HL Deb 16 February 1977 vol 379 cc1563-7

3.41 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, I will, with permission, repeat a Statement which has just been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"The House will recall the Statement that I made on 18th November last in which I said that I proposed, under the powers vested in the Home Secretary by the Immigration Act 1971, to make deportation orders against Mr. Philip Agee and Mr. Mark Hosenball, whose departure from the United Kingdom I had concluded was conducive to the public good as being in the interests of national security.

"I explained to the House the non-statutory procedure under which Mr. Agee and Mr. Hosenball could make representations to an independent panel whose advice I would take into account before coming to a final decision.

"Both Mr. Agee and Mr. Hosenball elected to make representations to the panel. I have now received and considered its advice in both cases. I have also considered the various representations that have been made to me by Mr. Agee and Mr. Hosenball themselves, their advisers, right honourable and honourable Members, and members of the public. I have reached the clear conclusion that in both cases my original decision must stand. I have therefore made a deportation order against each man.

"These orders will now be served on them together with notices of restriction requiring them to report weekly to the police. Before directions for removal are given stating the destination, which would normally be their own country, the United States of America, I am prepared to consider, in respect of either of them, specifying another country of their choice provided they can show by the beginning of next month that the country would be prepared to accept them. This is without prejudice to their statutory right of appeal against the destination finally named".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.


My Lords, I am sure the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for repeating that Statement. Speaking for myself, I think I would have criticised the Home Secretary if he had yielded to pressure in this matter, and I feel therefore that the only honourable course I can take now is to say that I support him in not having yielded to pressure in this matter, and I feel sure he has done right. Decisions of this kind are among the most difficult and contentious which Home Secretaries have to take and one can only sympathise with them in the rather isolated and lonely consideration of them which they must make, following their conscience in each case.

Residence in this country by aliens is not an absolute right; it is a privilege, and a Home Secretary in exercising his power must not only be liberal but be swayed wholeheartedly by the interest of this country, and by nothing else if that interest is involved. I notice that a self-appointed expert from the United States described this proceeding as "lawless"; I think he should be better acquainted with the law than to make such a criticism. The Home Secretary's discretion in these matters is not a judicial exercise of discretion but an administrative and political function and his advisers are there to advise him in accordance with those considerations and not with judicial procedures. I would advise this self-constituted expert to examine the immigration laws of the United States to see if he cannot find precedents for the Home Secretary's action there.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, we on these Benches also thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for repeating that Statement, which brought back to me echoes of the case of Mr. Rudi Dutschke, who some years ago was charged in rather similar circumstances. He was dealt with in a public trial before a panel of five distinguished gentlemen. The proceedings were entirely in order, except for the fact that on one day Mr. Dutschke and his solicitors, and I as his legal adviser, and the Press and the public were all excluded from the court while information was given of which to this day none of us has any knowledge. As a result, although it was done with the best will in the world, that procedure was widely felt to be a farce. I cannot help thinking that on this occasion we have repeated the farce under a slightly different guise.

Would the noble Lord, Lord Harris, accept that if a foreign national is alleged to have broken the criminal law of this country, it is right that he should be tried in the criminal courts in the ordinary way, bearing in mind the fact that the courts have power to sit in camera? Where one has the other situation (as I suspect we do in this case) in which it is said that an alien has misconducted himself to the extent that he should be asked to leave, may I ask the noble Lord whether he would not agree that it is often quite impossible to prefer a specific charge and quite impossible to disclose information because that inevitably involves the disclosure of confidential sources? In those circumstances I must reluctantly agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, that there is really no practicable alternative but to rely on the discretion of the Executive, to rely on the good faith of the Home Secretary, assisted perhaps by an advisory panel.

Does the noble Lord agree, looking back on it, that nothing is achieved by a pseudo trial of the sort that has taken place on this occasion? It cannot serve to remove any sense of grievance that may perhaps be felt. In these circumstances, will the noble Lord look again at whether this procedure serves any useful purpose and could not be repeated in the future with any value to anybody?


My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for what they have said and particularly to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, for his remarks. This is, I accept, a difficult matter. I certainly would not regard it as a farce, nor would I accept that there is necessarily any parallel with the Dutschke case. I would remind the House of what the Home Secretary said about each of these gentlemen on the last occasion. Mr. Agee was informed that the Home Secretary had considered information that he had maintained regular contacts harmful to the security of the United Kingdom with foreign intelligence officers, had been and continued to be involved in disseminating information harmful to the security of the United Kingdom, and had aided and counselled others in obtaining information for publication which could be harmful to the security of the United Kingdom.

In the case of Mr. Hosenball, he was informed that the Home Secretary had considered information that Mr. Hosenball had, while resident in the United Kingdom, in consort with others, sought to obtain and had obtained for publication information harmful to the security of the United Kingdom and that this information had included information prejudicial to the safety of servants of the Crown.

With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, those seem to me to be grave matters and I would not accept in any respect whatever that this was a farce. Both of these gentlemen had the right to make representations, which they properly exercised, to the panel and the Home Secretary has considered the matter most carefully because of the very difficult issues to which Lord Hailsham drew attention. But on considering the matter and the gravity of the issues involved, he came to the conclusion that it was right to proceed with deportation.

I would not accept that a foreign national has to be either proceeded against under the Official Secrets Act or left to remain in this country; I do not think that is a reasonable choice to put before us. In my view, the Executive in the final analysis have an absolute right to indicate to people who have been involved in acts such as Mr. Agee and Mr. Hosenball have been involved in, that their presence in the United Kingdom is no longer conducive to the interests of people in this country; and that seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable exercise of Executive power.


My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that there will be certain groups which will attempt to exploit the fact that these people are being deported, notwithstanding the fact that one of them appears to be a gamekeeper turned poacher and to have written a book about his former employers—with whom he seems to have been quite happy for a long period? Would it not be helpful if the Government gave further information to stop the sort of stories that will go around and the attempts by certain dissident groups to stir up unrest about these deportations?


My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend. Undoubtedly a number of allegations will be made, as they have been made in the past. I believe that the choice for the people of this country is whether they are prepared to accept the word of the Home Secretary. I believe that the overwhelming majority will be prepared to do so.