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Detainee (Marriage Request)

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 18 March 1943

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asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the case of a certain political detainee in Brixton Prison, whose name has been given to him, and whose request to marry his fiancée, a British subject by birth, has been refused; and whether he will reconsider this refusal, in view of the fact that it will entail the illegitimacy of their unborn child?

The man whom my hon. Friend describes as a political detainee was a German national, lived in Germany most of his life, and came here in 1938 on a German passport. He was admitted for temporary residence not as a refugee but on a claim that he had business reasons. Immediately after the outbreak of war the information available as to his associations and activities showed that his detention was necessary, but as he had just previously got himself naturalised as a citizen of the Republic of Haiti he was detained—not as an enemy alien—but under Regulation 18B. A few months ago he was allowed to go into hospital for an operation, and when he was convalescent the hospital authorities, I understand, allowed him to go out for short periods with a visitor, who is now said to be pregnant.

A number of applications have from time to time been made by aliens and other persons who are detained to be allowed facilities for marriage, and I should not be justified in granting in this case a concession which has been refused in other cases. The question, therefore, is whether the general rule should be to allow facilities for marriage, whatever may be the grounds of the application, and further whether requests should be allowed for the parties to spend at least a few days together after the ceremony, or whether all such applications must be refused. After reviewing the many and varied purposes for which detained persons ask for permission to go out, either under escort or on parole, I have been forced to the conclusion that the general rule ought to be against allowing facilities for marriage.

Although our law provides for the legitimation of children by the subsequent marriage of their parents, I am not unsympathetic to my hon. and gallant Friend's plea, but for the reasons I have stated I am sorry I do not feel able to regard the circumstances of this case as justifying an exceptional concession.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, whatever may be the faults of the parents, by his decision he is condemning an unborn child to illegitimacy; and may I plead with him that when it can be so easily avoided he ought not to visit the sins of the father and the mother upon the child?

I have already considered that angle of the matter, but I really do not feel sympathetic about this case, and it must be understood that when the man comes out he can marry the woman, and the child will be legitimated. He is in no worse position than a certain number of members of the British Army serving abroad.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that this child will in fact if not in law be born illegitimate?

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken into con- sideration the feelings of the woman in this case and whether they do not come before any consideration respecting the man? And is it or is it not true that she is pregnant?

I can only say that it is claimed that she is pregnant, but I do not think there is much point in my going into the position of the woman.

Arising out of the right hon. Gentleman's first reply, is it not the case that detention under Regulation 18B is regarded only as preventive and not punitive, but that in the circumstances of this case his ruling makes it punitive?