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Volume 465: debated on Thursday 26 May 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons claiming to be political refugees have been extradited from this country in each year since 1918; and to what countries.

The information for which my hon. Friend asks could not be obtained without prolonged and detailed scrutiny of the cases of all persons who have been extradited since 1918.

Is it not a fact that the position, in so far as it is known to the Home Secretary, reveals a fine tradition of political asylum in this country, and will my right hon. Friend do everything in his power to maintain it?

Yes. I think that that record is maintained so far as I have been able to investigate the matter and I am personally determined that nothing shall be done to break it.

Gerhardt Eisler (Arrest)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has now received from the United States authorities the requisition necessary to enable him to consider the merits of the case of Herr Eisler; if he has now satisfied himself that this case has a political content and political implications; and what action he proposes to take.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has yet received a requisition from the United States Government for the extradition of Herr Gerhardt Eisler.

I received the request for the extradition of Mr. Eisler on 23rd May, and, in accordance with the usual practice, I have forwarded it to Bow Street. The application for extradition is now sub judice and it would be improper for me to make any comments.

Before forwarding the requisition, could my right hon. Friend at any point have considered its contents and the merits of the case; could he have taken any action?

When my right hon. Friend does have to adjudicate between this individual and the Government of a big Power will he satisfy himself not only that the technical charge can be substantiated, but also that it is not a pretext for political action?

This matter is before the court tomorrow. It will not come in front of me again until a decision has been reached by the court. It would be very wrong of me to say anything today that might prejudice the issue one way or the other.

Is there not a possibility that the delay has been deliberate on the part of America in the hope of getting this man smuggled out of the country during the Parliamentary Recess, and will the Home Secretary assure us that nothing of that kind will happen?

I am bound to say that I do not think any undue delay has occurred. I can give the House the assurance that I shall not depart from the answers I have given earlier today in the event of the case taking a certain course, but I am very anxious today not to say anything that would make it difficult for the case to be considered in an unprejudiced way by the court.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what request was received from the Southampton police authorities for Scotland Yard officers to accompany the local officers in their execution of the warrant for the arrest of Gerhardt Eisler; and on whose instructions were these Scotland Yard officers so detailed to act.

No request was made by the Southampton Police for the services of Metropolitan Police officers. In accordance with the normal practice in extradition cases, approach was made by the United States authorities to the Metropolitan Police. As an act of courtesy, two officers of the Metropolitan Police specially experienced in extradition matters accompanied the United States representatives to Southampton, where those representatives went to apply for a warrant.

Is it not the case, contrary to what my right hon. Friend suggests, that this answer reveals that the attempt to represent this as a normal extradition procedure really is not justified and what we see now, with M.I.5 obviously coming into it, is a plot between that organisation and the American Secret Service, in which the Home Office have most unhappily become embroiled?

Because I have inquired. I have previously told the House that this case has given me the greatest personal anxiety and continues to give me the greatest personal anxiety and I have taken every step I can to ensure that the procedure shall be absolutely correct. It is normally the Metropolitan Police who are approached because it is normally at Bow Street that extradition proceedings are taken. Furthermore, the foreign embassies are situated in London. In this case it was finally decided that the Suothampton Bench was the appropriate bench to which the United States officials should apply for an extradition warrant.

Can my right hon. Friend say who decided that? Were the Americans given this technical advice by some Department of the British Government to enable them to put the thing across in a way most convenient to them; and if Bow Street is normally the court used for applications, why was this done in a sort of under cover way at Southampton?

As my right hon. Friend showed some impatience, may I venture to explain that in this House we have never been able to get the slightest elucidation of what happens in M.I.5, and that is the only reason for asking how my right hon. Friend knew?

I do not intend to answer the last part of that supplementary question. The American Embassy approached the Metropolitan Police with a statement that they intended to apply for an extradition warrant. The man would be within the jurisdiction of the English courts in Southampton Water and it was, therefore, thought that the Southampton magistrates, within whose jurisdiction he would be, were the appropriate people to issue a warrant.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that many of us who do not agree with him politically realise the extreme delicacy of the matter he has had to handle and have confidence in his scrupulous integrity?