House Of Commons
Tuesday, 23rd November, 1965
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Covent Garden Market Bill
As Amended, considered; to be read the Third time.
Clyde Navigation (Superannuation) Order Confirmation Bill
Glasgow Corporation (No 2) Order Confirmation Bill
Considered; to be read the Third time tomorrow.
Clyde Port Authority Order Confirmation Bill
Read a Second time; to be considered tomorrow.
Oral Answers To Questions
Ministry Of Power
Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement on pit closures, in the light of his correspondence with the Chairman of the National Coal Board in connection with the Question of the right hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian on 2nd November.
The Minister of Power (Mr. Frederick Lee)
I propose to discuss this matter in the course of the debate on the Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill on Thursday.
Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the letter sent to me by the Chairman of the Board was completely uninformative? Is he further aware that there is a feeling, certainly in Scotland, that we are being kept very much in the dark about the extent of the proposed pit closures? Can he give us an undertaking that he will put the facts before us so that we may know whether or not we should endeavour to make representations?
I am surprised to hear this because, from what I have read in the Press, people seem to have been very well informed indeed, but certainly I will try to make the situation as clear as possible on Thursday.
asked the Minister of Power if he will make available to hon. Members in a White Paper the information on pit closures announced by divisional boards on Thursday, 18th November, 1965.
Mr. Frederick Lee
I think that it would be more appropriate for the information to be available in the Vote Office, and I have arranged this.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have seen this information and that half a dozen stapled foolscap sheets with a list of the collieries to be closed is hardly an adequate substitute for a comprehensive White Paper on the eve of an important debate on this matter? Is he aware that this situation will affect hundreds of constituencies? Will he think again and provide us with a White Paper with a full analysis of the closures as soon as possible?
I have received no such complaint until today. It certainly is not any objective of mine to leave people under any illusions about this. I will have a look at it again and, if necessary, see what I can do about it.
I am encouraged by the right hon. Gentleman's attitude, but does he not realise that this is the first opportunity that the House of Commons has had of verbally complaining to him and we are now doing this? Will he bear in mind that the Bill that we are to consider on Thursday demands the writing off of £415 million and that in these circumstances the House of Commons is entitled in the national interest to the fullest possible information?
It may have escaped the hon. Gentleman's notice that in the last few weeks we have published two White Papers, one on our general fuel policy and one specifically on colliery closures. I should have thought that the information contained in these White Papers dealt adequately with the points the hon. Gentleman is now raising.
Nationalised Industries (General Directions)
Sir R. Nugent
asked the Minister of Power to what extent it is his policy to direct the nationalised industries for which he is responsible to adopt policies other than those dictated by their commercial interests.
Mr. Frederick Lee
No occasion has arisen for me to issue a general direction. Where boards, in response to the Government's views, act otherwise than in their commercial interest, the procedures of Command 1337 are followed.
Sir R. Nugent
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that interference with the price of the area gas boards by him-self and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs has raised a doubt about Government policy? Does he realise how much this interference weakens and discourages the efficiency and independence of management of these industries? Will he please refrain from using this as an instrument of Government economic policy?
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is now divorcing himself from the White Paper issued by the Government of which he was a member.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the point made by my hon. Friend is that the principles of the White Paper to which he has referred should remain inviolate? What has happened, we suspect, is that interventions by his right hon. Friend the First Secretary are proving absolutely disastrous to those principles.
I think the hon. Gentleman will find at the end of the quinquennium that the principles contained in the White Paper have not been violated in any way.
Mr. William Hamilton
Is it not correct that the previous Administration interfered time and time again with the pricing policy of the Coal Board, and, in particular, is it not the case that the former Prime Minister but one, or two, or three, whatever it was, interfered with fares in London for purely political purposes?
Yes, of course, Governments have intervened. Otherwise, one of the good effects of nationalised industry would be lost.
Area Gas Boards (Prices)
Sir R. Nugent
asked the Minister of Power whether he will introduce legislation to give himself the power to control the price of gas sold by area gas boards.
Mr. Frederick Lee
Sir R. Nugent
Is the Minister aware that Parliament has not given him statutory powers to control the prices of the nationalised industries under his care? Will he, therefore, ask Parliament to give him such powers if he wants to control these prices? If not, will he refrain from doing so?
To answer the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I return to an earlier Answer. The method by which Parliament and the Government in fact condition these things is by the use of Command Paper 1337.
Electricity (Maximum Charges)
5 and 6.
Mr. Peter Walker
asked the Minister of Power (1) if he will seek power to appoint inspectors to look into complaints from tenants who believe that they are being charged for electricity in excess of the maximum charges laid down by the electricity boards;(2) whether he will introduce the appropriate legislation to enable electricity boards to enforce maximum charges fixed under Section 29 of the Electricity Act, 1957.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power (Mr. John Morris)
No, Sir, but as I have already made clear, my right hon. Friend is prepared to look into abuses and reconsider the matter if it is shown that there is a genuine need for strengthening the means of enforcement.
Is the Minister aware that without some form of inspection, either by the electricity boards or the Ministry, it is almost impossible for tenants to obtain the required evidence to enable them to bring cases to the courts? Would it not be much easier to make these powers enforceable by the electricity boards themselves?
We have tackled this problem very speedily. We have decided to see how the present arrangements work and we have asked the electricity consultative councils to report back to us. If further action is needed, I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will take it.
Energy Advisory Committee
asked the Minister of Power if he will amend the composition of his Energy Advisory Committee to include a substantial number of independent experts, scientific, engineering and economic.
Mr. Frederick Lee
Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the usefulness of the present Energy Advisory Committee is limited because it cannot give any genuinely independent advice? In view of that, will my right hon. Friend please take seriously the suggestion made in the Question?
I hope that I always take suggestions seriously. When there is an occasion for the Council to have special advice I invite such gentlemen to attend. Indeed, I have already had the advantage of having the assistance of the Chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board and, on one occasion, the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority as well.
Advisory Council On Research And Development
asked the Minister of Power how often his Advisory Council on Research and Development meets; what are the nature and frequency of its reports; how many of its reports have received his approval; and to whom, when approved, the reports are sent for implementation.
Mr. Frederick Lee
The Council meets and advises me at about two-monthly intervals. Its advice deals broadly with the objectives, major projects, balance of effort and degree of co-ordination of research and development by the fuel and power industries. Its influence is achieved in two ways; first, through the deliberations of the Council, which includes representatives of the nationalised fuel and power industries amongst its members, and, secondly, through the discussions which I have with their chairmen on the basis of its advice.
Does my right hon. Friend feel that the Advisory Council on Research and Development is assisting towards the closer working together from the technical point of view of the fuel and power industries?
I do indeed. The Advisory Council is doing a first-class job and I am sure that the whole House will agree when I say how indebted we are to Lord Fleck, who served as chairman for so many years, for the work that has already been done.
Sir Beresford Craddock
Would the Minister say whether research is continuing into the production of smokeless fuels, with particular regard to the more efficient production of these fuels, at cheaper prices?
Yes, indeed. A great deal of work is being done on this subject.
Scottish Gas Board (Smoke Control Orders)
Mr. Edward M. Taylor
asked the Minister of Power whether he is satisfied with the provision made by the Scottish Gas Board to assist householders affected by smoke control orders; and whether he will give a general direction to the Board to take steps to ensure that there will be no difficulties in areas to be affected by future smoke control orders.
Mr. John Morris
The Board makes every effort to meet householders' requirements in these areas. No particular difficulty is expected to arise under forthcoming new orders in Scotland.
Would the right hon. Gentleman inquire into the situation in Cathcart? Is he aware that some of the residents there who are affected by the order were told by the Board's salesmen that they would have to wait for only a matter of days or weeks for gas appliances, but that in some cases they Lave had to wait for more than four months because of alleged unprecedented demand—while at the same time the Board's salesmen have been promising speedy delivery and have, thereby, been creating a greater demand? Will he see that this mistake is not made again?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the suggestion in the first part of his supplementary question. I am aware of some of the matters which he alleges. There has been some delay in the supply and fitting of appliances in regard to a smoke control area of Glasgow. This has been due in part to the heavy demand on the manufacturers of the appliances and the Board's staff who equip these appliances. I understand that installation will be completed by the end of the year, which will be three months after the due date. The Board has undertaken to see that no similar difficulties arise under forthcoming control orders.
Scottish Gas Board (General Directions)
Mr. Edward M. Taylor
asked the Minister of Power what new general directions he will give to the Scottish Gas Board, following receipt of the Board's annual report.
Mr. Frederick Lee
Is the Minister not aware that the activities of the Scottish Gas Board have become a national scandal? If he feels that a complacent attitude on this matter is satisfied, would the right hon. Gentleman talk to some of the residents in Scotland who have suffered a 6 per cent. price increase in February and who are now faced with a further increase of 13 per cent.
There is no question of my having any complacency about this matter. I am aware of the difficulties which the Scottish Gas Board has had, but they are issues in which I have no statutory powers to intervene. Indeed, these matters go to the Consultative Council; and if the Council refers any matter to me then I can intervene.
Nationalised Industries (Prices And Tariffs)
asked the Minister of Power what machinery exists for co- ordination between his Department and the Department of Economic Affairs concerning proposals by boards of nationalised industries to increase prices and tariffs.
Mr. Frederick Lee
The normal arrangements apply for close and constant liaison between Departments.
Is the right hon. Gentleman really not aware that by far the best form of co-ordination between his Department and that of his right hon. Friend would be for him to tell his right hon. Friend not to interfere in matters with which he is not competent to deal and about which he knows nothing?
I will inform my right hon. Friend of the hon. Gentleman's opinion.
West Durham (Industrial Development)
asked the Minister of Power what proposals he has, following Command Paper No. 2805, to allocate special funds to provide alternative industrial development in West Durham, which has become an urgent priority due to the pending redundancy at Brancepeth, waterhouses and Esh Winning collieries.
Mr. John Morris
My right hon. Friend will be speaking about the special funds generally during the debate on the Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill on Thursday.
Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind before Thursday that this is a very urgent matter indeed and that, as well as funds being made available, he might endeavour to prevent any pit closures before alternative industry is provided?
I understand the concern that is felt about special funds. There have been discussions with the National Union of Mineworkers on this matter and perhaps the whole subject will be canvassed on Thursday.
North Sea (Oil)
Mr. Hector Hughes
asked the Minister of Power if he will state the nature, kind, extent and result of his investigations into the effect of the discovery of oil in the North Sea for which he has given licences on the fish shoals and on the number and fertility of fish in the North Sea.
Mr. John Morris
Offshore drilling and oil production in other parts of the world appears to have had no adverse effect on fish. I have no evidence to suggest that the effects will be different in the North Sea.
My Question does not deal with other parts of the world. Does my hon. Friend realise that the fishing industry of the North Sea is of particular interest to the trade, industry and employment of Aberdeen as well as to the fish consumers of this country? Will he abandon this secrecy and publish the facts?
My hon. and learned Friend invites me to abandon secrecy and publish the facts. I should, perhaps, inform him, first, that the operations in the North Sea will affect only a fraction of the sea area while, secondly, I understand that landings of fish from the North Sea last year were better than in the previous year.
Sir Knox Cunningham
Would the Parliamentary Secretary make available the information he has about the effect on fish in the area around the oil drills off the American Continent?
I will certainly look into that matter, but perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will put down a Question.
Mr. Hector Hughes
asked the Minister of Power if he will make it a condition of future licences issued by him to companies to drill for oil in the North Sea that they should keep him fully informed of their progress and the quantities of oil discovered, with a view to his publishing this information.
Mr. Frederick Lee
Under the regulations approved by Parliament, the full information which I receive from licensees is given me on a confidential basis.
Does not my right hon. Friend realise that the North Sea is not private property but public property and that the public is entitled to the fullest information about the North Sea? Will my right hon. Friend see that all the information is published?
My hon. and learned Friend should be graceful enough to acknowledge that the Opposition nationalised the North Sea and that it is, in fact, public property. Frankly, if this information were divulged it would mean that a number of people who now hold licences would merely wait for other people to fail, and then not drill.
Mr. Eldon Griffiths
asked the Minister of Power whether, in granting licences for exploration of the North Sea bed, he takes into account the availability of drilling rigs and ancillary equipment.
Mr. Frederick Lee
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is widespread concern at the reported delay in delivery, which I understand to be four months and in some cases even five months? Can he tell the House whether delays in this vital installation programme are the result of industrial disputes in the shipyards, or where is the responsibility?
No. I do not think so. I understand that there are some delays, but at the moment I think there are five rigs drilling and we expect that this number will be raised to at least 13 by the second half of next year.
Coal, Gas And Electricity Industries (Advertising)
asked the Minister of Power if he will issue general directions, in the public interest, to the boards of the nationalised coal, gas and electricity industries to reduce the competition between them, with particular reference to sales promotion practices connected with the sale of domestic heating equipment.
asked the Minister of Power if he will give a general direction to the gas and electricity industries to cease advertising their products until they are able to meet the demands of their existing customers.
asked the Minister of Power whether he will,give a general direction, in the public interest, to electricity and gas area boards to cease advertising until they are able to meet consumer demands.
Mr. J. H. Osborn
asked the Minister of Power what plans he has for reviewing the advertising campaigns of the gas and electricity industries.
Mr. Frederick Lee
Following discussions with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself, the chairmen of the rationalised fuel industries have agreed to discontinue advertising, both national and local, with certain minor exceptions, for a period of three months from 1st December, 1965.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the reasons why the gas shortage has been aggravated is the high pressure and despicable sales methods of gas boards? Is he aware that I have with me details of the condemnation of these methods by a judge in a case where a gas board sent a salesman round at a very low basic wage on the pretence of inspecting equipment but with the real job of selling new equipment? Is my right hon. Friend aware that this has aggravated the situation outlined in the House last week, and will he do something about it?
I do not think that that subject is covered by my hon. Friend's Question or by the Answer which I gave to it. I was merely talking about advertising.
Would the Minister bear in mind the advantages of oil heating and private enterprise?
There are great advantages in all these kinds of fuel, but I should have thought it inappropriate at this moment for the public to be confronted by advertisements of this kind when they know that there is a danger of cuts, and so on.
Is the Minister aware that his decision—taken, of course, since these Questions were put down—will be generally welcomed by the public, who found it a little irritating to find their own supplies cut when these advertisements were still circulating? But why does he now try to include oil in this respect? After all, oil can be supplied—why should it not be advertised?
In some areas, all fuel can be supplied. It would therefore seem to me to be better—although national advertisements may be all right in a large part of the country but are not applicable to certain areas—not to advertise at all during this period. The oil industry has understood this very well, and has cooperated with us.
Would not my right hon. Friend consider that it would be in the national interest to promote the sale of coal while stocks are available, and so relieve the pressure on gas and electricity?
I can assure my hon. Friend that nothing we will do will prevent the National Coal Board or distributors of coal from attempting to do more than they have been doing.
Would not the Minister agree that now is the time to promote the sale of oil, if there are ready supplies that can be used, and not discourage its sale by discouraging advertising?
I thought that I had answered that point when I referred to the different positions in the different regions. There are occasions when electricity, gas and oil are in plentiful supply, as well as coal, but I think that all of them come into the same category.
asked the Minister of Power if he is satisfied about the security of electricity supply in the Gravesend and Northfleet area during the next six months; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Minister of Power if he is satisfied about the security of the electricity supply to consumers in the North Eastern Electricity Board area in meeting the additional demands upon it during the winter months; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Frederick Lee
The distribution systems of the North Eastern and the South Eastern Electricity Boards are generally adequate to meet expected demands this winter, although local difficulties cannot be excluded. But if national demand overloads the available generating capacity or the main transmission system, area electricity boards would be required to reduce load.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, but would he confirm that over the last year the capacity at the Northfleet power station was reduced by 100,000 kilowatts? Will he see that this position does not recur in the future?
I could not give the answer in regard to the specific amount that my hon. Friend mentions, but I can assure him that we are certainly doing everything possible, in conjunction with the industry, to ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. If the weather conditions make it inevitable that there should be cuts, I am afraid that this year they will take place.
As one knows that electricity generating plant takes about five years to manufacture—and I have a large manufacturing concern in my constituency—would my right hon. Friend tell me whether the present situation in the North-East is the result of under-estimation of the demand in the early 'sixties in the plans approved by the party opposite?
