HL Deb 11 August 1972 vol 334 cc1433-6

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what decision has been reached in the cases of British citizens and passport holders who have been refused admission to the United Kingdom, who are denied admission to India, whence they sought to come to this country, and to Uganda the country of their origin, and who were held in Los Angeles after being transported from London to Delhi, Bankok, Hong Kong and Tokyo; and what is the cost to the Home Office of these enforced non-ending world tours.


My Lords, I assume that the noble Lord is referring to the Misses Kotecha and their brother, about whom I gave a Written Answer on August 8. They were admitted to the United Kingdom for three months on August 3. Accounts have yet to be received from the companies who carried them.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask him to agree that this whole procedure is proving not only cruel but futile, in that in the end these people are admitted to this country? Cannot steps be taken now to bring this procedure to an end?


My Lords, as the noble Lord is probably aware, meetings are currently going on with the various carriers to try to ensure that people who do not have the necessary permits do not get here in the first place. I entirely agree that for people in this position to be subjected to great round-the-world trips is undersirable, but the snag in this particular case was that the only aeroplane that could take them back to India went on from that point—India was not its final destination—so when they were refused permission to stay in India they had to rejoin the aeroplane and continue their journey. We are now taking steps to see that anybody who goes back is aboard a flight which ends in India, and this should go some way towards meeting the point which the noble Lord raised.


My Lords, while again thanking the noble Viscount, may I ask him to bear in mind in the discussions that are taking place with the airlines and the shipping companies that there may be the difficulty of those companies having to carry out the international travel regulations? In other words, there may be the danger of asking them to make political decisions which are not recognised by European countries and which are sub judice, in view of matters being before the European Commission for Human Rights.


My Lords, in view of the fact that the discussions to which I referred are now going on—they are taking place literally at this moment, at any rate with some of the carriers—it would be unwise for me to say anything about them and a mistake for me to prejudge the response of those who are now in consultation. However, I am sure that the point raised by the noble Lord will be in the minds of those who are now conferring and I think that it would be better for us to await the results of those deliberations.


My Lords, while we have every sympathy with the case put forward by my noble friend Lord Brockway and appreciate his insistence that every consideration should be given to the people concerned, may I ask the noble Viscount to agree that it is necessary, indeed imperative, for any Government to maintain safeguards in matters of this kind, remembering that it is vital for us to know precisely what is happening to people who are seeking to come to this country?


Yes, my Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Slater, is quite right to say that this is a matter which would concern any Government. It is recognised as being an exceedingly difficult problem from the point of view of those who want to come here, from our point of view and that of those who live in this country, among whom the people who are admitted will live. We must remember the effect on the people in this country if one had too great an influx of Asians, however meritorious one may consider their case to be.


My Lords, what will happen to these unfortunate people if they are placed on an aeroplane which ends its journey in India? Will that mean Her Majesty's Government disclaiming all future responsibility for them?


No, my Lords, because one cannot generalise in a matter of this kind. Each case must be dealt with on its merits. Continuing discussions are going on, not only with the Indian Government but with all Governments, and varied decisions are arrived at as among the different cases. I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord Segal, a generalised answer on a matter of this complexity.


My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations believes that it is highly undesirable for its members to become involved in controversial issues of this kind? While his right honourable friend is having discussions with the managements of the carriers, would it not be wise for IFAIPA to be brought into the discussions?


I simply do not know the answer to that question. Nevertheless, it is right that we should start by considering the matter with the carriers, because it is presumably at the check-in points where one first has the opportunity to intercept people who do not have the necessary vouchers. What happens if they get on to the aeroplane—this was the subject of a Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, some days ago—is still being considered, I think, with the pilots as well as the carriers.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount to say whether an approach has been made to any United Nations or other international body about mass expulsions by racialist dictators in Africa?


My Lords, I do not know about that. It is a matter for my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, who I understand will be commenting on the subject later.

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