can be a careful consideration of each individual case, more so than there is at this moment.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to support the Amendment which the noble Viscount has put down, and particularly the draft scheme which is on the Paper. I quite agree with what has been said; it would be difficult to work at first, but I do not think it would be impossible. One frequently finds that these schemes which present administrative difficulties turn out to be far easier to work in practice. There is one matter which I would mention and which has not so far been mentioned: that is, the immigration procedure into this country, which I have never quite understood. When some foreigner applies to one of our consulates abroad for a visa to come here he is put through a very searching questioning about why he wants to come. He is given his visa and when he arrives, rather to his surprise, he gets interviewed—perfectly courteously; I have nothing against the attitude of the immigration authorities; they do their job very well. But he is put through the same cross-examination and is asked the same questions as he was asked in the country where he obtained his visa. That seems a great waste of time as well as being rather puzzling to the individual. The other thing which seems to me strange is the short amount of time for which people are permitted to come here. The noble Earl said that Pastor Niemöller was allowed at first one day, then two days and lastly a fortnight. Why a fortnight? Why could he not stay longer?


On the first occasion he wanted only two or three days to attend the funeral of the Bishop of Chichester. The last time he had a lecture tour lasting about ten days and he was allowed a fortnight.


I do not see why it was necessary to ring up the Home Office and ask for the fortnight. I should have thought he might have been given a rather more generous time. That happens on many occasions.

There is a further point, and that is the question of people who wish to come to live here permanently. I was interested to read that the Home Secretary, speaking in another place on November 20, gave a much more liberal view about the number of people who could come here—people who wanted to write and paint. What gave me great pleasure was that he said that other people would be considered much more freely if they did not want to take up employment. I can see that at the present time there may be certain difficulties in the employment field, although I am not sure that they cannot be overcome. But I have known one or two people, particularly Americans, who wished to come and settle here and spend their dollars here. They were told, quite courteously and politely, that they could not stay; they could come and spend their dollars but after a certain time they must go back, although they could come again. That does not seem the best way to encourage people to come and spend dollars which we want.

I remember talking to a man who was a member of the Government—he is not a member now—and I was told I would not expect it to be said that somebody could buy their way into the country. That seems an extraordinary attitude to take towards someone who does not want a job here, who does not want public assistance or to get money from the country but is prepared to come to the country and buy goods here. It seems extraordinary to say of them that it is not a good thing that they should be able to buy their way into the country. There does seem a tendency to improve this system and I trust that the improvement will be carried on. I look forward—maybe I am too optimistic—to the day when those unpleasant and ugly words "security risk" can be entirely abolished from our vocabulary, when it will be possible for the immigration officers to abandon their tasks and work on more productive occupations, and when the passport reverts to what it was when the noble Viscount was young, a form of protection when one is travelling in an uncivilised country.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, I was very glad to hear the noble and learned Lord emphasise the great tradition which this country has in the way of welcoming aliens, and how much our cultural life has been benefited and enriched by contributions which many families, some of whom are numbered among your Lordships, have brought into this country as a result of the generous policy of the past. Unfortunately, since this Aliens Order of 1905 was made, this tradition. I am afraid, has been slipping away. I think it is a very good thing that we are having this discussion this afternoon in order to bring this matter out into the light of day again.

The difficulty is that as a result of Parkinson's Law there are many small officials, to whom the noble Lord opposite referred, who exercise, in effect, an autocratic control in these cases. If you can get to the Home Secretary or a high official in the Home Office, where the outlook, I think, is essentially liberal, then it is all right and mistakes are righted. I had the privilege of bringing before your Lordships' House the case of M. René Cassin, the President of the Conseil d'État in France, who was held up at Victoria by one of these immigration officers; and the Home Secretary generously apologised for the conduct of his subordinates. The Home Secretary can take a wide and generous view like that in these cases. Monsieur Cassin and Pastor Niemöller are important men, and mistakes can no doubt be rectified in due course. But it is the small man who has no redress who is causing worry to many of us.

