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Dock Strike (Deportation Of Aliens)

Volume 467: debated on Friday 22 July 1949

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It was reported to me yesterday evening that three aliens with Communist affiliations—one Dutch national named Blankanzee, and two American nationals named Goldblatt and Maletta—had landed in this country. After satisfying myself that their visit here was concerned with the dispute at the London Docks I decided that it was conducive to the public good that they should be deported, and I signed a deportation order in respect of each of the three men, who as a result were detained by officers of the Metropolitan Police at 12.15 a.m. today.

First, let me express to the right hon. Gentleman the gratitude of the House for keeping us informed of important matters such as the subject of his communication. Secondly, let me note, as the House has noted, that the governing words of the right hon. Gentleman's statement are "conducive to the public good." I assure him that where he explains to the House that the arrival of aliens of this sort is connected with the trouble in the docks and the fomentation of that trouble, the House will support him, in all quarters, including my hon. and right hon. Friends, in action which we have his assurance it is conducive to the public good to take.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman in connection with his reference to the London Dock strike and the procedure he is now adopting whether, in view of a statement by one who up to yesterday was a Member of the Government—I refer to Lord Ammon—in this morning's Press, that the whole dispute has been grossly mishandled and could have been nipped in the bud right at the start, the right hon. Gentleman and the Government could not have taken steps some time ago, to anticipate events, and whether he will give a demonstration to the world, and show the world that if this country is meant to recover the present Government can persuade their own supporters to go to work?

The hon. Member has raised a broad general issue which I do not think arises from the statement I have read to the House, but may I say that I dissent very strongly from the views that were expressed by a late colleague of mine? I have no doubt that on an appropriate occasion, when it is possible to develop the case to the full, I shall be able to demonstrate that to the House.

Is it not a somewhat shocking affair that the right hon. Gentleman should be stampeded into this action by the clammering from the Opposition? May I ask him if he can tell the House how it comes about that the activities which he and his colleagues encouraged and stimulated as "divine discontent" when they were seeking power has now become "Communist conspiracy" when they have got into power?

I have not been stampeded on this matter. Yesterday I was dealing with the problem of British subjects who were giving trouble, and I gave the House a statement as to the difficulties that are inherent in any effort to deal with them. These, as far as I know, are the first three aliens who have interested themselves in the dispute at the docks. As far as I am aware, at no time has the issue which is now the cause of dispute at the docks, namely, whether these two ships are "black" or not, been the subject of discussion in this country.

May I ask the Home Secretary two questions? Firstly, is it still a fact that no evidence has been found on which anyone can be prosecuted; and, secondly, since Lord Ammon has been mentioned and he may have done some harm in the dispute, is it clear that his appointment was not engineered by subversive elements?

With regard to the first question, the position remains there as it was yesterday. I do not think I can usefully pursue the second question.

Can the right hon Gentleman say, with regard to the general situation in the docks, whether it is the intention of the Government to make a statement before the House rises today?

I should think it unlikely, but we shall see what developments there are in the course of the day.

The Home Secretary said that the deportation of these men was conducive to the public good. Would it not be appropriate if he told the House who in his opinion instigated the visit of these men, how they were financed and with what sort of finance? As a considerable air of mystery surrounds the whole strike, with hints and insinuations being made, would it not be a good thing for the right hon. Gentleman to make a definite statement as to who is instigating the trouble?

They came here from France where they had been attending a Communist international seamen's gathering, which was held there during the last few days, but who financed them I do not know.

Are there not some other Communist aliens who have been making trouble and might also be usefully deported?

Not to my knowledge, but if the hon. Member is in communication with any and will let me know, I shall take the necessary steps.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether these three persons he has named are members of any known organisation, or whether they are here as individuals?

Is it not the case that one of the sailors, whose name I should not like to specify as I cannot recall it with certainty, left the International Workers meeting at Marseilles, according to the papers, and flew to this country? Is that not a well known conspiratorial organisation?

There was a Canadian national who flew here, a gentleman known as Mr. Harry Davies, although I believe that "Davies" is not the name with which he was born. He came here and he is a Canadian national. As I explained to the House yesterday, I have no power to deport him. I think the House realised yesterday that suggestions on these lines raise a grave issue on which we must not lightly embark. But, in regard to these people, they are not British subjects, and I have taken the action that I have always shown to the House I intended to take if such persons arrived.