The Generating Board was basing itself this year on a plant margin of about 14 per cent. It is the case that if there is an under-estimate in, say, 1960, inevitably one will not meet the demand in 1965 in adverse conditions. It is also the case that in making its estimates, the Board has to take into account the outage of plant, the inaccuracy that can take place in load forecasting and in forecasting the weather. It is true that we have now reached a position this year on the basis of the 1960 forecasting, where we are 2,700 megawatts short.
Electricity And Gas Supplies
asked the Minister of Power if he is satisfied about the security of electricity supply nationally during the next six months; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
asked the Minister of Power what preparations the Central Electricity Generating Board are making to deal with the cold spell forecast by the long-distance weather forecast service for the first half of December.
asked the Minister of Power what steps he is taking to maintain gas and electricity services at all times this winter and to avoid power cuts during cold spells.
Mr. Frederic Harris
asked the Minister of Power what safeguarding action he proposes to take to avoid inconvenience to the public arising from electricity power breakdowns this winter.
asked the Minister of Power whether he will issue a general direction, in the public interest, to the electricity boards and the gas boards to complete their winter arrangements by 1st November in future years.
asked the Minister of Power what steps he is taking to avert further public inconvenience and hardship of the kind suffered during the recent cold weather; why the winter preparations of the electricity and gas boards were not complete by mid-November; and if he will make a statement.
Sir R. Russell
asked the Minister of Power if he will give general directions to the gas and electricity boards to complete the annual overhaul of their plants earlier than mid-November.
Mr. Frederick Lee
The Government have announced that a winter emergency committee covering the fuel, power and transport industries is being set up to deal with any emergency that arises and, so far as possible, to take action in advance of any strain that may develop. The industries are doing everything possible to bring their plant to a high state of readiness and to bring new plant into service.As far as future winters are concerned, the industries have been asked to plan their withdrawal of plant for annual overhaul so that their full capacity is available by the end of October each year.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him whether he will ensure that enough publicity is given to these facts, and will he point out that this has been due to a general lack of planning by the previous Administration?
I have pointed out the shortage that we have to meet this year. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Board is doing a first-class job of work in keeping in commission plant that otherwise would have gone out of commission—and, maybe, at times overstraining other plant in order to ensure that it cuts down the gaps to a minimum. That approach will continue.
As these vital industries, gas and electricity, are at present unable in moments of crisis to meet the demands, can the Minister give the House the absolute assurance that there will be no cut in the vital investment programme that these industries are about to undertake?
We have no intention of cutting any investment programme.
Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to answer the second part of Question No. 34, which, I think, was not answered in his original reply? Also, does he recall that, many months ago, a number of shop stewards at Beckton Works issued a detailed warning of the likelihood of a gas shortage this winter because of the loss of skilled manpower at those works and the abolition of reliable coal-burning plant?
I have mentioned that there is now a shortage of plant. This does have its effect on the stage at which the boards can begin to make their plant ready for the winter. In other words, they have to keep longer in commission during the summer period plant that they would otherwise be renovating against the winter period—[Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite want me to begin talking about private enterprise, I will do so. It is because private enterprise let the boards down that they now have to overwork the plant they have, and that does result in the fact that their winter programme is not ready as early as it otherwise would be.
Does the Minister realise that his Answer to the first group of Questions is rather unsatisfactory? Can he indicate whether the emergency committee to which he refers will be a permannt body in order that plans can be conf dently completed by 1st November in future years?
It is intended that the committee shall function during the course of this winter. I have intimated the real cause of the problem. As far as that goes, the Generating Board, the Gas Council and the boards will keep in the closest possible communication with their suppliers to ensure that they get the best delivery possible.
In order to keep this matter in perspective, can my right hon. Friend tell us how much it would cost in terms of national resources to obviate all possible power difficulties in a period of prolonged bad weather? How much, in money, would have to be spent in order to give the sort of assurance asked for by hon. Members opposite?
I mentioned, I think, that the Board's plan was to have a margin this year of 14 per cent., rising by 1969–1970 to 17 per cent. This should give the kind of margin to which my hon. Friend refers, but because of the things I have pointed out—lack of supplies, and so on —that margin is now down to 7·4 per cent. Obviously, on that basis, if the weather conditions at any one point become acute, that 7·4 per cent. will not meet the position.
In order to get this matter quite straight, does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the plans on which he is relying now were made by the previous Administration? [HON. MEMBERS: "And the shortages"] In reply to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's statement that there will be no cuts in electricity or gas investment, but has he at any time contemplated the wisdom of an increase and is he now advising that?
That is a very wide question of which I should need notice. The hon. Member has been very fair in these matters. In our debates some time ago he said that it was easy to ask that supplies should be sufficient for an exceptional winter, but to do that we must accept that we would be faced with the cost. Because of that it is not possible this year to make these 100 per cent. secure.
Owing to the very confused nature of the reply to my Question, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter again at the earliest possible moment.
Power Stations (Cooling Towers)
18 and 19.
asked the Minister of Power (1) if he is satisfied that a 5-inch wall of concrete, with the present system of reinforcement, is adequate to meet the stresses of air movement, having regard to the height to which cooling towers are now being erected at conventional power stations; and if he will make a statement;(2) if he will conduct investigations into the temperature in which concrete was laid in the erection of three cooling towers which blew down in the recent gale in Yorkshire; and if anti-freezing processes were used to ensure fusion of concrete aggregates in low temperatures.
Mr. John Morris
My right hon. Friend is not responsible for the design and methods of construction used by the Central Electricity Generating Board and its contractors in constructing power stations. However, the points raised by my hon. Friend will doubtless be engaging the attention of the Committee of Inquiry which has been set up by the Board to inquire into the collapse of cooling towers at Ferrybridge Power Station.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that reply, but I should like to draw his attention to the fact that a great number of conversations are taking place—
The hon. Member must put this in the form of a question.
Is my hon. Friend aware that a great number of conversations are taking place in my constituency where many people are employed on this power station, that these towers were erected by private enterprise, avoiding certain safeguards which could have been taken, and as a consequence this calamity occurred? It did not lead to any fatalities, but these things can happen and we are asking the Minister to ensure that proper precautions should be taken against the placing of—
Order. The Minister has had enough to answer.
I agree with my hon. Friend that there is great concern about this issue. The terms of reference of the Committee of Inquiry which has been set up by the Board are "to examine the collapse of the cooling towers at Ferry-bridge and to make recommendations" This is a very important matter. In addition to the Committee of Inquiry, two joint working parties are investigating the matter. It is a matter of great concern to the nation and to the Board.
Fuel Policy (White Paper)
asked the Minister of Power what official consultations he has had with the interests concerned on the implementation of the White Paper on a national fuel policy.
Mr. Frederick Lee
I keep in close touch with the interests concerned in the implementation of fuel policy, particularly the fuel industries.
In view of the fact that coal is a national indigenous product, will my right hon. Friend tell the House whether he is satisfied that as much research is being put into the use of coal as into the use of oil?
I can assure my hon. Friend that a very great deal of research is being put into the use of coal. I now have the assistance of a joint research committee of the electricity, gas and coal industries. Despite the fact that at the moment the economics of carbonisation are not as good as they are in oil, that does not mean that we are not doing all this research in the hope of getting a break-through.
Gas And Electricity (Capital Expenditure)
Mr. Wingfield Digby
asked the Minister of Power what capital sum was spent in the last year by the Gas Boards and the Central Electricity Generating Board; and what proportion this represented of total capital expenditure in the public sector.
Mr. Frederick Lee
I would refer the hon. Member to the published Reports and Accounts for 1964–65 of the Gas Council and the Central Electricity Generating Board. Total capital expenditure by the gas and electricity industries was nearly one quarter of capital expenditure by the public sector.
Does not that represent a very big precentage? Is the Minister sure that it is now being spent to the best advantage from the point of view of the nation?
I think it is being spent to the best interests of the nation provided we can get the gear we pay for.
Gas And Electricity (Power Cuts)
Mr. Wingfield Digby
asked the Minister of Power if he will give general directions, in the public interest, to the Gas Council and the Central Electricity Generating Board to take disciplinary action against those responsible for the recent power cuts.
Mr. Frederick Lee
No, Sir. The recent difficulties were not due to the faults of individuals. Gas and electricity staffs made very great efforts to maintain supplies.
Does the Minister think that the public will ever be well served so long as no one is willing to take the blame in the public service?
If that is the case, the hon. Member should address his Front Bench on the subject.
Will my right hon. Friend agree that these are devoted engineers, devoted public servants—[Interruption]—who are doing their public duty in the public interest to avoid the kind of complete shutdown in the public supply system which the country had three years ago?
I join my hon. Friend entirely in this. It is so easy when there is a partial breakdown in supply for what I might call energy illiterates to blame those who are working hard. The energy and efforts of those connected with these Boards are absolutely remarkable.
Order. It is against the courtesies of the House for an hon. Member to step between whoever is speaking and the Chair if that can be avoided.
Mr. Hugh Jenkins
I beg to apologise to you, Mr. Speaker.
Electricity Supplies (Import From Western Germany)
Mr. Gresham Cooke
asked the Minister of Power whether he will issue a general direction, in the public interest, to the Central Electricity Generating Board to import electrical power from West Germany to overcome shortages in this country, having regard to the earlier hour of factory closing in Germany compared with this country in winter.
Mr. Frederick Lee
Arrangements for the exchange of power with Western Germany would be very costly and present severe technical difficulties. They could not be made in time to help overcome the present shortage of plant in this country.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
As German factories close at 4 p.m. our time, would it not be easy to lay a cable across the North Sea and to pump in electricity from the Continent as we do from France and so have a supply of electricity at the moment when our peak load is on?
I have looked closely at this, but we could not possibly arrange for it to be done in advance of catching up on the supply we have been discussing this afternoon. We are closely connected with France, and have been obtaining power from there as late as last night, to my knowledge. I can assure the hon. Member that although I have looked at the situation in the light of the present position, this would not help.
Coal (Export To Eastern Europe)
Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Minister of Power if he will give a general direction, in the public interest, to the National Coal Board to take energetic steps to increase the volume of coal exports to countries of Eastern Europe.
Mr. John Morris
No, Sir. The export of coal is a commercial matter for the National Coal Board. I understand that the Board is making energetic efforts to increase sales wherever satisfactory opportunities can be found.
Fuel And Power Industries (Co-Ordination)
asked the Minister of Power if he will issue general directions to the nationalised fuel and power industries so as to bring about greater coordination between them.
Mr. Frederick Lee
I promote coordination between the nationalised fuel and power industries through discussion in my Co-ordinating Committee and in other ways. No occasion has arisen for the issue of a direction.
Would not my right hon. Friend agree that much of the existing competition between these nationalised industries is expensive, wasteful and unnecessary? Therefore, would he look at this problem again and consider the possibility of strengthening the co-ordinating functions of the Energy Advisory Council or alternatively setting up a new national power board under his own chairmanship?
As I said in the White Paper, the scope for further co-operation will be kept under review. We are indeed doing a great deal now. I have set up machinery by which there are regular meetings under my chairmanship between the chairmen of these various boards and, in the wider context, there is the Energy Advisory Council itself. However, I do not look upon this as the end of the story. Rather, it is the beginning of it.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if he were to follow the advice given by his hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Park), it would be tantamount to telling the customer to take what he is given and like it? Will he bear in mind that by far the best guarantee of satisfaction to the customer, indeed the only one, is competition between these industries?
I think that where there are nationalised industries there is more to it than competition. The very basis upon which the Statutes were drawn presupposes some competition between them. Because of the overriding responsibility, to the nation, it is right and proper that the Government should supervise them.
Gas (Maximum Retail Prices)
asked the Minister of Power if he will take steps to give the Gas Boards the right to check the setting of sub-meters, and to empower the Boards to take the necessary legal action against landlords who overcharge sub-tenants for the use of gas, and thus remove the onus of such action from sub-consumers.
Mr. John Morris
Maximum resale prices for gas have been fixed for some years, but there has been little evidence of overcharging. Before considering the introduction of further legislation, my right hon. Friend would need to be convinced that the present arrangements were not working satisfactorily.
Is my hon. Friend aware that on numerous occasions in recent months the chairmen of consultative councils have in fact provided the Minister with adequate evidence that this over-charging goes on and that there are many thousands of people throughout the country who are being exploited by rotten landlords who find that this is a cheap method of adding some extras to their rent? Does not my hon. Friend consider that this is adequate evidence to justify taking some action now, as has been done in the case of electricity?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I understand that he is dealing with gas. If he has any particulars, my right hon. Friend and myself will be most grateful to receive them. If consumers do not send them to us, they may send them to the consultative councils. I assure my hon. Friend that if action is needed it will be taken.
National Coal Board (Capital Investment Programme)
Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Minister of Power to what extent the capital investment programme of the National Coal Board is geared to the 1970 target as specified in the National Plan.
Mr. Frederick Lee
I would refer my hon. Friend to paragraph 13 of the White Paper on the Finances of the Coal Industry.
In view of the fact that last year £90 million was invested in the coal industry, does not my right hon. Friend think that in the national interest maximum productivity should be obtained even if that means exceeding the £90 million?
I certainly think the maximum should be obtained. No target is fixed in the White Paper. This is merely an assessment and, if the coal industry can beat it, the best of British luck to it.
Central Heating Installations (Solid Fuel)
asked the Minister of Power if he will issue a general direction, in the public interest, to the National Coal Board to offer concessions to private consumers wishing to install central heating appliances using solid fuels.
Mr. John Morris
No, Sir. The Board already has a scheme to provide deferred payment facilities for the purchase of solid fuel appliances.
Will my hon. Friend ask the National Coal Board to set up central manufacturing facilities for the production of solid fuel central heating appliances for district heating on municipil housing estates?
I am sure that if that suggestion is within the powers of the Board, the Board will bear it in mind. Since 1960, under the present scheme loans of over £25 million have been made for the kind of heating referred to in my Answer.
Atlantic Nuclear Force
asked the Prime Minister whether the public statement made by the Foreign Secretary in New York on 7th October at a Press conference about the Atlantic Nuclear Force represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
In that case is it not regrettable that in the House yesterday the Foreign Secretary appeared to reaffirm his support for the A.N.F.? Is is not clear that there are better ways than this for arranging for a German share in nuclear matters? Will not the Government now come out clearly and drop the proposal?
The Prime Minister
We have not heard from the Opposition what better way; they have of arranging this matter. The hon. Gentleman said that there are better ways. We consider the A.N.F. to be the best way of dealing with this problem and so far half the party opposite has been supporting the M.L.F. and half has been against it. I am not sure what better way the hon. Gentleman has in mind.
Is not the best way of obtaining parity with the Germans for neither of us to have it? Have the Americans in fact offered to bring about this arrangement by purchasing the Polaris submarines from us, and would not this be an admirable export?
The Prime Minister
There has not been this proposition from the American Government, although I am aware of the Press reports to the effect that this may be coming up for discussion. The House will recognise that there has been no opportunity yet within the alliance to discuss the problems of A.N.F. and M.L.F. because of the long delay owing to the German elections,
Q2 and Q3.
Mr. G. Campbell
asked the Prime Minister (1) why Her Majesty's Government did not table the draft of a treaty on non-dissemination of nuclear weapons at Geneva during the Recess as he foreshadowed in a statement in the House of Commons on 27th July;(2) why Her Majesty's Government did not join the United States Government in sponsoring the draft treaty on non-dissemination of nuclear weapons tabled at Geneva by the United States of America on 17th August.
The Prime Minister
We did not table the United Kingdom draft non-dissemination treaty at Geneva because it went further than the views of some of our allies on the question of the control of nuclear weapons. Much of the United States draft treaty was based on the text prepared by the United Kingdom, and while giving it our general support, we made it clear that we would like to see it amended in certain respects. For this reason, we could not join in sponsoring it.
Why was the disagreement with the Americans discovered only at the last moment when the Geneva Conference was reassembling, and what were the Government and the Minister for Disarmament doing in the months beforehand? Can the Prime Minister say whether the new initiative in disarmament described in the Labour Party's manifesto as coming first and foremost has yet taken place?
The Prime Minister
What we were doing all these months was to try to reach agreement with the Americans. Again there were difficulties because of the German elections. The position is that we do not support the idea of a separate independent European nuclear deterrent. This was the point at issue both between ourselves and the United States and between ourselves and the Germans.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the kind of proposals put forward by the Minister for Disarmament have received widespread support and are regarded as by far the most practicable proposals on this subject which have recently been put forward by any one of the major Powers? Will my right hon. Friend give further support to this policy so that we see that we get a wider East-West agreement before we create any barriers to that agreement by internal arrangements?