As a university teacher I see a great many students coming into this country, university students particularly and students generally. I regret to say there is a widespread feeling that there is an attitude of hostility. I do not think there is an attitude of hostility, but that is the impression many of them get at our ports. I feel it is a great mistake that we divide the aliens and British subjects into two queues when they get to Dover or Folkestone. It does not happen anywhere else. When I get to France I am not herded among the goats and subjected to a hostile gaze; I go through with the Frenchmen into France. I think this division is a great mistake. Your Lordships may think it is a small matter because, after all, it does not matter very much—most of them are not received at all in a hostile way. But it makes a bad impression at the start, and I think it is most unfortunate.

I feel that it is essential, as the noble and learned Lord has said, that there should be some impartial committee to look into the question of whether there is a prima facie case of a mistake having been made. At present, if somebody like myself is approached, and feels that there is a good case, it can be taken up with the Home Office; but even then, it is an official in the Home Office looking at the work of another official. That, I feel, is wrong. It should be submitted to somebody outside, who can say "Well, I have looked at this file and I think there is a prima facie case of a mistake having been made. Will the Home Secretary look at it and put it right?"

Only a few days ago a friend of mine, a distinguished professor in the university, happened to travel to Paris with a young Frenchman who had been turned back at Folkestone, where he had been going to stay with a friend's family. The aliens official had the idea that he was coming over here to get a job, as happens in so many of these cases. Cross-examined, the wretched man said, "Well, I should like to stay in England a little while longer, if possible, and I might look around for a job", whereupon he was sent back. He was not allowed to land. I applaud the aliens officer for saying that he would telephone to the man's friends, who were allowed to come and speak to him over the rail. Is that not really a scandalous thing? The man was sent back; he had to spend all the money he had left in his pocket on getting back to Paris; and of course my friend met a thoroughly disgruntled Frenchman, who felt that the hostility of the English was really beneath contempt.

That is not a solitary instance; these cases are being brought to my attention repeatedly. I have taken them up with high officials in the Aliens Department of the Home Office, who have accepted my representations most courteously; and in a number of cases they have agreed that the representations were right and the matter was put right. But why should it depend on the accident that a person can come to me, or to my noble friend, or to somebody else who can help him? There ought to be some method by which such people have a right to have their case looked into and redress given, if that is the right course.

Recently I had brought to my notice the ease of a man who was to appear in a television discussion. He was a leading authority on his subject. When he got to Heath Row the aliens officer made him promise that he would not accept remuneration for doing this job, which was the whole object for which he had come. Because he had to keep the engagement and did not want to disappoint the people, he naturally agreed. But the whole thing is surely completely wrong. I was very glad indeed that the representative of the Home Office in another place said that the Home Secretary felt that it was time that this matter was looked into. I hope he will look into it thoroughly and carefully, not only at the grievances which exist but with a view to establishing some sort of machinery which will prevent that sort of thing happening in the future.

6.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships are grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, for initiating a debate which has brought to light some important views. It is satisfactory to note that, as in the other House, this debate has been conducted entirely on non-Party lines. We find ourselves, I think, in the traditional Parliamentary rôle of Parliament questioning the activities of the Executive and the expansion of the powers of the Executive which have come into being through circumstances which are quite different from the normal circumstances of peace. My noble friend Lord Stansgate may be somewhat abashed to find that, despite his radical views on this matter, he has the support of The Times newspaper; but I hope that your Lordships, in the light of the views expressed in the leader to-day, and of the views expressed in this House to-day, will join in saying that the time is overdue for a really thorough examination of this whole question.

I do not share—and I am sure that those of your Lordships who have criticised the immigration officials do not extend this criticism generally—any views that might be felt that the officials at our ports and airports behave in any way other than according to their ordinary ability. I think it is striking how much courtesy is shown despite the difficulties that they encounter. I think we may note with a great deal of satisfaction the real advance that has come into this field as the result of the announcement of the Home Secretary of two important concessions, for which, although, as The Times said, they were long overdue, we ought to be most grateful. What we want to press on the Government to-day is that they will continue this process of liberalisation.

