HC Deb 24 June 1954 vol 529 cc48-50W
53. Mr. Benn

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is yet in a position to make a statement about Dr. Joseph Cort.

54. Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is yet in a position to make a statement about Dr. Cort's residence in this country.

58. Mr. S. Silverman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is yet in a position to make a statement about Dr. Cort's application for a renewal of his work-and-residence permit after 30th June of this year.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Dr. Cort is a United States citizen, who, in June, 1951, was given permission to enter this country for a stay of 12 months to do research at Cambridge University. In May, 1952, he asked for permission to stay for another 12 months to complete his research and this was granted.

Before his permitted period of stay had expired he informed the Home Office that he had accepted what he described as a permanent post of Lecturer at Birmingham University and asked permission to stay in the United Kingdom for this purpose. There was some delay in reaching a decision on this application but in August, 1953, Dr. Cort was given a further extension to 30th June, 1954. In the letter conveying this decision he was informed, with reference to his description of his appointment at Birmingham as permanent, that the extension now granted was temporary and was not to be regarded as equivalent to permanent residence.

In December, 1953, it became known to the Home Office that Dr. Cort had failed to comply with a number of summonses from the American authorities to report for pre-induction examination in connection with United States law relating to military service, and that when asked by the British police, at the request of the American authorities, to explain why he had done so and what were his intentions with reference to his duties under the United States Selective Service Act, he had refused to make a statement.

It appeared from the communication made to Dr. Cort by the American authorities that his persistent refusal to comply with notices to attend for examination would, under United States law, create a presumption that he had left the United States to evade military service, and if this presumption were established he would, under United States law, lose his United States citizenship.

When this came to the attention of the Home Office. Dr. Cort was at once informed that the possible loss of his citizenship was a matter of concern to the Department and that a further communication would be sent to him after an approach had been made to the United States authorities in an endeavour to clarify the legal position. The United States Consul General confirmed that if the presumption which I have mentioned were established, Dr. Cort would lose his United States citizenship and could return to the United States only on an immigration visa and full compliance with the immigration laws.

In view of this Dr. Cort was reminded on 24th March that his stay in this country was temporary and was informed that, having regard to the information obtained from the United States Consul General, the Secretary of State would not be prepared to grant him an extension after 30th June. Dr. Cort did not reply to this letter, but approached a number of people with representations to the effect that if he returned to the United States he would he faced with unemployment and financial bankruptcy and, possibly, a prison sentence. He asked that in view of this he might be allowed to remain here.

I considered very carefully the representations which were then made to me on Dr. Cort's behalf, but I found myself unable to alter the decision. As I pointed out to those who wrote to me, the whole basis of the system of control of aliens in this country is that those who come here on a temporary footing, as almost all aliens do in the first instance, should be in a position to return to their own country or some other which is prepared to receive them. In effect, Dr. Con was asking that I should make an exception to this established rule in his case on the ground that he ought to be regarded as entitled to political asylum.

There is nothing in the circumstances of Dr. Cort's case to justify regarding him as a political refugee. It is a proud tradition of this country that it has been ready to offer asylum to those who are political refugees in the true sense. Political asylum is a privilege which is not lightly to be invoked, since the grant of it implies necessarily that the Government of the suppliant's country employs methods of political persecution. The traditional test applied to applications is that the applicant's life or liberty would be in danger on account of race, religion, nationality or political opinion if asylum were refused. I have no reason to think that any of these considerations arise in this case.

I have had the advantage of receiving two deputations of hon. Members who have taken an interest in this case. I have given my most careful attention to everything they have said, but I regret that I am not prepared to grant any further extension.