The Prime Minister
I believe that as time goes on we shall find more and more support for the propositions put forward by my noble Friend. I hope that as a result of discussions within the alliance we may get widespread support for it within the alliance itself.
Scotland (Economic Planning)
asked the Prime Minister what are the respective responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and the Secretary of State for Scotland for economic planning in Scotland.
The Prime Minister
I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave to a Question by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) on 1st February.
Is the Prime Minister aware that we have been told that local authority borrowing in Scotland has been slashed by one-third? Yet the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs appears to believe that Scotland has been unaffected by the consequences of the Government's mishandling of our affairs? Would he take steps to ensure that the First Secretary of State knows what is being done in the Government's name in Scotland?
The Prime Minister
I think my right hon. Friend certainly knows who was responsible for the mishandling of the nation's affairs. The hon. Gentleman is free at any time to put questions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on the precise effects of the local government position there.
Is not the Prime Minister aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave specific undertakings that development districts, of which the central belt of Scotland is one, would be exempted from the reductions in capital expenditure, and we as a Government gave a similar undertaking when the Scottish White Paper was published and implemented? Yet now local authority borrowing has been slashed by one-third. How can the Prime Minister reconcile these two things?
The Prime Minister
I think that when the right hon. Gentleman comes to study what has actually happened there—we are prepared to make a very much fuller statement in view of what he has said—he will find that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement has been carried out.
asked the Prime Minister what representations he has received on the establishment of a Royal Commission on the needs of the pre-school child; and what decision he has reached.
The Prime Minister
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a growing body of opinion among people working in education, health and social affairs that the under-fives are the most dispossessed and deprived section of the community? Would he indicate to the House that he is consulting with his colleagues with responsibility in these departments with a view to having a sympathetic look at the proposal?
The Prime Minister
I agree that there is certainly a problem here, and the Central Advisory Council for Education, the one dealing with England, is at present considering all aspects of primary education, including the educational needs of children under five.
asked the Prime Minister what percentage increase the estimated current cost per year of Ministerial salaries represents over the year 1963; and whether he will now reduce the size of the Administration.
The Prime Minister
Eighty-eight per cent., Sir; largely due to the decisions reached following the recommendations 4at the Lawrence Committee appointed by my predecessor.The Answer to the last part of the Question is "No. Sir".
Would not the Prime Minister agree that one of the main reasons why the cost of living has gone u so fast in the last year is the fact that there has been very little coordination between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Secretary of Slate? Should we not have the two Departments amalgamated so that coordination between them can be achieved?
The Prime Minister
I thought that the Question related to Ministerial salaries. The point that I was trying to make was that the increase in Ministerial salaries about which the hon. Gentleman asks would have been not 88 per cent. but well over 100 per cent., even on the size of the previous Administration, if we had carried out in full the Report of the Committee which was appointed by the previous Government.
Department Of Economic Affairs And Ministry Of Overseas Development
asked the Prime Minister, in view of the need to reconcile the objectives of the National Plan and the need to expand the volume of overseas aid, if he will take steps to coordinate the activities of the Department of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Overseas Development.
The Prime Minister
The work of these two Departments is already co-ordinated.
Is the Prime Minister aware that the co-ordination so far achieved has been the specifying and quantifying of substantial advances for G.N.P. in this country and for personal consumption but no specification or quantification for the growth of overseas aid? Will he give a firm undertaking that the volume of aid will increase at least as much as the 21 per cent. specified for personal consumption?
The Prime Minister
In the programme there is provision for overseas aid, but, as to looking five years ahead, we have to watch the position of overseas aid because of growth in commitments some of which have to be met. That is why we have yet reached no final decision about what the position will he by 1970. We are trying to ensure that what we can afford for overseas aid is effectively spent in relation to development programmes in other countries.
Kenya (European Farmers)
asked the Prime Minister what official communications he has had with the President of Kenya about the future of the European mixed farmers in Kenya.
The Prime Minister
Exchanges between myself and other Heads of Government are confidential.
Is the Prime Minister aware that the recently agreed loan to the Government of Kenya means a reduction in land transfer from Europeans to Africans from an annual rate of about 500,000 acres to 100,000 acres? Is he aware that there is some real anxiety about the security of European farmers and about their ability to get reasonable prices for their land as a result of the decision, and will he watch the situation carefully?
The Prime Minister
Yes, Sir; I am aware of the anxiety referred to. It is a fact that I have had discussions with the President of Kenya. My right hon. Friend made a statement about this in the House last week, and has made a further statement which has been placed in the Library, and no doubt the hon. Gentleman will be studying it.
Mr. George Y. Mackie
Is the Prime Minister aware that 100,000 acres a year will in no way satisfy the land hunger existing among the African population? As Kenya is an example to other areas of Africa, would he not consider again intervening personally in order to raise the acreage to at least 200,000, which I understand is the figure that the Kenya Government would like to see?
The Prime Minister
We are in touch with the Government of Kenya, but the general responsibility for the allocation of land must lie with them. The House will have noticed the considerable satisfaction—despite the anxieties—expressed by Europeans in Kenya, of which they have recently sent a statement to another part of Africa.
European Economic Community
asked the Prime Minister if, at the earliest opportunity and in consultation with Great Britain's partners in the European Free Trade Association, he will seek to further the concept of European unity, and to prevent further damage to that concept and to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, by means of a new British initiative towards the European Economic Community.
The Prime Minister
The European Free Trade Association Ministerial Council at its meeting last month reaffirmed the initiative Her Majesty's Government took at the Vienna meeting, and is pressing the community for discussions aimed at ending the economic division of Western Europe.
While welcoming that reply, may I ask the Prime Minister whether it is not time that a further initiative was taken by Her Majesty's Government, because the 19th-century policies of the French President are placing the European Economic Community, and, indeed, possibly N.A.T.O., in jeopardy? Is it not time for the British Government to drop their policy of passivity and take the initiative?
The Prime Minister
I am not sure that immediately after the return of the Leader of the Opposition from Paris—we all welcome him back—we should have these phrases of criticism of the French President in that form. We have on both sides of the House taken the view that it is not for us to intervene in the dis- agreement within the Community, taking one side or the other. All of us have expressed, as the right hon. Gentleman did yesterday, our deep concern and also our very sincere hope that the difficulties will be overcome as soon as possible.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he is prepared to contemplate an initiative on his part which is less hamstrung with a lot of conditions than the one which he described previously?
The Prime Minister
We took an initiative at Vienna, and we are now awaiting the response from the Community. We fully understand that, because of difficulties in the Community, it is difficult for it at this stage to respond to our initiative.
Southern Rhodesia (Governor And Lady Gibbs)
Mr. Dan Jones
asked the Prime Minister if he will send to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, a token force of the Brigade of Guards to protect the lives of the Governor and Lady Gibbs for so long as they remain in that country as the Queen's personal representatives under present circumstances.
The Prime Minister
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his Answer will cause a good deal of serious misgiving to many people in this country? Is he further aware that the situation with regard to the Governor in Rhodesia is such that if anything happened to him a very serious misgiving would arise in this country, and even more so in Africa, that it might have been due to the Smith regime's being remiss? Will not my right hon. Friend think this out again?
The Prime Minister
I certainly agree with what my hon. Friend said about concern for the Governor—the whole House will agree, too—but when there were threatening letters Mr. Smith himself, I think, restored the guard to ensure that nothing happened to the Governor. All I am concerned to say is that what my hon. Friend has in mind is not the right way to deal with the matter.
Mr. Philip Noel-Baker
asked the Prime Minister, in pursuance of his initiative to seek peace in Vietnam, what consultations he has had with President Johnson about the offers made by the Government of North Vietnam to start discussions about the ending of the war in Vietnam.
The Prime Minister
We are in constant touch with the United States Administration at all levels but we have not ye: had from the North Vietnamese authorities any clear sign of willingness to negotiate.
Several Hon. Members
Mr. Philip Noel-Baker.
In view of the startling admissions made last week by the State Department, and of the appalling savagery of the methods used by both sides in the war in Vietnam, will my right hon. Friend consider whether he and his colleagues in the Commonwealth Peace Mission could not now attempt to secure in the General Assembly of the United Nations a world consensus about the conditions on which discussions could begin for a cease-fire and a negotiated settlement of the war?
The Prime Minister
I certainly agree that the Vietnamese fighting is not a laughing matter, as may be thought on the benches opposite. With regard to what my right hon. Friend referred to—an attempt to get a settlement—this was, in fact, in September, 1964, and I heard about it afterwards. It is the aim of the Government of this country to get people round a table, and I think that we began to get some success, from April onwards at any rate, in getting American willingness to go there. Finally, with regard to his suggestion, I am in touch with other members of the Commonwealth Peace Mission. The whole matter has been raised again very recently as a result of my visit to Africa, and, also, I hope that I shall be in touch with the President of the United States before too long. But I do not believe that the right place at which to raise this at the moment is either the Security Council or the General Assembly, for reasons which my right hon. Friend will recognise.
As we now know, in May the French Government passed on the offer from Hanoi to negotiate provided only that the Americans withdrew their troops. Can the Prime Minister say what it was which led him to make his proposals in June, when the Commonwealth Peace Mission stood no chance of success at all?
The Prime Minister
There is a great deal of doubt about the message from the French Government, and I do not accept the summary of it as stated by the noble Lord. In June we took our initiative representing the whole Commonwealth, every point of view on the Vietnam issue, but it was clear in all that followed that we got no response at all from Hanoi to a proposition, certainly not on the lines mentioned by the noble Lord.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what conditions, if any, were attached to this offer of negotiations by Hanoi? In view of his recent discovery that some approach was made, does the Prime Minister consider that any fresh negotiation by Her Majesty's Government is worth while at the present time?
The Prime Minister
This is not a recent discovery. I heard a long time ago about the initiative taken by Hanoi in September, 1964, although there was no reason to suppose that it looked, at that time, like solving the problem. I have not been given any information by any Government with whom we are in touch suggesting that there was any reasonable offer by Hanoi. Our task must be to probe continuously to see if there is any chance of a willingness, even a conditional willingness, to come to the conference table.
Following the revelations we have had in relation to the United States Government, will my right hon. Friend impress upon that Government that this country will not accept any extension of the war into North Vietnam or the bombing of Haiphong or any of these other places?
The Prime Minister
I am not accepting any responsibility for what happened before October, 1964. The revelations my hon. Friend referred to were made in September, 1964. Our task earlier this year was to try to bring about negotiations through the Commonwealth Peace Mission. The speech by President Johnson in Baltimore in May made clear the United States Government's willingness to negotiate and it has since been elaborated on. If we could get a similar willingness from Hanoi there might me more hope of getting negotiations.
Order. The Prime Minister—statement.
May I ask the Prime Minister—
Order. I do not think that the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) heard me. Question Time is over. I called the Prime Minister to make a statement.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and arising out of the exchanges yesterday, I should like to make a statement on the Rhodesian situation following the resolution passed by the Security Council on 20th November.The House will recall the circumstances in which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary went to New York. He had to negotiate and debate against a background of almost overwhelming demand for the use of collective military force, and it was the desire of the whole House, too, that he should assert the British responsibility for Rhodesia, while seeking the fullest support for effective measures to bring Rhodesia back to constitutional rule. I believe my right hon. Friend had a great success in what he set out to do, not least because he was able to claim the full support of Parliament and the country. It became clear that the original British resolution would not have secured a majority and we insisted that the opposing resolution, supported by 36 African States, was unacceptable. In the event, a compromise resolution which, with the explanation made by my noble Friend Lord Caradon, last Saturday, was acceptable to us, was passed by ten votes to none, France abstaining. The text of the resolution, Lord Caradon's statement, the earlier resolutions and the speeches of my right hon. Friend have been—are being—placed in the Library. There are three things to which I would draw attention—the question of Chapter 7 wording, the reference in the resolution to the 1961 Constitution and the question of trade relations and an oil embargo. On the wording of the resolution, Lord Caradon made it clear that, with regard to the operative paragraph one, we do not regard it as falling under Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations. Now I turn to paragraph 7 of the resolution, which is one that calls upon the United Kingdom Government, as the working of the 1961 Constitution has broken down, to take immediate measures in order to allow the people of Rhodesia to determine their own future, consistent with the objectives of General Assembly Resolution 1514 (xv). I cannot see any difficulty here. Manifestly the 1961 Constitution has broken down. In so far as Mr. Smith and his colleagues purport to be a Government, they have replaced it by an entirely new so-called Constitution. But the House must accept that the Constitution had in fact already broken down as a result of the ordinances and decrees signed on 10th November, which amounted to the destruction of all safeguards for the rule of law, for human rights in the 1961 Constitution and earlier legislation. This certainly does not mean we have abrogated it. It remains the law of Rhodesia, together with the new laws made last week under the powers created by the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965. While we have power to revoke or amend sections of that Constitution, we have said we have no present intention of revoking it as a whole, and I cannot at this stage foresee circumstances in which we would do so. I will come to its rôle in the re-settlement period in a moment. With reference to paragraph 8 of the Security Council resolution, on 12th November, I said:
Our position was explained by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary yesterday. We are committed to doing what is in our power to implementing this resolution. But although we insist this remains a British responsibility we shall not follow a unilateral policy. For this reason, as my right hon. Friend said, we shall take counsel with other Governments on the best methods to pursue. For one thing, unilateral action on oar part under the resolution could not be effective, if other nations were to fill any gap we created. So far as oil is concerned, there are many technical and economic factors to be examined if an oil sanction is to be made effective. I will, of course, make a further statement to the House when I am in a position to do so. The same considerations apply in the case of other goods entering into Rhodesian trade. The test to be applied, as I explained to the House on 12th November, is the effectiveness of the measures to be applied as a means of contributing to the return of Rhodesia to constitutional methods of Government. For the reasons I then explained, this issue cannot be burked. The measures must not be vindictive, but they must be effective if we are to continue to discharge our continuing responsibility for Rhodesia, and not have that responsibility taken out of our hands, by others, and possibly by methods which would involve lasting damage for Rhodesia, and indeed far beyond Rhodesia. In judging the effectiveness and the rightness of any measures we propose to the House, I hope hon. Members and right hon. Members will recognise that action which is speedily effective will do less lasting damage to Rhodesia's economy, and to the possibility of a reasonable settlement, than pressures which are long drawn out and inflict a continuing agony on Rhodesia. I hope the House will recognise, too, that while we must continue to assert our special and continuing responsibility, this is a matter of world concern. What is at stake here is the future of our multi-racial Commonwealth, what is at stake—has been at stake—is the possibility of our virtual isolation at the United Nations. What is at stake, too, is whether the Afro-Asian bloc will continue in a substantially neutralist posture, or will be attracted by the pressures from other nations—not least China—who are in a position to turn the Rhodesian situation to their advantage. Finally, I repeat our aims for Rhodesia. They are as speedily as possible to turn Rhodesia back into constitutional channels, and to do this constructively, without recrimination. When the Governor is able to report that the people of Rhodesia are willing and able to work on constitutional paths, we are prepared to work together with their leaders to make a new start. For this purpose, the 1961 Constitution remains in being, though the House will realise the need for those amendments which are required to prevent its perversion and misuse, such as we have seen in the last fortnight, and those amendments, too, which are needed to give effect to the five principles to which all parties in this House have subscribed."We shall certainly have to review the situation in the light of the discussions in the United Nations and elsewhere, because in our view it is important that, whatever measures are taken, they will fall a long way short of some of the measures which may be urged in the United Nations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 635.]
Is the Prime Minister aware that we are labouring under two disadvantages, to which I would draw his attention? First, we had his statement only at the last minute and, although we were able to make allowances for that while negotiations were going on, I remind him that the United Nations resolution was passed three days ago. The fact that we received a statement so late makes it difficult to have proper consultation.Again, I think the right hon. Gentleman said that Lord Caradon's speeches and reservations are in the Library, but they are not and, therefore, we have been unable to ascertain what reservations Lord Caradon made. As the Prime Minister said, this is not a Chapter 7 resolution. By that, does he mean that it is not mandatory on countries? If so, why did the Foreign Secretary say yesterday that the Government are implementing the resolution? Secondly, it is not only a question of the resolution saying that the Constitution has broken down, but also committing the British Government to the peoples of Rhodesia themselves settling a future constitution as the next stage. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the British Government will not go back on the 1961 Constitution or any of the offers made by the right hon. Gentleman during the next negotiations? Thirdly, on the question of a trade embargo, will the Prime Minister state clearly whether, one way or the other, the British Government intend now to impose a complete trade embargo, including oil, for which the resolution calls, or only to impose it if all other members of the United Nations do the same thing?
