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Gerhardt Eisler (Court Decision)

Volume 465: debated on Monday 30 May 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he can now make a further statement on the case of Gerhardt Eisler.

At Bow Street Court on 27th May the Chief Magistrate found that the requisitioning power had failed to show that Gerhardt Eisler had been convicted in the United States of America of an extraditable offence and discharged him.

On the same day, Mr. Eisler applied at the Home Office for a form of application for a document of identity to enable him to obtain a visa for his journey to Poland. His application form was lodged today and he has been given the document and informed that he may remain in this country for the time necessary to enable him to make arrangements for his journey.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the decision in this case may well serve as an object-lesson to countries in both halves of the world which do not share our views on the rule of law, and can he say whether the matter is now definitely closed at the American end, or whether he has received any further representations? Can he also say what is the position about compensation?

I am not responsible for the conduct of American affairs. I have had no communication from the American Embassy or any other American source since the decision of the Chief Magistrate. There is no justifiable claim for compensation against this country.

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that, if Mr. Eisler goes to Germany, there will be no possibility of his being apprehended again by the American authorities?

Will the right hon. Gentleman repudiate the suggestion of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) that any charge, imputation or insinuation whatever lies against the United States in this matter?

No, Sir. I heard the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, and it did not seem to me to call for any comment.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in view of the circumstances that have been disclosed in this incident, he will review the regulations under which extradition orders can be granted and carried out in this country?

No, Sir. This matter proceeded according to law and that would require an amendment of the law. May I say that I think that it is better that these matters should be dealt with by a decision of the court than by the ukase of the Minister.

Will the Home Secretary bear in mind the suggestion made by the learned magistrate that those responsible should consider whether Mr. Eisler was entitled to any compensation for the inconvenience he suffered, and say what steps he proposes to take in regard to that?

I hope that those responsible will consider the learned magistrate's remarks.

Is it not the case that this man was forcibly dragged off a Polish ship, kept in prison for three weeks—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I would like some hon. Members kept in prison for three weeks to see how they would feel—and that it was then discovered that there was no charge which could be laid against him? Is there not something wrong with the law there?

No, Sir. A certain statement was made on the information laid before the Southampton magistrate and from that time the law took its course.

Is it not, nevertheless, now perfectly clear that on the facts, nobody properly advised could ever have come to the conclusion that this application for extradition had any basis whatever or had any possible chance of success; and is it not a little unfortunate that, in circumstances of that kind, a man should be taken off a foreign ship and detained in one of our gaols for three weeks?

The information was laid before the magistrate and the responsibility for the statement in that information lay with the person who made it.

Will the Home Secretary make it perfectly clear that the release of this man was a simple question of British law and justice, and not in any way connected with the emotional outpourings of the extreme Left in this country?

I am bound to say that I think that supplementary questions like that are not very helpful. I have made it clear that this matter has proceeded by due course of law and that no other influence has been brought to bear upon it.