I should like to take up the particular point made by my noble friend Lord Stansgate with regard to the application of the rules of procedure (whatever they may be) in the matter of admission or otherwise of aliens who at the moment might be regarded as of dubious character. When the noble Earl, Lord Dundee was questioned on the statement of the Under-Secretary in another place with regard to the administrative dilemma which has to be resolved in the first instance by immigration officers, he said that no one would be denied admission because of his views, but a man might be denied admission if he proposed to practise his views. He took the example of a man who might wish to be a cannibal and might wish to introduce a cult of cannibalism. I have only one friend who has been a cannibal and although he frequently comes to this country, he has not fallen foul of the immigration officials, and has never sought to introduce the cult. But even if he did wish to introduce the cult, there would be nothing to stop him under this legislation, because he happens to be a British subject; and it really is a nonsense, when we deal with British subjects by the ordinary law of the land, not to be content to leave this in the case of aliens.

I would ask the Lord Chancellor to tell us (I understand that he is going to reply) what would be meant by the expression "the practice of Communism." Did the noble Earl mean by practising Communism that it would he wrong to preach it? Surely, in this country to-day the one thing that we are all convinced of is that the general preaching of Communism is not likely to damage us very much. Those of us who are concerned with political meetings know the great difficulty we have in getting anybody to them at all. If doubtful foreigners, preaching views which on the whole are not acceptable to the great majority of people in this country, come and try to hold meetings, they are certainly not going to do much good for their cause—indeed, political activities by foreigners in any country are very unwise activities, from the point of view of the cause which the particular foreigner wishes to support. I would submit to the Lord Chancellor that the arguments in favour of this type of restraint do not bear examination, and that we might well now advance to a position in which this country can set an example—an example for which, in the past, we have been famous and for which I think in the future we can bring great lustre to the name of this country, if we introduce a more liberal approach to this matter.

There is only one other point I should like to deal with, briefly. It is a powerful one and arises on the important speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. It concerns the operation of the system of appeal to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate. I understand that the word "appeal" is wrong and that the right word is "representation". The fact that, after review of their cases, three out of seventeen aliens awaiting deportation—somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent.—were allowed to remain, suggests that among other aliens who have not the two years' qualification, and, even more, those who are turned back at our ports, there is a high percentage who would have been admitted had their case been subjected to review of some kind. And when we consider the really terrible anguish, heartbreak and misery that it must mean to many of these people, we ought to make a great effort if possible to meet their needs.

I would submit that the arguments against either an extension of stay or of establishing a proper review procedure are not beyond the capacity of the Home Office or Her Majesty's Government to solve. The numbers concerned are not great. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, asked: "How are we going to deal with these great numbers?" At the present moment 2,500 are turned back, and if even 1,000 were allowed to stay longer it would be an average of three or four a day, spread throughout all the ports of this country; and surely it would be possible to get over these particular difficulties. In any case, if it is accepted that there is a case, the administrative obstacles ought not to stand in the way.

In urging the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor and Her Majesty's Government to consider approaching some kind of solution along the lines advocated by my noble friend Lord Stansgate and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, I would suggest that, as a start, they should appoint some impartial Committee—I do not feel that it really warrants anything as weighty as a Royal Commission—to look into this question. The Home Office have not a reputation for harshness: we have many examples of admirable and humane administration, and it is a tragedy that these should be marred, time and again, by isolated instances. But the Home Secretary and the Home Office, who are themselves the people concerned with administering a difficult enough law, and have had to build up rules of procedure and precedents to guide themselves, are not the people to carry out this fresh investigation. I hope, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government will seriously consider the appeals which have been made to them to submit this matter to impartial inquiry.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble and learned Viscount replies I should like to make one or two brief observations. First, I am sure we are all indebted to my noble friend Lord Stansgate for the charming way in which he introduced this vitally important subject. It is noteworthy that he has had support from every quarter of the House. This is obviously not a Party political question, and I think that most Members of this House will be in agreement that our aim is to provide the greatest measure of liberalisation in our policy of administration and of expulsion.

The Home Secretary has already conceded, to a limited extent, the case for an examination of the question of expulsion. It occurs to me that perhaps it would be hasty to accept the Amendment on the Paper as it stands, but I agree very much with my noble friend Lord Shackleton, that there is here a case for inquiry. I should like to make a distinction as between policy and administration. I do not think it would necessarily be wise to have an inquiry into Government policy, for that, after all, is a matter for Her Majesty's Government. Such criticisms as we have had here this afternoon have not been so much on policy as on administration. I believe that, broadly, we all accept that there must be some restriction. I do not believe that anyone would argue that there must be unrestricted admission into this country, or that in no circumstances should we have the right to deport. Therefore to a large extent we accept that. Even if we accept that admission, or at any rate a refusal to admit, must be regulated by or based on Government policy—and Government policy can be argued in this House and in another place and finally determined; I do not think that that should be a matter for outside inquiry—nevertheless I believe that the question of administration might well be investigated. Is Government policy being administered in the way we want it administered? Can it be improved?