The Prime Minister
First, on the question of the time of the statement reaching the right hon. Gentleman, I will make inquiries, because it left my hands in time to reach him for 3.15 p.m., which is a great deal earlier than we ever got statements. I can remember very many absolutely crucial statements arriving at 3.25 p.m. or 3.30 p.m. I certainly intended that the right hon. Gentleman should have plenty of time with this statement, according to the usual practice.I certainly regret it if the papers to which I referred are not already in the Library. I have given instructions for them to be there and I will see about it. I would be prepared to consider whether we should not now publish the whole lot as a White Paper so that all hon. Members can get them, because they may want more than one copy. With regard to the question of Chapter 7, our interpretation is that the wording, because it was a compromise, could be interpreted as something between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman says, that we do not regard it as a Chapter 7. We do not regard it as mandatory, but in all the circumstances, and I have explained the background, we voted for it with the reservations that I have mentioned. It is for that reason that my right hon. Friend made his statement yesterday. Secondly, with regard to paragraph 7, about the 1961 Constitution and the terms for allowing the peoples of Rhodesia to decide their own future, again Lord Caradon specifically reserved one word there. That was the word "immediate", because all along we have made it plain, we did throughout the negotiations, and all parties have done so in this House, that while guaranteed and unimpeded progress to majority rule is the policy of all of us, we do not believe that this could be immediate. For that reason Lord Caradon made that exception. Certainly all of us are committed, and were in the negotiations, to an early opportunity for the Rhodesian people to pronounce on their own future. That was the reason for the suggested referendum, that was the reason for the Royal Commission. I did not think that there need be any difficulty about that. With regard to trade, I have said that we are going to study all aspects of trade and oil and make another statement to the House. I certainly agree with one point made by the right hon. Gentleman—we are not going in for a trade embargo or an oil embargo on our own. This would make an utter nonsense of the situation, which has to be properly studied. As everyone realises, the oil embargo is bristling with difficulties if it is going to be effective. Even if there were fairly general support for it, there is the position of Zambia to be considered, along with other countries. These matters will have to be very carefully studied, and while we must insist that whatever sanctions are applied must be effective, we do not want those which are damaging and ineffective, any more than we want to create damage or resort to ineffectiveness. It is very important that in this we proceed only in agreement with others principally concerned.
Can the Prime Minister say whether his statement means that although he may ultimately have to find out from other nations whether they are to join in the embargo, Her Majesty's Government are in favour of such an embargo on oil, and possibly on other trade, too, and that they are now discussing with other nations whether they will join in such an embargo?
The Prime Minister
I assume that the other countries will feel that it is their duty to make effective, as far as it lies within their power, the wishes expressed in the United Nations resolution. I repeat that if we fail to do this we are going to find a much uglier situation, with military force being used, which none of us could control. To this extent, therefore, we are going to sit down with them to see whether an effective embargo can be worked out that will not do lasting damage but which will be effective in getting a settlement in Rhodesia. We are not going to do it on our own.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Can we get this clear from the Prime Minister? I think the House understood him to say only a few weeks ago that the Government were not in favour of coercive economic action which would bring chaos to the economy of Rhodesia and, therefore, drive the Rhodesians, willy-nilly, into the hands of South Africa. Can he make it absolutely clear that this is still the Government's position?
The Prime Minister
I have said repeatedly, and the House has to face up to this question, that whatever measures we take they must be effective. The quicker they are the less lasting damage there will be. What I have said is that we reject the idea of military intervention. We will examine any other measures. Tobacco is the first, and there are others. We will certainly examine any measures necessary for a quick solution of the problem in Rhodesia. That includes an oil embargo.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the resolution passed by the United Nations is widely welcomed in this country? [Interruption.] Secondly, would he not agree with me that, if unilateral action is not taken, when action is agreed the most effective method of stopping oil going to Rhodesia will be by a naval and military blockade?
The Prime Minister
As to the resolution being widely welcomed, all I can is that it was the best that we could get after very hard work by my right hon. Friend, and it might have been a good deal worse. So far as oil is concerned, the Government of Iran have already proceeded to act under the terms of the resolution, and I imagine that a number of other oil-producing countries will do so. I understand that there have been statements by various oil companies in different parts of the world. I am quite sure that if this is an applicable embargo, and I would need a lot of satisfying on the technical and economic consequences of this embargo, if this is applicable and effective—
Let us have some straight talk.
The Prime Minister
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman wants me to say that we will introduce an oil embargo tomorrow, or whether he wants me to say that we are examining this properly, which any sane and rational Government would do in the light of all the facts.
Mr. J. Amery
Will the Prime Minister recall that, on the 11th November, he said:
[An HON. MEMBER: "What do you want to do then?"] Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that we gave our support to the Enabling Bill on the strength of this assurance, and the Government's acceptance of the United Nations resolution seems to go clean counter to the assurance which he gave to the House on Armistice Day? He cannot expect in these circumstances much further support from this side of the House?"…we do not contemplate … any national action, and, may I say, any international action, for the purpose of coercing even the illegal Government of Rhodesia into a constitutional posture."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11 th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 360–1.]
The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman was speaking a long way below the Gangway and will, no doubt, decide for himself how far he can speak for his side of the House. I can at any rate tell him that he will not get three cheers from us. The statement I made, and I have looked it up because it was quoted yesterday, was against the background of military action, military action proposed whether by the United Nations or in any other way. In the debate on the 12th, when we had a very full discussion on this question, I made it clear that while the measures being taken under the Act last week were all that we envisaged at that time, we should need to reconsider the situation, first, in relation to what Mr. Smith's regime did, and, secondly, in relation to the discussions at the United Nations. This we are in process of doing.
Mr. Michael Foot
Does not the Prime Minister think that a more important question than satisfying the Official Opposition, which appears to be attempting to wriggle out of its responsibilities, is how we are to discharge British responsibilities in Rhodesia, in particular the protection of human rights there? Will he further say what response the British Government propose to make to the appeals which have been made in the past week by President Kaunda of Zambia?
The Prime Minister
I do not agree with the opening words of my hon. Friend, because I am sure that a large number of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are looking at this problem, as we have to do, in a world setting out against the background of all the dangers which are faced. I do not think that there can be anyone in this House who will readily see, or want to see, the break-up of the Commonwealth or further Chinese penetration of the Afro-Asian bloc.With regard to the question of human rights, I say—and I am sure the House will agree—that in the light of our experience of the twisting and misuse of the 1961 Constitution, it will be necessary in the future to strengthen the 1961 Constitution in respect of human rights. For example, the Constitutional Council of Rhodesia, whom I met, are anxious to see that their powers are increased. They are much too limited in the matter of human rights at the present time. In regard to the messages from President Kaunda, of which the House will have some idea, and also of the dangers lying behind them, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald is now in Lusaka and is discussing these questions with President Kaunda.
Will the Prime Minister clarify the methods taken to assert British responsibility for Rhodesia? While all Governments have been willing to give information on Rhodesia to the United Nations, can the Prime Minister explain why we did not participate in any vote on resolutions concerning Rhodesia before U.D.I. but that after U.D.I. we did? Can the right hon. Gentleman explain what appears to be an inconsistency, in that on 12th October Sir Roger Jackling, in speaking on a resolution which asked Britain to prevent U.D.I., said:
"My Government has reservations concerning the competence of the United Nations in the question of Rhodesia. For this reason, my delegation will not participate in the vote."
The Prime Minister
I should have thought that the answer was obvious. We have throughout—both Governments—abstained on votes of this kind in the past because we have said that it was an internal matter owing to the fact that under the Convention and under its Constitution Rhodesia is a self-governing country. This position was entirely changed, however, by the illegal declaraation of independence. It is the so-called Rhodesian Government who have torn up that Constitution and altered the whole situation.I warned Mr. Smith—I had to speak in pretty strong terms, as will be seen from the published documents—that whatever we had done in defending Rhodesia in the past could not be the position after an illegal declaration of independence. As I have said, and I do not think that anybody will deny, once this had arisen, with the threat of military invasion from other parts of Africa, this must be a matter of world concern. We still regard it as our responsibility, but we cannot go on as though the rest of the world and of Africa did not exist.
Mr. Dan Jones
Is the Prime Minister aware of the statements that came from Caxton Hall last night? Is he further aware that these statements came from responsible politicians belonging to a responsible political party? Since those observations attempt to support a treasonable Government, do not those statements constitute treason in themselves?
The Prime Minister
No, Sir. I have seen the statements. They should be treated with the contempt which they deserve. I do not believe that they came from responsible politicians. They came from irresponsible members of a responsible party. The only danger about them is the habit which has been formed in Rhodesia of believing that one or other hon. Members who make a speech of that kind speak for Britain or for their own party. I am sure that they do not.
Mr. Ronald Bell
Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that these are matters of domestic jurisdiction, whether or not they are matters of international concern, whether or not one regards Southern Rhodesia as independent or as dependent upon Britain? That being so, as the Government have recognised since the illegal declaration, is it not a fact that Article 2(7) of the Charter makes it perfectly clear that the United Nations has no competence in this matter?Why, therefore, did the Government take this matter to the United Nations? What is the alleged need for anticipating action by other people in the United Nations? Since Article 2(7) governs Chapter 7 of the Charter as well as the other Chapters, what is all this talk about whether it comes under Chapter 7?
The Prime Minister
I explained this in answer to a perfectly reasonable question put by the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir). The hon. Member must not go through this whole problem with his head buried in the sand. We assert that this is our responsibility. For that reason, it was we who took it to the United Nations to prevent other people doing so. The hon. Member must know perfectly well that, whatever we had done in the Security Council, the matter would have been transferred to the Assembly and there would have been no doubt whatever of the overwhelming desire of members of the Assembly, as had been shown only a week before the illegal declaration, for the use of military force. We believe that this would have been a very dangerous course of action.I am not sure how hon. Members opposite, with all their legalism about subsections of the kind that have just been quoted by the hon. Member, would have stopped the bloodshed that could have occurred if my right hon. Friend had not taken the action he did.
Further to the supplementary question of my noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), will not the Prime Minister recall that he himself told the House that, as a result of the action in Rhodesia and the Enabling Bill, Rhodesia had become to an even greater extent the responsibility only of the British Government, and therefore the explanation which the Prime Minister has given of the reason why the Government did not abstain—[Interruption.]—is certainly not consistent with what he said before?Secondly, the Prime Minister stated, also in the debate, that in his view and that of the Government the existing measures which they were taking would be effective. Therefore, anything further to which the right hon. Gentleman agrees is not, in the judgment of the British Government, necessary but is being forced upon them by other Governments. Thirdly, will the Prime Minister recognise that the last part of his statement about the future position on which those who wish to return to constitu- tional normality in Rhodesia can work is still far from clear and that it is becoming urgently necessary to have a detailed statement from the Government on this point?
The Prime Minister
It is true, as I said, that we are responsible for Rhodesia, and I said that there is a very special responsibility now in that the Government of Rhodesia legally resides in this country through the Governor. It ought not, however, to be for me to explain to the right hon. Gentleman the difference between our legal responsibility for Rhodesia and the fact that, as I have said, this is a matter for world concern. It is easy for the right hon. Gentleman to deplore that it is a matter for world concern, but he has to answer the question whether he is prepared to see the Commonwealth break up on this issue. This is one of the questions that the right hon. Gentleman must face, and I hope that he will. [HON. MEMBERS: "You answer it."] I am dealing with the point made by the right hon. Gentleman, in which he tried to suggest that I should be concerned—[Interruption.]
Order. Bursts of anger and emotion are all right collectively. I hope that hon. Members who shout individually across from either side realise that they do no good to whatever the cause in which they believe.
The Prime Minister
I was explaining why, although we say that we have a special responsibility for Rhodesia, we cannot ignore world opinion. It would be perfectly easy to do so and to stand upon the constitutional doctrine. The result would be bloodshed in Rhodesia and perhaps throughout the whole of Africa. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] No right hon. Member has the right in this House to discount the importance of this.With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's question about discussions with the people of Rhodesia to get a new Constitution. I agree with him that this is very important. I agree with him about the need to spell this out further as we go along, and I hope that we shall be able to do so. The position here, however, is that as soon as the people of Rhodesia are prepared to return to constitutional paths, as soon as the Governor feels that there is an opportunity of, perhaps, forming a Government among those who will act in a constitutional manner, we would want to deal with those people, without any recrimination or any rancour about the past, on the basis of a resettlement in Rhodesia, starting from the 1961 Constitution with such amendments as, I think, the whole House would agree to be necessary to give effect to the five principles, leading up, I would hope, as quickly as possible to free elections in Rhodesia and then a discussion as to how we can give effect to the question of gradual and unimpeded progress to majority rule. What is important to say here—and I think that the right hon. Gentleman has this in mind—is that there are too many people still in Rhodesia who think that the only alternative to this illegal action and all the economic consequences that will follow from it would be majority rule tomorrow or the day after. Repeatedly we have all said, on both sides, that this is not a runner at all, and that Rhodesia is not ready for immediate majority rule. I spent a lot of time in Rhodesia talking to various people from all sections of opinion to discuss a basis on which we can move at the earliest possible moment towards it. But we have to get abundant proof of a willingness to work the Constitution and of racial harmony in Rhodesia before we can proceed to the question of majority rule. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was right to stress that we have to spell this out more.
Several Hon. Members
Order. We have had a good run. We must proceed.
Orders Of The Day
Expiring Laws Continuance Money
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to continue certain expiring laws, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such expenses as may be occasioned by the continuance of section 3 of the Emergency Laws (Repeal) Act 1959 and Part I of, and Schedule 1 to, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, till the end of December, 1966, and of Part VII of the Licensing Act, 1964, till the end of March, 1967, being expenses which under any Act are to be paid out of such moneys.
Resolution agreed to.
Expiring Laws Continuance Bill
Considered in Committee.
[Sir SAMUEL STOREY in the Chair]
Clause 1—(Continuation Of Certain Expiring Enactments)
Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. W. T. Williams (Warrington)
Before we proceed with Clause 2, I should be grateful to learn from the representatives of the Home Office what action they propose to take to extend the provisions of the Licensing Act so far as they relate to licensing planning committees. Originally licensing planning committees were set up in badly bombed areas of the country to provide that unnecessary licences should not be afforded in areas which by reason of bombing could possibly later change their character. The provision was then made, and at the time of making was a very sensible provision, by which before the licensing magistrates themselves considered the question of granting licences in such areas, the licensing committee should be advised by a licensing planning committee that it had considered the possible need of those areas.In the passing years the licensing planning committees in most areas of the country have ceased to have any raison d'etre. The position now is that in some parts of the country, notably Plymouth and London, although these licensing planning committees continue to function, they now hardly function in the way in which it could have been intended that they should function when they were set up. The position, as the Minister and the Home Office know, is that in many of the licensing planning committees the same kind of evidence is received, the same kind of witnesses are heard and the same kind of arguments are deployed as reasons for not granting licences as will be argued in the licensing committees proper. The position, therefore, is that often objectors have two bites at the same cherry, and very often considerable sums of money are spent by those seeking to obtain licences for the sale of liquor, first of all to obtain the consent of the licensing planning committee, only for them to discover that in a later hearing before the licensing magistrates themselves, at the brewster sessions, on the same argument and the same evidence, their application is rejected. I raised this question last year, and I was told by the then Home Secretary that they were aware of the anomalies which arose from the continuance of these committees which are now obsolescent, but that in previous years—and this I readily concede—large numbers of the licensing planning areas had been abandoned and the licensing planning committees no longer met. I was told that it was the intention of the then Government to explore whether these licensing planning areas should not now cease to have relevance to the granting of licences and that it was the Government's intention as quickly as possible to end this system of licensing planning inquiries. I therefore ask whether the Government have had an opportunity to look again at this matter. Will they give us an assurance that this anomaly is to be ended, if not immediately then as quickly as possible, with a return to normality, and that these licensing planning committees, which serve so little useful purpose, will be abandoned.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. George Thomas)
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. W. T. Williams) raised this question last year, as he rightly said. There are 18 of these planning authorities now exercising their powers. The House will know that in July last the Departmental Committee, which had been set up by the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) to consider and report on these war-damaged areas and licensing planning committees, submitted a report to the Minister which was published as a White Paper on 13th July. Its main recommendation is for the continuance of licensing planning in a modified form. This would involve consultation between the licensing justices and the local planning authorities. Licences would be excluded from their scope. Unlike the present licensing machinery, the new licensing system would not be limited to areas of war damage but could be applied to any area of development.Obviously the Government do not want to introduce legislation without first consulting the organisations which are likely to be concerned, and they have asked for time to consider this report. We expect that their views will be received before the end of the year, but, clearly, as my hon. and learned Friend will understand, not in time for any new legislation which might be considered necessary to come into force before the present period of extension expires at the end of March 1966. It is therefore necessary for Part VII of the Act of 1964 to continue in force for another year during which time it is hoped to complete the preparatory work of any new legislation which may be necessary.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule—(Acts Continued Till End Of December 1966)
Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
There are two Amendments on the Order Paper in my name. The first is in page 2, leave out lines 6 and 7, and is designed to omit the reference to the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. The second is to leave out lines 15 and 16 and thereby omit the reference to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962. It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we take the two Amendments together.
I had been warned that a request of this kind might be made to me and I have looked at the debates on similar Amendments to the Bill last year. It seems to me that on that occasion the two debates ran on different lines and each of them involved a number of considerations peculiar to itself. It therefore seems to me that if the Committee seeks to debate the two Amendments together it might run into some confusion. If it were to appear to be the unanimous wish of the Committee to debate the two Amendments together I would not, of course, stand in its way, but if it be the wish of any hon. Member to debate the two Amendments separately, as they always have been debated up to now, I think it would be my duty to call them separately on this occasion also.
Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I regard it as absolutely necessary for these two Amendments to be taken separately.
I do not want to press the point. It was a question only of the convenience of the Committee. The Government themselves have suggested a committee to consider both aliens and Commonwealth immigrants, but, naturally, though I thought that it might facilitate the business of the present Committee, I will not press the matter further.I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 6 and 7. I move this first Amendment very shortly because it has now become a very narrow point. It concerns the way in which we deal with aliens. I was beginning to read the other day A. J. Taylor's provocative account of English history between 1914 and 1945. In the opening paragraph of that book he recalls a happier world where any foreigner could live here without a passport and without even reporting to the police. It is worth reflecting that there was a time in this country when our affairs were conducted in that manner. It appears from the Schedule that our legislation on aliens really emerged in wartime legislation and in particular in Orders passed immediately after the First World War. Anyone who studies it will realise that it smacks somewhat of that atmosphere. As a result, hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have come to the view that it ought to be reformed. I do not think that there is any difference of view about it. I shall argue later on the other Amendment that we should not postpone necessary action in other fields while this goes on, but I am entirely at one with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who has taken a leading part in this matter, that there ought to be a reform. The Government have conceded this, because in the debate on the Address they said specifically that they recognise the force of these arguments, advanced from both sides of the House of Commons, and that they are prepared to set up an independent committee. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton suggested—and this is really the only point left in this discussion—that the inquiry into this legislation might be better done by a Select Commttee of the House rather than by an independent committee set up by the Home Office. This is the only point left on the aliens side. 4.15 p.m. I do not wish to take too pedantic a view. I shall be guided very much by what the Home Secretary says, but I think that there is a good deal of force in the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. This is a matter where the rights and interests of the executive and judiciary tend to overlap and coincide. There are difficult issues of how far one can have an appeal to the judiciary from a decision of the Executive. These matters are well recognised and understood in the Home Office. There is the question of how far a Select Committee is a good instrument for varying legislation. It has one achievement to its credit, namely, the Army Act, which I think most people will agree was rather a success when it was referred to a Select Committee. That Committee examined the matter and an Army Act which has received general approval since then was adopted. On the other hand, a Select Committee would probably take longer than an indedendent committee. I hope that the Home Secretary will agree that in any event the interests and views of Members of the House of Commons, whatever inquiry he sets up, should be taken seriously into account in these matters. Therefore, on this Amendment, which is technical, I would only say—I do not want to lose the Act; I merely want to give an opportunity for debate—that we ought to have an inquiry and that the views of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton should be listened to on the question whether it would be better to have a Select Committee or otherwise.
Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
There is another point which seems to me to be very important and that is the question of the terms of reference of the inquiry body, whichever it may be. At present these are confined to what I should have thought relatively unimportant points on the procedure of appeal against the refusal of admission or against expulsion, but the grounds on which people are expelled seem to be much more important, and there are also the wider questions of naturalisation.
That is a perfectly fair point. A very good article by Mr. Rogerson appeared in Public Law on this subject, which I am sure those of us who are interested have been studying. It is perfectly true that there is the question of grounds for deportation as well, and I think that the terms of reference need looking at. I have no doubt that the Home Office will take into account representations made on that. When we come to the wider issues of the next Amendment there are a great many other things which need looking at as well. At present I am restricting myself narrowly to this Amendment.
Mr. Sydney Silverman
The right hon. M ember for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) has moved an Amendment to the Schedule which has been moved until now by my party ever since 1951 and by hon. Members opposite every year between 1945 and 1951. As far as I remember, today is the first occasion on which we have had the support of the right hon. Member for Monmouth. I am grateful for it, belated though it is.I agree with the right hon. Member that the Government's promise goes a little beyond similar promises made by every other previous Government in the whole of that period. They have all said, "We agree with you in principle". They have all said, "We are considering it." They have all said, "If you will only leave the matter alone we will perhaps consider it during the year and perhaps by next year we will have some improved machinery or legislation." The important thing is that until this year no single step has been taken to implement any of these promises. There have been the same pious, platitudinous expressions of principles. There has been no opposition from any quarter. There has been no disagreement that the position in which we have been all these years is absolutely intolerable to any liberal or freedom-loving man, but there has been absolutely no action whatever to change the situation. This is not true of the present Government. They have promised some action, but I am not clear what action they have promised. They have promised to set up some sort of committee to do something or other. I do not regard that in that form as a satisfaction of the objections and criticisms which have been universal for almost two generations in the House of Commons. It is manifestly wrong that the power of liberty should remain in the arbitrary decision of one man, and it becomes even more oppressive, tyrannical and insupportable when the Home Secretary adopts the position not merely that he has the right to decide but that he is in any practical sense not responsible to this House for what he does or omits to do. He accepts a general responsibility in principle. We can attack him on the Home Office Vote. We can put Questions to him. We can raise Adjournment debates. But so long as the Home Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend or any other, takes the view that he is under no duty to explain to the House the reasons for what he does, he is not being responsible to this House at all and, if that were possible, he makes the position even more intolerable than it was at the beginning. We want to be assured that the Government are now committed to the principle that this shall never again be an arbitrary decision of any single Minister but that it shall be a judicial proceeding, the man against whom the decision is taken being entitled to know what decision has been taken, why it has been taken, what facts are alleged against him, and being given an opportunity to meet those facts instead of having the whole thing surrounded by a conspiratorial silence in which the Home Secretary accepts responsibility for numbers of cases about which, I am absolutely certain, he has no personal knowledge whatever. In order to illustrate how wrong this principle is, I shall tell the Committee of one individual case. I am not asking the Home Secretary to do anything about it. This is not the occasion for that. What I shall do is to recite the details of the case so that the Committee may see how unjust the situation established by the Act, which the Government still ask us to continue, can be. Perhaps I ought not to give the name of the man concerned. If anyone challenges me to give the name, I can. I think that my right hon. and learned Friend will know of the case to which I refer. This man is now 67 years of age. He married a British subject. He married her in Cairo, where he lived for 40 years. He was in Cairo a refugee from Eastern Europe. He established a prosperous business, but in 1957 or thereabouts he was expelled by the Egyptian Government. He was not expelled by the Egyptian Government for any act of his. He was expelled by the Egyptian Government because he had a British wife, and the British wife was expelled by the Egyptian Government as a direct consequence of actions taken by the British Government. He was admitted, with his wife, to this country. He is stateless. There is no other country to which he can go. He came here with his wife having lost everything he had built up in the whole of his life and having lost it involuntarily for no reason for which he himself bore any responsibility. That was seven or eight years ago. He applied for naturalisation. He applied too soon. He was told that he had applied too soon and he was asked whether he would apply later. He waited till the five years were more than over, and then he asked for naturalisation. He remains an alien only because naturalisation was refused—or, rather, it was not refused, but it was not granted. He was told—I quote the letter:
"With reference to your application for grant of a certificate of naturalisation, I am directed by the Secretary of State"—
Order. The hon. Gentleman is going wide of the matters we can discuss here. It has been ruled before that naturalisation is not discussable on this Bill.
I entirely agree, Sir Samuel. Of course it is not, and if I were complaining about what the Home Secretary had done regarding the application for naturalisation, I should certainly be out of order and I should at once accept your Ruling that I ought not to pursue the matter further. But I am not complaining of that. I am using this case as an illustration from which the Committee may perceive how an arbitrary discretion can work, and the arbitrary discretion in this case is related to a man who comes within the ambit of the Act which we are now considering. He remains within the Act only because of the arbitrary exercise of the Home Secretary's discretion under another Act which enables him to exercise an arbitrary discretion over a man under this Act. I am pointing out that this works with manifest injustice.It was said in the letter that the Secretary of State had
but what?—"given full and careful consideration to all the facts of the case, but …"
Why ever not? I tried to find out. The letter was written on 31st January, 1964, not by my right hon. and learned Friend but by his predecessor, but when I raised the question some months later the present Government had taken over control and my right hon. and learned Friend had assumed responsibility. As I have said, this is a man of 67 years of age. During the seven or eight years he has been here, he has been in and out of hospital on, I think, seven or eight occasions. He is suffering from an advanced heart disease. He is in constant peril of his life. He is here through no fault of his own. He is here stateless through no fault of his own. He is here by reason of acts for which he bore no responsibility but for which this country did bear responsibility. It is two years since he made the application. He has still not had an answer. When I say, "Please tell me why", the answer from the Home Secretary is, "It is not our policy to tell you why". So the man still does not know what there is against him, why his application is not granted, what there is for him to answer, and what chance he has of ever removing anything which is alleged to be—"he is not prepared to reach a decision on it at present".
Order. The hon. Gentleman really is going wide of what we are discussing.
What I am saying, Sir Samuel, is that any Act which gives a Minister power to decide, perhaps, a man's fate, certainly his liberty and freedom to move about, and which puts that power in the Minister's hands without laying upon him any obligation to tell the man concerned what he has against him—
Order. The hon. Gentleman is referring to an Act which we are not now discussing.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)
Sir Samuel, my hon. Friend has given, from his point of view, a full account of the case, with the permission of the Chair, but I take it that, if I seek to reply, I shall be ruled out of order.
On a point of order. I have taken part in these debates for many years and I understand the distinction to be that we cannot discuss naturalisation as such, because that arises under another Act, but we can discuss the results of refusal of naturalisation, which puts people and holds people within the Act which we are now discussing. In other words, we can discuss what happens to people who are refused naturalisation, because they then come under the law which we are now discussing.
Mr. Sydney Silverman
What brings what I am saying within the bounds of order on this occasion, Sir Samuel, is that if my right hon. and learned Friend thinks that he has any good grounds for any allegation of any importance, or any accusation of any force against this man, he can put him in prison five minutes from now and deport him from the country at any moment without telling me anything of what is in his mind and without telling me what he has against this man and without giving this man any right of appeal.
Sir F. Soskice
On a point of order. I quite follow that argument, but I should like to have your guidance, Sir Samuel. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) having given a full account, as he sees it, of the case, how is the course of the debate to go on? I am not seeking to inhibit my hon. Friend, but shall I be able to say, "The facts are these", or, "The reason I cannot give the facts is this", or, "I am inhibited by Statute from giving the facts", or, "It is contrary to public policy to state the facts in a particular case"? If not, the debate will have gone on with a statement from one side and no reply to it.
Those are exactly the reasons why for many years I have thought this position to be unsatisfactory. When my right hon. and learned Friend sat on the Opposition benches, he thought that it was unsatisfactory and he must still believe that it is unsatisfactory or he would not have recommended the setting up of a committee to advise him on how the situation should be altered. I do not dissent from what my right hon. and learned Friend is saying. He knows the position to be unsatisfactory, as I believe it to be.The right hon. Member for Monmouth does not intend to press the Amendment precisely because he accepts the Government undertaking to appoint a committee to change the situation. All I am doing is to point out what the situation is and will continue to be if we pass the Bill in its present form. That is exactly what the situation is and I am saying that it is wrong and that it does not carry the acquiescence, let alone the active consent, of any hon. Member and certainly not the acquiescence or active consent of my right hon and learned Friend himself. He is himself proposing to change it. I admit that the complaint about not dealing with this man's application for naturalisation arises not under this but under some other Act and at this stage I am not making any complaint about the way in which that application was dealt with. I reserve the freedom to deal with that on another and more appropriate occasion. But that does not make it inappropriate to use it today as an illustration of the principle which is embodied in this Act and which the Government are so far asking us to continue.
Perhaps I have allowed the debate to go somewhat wider than I should. We cannot discuss the Home Secretary's action under the administration of the Naturalisation Acts.
I am not doing that.
I think that the hon. Gentleman has made his point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary asked to what extent he would be able to reply. I ask him to limit what he has to say as nearly as he can to being within the rules of order on this particular issue. I ask him not to go into greater detail than is absolutely necessary.
Sir F. Soskice
On a point of order. I wish to defend myself against the charges which have been made in respect of the case which has been mentioned. I would be grateful for your Ruling, Sir Samuel.
A previous case in a very similar situation which I raised in some detail and which concerned a Hungarian in my constituency was answered by the then Home Secretary and answered most satisfactorily—he granted naturalisation.
I do not think that we can take this matter any further. The position is quite clear. Naturalisation can be mentioned where relevant to the Act now under discussion and no further.
Mr. Sydney Silverman
I do not in the least differ from what my right hon. and learned Friend is saying or, with respect, Sir Samuel, from what you are saying. If my right hon. and learned Friend thinks that I have stated any of the facts incorrectly, I hope that he will tell me what I have stated incorrectly. All I am endeavouring to do, and all I have endeavoured to do over the years on these occasions, is to place the Committee in possession of a set of relevant facts. If I have stated them wrongly, I am ready to correct them, but I do not think that I have stated them wrongly. It may be that I have not done justice to the Home Secretary's position. I do not know, and he does not let me know. He does not tell me his reasons and therefore I cannot form any opinion as to whether they are good or bad reasons. He does not let the man concerned know what his reasons are and that man, therefore, cannot form any opinion as to whether they are good or bad reasons. It is therefore impossible to say whether the reasons are good or bad. However, that is not the point I am making.I am making the totally different and germane point that there is a situation in which a man's whole fortune and future depend on the arbitrary decision of one man without any reason being given and without any evidence and without any opportunity to reply. It is true, as my right hon. and learned Friend has said, that action can be taken by the man going to the Bow Street magistrate, but if the Bow Street magistrate decided that my right hon. and learned Friend was wrong, what power would that give to anybody? My right hon. Friend would not be bound by that decision. All I am saying is that this is the clearest possible instance, even though its merits are not now discussable because the issue arises under another Act, of how wrong it is in an Act such as this to give sole discretion to a Minister to refuse even to give his reasons or to accept his responsibility for what he has done. I do not propose to take the matter further. I think that the point is clear to everybody. I am not asking my right hon. and learned Friend now to give me the reasons which he has always refused to give. I shall ask him at some other time on a more appropriate occasion. However, I am asking the Committee to say that we should not part with the Amendment, or allow it to be withdrawn, without getting the clearest possible undertakings from my right hon. and learned Friend about the Government's determination to bring this tyrannical, oppressive and illiberal system to an end at the earliest possible moment.
Mr. George Thomas
My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman)—
Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
On a point of order. Can I assume that after my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary has finished his speech, we shall still be able to discuss this part of the Aliens Act?
The hon. Gentleman seems to forget that we are in Committee.