I entirely associate myself with those noble Lords who have said that, by and large, the immigration officers are doing a very fine job of work, often under trying conditions. If they make a mistake or an error of judgment here and there, well, they are human, and we all make mistakes. The difficulty is that when mistakes are made at the present time there is no method by which those mistakes can be corrected, unless the person concerned happens to remember the name of the noble Viscount. Lord Astor, or some other Member of this House or another place; and then it takes a long time to get it corrected, if it ever is. So I feel that there should be some method by which administrative mistakes can be corrected.

I feel, however, that there are considerable administrative difficulties which have not been considered, still less discussed, this afternoon, in setting up a tribunal or body which would be in a position to say whether or not the decision of the officer is right or is in accordance with the policy of Her Majesty's Government. These matters take time, and such questions as what is to happen to the alien in the meantime and how he is to be dealt with are not provided for in this Amendment; and there are many other questions which should be discussed. I therefore associate myself entirely with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that there is here a case for setting up an inquiry, first, as to whether it is reasonable, practicable and right that an alien seeking admission to this country who is refused should have the opportunity of stating his case before somebody and, if his admission is not contrary to policy, of having a wrong decision corrected.

I have said that policy is a matter for the Government, but I believe that our policy should change from time to time according to circumstances. For instance, we have had under consideration this question of the admission into this country of coloured people. It is conceivable (I do not think the position has arisen at this moment) that a real problem may arise, and although I would suggest that perhaps this again is a matter for the Government of the day to decide, nevertheless it is one for consideration as to whether there should not be some body watching these questions and making representations to the Government from time to time.

At one period of time it may be desirable to admit aliens and permit them to work. The decision that aliens must not come here to work may be all very well in a period of unemployment, but what about a time of shortage of labour, particularly a shortage of skilled labour and, furthermore, a shortage of a particular type of labour? Is it right that, a policy decision having been made, that decision should stand for all time or that it should not be easy of review? I would therefore suggest to the noble and learned Viscount that Her Majesty's Government might consider the possibility of either this body that I am suggesting, or some other body, reviewing these policy decisions from time to time and being able to make representations, while not having the right to alter policy.

I need hardly suggest that there are precedents for that kind of thing. I myself sat for many years on an advisory committee of the Ministry of Health, and I believe at the Home Office, too, and we used to make representations, after much consideration. Sometimes they were accepted and sometimes they were not; but I think they were always useful.

So I think that my noble friend Lord Stansgate probably would be well satisfied if the outcome of this debate were that the Government said they were prepared to set up a body to look into this whole question and to decide, first, whether there should be some body which would have the question of immigration policy constantly under review for the purpose of advising the Government; and, secondly, whether there should be some body to whom a person refused admission would have a right to make representations. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will give us as sympathetic a reply as he can. I know that his sympathies are with us: I hope that he will be able to express them.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, will not consider that this is fulsome, because it is very sincere, when I thank him for introducing this discussion to-day. I believe this is a subject which requires periodic ventilation, and I say that, having been for three years in charge of it myself and knowing it from that end of the gun, if I may put it that way.

I think it is important that I should say—and I am sure I have the whole House with me—that we have not, and it cannot be said against us that we have, abrogated or abandoned the old liberal policy which has been our pride. Since the war nearly 250,000 aliens of various countries have been admitted, in addition to between 70,000 or 80,000 German and Austrian Jewish refugees in the years before the war. That is not a bad record; in fact, I think it is a record of which we can be proud, but not complacent. I do not know enough about comparative populations to know how it would compare with our grateful acceptance of, say, the Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, or any of the other historical large acceptances, but I should suspect that it compares very well.