I should not like to stand in the way of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). I am merely replying to the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne. My right hon. and learned Friend will reply to the debate and will, no doubt, deal with any questions.One question on which I presume the whole Committee will agree is that we must have control over aliens—over their admission and, when necessary, over their movements. The present control of aliens is exercised under the Aliens Order, 1953, as amended by successive Aliens Orders in 1957, 1960 and 1964. There are no powers other than these Orders for controlling either the entry of foreigners into the United Kingdom or their activities after admission and, therefore, we are bound to seek from the Committee permission for their renewal. The right hon. Member for Monmouth and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne raised the question of the committee which it has been announced we propose to set up to look into the question of possible appeal procedures for both aliens and Commonwealth citizens. I tell the House at once, as I realise I told the House last year, that we accept the need for permanent legislation in this field. But now that this committee is to inquire into what right of appeal or other remedy should be available to aliens and Commonwealth citizens who are refused permission to land or who are required to leave the country, quite clearly we must await the results of its work. Sir Roy Wilson, a very distinguished lawyer who will be known to the Committee, has agreed to serve as the chairman of this committee. Until this body presents its report and a Bill can be prepared and fitted into the Parliamentary timetable, the only immediate courses before us are to pass this Measure or to enter the coming year with no control at all over aliens. I turn to the question of the terms of reference of the committee. Last year, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) did not regard as unimportant the issue as to whether there should be the right of appeal in questions of deportation or of refusal to land. It has been always regarded, and rightly so, by my hon. and learned Friend as a most important question whether there should be any form of appeal or any limit on the powers of our officers who exercise their duties on behalf of the Home Secretary. I believe that the committee will welcome the fact that this independent committee of inquiry has been given the task of studying the question and then reporting to us. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has indicated in a letter to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton, and I believe in the House, why he does not believe that a Select Committee is the best way of tackling this question. We do not want to explore the whole field of powers concerning aliens. The power of deportation must be in the hands of the Executive. Whoever seeks to govern in the land must have this ultimate power when people abuse our hospitality or prove to be unsavoury characters. Of course, the country has a right to say that there are some people who are better beyond our shores than here if they fail to behave.
Mr. Sydney Silverman
My hon. Friend will know that there is nobody in the House who disagrees with that. What I want to know from him is exactly what he means by "prove". One can prove anything against a man if one does not tell him what the charge is.
If my hon. Friend will have patience, I will come to that question in due course.As I come to it, may I give some information briefly and quickly about the working of our controls during the past year. During the period 1st October, 1964 to 30th September, 1965, 4,154 foreigners were refused leave to land at United Kingdom ports. But this figure must he viewed in perspective against the overall total of nearly 2,700,000 foreigners who entered the United Kingdom during the same period. Therefore, refusals of leave to land amounted to no more than one for ever 650 people who were permitted to enter. Of those refused admission, 1,770—well over one-third of the total—had come to work here but lacked valid labour permits. Of the remainder, 742 had insufficient means to support themselves during their proposed stay, 97 were unacceptable on medical grounds and 108 were stowaways. Of those who were unacceptable on medical grounds, some 50 per cent. were suffering from some sort of mental illness and others suffered from other forms of illness which made it essential for the immigration officer to decline to allow them to come in. As I say, 108 were stowaways, 339 did not have valid travel documents, 148 came without a visa in circumstances which required one and 149 sought permanent settlement for which they were ineligible. There were 478 technical refusals, which covered, in the main, people passing in transit through the country. The technical refusals of leave to land may be necessary because the people concerned have been deported from another country, they are passing through the United Kingdom on the way home and their travel documents are of very restricted validity. The remaining 323 who are refused leave to land could be described as undesirable for a number of reasons. Eighty-two of them were aliens with criminal propensities, known to be drug traffickers. I should like to remind the Committee that our immigration officers carry a great trust on behalf of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, and thus on behalf of the House of Commons, and they deserve our thanks for the compassionate, humane and vigilant way in which they undertake this task. During the past year I have spent a fair amount of my own time at the ports, and the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) came with me earlier this year to London Airport. Anyone who has firsthand experience of the immigration officers and who see how they set about their work will appreciate that we owe them an enormous debt. I turn to the question of expulsion. The ultimate sanction must be available, not only against foreigners recommended for deportation by the criminal courts, but against those who have broken the law by failure or refusal to comply with the conditions on which they were allowed to enter the country. But deportation is by no means frequently resorted to. The average number of foreigners deported in recent years has been rather less than 100 a year, and in 1964 the total was 59. During the first nine months of the current year, 54 deportations were carried out. When it is proposed to deport a foreigner who has settled here for two years or more, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite well knows, the practice since 1956 has been, except in security cases or where deportation is recommended by a criminal court, to give the person concerned an opportunity to make representations to and to be legally represented before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Bow Street. Since those arrangements were made, 117 foreigners have been eligible to make representations, but only 65 decided to avail themselves of the opportunity. In 45 of the cases that he has considered, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate has concurred in the proposal to deport, and I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne and the Committee that in no single case has deportation been proceeded with where the Chief Magistrate did not concur when the case had been taken to him.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman how many there were in which he did concur?
He concurred in 65 cases out of 117, which is roughly 70 per cent. It is, in fact, just over 69 per cent., and I have called it 70 per cent.The deportation figures must be looked at in relation to the total number of foreigners that there are in the United Kingdom. There are always well over 400,000 here at any one time, and during the holiday season the figure may be well over half a million. It would be wrong to present the image that we are in any way illiberal in the way that we approach the problem. For instance, factors such as long residence or marriage to a British subject are invariably taken into account before a deportation order is made, not only by those who hear the representations but by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary who takes the ultimate decision. I should like the Committee to know also that with regard to the destination of a deportee, the deportation order merely requires him to leave and to stay out. In practice, he can only be sent to the country of which he is a national or to some other country willing to receive him, and I have myself known cases of people who were about to be deported and who asked not to go back to their own country but to another country which was willing to accept them. Sir Samuel, I know by your Ruling that I cannot go into detail in reply to my hon. Friend abort the case that he raised. I have discussed that case with him, and I have no doubt that I shall discuss it with him again. I look forward to that. I hope that the Committee is going to give us these controls, as I believe it will, realising that we have gone a long way to meet the wishes of the Committee as they were expressed last year, in particular by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton and although he has not got the Select Committee for which he asked, he has succeeded and the Committee has succeeded in obtaining a committee which now will inquire quite independently into whether there should be a right of appeal to people refused admission and to people faced with deportation, so that the nightmare to which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne referred will be under examination. With that understanding I hope that the Committee will agree to renew these proposals.
Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
Before the Joint Under-Secretary sits down, I should like to ask him one question. As he will remember, in paragraph 6 of the White Paper on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration—the ombudsman White Paper—it is said that amongst those who will have access to the Parliamentary Commissioner will be
Is it intended by the Government that the ombudsman should consider appeals from a decision of the immigration officer on refusing aliens admission to this country?"persons living abroad if their complaint is about the administration of individuals' rights or obligations arising here."
The hon. Gentleman has asked me a question to which the answer is in the negative. I think, therefore, that the best thing that we can do is to await the advice that we shall receive from the independent committee.
My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary said that since 1951 this subject had been raised always on the other side. Quite frankly, it has been raised by me wherever I have been sitting. Last year it was raised on this side, and it would have been raised on this side again if the right hon. Gentleman had not beaten me by about 30 seconds.I want now to come back to the issues in the case and to state the reasons why both the form and the terms of reference of the proposed inquiry seem to me to be wholly unsatisfactory. There are three matters which have to be looked at about an alien. How does he get here? What happens to him when he is here? What happens to him as and when he goes? I shall deal with them under those heads. Firstly, as far as admission is concerned, I am not for a moment questioning the fact that it must ultimately be a question of discretion. The country must have a discretion as to whom it chooses to admit and, because there has to be a discretion there, a form of judicial tribunal seems to me to be unsatisfactory and always has. I do not think that a form of judicial tribunal can substitute itself effectively for a departmental discretion. All that it can really do is to deal with the specific matters which may be referred to it within the discretion. I will come back to that in a moment.
Mr. Sydney Silverman
I appreciate the difficulties that my hon. and learned Friend has in mind, but he will know, will he not, that there are countries which have found ways out of the difficulties, notably the United States of America where, if an immigrant is refused leave to land, he has an appeal to a quasi-judicial tribunal, so that at least the man knows what is alleged against him.
There again my hon. Friend has picked on what seems to me to be the vital point, namely, to know what is alleged against the person concerned, and this is what I have always urged. I believe that a person should have the right to know, first, what is alleged against him, and, secondly, when he knows that and challenges matters of fact, he should be able to ask the Department to take another look at those facts. That is all that I have ever asked for on this issue.People coming here are interviewed by an immigration officer who has to come to a decision. I do not think that it would be practical at that point to interject a judicial hearing, but what I think one can do is to say that if he is refused entry he must be told why, and told specifically, and if he challenges any of the reasons he may ask the immigration officer to hold back his decision. There will, of course, have to be some arrangement about where he can be held while the specific facts which he challenges are examined. If he is refused entry on medical grounds, I think it may be not unreasonable to say, "I should like a second opinion on this one" because medical grounds are often very tragic in these circumstances, particularly when it is a question of families reuniting, and that sort of thing, and I should not have thought that one was giving away too much by saying that if the person concerned challenges the particular illness, or the contention that it is a danger to the community into which he is going, a second opinion might be obtained. I do not propose to go through all the examples, but to take only a few. If a man is accused of being a drug trafficker, I think he should be told where he was said to have committed such a crime. It might be said that it happened in Cairo. He may answer, "I have never been to Cairo in my life. The chap you have in mind is someone else, with my name". I do not think that that sort of thing occurs very often, but it can occur, and in those circumstances I should have thought it would be reasonable for the man concerned to be told why he is not being allowed to enter. I think he should be entitled to say, "This is wrong. You can verify what I have said in the following ways: please do so". That seems to me to be a fairly reasonable thing to do and it is the only thing for which I have asked. That is all the right of appeal I have asked for, and I cannot see how one can have any effective appeal unless the man is given reasons for not being allowed to enter the country. He should be given the reasons, and, if he disputes any of them, provided he is prepared to cover the expense of staying here while the inquiry is made, in the event of the inquiry going against him, he should be in a position to ask for the reasons to be verified. So much for that, and I now come to what I think is the important thing here, and that is not the provision of the right of appeal against the refusal to admit, but an examination of the grounds, or the general rules, for making these exclusions. I agree that there has to be a discretion here in working on certain general rules, but that discretion and those rules ought to be examined by a committee. For instance, generally speaking, there does not seem to be any very good reason for denying anybody the right to come here if he can support himself and is, in this sense, a sort of built-in export in that he provides currency to support himself and that currency is usable in foreign markets. I do not see why that sort of person should not be allowed in. I should have thought that that was the kind of question which a committee might consider. Provided the person concerned is respectable, if he wishes to come here, and he can provide the cost of his upkeep and thereby provide us with currency and so help our balance of payments, I do not see why he should not be allowed in. He would not seem to hurt us, and I do not see why we should hurt him. At the moment such a person is not allowed to enter this country. I come next to the question of health. I should have thought that a committee might be given certain guidance on this. Obviously a line has to be drawn somewhere. We do not want to exclude somebody merely because he has a nasty cold, but we certainly do want to exclude a person who has tertiary syphilis. A line must be drawn somewhere between those two extremes, and I should have thought that a committee could look at it and see whether one could be. I deal next with the work requirement, the permits which are issued through the Ministry of Labour. Surely this is something which a committee can consider to see whether this can be brought within the general structure of the law. Another point which is not covered is whether a person should be entitled to come here if he is coming here because he wants to marry. The final point with which I wish to deal is the question of security. Here there has to be an ultimate discretion, but I cannot believe that a lot of people are excluded because in a security sense they are a danger to the country. If we really think a man is a spy, I should have thought that we would be only too pleased to have him in jurisdiction where we can watch him for a bit to enable us to discover his security network. I see little point in excluding people because we think they are spies. Other countries have intelligence budgets and I should prefer them to use their funds on spies we know rather than on spies we do not know.
Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
They are only posing as spies to get in.
If they are only posing as spies to get in, there seems to be no security reason for excluding them.What we want—and I think that we must be together here—is that the person concerned should be given the reasons for his exclusion. We want general rules on which a discretion may be exercised. We want some kind of power to be able to ask the Minister to think again and to have another look where a decision is challenged because a fact is challenged. When a man comes in he should be under our rule of law. I can see little object in making the law different for him. One of the verses of Exodus says:
That seems to be a very good general guide. But we are told that we want to control the movements of aliens here. Again, I should have thought that a committee ought to consider the question whether all this rather elaborate machinery to control the movement of aliens is of any value. It works admirably for the alien whom there is no point in controlling—the alien who is complying with the law—but it works not at all for the alien who wishes to avoid the law. That can be tested by the number of au pair girls and students who disappear. Anybody who is trying to evade the law simply disappears from the register. It is only those who are ccmplying with the law anyway who remain registered. Therefore, I doubt whether the procedure is worth the money, trouble and time that it takes. This, again, is the sort of thing which a committee should look at. Then—and from a libertarian point of view this is far and away the most important case—there is the man who is subject to an expulsion order which cannot be exercised because there is no country which will take him. He becomes a person totally without any rights. He can be imprisoned indefinitely, without a charge. He is in the fullest sense of the word an outlaw. An expulsion order which is made on a man and which cannot be executed is an order of outlawry. In my view, it is in flagrant contradiction to the provisions of the Charter of Human Rights. In very much the same sort of position is the man who is refused naturalisation. We cannot go into the workings of the Act; we can only deal with its results, because its results are the people who are subject to this Act. Here we have people placed in a position of less than citizenship—unable to become solicitors, or to join a number of other professions, or to join the public service. They are held in this position of inferiority indefinitely."One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you."
The Temporary Chairman (Sir Herbert Butcher)
Order. The hon. and learned Member is wandering rather far from the subject of the debate. He must not discuss the question of naturalisation.
With respect, Sir Herbert, that is not so. The Amendment deals precisely with what happens to aliens who are here and to the man who is refused naturalisation. I cannot refer to what happens up to that point, but once a man is refused naturalisation he comes right within the terms of the Bill, and I submit that I am completely in order in discussing his position.
The Temporary Chairman
I have been listening to the hon. and learned Gentleman very carefully. At the moment he is approaching the edge of the precipice. In the debate which took place in 1961 the ground which the hon. and learned Member is now traversing was denied him by the Chairman, and I shall follow my predecessor's example.
It comes near the line. If I fell over the precipice before I shall watch my position today.A man who is denied naturalisation remains under this Act. He cannot join a number of professions. He may have been an articled clerk, but he cannot become a solicitor. There are many disabilities about his position. He has no means of escaping them. He can be given no reason why he is maintained in this inferior position. The Declaration of Human Rights, to which we are parties, provides that every man shall have a right of nationality and a right to change his nationality. That is something to which we have subscribed. We are dealing only with people who are here as permanent residents—people who will remain here in the future. What is the excuse for keeping them in an inferior position?
The Temporary Chairman
Order. That is exactly the ground that I indicated that the hon. and learned Member must not develop.