The only other figure which I think your Lordships might have in mind is the one to which my noble friend Lord Dundee referred and I think my right honourable friend the Home Secretary mentioned in the speech to which the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, referred; and that is that (I am giving it in round figures) the total number of aliens coming into this country, including those coming temporarily, was 1,300,000. Of these, 2,600, or 0.2 per cent., were turned back; and, as my noble friend, Lord Dundee, said, the 2,600 included four categories that were subject to refusal: 523 on labour-permit grounds, 356 because of insufficient means, 589 on technical breaches of the transit procedure and 99 because documents were not available. That leaves the remainder at somewhere about the figure of the noble Viscount of between 900 and 1,000, which, if my arithmetic is right, is about 0.08 per cent. So I think the House will agree with me that it is not a bad thing to mention these figures, because they show that we are in the main keeping to the tradition of which we are all proud.

May I deal with one of the broad points which really arises from the noble Viscount's speech—it was considered by my noble and learned friend, Lord Denning, and I think it was in the minds of everyone who spoke. That is: is it something that can be decided without thought as to whether we should have a justiciable or executive procedure in dealing with this problem? My noble and learned friend Lord Denning pointed out, with great fairness from the legal point of view, that there always has been an executive power; and he said he realised the importance of that. I believe there are two difficulties in not having executive power. The first is that if we do not have an executive discretion we then must make the categories absolutely hard and fast; and I am not sure that hard and fast categories on which a court must decide irrespective of, broadly, the policy considerations, is the best way of dealing with the matter. I think that the advantages of dealing with it by an executive measure is that that method is flexible, it can deal with special cases, and, of course, it is very susceptible to Parliamentary pressure.

When I was at the Home Office I have stood at the Dispatch Box of the House of Commons for half an hour, being cross-examined as to why I had taken a certain step. That is a very powerful procedure, because it affects not only the broad case I am dealing with, but one's general approach. That does not rule out the second point of the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin— that of having something in the nature of an advisory committee—and I should like to return to that matter when I answer his final point.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, has been among many who have dealt with what I might call the minor official point. I am trying to reject the temptation of being too favourable towards those of whom. I was in charge for a period of three years; but I want your Lordships to realise—and I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, did realise it and said so specifically—that the immigration officer has a very difficult task. He is there at the port of incoming; he knows (and this is not imagination) that there are certain people that it is very important that he should know about; and he has to do his job as the queue comes off the boats. I have gone down myself when I was in charge of the service, and watched it both at the ports and at the airports, because I wanted to see for myself how it was carried out. There was no question of their arranging it for me, because I watched the ordinary line coming off the boat. I saw it done, and it is not an easy job.

I do not want to go into details about the practice of Communism. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who invited me to addreses myself to that point. He knows well enough, without my going into what are known as security details, that there is a fringe about which we have to be careful, and anyone who has had anything to do with security knows that that is something that has to be watched for. Then there are certain rules which have to be kept in regard to people coming here for employment. I think that the men at the airports and seaports do their jobs conscientiously and, on the whole, very well. There are bound to be cases where things go wrong. I think that every noble Lord who has spoken has said that the human element does fail, and we try to do our best. I tried to do what I could by going down and talking to the men and trying to give them my picture of how the job should be done. That is a small matter, because I am sure that every Home Secretary has done that from the beginning of time. The immigration officials know that they ought to keep up not only a high standard of examination but also a high standard of courtesy in the first impression that they, as representing this coun- try, make on people coming in. It is now four years since I ceased having control over the service, so I can be a little more objective. My view is that the immigration officials make a great effort and that on the whole they are successful.

One of the difficulties we have to face is the question of permanent settlement. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was very conscious of that. I have just been reading in an old volume of the Annual Register that one of the problems then was Italian labour in the mines. I am not going into the rights and wrongs of it, but your Lordships will remember that ten years ago that built up within a month or two into a serious problem. That is the sort of event which illustrates Lord Silkin's point. At that time we were at a period in our economy when coal was a harder currency than dollars and it was immensely important and immensely difficult to get more people into the pits. At the moment the position, shall we say, is not the same—but I will not go into controversial matters. I will consider what the noble Lord has said, but I am inclined at the moment to think that it is a matter for Governmental consideration rather than for advice. However, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the noble Lord could find terms of reference and ask if we would keep in mind the economic position when drawing them to our attention. I am fully open to consider that point.