Precisely. I have finished with that point. But this kind of consideration is excluded not only from this debate; it is also very wrongly excluded from examination by the committee which my right hon. Friend is thinking of setting up.Thirdly, I come to the question of expulsion. This question covers some very important points. The Under-Secretary said that the man who was expelled was generally sent to his own country, which was the only place to which he could be sent. That is not always so. This power is sometimes used as an alternative to extradition in cases which are not covered by the Extradition Acts. That was the position with Dr. Soblen. He had the opportunity of going to Czechoslovakia. The Czechs said that they would take him and would be pleased to do so, in spite of which he was put on an aeroplane to America, where he was going to be punished for an offence for which he could not have been extradited. There was an even earlier case, when we were in alliance with France. It is a House of Lords case, and concerned the Duke of Château-Thierry, who was trying to avoid military service and who wanted to go to America but whom we returned to France at the request of the French Government. Whether expulsion should be used as a substitute for extradition when the House has given no powers to extradite is at least a matter which ought to have been within the terms of reference of any worthwhile committee on this subject. Those are my broad objections to the terms of reference. If we are to have a civilised aliens law which complies with the Declaration of Human Rights we require an examination by a committee with far wider terms of reference than merely the power to see how we should set up a tribunal to consider questions of discretion, the terms of discretion being outside the tribunal's jurisdiction. I now come to the means, which is a Select Committee, for which I have often asked. I believe that a committee of investigation—a Royal Commission or anything of that sort—is an inefficient means of preparing legislation. It gets out of step with the Department which has to operate the legislation and, when it makes its recommendations, the Department has no difficulty in shooting them down. This sort of consideration is a pretext for not doing things. The right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) may or may not confirm my opinion in this, but I think that it has always been a tradition of the Home Office—at any rate, since I have dealt with them—that their motto is, "Never give a reason: it always causes trouble". A Department of that sort, if it is given the last word, will find admirable reasons for not giving reasons for ignoring suggestions by a committee. The whole point of a Select Committee is that while it is working the dialogue with the Department is continuous. The Select Committee makes its proposal; the Department gives its reasons why not. Those reasons are then thrashed out between the Select Committee and the Department, with reference, if necessary, to the Minister, who can go to the Select Committee. Step by step, the thing is worked out and agreed. It is no use imposing legislation on a Department which has to make it work and will not do so. Agreement has to be reached. But it was under such a system that the War Office, having said that a comprehensive Act was impracticable, in fact worked out and produced the Army Act. There is a continual dialogue, phase by phase. The Department cannot simply say, "You cannot do that." They have to give their reasons, and one can then go into them and answer them and see how, if possible, to get what one wants. Therefore, by this continual dialogue between the two sides, an Act is built up, and one gets what one is looking for. One would never get that from a Royal Commission or anything of the sort. The conversation is broken off and recommendations are made which are unacceptable to the Department; and the Department has the last word. The Select Committee of which I was a member met for about a year and we worked out and drafted an Act to do something which the Department had for years said could not be done. The Government agreed to it without one amendment; the House agreed to it without one amendment; and, after five years, only five minor amendments were required. I do not know why a procedure as successful as that could not be attempted again. What we should do now on the basis of the reply we have heard in advance, I think, is to say to the Government, "No, we are not giving you this renewal now. Take it back and think again before Report stage and see if you cannot give us a better answer than you have so far indicated." For years, Governments have blackmailed this House with the threat of suicide, and said, "If you do not do what we ask, if you ever defeat us, there will be an election." I do not think anybody will suggest for a moment that there will be an election if we send this back to the Government and insist that they have another look at it before Report. Unless Parliament sometimes does something like that, we will lapse into futility. It is true that, in a modern system strong government must be given on the great and general questions, but no dialogue is satisfactory if one party to it always has its way. There are many occasions—and I believe that this is one—when this House, if it respects itself, should insist upon having its way for a change. We must see what is said in reply, but this is certainly the direction in which my mind is running at the moment.
Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
I am attracted by the ideas just expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). As our inclination, even more than his, is to say "No" to the Government, we shall listen with particular care to what the Home Secretary says in reply to the point which the hon. and learned Member made. The idea of a Select Committee has great attractions over the type of committee which is proposed at the moment. I am concerned with the operation of the present Regulations under the Act and the way in which the Act works at the moment. This has a direct bearing on what the hon. and learned Gentleman said about security.I should like from the Home Secretary an explanation of why the Act concerning impositions relates to au pair girls from behind the Iron Curtain. At the moment—this will interest hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway—there is a general prohibition by the Government, to the effect that au pair girls from behind the Iron Curtain should not stay here for more than one year. This seems a preposterous situation. The reason given is that it is for security. The idea of the Hungarian Government filling up this country with a lot of little au pair Mata Haris seems to me utterly absurd. This situation came to my notice—as both the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the Home Secretary know—because of an individual case which was brought to my attention, that of Miss Tunde Balogh. Whether she is any relation to a certain adviser of the Government I know not. All I know is that she is a young lady—I did not have the good fortune to meet her—who impressed others as being attractive and very pro-British. She had been over here for a year in an au pair capacity and she wanted to stay on for a further period. There was no suggestion that she was a spy. She was recognised as working here so as to learn English. She wanted to stay over here, and those employing her wanted her to stay. It was through the British Council that the case was brought to my notice. The Home Office said "She must go home on the dot after one year." I wrote to the Joint Under-Secretary about this. I have always regarded him as the most courteous of men, but on this occasion his letter was a little curt. I talked to him about the position and, eventually, we managed—as a great concession—to get permission for Miss Balogh to stay for an extra three weeks. At first, because she came from behind the Iron Curtain, she had been refused permission to stay for even a short period to take a holiday to go to the Edinburgh Festival. At first the Home Office refused to allow her to stay for even an extra two or three weeks. However, eventually she got that small concession. 5.30 p.m. How easily and how readily does the Home Office regard "security" as being the term or broad category for excluding people? Is it sound sense to exclude all au pair girls from behind the Iron Curtain on security grounds? If there are other grounds, cannot we be told them? Why are these girls singled out more than au pair girls from other inimical régimes? Hon. Gentleman opposite might mention au pair girls from, say, Spain and Portugal. I should be interested to hear why the Home Office takes this extraordinary view in these cases and whether there are, as it were, any other overall security blanket directives which govern these matters. The Joint Under-Secretary paid an appropriate tribute to the immigration officers who must deal with the Act. He described them as both compassionate and humane, and I absolutely concur. However, I have certain doubts, in view of the case I have mentioned, about the compassion and humanity of the way in which the Act is being implemented.
I, too, wish to give an example of the way in which the Act can operate at present. I have taken note of the Joint Under-Secretary's remarks about the setting up of a committee of inquiry and I would like to know whether it will operate under the jurisdiction of the Home Office and whether it will be particularly liberal in its outlook. For the time being we will have to hope for the best and see what happens.Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. That is, perhaps, the most important pillar on which our democracy has been built. Bearing that in mind, it must be said that in some of the recent battles with the Home Office under former Home Secretaries that Department's views in this matter have not seemed particularly liberal. I recall the case of General Delgado, the Portuguese General who received what I can only describe as abominable treatment. I would like to know the full facts in that case. It is often to be regretted that the Home Secretary cannot reveal the reasons why he takes a certain course. The person concerned should, I suggest, always know why a certain course is being adopted and be given an opportunity to answer any charges made against him. In many instances people do not know why the Home Office is acting against them and not even hon. Members are given the information. I wish to raise the case of Mr. Bert Benson, a prohibited immigrant from this country at the present time. Mr. Benson has no objection to my raising this matter or mentioning his name. An American citizen, he was living and working in this country when he committed two cardinal errors. The first was that he married a young lady who was working at the Foreign Office, which was not looked upon very benignly by that Department. The second was that he made a statement, when his expulsion was ordered by the Home Secretary, to the effect that he would not give himself up until a Labour Government was returned because, he stated, he would get better treatment from a Socialist Home Secretary. While in this country Mr. Benson took part in political activities. I am raising this case and have mentioned that fact because the most difficult cases are usually those involving people who have taken part in political activities. Passions are more usually aroused when such activities are involved. Mr. Benson took part in C.N.D. activities. He did not take part in Committee of One Hundred activities, as other aliens have done. On one occasion only he was charged with having caused an obstruction during a demonstration. Mr. Benson was made a prohibited immigrant by the former Home Secretary and left this country. He now lives in West Germany, in Frankfurt-on-Main. He has made several applications to the present Home Secretary to be allowed to return to this country because his wife and parents-in-law live here. Mr. Benson's wife had a baby in February of this year and, under great pressure, the Home Secretary permitted him to return to see his wife and child. He later made application to return to this country to spend Christmas with his family—to be here for a purely domestic and social reason—and said that he would be willing to give any undertaking to the Home Office if his re-entry for Christmas were permitted. That application was refused by the Home Secretary, who merely stated "I am not prepared to alter the previous decision made by the previous Home Secretary." We have had a change of Government. If there are reasons why Mr. Benson should remain a prohibited immigrant or should not be permitted to come here for a short visit we should be told them. A number of rumours or stories, some of them quite fantastic, have circulated about Mr. Benson. They cannot be answered or denied because the Home Office will not supply its reasons for taking the course it has in this case. Somebody in this country originated the story that Mr. Benson was an agent of the C.I.A. and had been prohibited on those grounds. Mr. Benson has in writing categorically denied any association with any such organisation in any country. When I went to Frankfurt last May to attend a meeting I met Mr. Benson and b ad a long talk with him about his deportation. I asked him many questions about his activities while in Britain and about his intentions when or if he is allowed to return here. I received en-t rely frank and satisfactory answers to all my questions. It is, therefore, incumbent on the Home Secretary to tell the House exactly why Mr. Benson is not being allowed in. Many other people are allowed entry to and exit from this country very easily—people who would seem to be much more undesirable than Mr. Bert Benson. For taking part in a perfectly legitimate demonstration in this country—remembering that the right of assembly and demonstration is recognised to be tae privilege of all—this man was made a prohibited immigrant. Now he wishes to return to this country, or certainly to have the questions which have been asked about this case answered by the Home Secretary. Will this committee that has been set up be able to act retrospectively? Will people be able to put their cases to it, and have an answer in relation to the charges made against them? One of the world's problems is that in many countries we find the Executive using a hard, firm hand in the name of security against individuals. I do not care where the individuals reside, they have a right to be heard, and this country should set the example. The Home Office should unfetter itself a little. In spite of what the Under-Secretary said, his Department does not have a terribly good reputation for a liberal point of view, and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act will not help. Therefore, I hope that under the Aliens Act my right hon. and learned Friend will show some humanitarian feeling towards the problem I have mentioned and to the parallel case referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I hope that aliens will be allowed the same right of appeal as that prescribed in the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. It is no use saying to people who have only a few days' notice that they can apply to the Bow Street magistrate. That is not satisfactory democratically. I therefore hope that when this committee reports we shall get some satisfaction; that some of these cases that are at the moment a blot on British democracy and the proud tradition that this country has followed for many years can be righted; and that my right hon. and learned Friend will set the lead in seeing that it is done.
Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I want to support the advocacy of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) of the case of Mr. Bert Benson. Having seen Mr. Benson, and having had discussions with him over a period of several hours, I know that the hon. Member will find it as ludicrous as I do to imagine that Mr. Benson could be a security risk. The hon. Member has said that anyone who is deported should have the right of appeal. He will be aware that under the European Convention on Establishment, to which this country adhered in 1956, an alien who has been resident in this country for more than two years has a right of appeal to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrates, except in cases where he is to be deported for
That is the phrase used in the document. If the reasons were as important as all that, the Home Secretary was incorrect in allowing Mr. Benson into this country for a month at the time of the birth of his child. If the man is a dangerous maniac who will undermine the State, the right hon. and learned Gentleman should not have done that at all. He should have closed his heart to Mr. Benson's appeals, and should not have allowed him to be present at the birth of his child. Of course, we do not believe this. We who have been interested in this case all the time have argued with the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary, and we find it impossible to accept that imperative considerations of national security, or any other considerations of national security, apply in this case. Nothing in what has been said by the Home Office has given any support at all to that allegation. I have had a number of discussions with Mr. Benson, and have asked what he thinks could be the reason. He has complained that some circumstances in his activities in this country might have been misconstrued by the Home Office. I think that all these activities were perfectly innocent, unless the Government are to say that association with an organisation like C.N.D. is an imperative threat to national security. I asked in the previous Parliament, but never had an answer: just what is meant by that phrase? I think that it is a shabby pretence that we are becoming more liberal in signing the European Convention on Establishment unless we are to say exactly what we mean. As has been stated, Mr. Benson has applied to visit this country, not for an extended stay but merely to say with his parents-in-law over the Christmas holidays. He is prepared to give any sort of undertaking the Home Office may demand about his behaviour during the visit. I think that it is inhuman to turn down this application. Mr. Benson has already been allowed in for the birth of his child. What damage will it do to the country? Is it thought that he will go about blowing up airfields during the Christmas holidays? Does the Home Secretary think that? It is a ludicrous state of affairs, and I should like a much more thorough explanation than that which I received in a letter from the Home Secretary dated 19th November. I wrote pointing out that he had allowed Mr. Benson in for the birth of his child, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman replied that the Home Office felt it right to let him enter in that case because of compassionate considerations, and because of the requirement that he had to be present for the registration of the birth of his child. 5.45 p.m. Compassionate considerations apply now. Are we to say that Mr. Benson is never again to be permitted to visit the country; never to be allowed to see his mother-in-law, and his wife's family? This attitude is quite inhuman, and cannot be defended in this House. I hope that the Home Secretary will reconsider his approach to this case, and that we shall have some sort of undertaking that he is prepared to allow Mr. Benson in to see his family."… imperative considerations of national security."
Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I rise to refer to a small point that has not yet been touched on. I agreed with almost all that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, except for two or three words which I think got into his speech by mistake. The words were "provided they can pay for it." If I understood the Under-Secretary's statement aright, something like 147 people were refused admission because they had no money—the expression was "no means." I may have the figure slightly wrong. It is not a big figure, but that is the important point. It is not a figure that would really threaten the existence of our £1,000 million reserve in the National Insurance Fund, or the £100 million reserve in the Industrial Injuries Fund, or a sum that will prevent us from paying subsidies to United Airways. As I say, it was something like 147, but I may have the figure wrong. My hearing is not good, and I think that today some of the articulation has not been good—but one of the things that happens to people going deaf is that they always suspect others of lack of clarity.I cannot follow the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck)—I do not know precisely what an au pair girl is. I have never known what a security risk is; how it is defined, or who defined it or what it means, whether we have any secrets and, if we have, why we have any. If we have any secrets I should have thought we would have to go to Nevada Flats to find them at the moment. There are a lot of things about our political life and policy that I should like to have explained by some competent inquirer from abroad, who has been told to find out why we are continuing to test the Polaris missiles underground, although they are not ready to be launched, and we know not what they are to be used for when launched. But I cannot hope to get that information in this debate. I was brought up to believe—or, at least, I was told that I ought to believe, and much of it I do accept—one or two propositions. The first is that to have no money is a sign of character and that to have money makes one what I might call a financial security risk. It raises a question of dubiety about how one acquired it. The poor shall inherit the earth, but not apparently:
It is difficult for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but apparently comparatively simple for him to get into this country. [Laughter.] Whenever I slate obvious and ethical truths someone laughs, but is it not the case that what the Home Office is saying is that if a man arrives here with £200,000 and no character he can land at once, but if a man arrives with a high character and less than a shilling he will not be permitted to land. I pointed out in art earlier debate that if the Twelve Apostles arrived at Dover tomorrow the only one likely to qualify, unless the financial situation of the others had improved from the time when their lives were recorded, would be Judas Iscariot with his 30 pieces of silver, which he might have invested productively in the meantime so that he had considerably more. I know that this observation is quite capable of misrepresentation, but I want the ports to be open to people who might come here and live on National Assistance and so on. Who are these people? Where do they come from and why do they come? I suspect that every one of these cases which has been refused for lack of means is a case of personal tragedy. I cannot think that people who have no means and presumably no great skill, if one wanted to help them over a temporary difficulty, would come here unless they were driven by the impetus of some severe and tragic misfortune, unless they come to join relatives here. I make no personal criticism of the Home Office. I think it has shown itself fairly enlightened, except when we discuss things which are related to the next Amendment. I have no personal criticism and I have had better letters from the Home Office in some developments, some helpful ones, than I had for some time. I do not want to join the chorus of criticism, but the Home Office has not been very responsive to opinions which hon. Members have expressed on this matter ever since 1945, and sometimes before. It has always been said that this Measure was conceived of war and renewed with very little discussion after the war, that in fact the original Measure was passed, it was never debated at all and has never been considered by this House, although this House has constantly manifested a desire that it should be. I should have thought the arguments for a Select Committee on this matter are overwhelming. I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend would select men of the highest repute and character, but on a political committee I like to know something about people's political views. The theory is that a man with no views on politics is one of independent mind, but I think that one with no political views has no mind at all, unless he is a super-expert examining and acquiring knowledge in a limited sphere and shown to concentrate his mind on the microcosms of his own particular science. What happens to these people? Many of them may have come a long way. Are they stowed away in the under decks of some boat and deported? What happens to each and every one of these individual tragedies? I can see the argument and I can see the difficulty. It is no use now talking in this curious world of:"This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."