My noble and learned friend Lord Denning put absolutely accurately the position of the Chief Magistrate on deportation. It is a matter of referring to him, for his recommendation, cases of aliens who have been here for over two years. If I may say so, I entirely agree with that point of view. I think that after a certain period we have contributed, for better or for worse, to the formation of an alien's personality, and therefore we ought to be slower in getting rid of a person who may well say that some of the things we do not like he has learned in this country. I think that that is a proper point of view. I think my noble and learned friend would agree that the problem of dealing with somebody who has been here some time is different from that of dealing with somebody who has been here for only a matter of months, and equally to deal with somebody who comes from outside and the admissibility of whom may involve factors which the Chief Magistrate, with great respect to him, is not in an especially good position to judge. I should like to consider this matter carefully but I give just that word of warning on the point.

May I tell your Lordships one of my own difficulties? It may be that some of your Lordships may think that I am old-fashioned and obscurantist on this point, but when I was Home Secretary I was very worried by people coming in here for bogus organisations—that is, organisations which assumed a liberal name and a very liberal general purpose but which underneath, as was obvious to anyone who knew, had the purpose of furthering the Communist cause and of getting people involved with foreign Communist bodies. I took that view and said without hesitation in another place that that was my policy. I am not revealing it after the time, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will remember that I was questioned about it in another place. But on the whole it was accepted by both sides of the House as being a proper policy decision in the circumstances then prevailing. That is the sort of question which a Home Secretary has to decide, and to put, as I tried to do, honestly to Parliament. If Parliament does not like it, then so much the worse for the Home Secretary, in the long run, because he goes down on the Parliamentary thermometer of ministerial reputations. But that is the sort of point that I honestly felt was the problem requiring such an action on my part at that time. I think it is right that, if one forms certain decisions, one ought to announce them to Parliament and let everyone know what they are.

I want to come to the main point that has been put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I think it was also the keynote of the Motion and speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary, on November 20, used these words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 595 (No. 18), col. 1350]: I will undertake that as a result of the debate we shall continually review the powers given to us. Where changes are necessary or where a new inflection should be given to existing policy, we shall give it. On behalf of my right honourable friend, I repeat that assurance to your Lordships.

On the other two points I cannot at the moment go further than this, because of course I have not had an opportunity of discussing with Mr. Butler what would be said to-day. I promise to bring to his attention, and to discuss with him, both the points which have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin: first, as to whether there should be an extraneous inquiry, in addition to the internal review which my right honourable friend has promised; and secondly, the very interesting conception, to which I myself should like to give a lot more thought, of an advisory committee. Like the noble Lord, I have had the advantage, as a Minister, of advisory committees; they are most helpful. As I have tried to show in my speech, I was particularly interested in the noble Lord's conception of the committee as keeping the Minister abreast of changes which he might well otherwise miss.

I hope that I have not been too discursive in this answer. I have tried to deal with the problems from the aspect of one who has experienced them from the ministerial point of view. I can say, with my hand on my heart, that I have enjoyed listening—and I have not only derived enjoyment from it, but I have sympathy with it—to the method with which the arguments have been advanced. I have worked with Mr. Butler for a quarter of a century, and therefore I can say without reference that he will also approach the suggestions sympathetically. I conclude by repeating his assurance that we will never view this problem with complacency, but that he will constantly review its implementation and try to improve it.

6.53 p.m.


In carrying out my intention of asking leave to withdraw my Amendment I hope the Lord Chancellor will permit me to make one or two observations. First of all, I thank him for what, as always, was a charming and courteous approach to the subject. There is a Third Reading to this Bill, and he will not be surprised if we ask him to give us a little more information on Third Reading about his promise to consider the question of an advisory committee of some sort, as is suggested in my Amendment. Finally, I observe that, although the Lord Chancellor gave us a mass of information and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, was most interesting, neither of them was good enough to reply to what. I regarded as the key question. I never criticised the officials at all. What did was to ask two questions. The first was: is it a fact that at any time in March, April or August there was a question about the contents of sermons?—because I think that point has shocked the public conscience. Secondly I asked: is there a book of some kind in which Dr. Niemöller's name is inscribed? If an answer to those questions can be provided on Third Reading, I shall be obliged.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.