There is a great tradition which will never be repeated of victims of religious persecution, the Huguenots and people who constitute most of the population of the United States, the teeming millions who fled from poverty, but in a world where there are not teeming millions fleeing from poverty—except Commonwealth immigrants, very largely—is there not some means whereby at least we could consider the applicant if his only fault is lack of means? Of course, my right hon. and learned Friend may say that person has not a work permit and that he has not satisfied the Home Office, but if a man comes in distress and suffering from poverty, what is the method of considering his case? What is the method of giving a decision, the locus poenitentiae used by the officers examining the case? Who has time to think of them and look at the circumstances? Who has time to say that here is a fit candidate for the hospitality of a country which at one time used to display a generous heart to the world and which is even now producing an economic plan which suggests that we shall be short in the working population by 200,000 in four years' time and may have to offer inducements to get workers to keep this country going?"Bring me your starved, your poor, your teeming millions waiting to breathe free."
Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
I do not intend to keep the Committee for long, because I know that many of my hon. Friends want to get on to the other part of the business. I have been here throughout the debate and have listened to every word that has been said. In particular, I heard what was said by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) about the case of Mr. Benson. I want to say something, not entirely about that case, because I do not know about it as they do, but about what has been happening over this procedure.When I have taken part in these debates I have found that in a way they never change. It is like a stock play in which the characters represent the Home Office; there may be different actors playing their rôles, but every year they say the same sort of thing. The Home Office will have heard repeated complaints about the traditional failure to give people reasons for deportation. I am very conscious of the difficulty which the Home Office faces, and I hope to recommend some remedial action and to suggest how the Home Office could tackle this difficult problem, but I point out that the Home Office must have thought about this and must know where this situation leads them. I have referred to what the hon. Member for Orpington said about Mr. Benson. I draw particular attention to what he said because we do not know the reasons why Mr. Benson was deported. The Home Office has its reasons but says that it cannot give the reasons, so the field is wide open to speculation. So the hon. Member for Orpington says that it is because of Mr. Benson's C.N.D. activities and that it is an absurdity that this should be held against him. If that is true, I agree that it is an absurdity, but if it is true what is the position of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary who is a lifelong pacifist? How does he feel about it? He is in a difficulty arising from this kind of procedure.
Mr. George Thomas
My hon. Friend is accurate in his description of me. I should say that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) was merely speculating on what were the security reasons and, of course, it is impossible for me to say, but certainly they were not those of being a pacifist.
I fully understand the difficulty. That is exactly what I am saying to the Committee. These difficulties arise out of the existing procedure. I will give the Committee another example. It is somewhat out of date, but it is relevant to the argument. I can well remember that as long ago as when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was Minister of Supply a case occurred in which, on the direct intervention of the Government, a man was dismissed from his job on security grounds. I know this is not deportation, but it is relevant to this argument about the Home Office refusing to give information.There was a great deal of publicity about this case at the time. The man who was sacked had had the unwisdom to marry a lady who was a former member of the Communist Party. He himself was a solicitor looking at defence contracts in a very high position in one of the big industrial complexes in this country. When the Minister was challenged in the House of Commons on whether it was a fact that this gentleman had been moved because he had married a lady who was a former member of the Communist Party, the Minister, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), told the House of Commons, "Yes, but there are other things against him". This is the worst smear of all, because then the field is wide open to speculation. This is why I say that, if my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues at the Home Office refuse to give reasons in the case of a man like Benson or in any cases of this kind, they do a disservice to the alien against which he cannot defend himself anywhere, they leave it wide open to the most malicious speculation as to what is against the alien, and they damage their own political and personal reputation, as well as the reputation of the party to which they belong. I fully understand the special difficulties in security cases, because the Home Office is trying to anticipate the State's being injured and not deal with it after the event, as is done with a burglar or with a bigamist. When such a person is caught, there is a prescribed rule of law. The person has his defence. Witnesses have to be heard in open court. We know that there is a special difficulty here, but I suggest to my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues that they might look at the possibility of prescribing what are sensitive posts and sensitive courses of study for students in this country. They should warn aliens, and in particular students coming to this country, because I have had a lot to do with this kind of case, where they are exposing themselves to alleged security risks. if the security officers believe that such persons are a danger—I think that many of these cases are absolutely absurd—at the very least such persons should be told what it is that is held against them. The present situation amounts to this. Many people say that there is the defence of Ministerial responsibility, that a Minister of the Crown looks into all these allegations. That is absolute nonsense. I do not say that they do not do it. I ask hon. Members to consider a case I had which I think is relevant. I have in mind a Chinese student at Manchester University who was deported because he was a security risk. I understand that he is now happily working in Sweden, making a much appreciated and skilful contribution to their economic growth. He had to leave this country on security grounds. I went to see the Minister. This was before my hon. Friends were in office. The Minister concerned could not tell me anything, because the man was a security risk. Yet I remember the Minister at the Home Office pointing out to me—this demonstrates our peculiarly absurd British methods—"At least we allowed him to stay and complete his degree course". If these people are security risks, they should go at once. It makes one concerned about the whole basis of the operation of this law when that kind of answer is given. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues will have heard today, as they have heard before—indeed, I am not sure that they did not contribute to this when they were in opposition—repeated pleas that they should not exercise the arbitrary powers that they possess and remove people without giving them any reasons. I am convinced that if my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues apply their minds to this in the very difficult field of security procedure it will be possible to arrive at a solution which, while protecting the interests of the State, will give a greater degree of liberty to the individual. If I have the opportunity, I hope, together with some of my hon. Friends who are similarly interested, to persuade the Ministers at the Home Office of how this can be done, by a method which will let them out of the nasty situation they are in and which will reduce to an absolute minimum the possibility of these miscarriages of justice occurring in the future.
Sir F. Soskice
This debate has been on a subject about which I suppose the House of Commons is as sensitive as it is upon any other subject, namely, the subject of civil liberties. It would be utterly alien to the tradition of the House of Commons to treat a debate of this sort as otherwise than one of first class importance. As the Minister having some sort of responsibility in this connection, obviously I have listened with the very greatest care to the criticisms which have been directed at my administration and that of my predecessors by various hon. Members who have spoken.I ask the Committee to get this matter in perspective. I hope that hon. Members do not think it fair to represent the Home Office and the tradition of successive Home Office Ministers as some kind of ogreish monster. I remind hon. Members, in order to get the matter into perspective, of some figures which my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary gave. I do not intend to repeat them in detail. To give two figures which he mentioned, last year from October, 1964 to the end of September, 1965, no fewer than 2,700,000 aliens entered the United Kingdom. There were only 4,154 refusals of leave to land—in other words, a percentage of 0·15. With great deference to the Committee, a Department which succeeds—I hope that it succeeds—in discharging its responsibility at any rate to watch those who come to these shores, to ensure that undesirable persons are not admitted, or are not admitted in too great numbers, and to ensure that proper regard is had for security considerations, cannot be a Department which is impervious to considerations of humanity and to the duty which everybody of conscience owes to the broad civilised concept of civil liberty and civil dignity if it admits that vast host of persons—2,700,000—and excludes only about 4,000. I most earnestly put it to the Committee that it would be right, in fairness to my Department and, I hope, to my administration and to my predecessors' administration, not to approach the matter as if our proceedings were proceedings which gave rise to a train of unhappy cases in which cruelty was exhibited in wanton decisions given without consideration and without careful analysis and sifting of the facts. That is quite wide of the mark. It just is not the case. No doubt in this country, with its tradition of hospitality and liberty, it would be, if we were able to manage it, desirable to throw the doors open as wide as possible. But I think one must accept—I believe that all my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken during the debate have accepted—that in the case of an island of our sort, with its territorial limits, frankly it is not practicable to apply a principle of that sort. Therefore, one has to have some immigration control and some control of persons who are not citizens of this country while they are here. Hon. Members have mentioned only three cases—Mr. Benson, Colonel Delgado and Miss Balogh. This is not the appropriate place for me to add to what I have already said on those cases—on the first two, publicly in this House. It really is quite unrealistic to think that decisions are arbitrary and not open to challenge. I can be challenged, and ought to be challenged, day in and day out by hon. Members from their places in this House.
Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Before he leaves this point, will my right hon. and learned Friend say how many of the 2,700,000 people he mentioned are holidaymakers and tourists coming to this country and how many of them are persons who have applied for entry into this country either to work or to stay here?
Sir F. Soskice
To give the complete breakdown would take time, but I accept at once that a very large number are holidaymakers and visitors—the great preponderance. But they need just as careful examination as anybody else. One cannot say that they are holidaymakers and so one can forbear from making any inquiry into their cases. The responsibility which my Department owes to the public is to examine and consider all entrants. No doubt a different and perhaps more thorough type of examination is devoted to some than to others. As to au pair girls from Iron Curtain countries, I say at once that I would not pretend that persons who come from behind the Iron Curtain are treated on exactly the same footing as others. A certain care has to be exercised for security reasons, which I do not think I need dilate upon in this debate. One has to use—I try to use—a sensible discretion in assessing the degree of care and the thoroughness of examination which is appropriate in the case of the various classes of entrant. I have figures here, but it would take time to read them out. I will give them to my hon. Friend if he wants them. So I start from that general proposition.What have been the points of substance raised in the debate? I accept at once that there have been a number of points of substance. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), whose sincerity and, I would add, Parliamentary dexterity are well known in this House, raised the general point that it is utterly undesirable that the fate or destiny of an individual, particularly an alien who is not naturalised, should rest in the arbitrary discretion of a single person, the Home Secretary of the time. It is a little of a misdescription to say that. The Home Secretary is rightly subjected to every sort of pressure where it is suspected or thought that he has committed an injustice or has failed to take into account something which ought to have been taken into account in favour of the person applying for naturalisation. I accept that it is open to question as to whether his ipse dixit should represent the final decision in the matter. I shall come in a moment in that context to the Committee that we thought it right to set up. There is a broad question of principle which I accept. In the debate last year these matters were ventilated, and I accepted then that there was a case for some kind of appeal if it was workable. I pointed out then the practical difficulties of an appeal in the case, for example, of refusals to land and in the case of requirements to leave, but particularly in the case of refusals to land. But there is a point for consideration, and that is one of the reasons why the Government have announced the setting up of the Committee. So I accept it when it is said that there should be—
I feel that, speaking for myself, certainly, it is not that we are concerned that it is the discretion of one man. We are concerned that it is the discretion of one man who will not give reasons. It is awfully difficult to put pressure on somebody who will not give reasons.
Sir F. Soskice
I accept the force of that criticism. I will try to answer it. This House, as a matter of deliberate policy, in Section 26 of the British Nationality Act, 1948, in terms relieved the holder from time to time of my office from the requirement to give reasons for decisions which were reposed in his discretion. That was a broad matter of policy. The question is whether it is right or wrong. One may take two views about it. One may say that one should always give reasons, or one may take the opposite view and say that one should never give reasons.It is the worst of both worlds if it is left to the Home Secretary's discretion sometimes to give reasons and sometimes not. The result of his sometimes giving reasons is that the individual who cannot get a reason, in whose case there may be a very adequate ground for withholding the reason, naturally goes away with the feeling that there is some stigma upon him, some mystery attached to him, which he cannot discover and which seems thereafter to be a blot on his character, and this creates doubt in his mind. That being the situation, the Government in 1948—it was in the time of the Labour Government—deliberately adopted the view that it was better to say that one need never give reasons.
in the case of the alien who exercises his right of appeal to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, reasons have to be given. It is only when the motive for deportation is imperative for reasons of national security that reasons are not given. Therefore, such a person has the worst of both possible worlds if reasons are given in the cases presented to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate and not in the cases which are not so presented.
Sir F. Soskice
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman would argue in this House that if the ground is a security one the reasons should be given in a case of that sort. If he says that, I must say that really it would be quite impossible to administer any security system. One could not do it. If it had to be said in the case of an individual against whom it was suspected, rightly or wrongly, that there were security objections "We suspect you of that", in which case the name of the informant and so on would have to be given, we should have to pack up any security system and say that there was not to be one.
Surely my right hon. and learned Friend is here defending the Security Service, which at times gives only half-reasons, and it should be challenged to prove that a man is guilty and not just suspect that he is guilty. This is what many of us worry about.
Sir F. Soskice
Frankly, I do not accept that it should prove it. It has to take an executive decision. If the Minister who is responsible for the security department is not adequate to the performance of his duties, this House has its ordinary remedy by making it perfectly clear that it has no confidence in the Minister. That is our constitutional position.
Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
Sir F. Soskice
I cannot give way again. I must go on.So I start from the position that if one has a security system and it is accepted that in certain circumstances with certain activities a risk may be engendered to the security of the country, it is essential that a certain degree of secrecy should be observed with regard to it. Those are the views which I put to the Committee. Hon. Members may or may not agree with them. Recognising that many hon. Members do not agree with them, the Government have decided that the time has come when we ought to set up this Committee. Two points arise. One is whether the alien legislation should depend on annual renewal, as I have said and all my predecessors for years have accepted. There is something to be said for it because it provides annual reconsideration, but, nevertheless, I accent on balance, as all my predecessors have constantly accepted, that it is anomalous that legislation of this degree of importance should rest upon Section 1 of an Act passed in 1919, after the end of the First World War. The question then arises whether we are, as a purely mechanical process. simply to write out in the terms of a single Statute Section 1 of the 1919 Act and the various Orders which have subsequently been made under it and which now in combination contain the existing aliens legislation, or whether we should review those Orders and change their form where necessary, bring them up to date and see where the shoe pinches and where there is danger of injustice. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee will, I think, say unhesitatingly that it is not the slightest use just writing it out in a single Act. One has to review it and reconsider it. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who has taken such a prominent part in these discussions, would, I know, say at once that he does not want just the mechanical process of writing out and that he wants reviews. Because we recognise that, in the terms of reference, which I hope hon. Members will regard as suitable—I know that there will be criticisms—we announce that we propose to set up a Committee to do what I believe to be necessary to enable us to put these provisions in permanent form. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton in particular criticised the terms, but first he criticised the nature of the Committee and argued that it should have been a Select Committee, and I know that for long that has been his view. It is a question of balance. We carefully considered my hon. and learned Friend's view, but we thought on balance that it would be better to have an independent body to examine what is a subject involving very careful and minute investigation. We may have been right or wrong about that, but it was a question of a balanced judgment. I still feel that on balance we were right, although I see the force of my hon. and learned Friend's case. The question then arises whether the terms of reference are appropriate. I hope that when hon. Members examine them, they will agree that they are. Let me take the example mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne. He said that in the United States an alien who was refused leave to land had the right to appeal to a judicial body to determine whether he should be allowed to land. In other words, what is done in the United States is that there is an executive act which refuses the alien leave to land and then, if the alien disagrees with that act, he has a right of appeal. It is precisely that which the Committee which we are setting up, as I read its terms of reference—and it will be for the Committee to interpret them and not for me to put a gloss on them—will have the right, arid I would have thought the duty, to investigate. The Committee will be able to consider whether there should be a right of appeal and, if so, what right of appeal and other remedies for aliens and Commonwealth citizens who are refused permission to land. The alien who lands in the United States and who meets that executive decision then has a right of appeal. The Committee will no doubt direct its mind to whether we should have some system of that sort in this country. I think that my hon. and learned Friend would accept at once that it is not arguable to start the proceedings by judicial inquiry. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne at one time was rather inclined to think that that would be appropriate, but that was not the view of my hon. and learned Friend. After all, 2,700,000 aliens ask leave to land and a certain percentage is refused. We have to decide as a mater of inevitable need by way of executive decision whether in the first place they are to be allowed leave to land. Where there is disagreement with the decision, we then have to investigate whether such aliens should have the right, by way of appeal, to challenge the decision.
Mr. Sydney Silverman
I quite accept that. In a great many cases the original executive decision is accepted and the question arises only when it is not accepted. What we are saying is that when the executive act has been challenged, the issue of whether it should remain valid should be a judicial decision reached in a judicial way.
Sir F. Soskice
I have been pointing out that it is precisely that question which its terms of reference will enable the Committee to investigate. Therefore, I would have thought that the terms of reference were perfectly appropriate to discharge just that very end. It would not be for the chairman and the Committee to decide whether the terms of reference enabled them to ask in the first place whether when an alien lands he should go before a tribunal without an executive act. I do not think that anybody could possibly argue that such a proceeding was remotely practicable. I hope that these terms of reference are exactly apposite and appropriate.
The comparison with America breaks down. In America everybody has a prima facie right to enter. That is the idea of the melting pot. That right is limited by law, the quota law and others. The immigration officer operates a known law and tells the alien that he cannot enter for a certain reason, and the alien can then appeal. Our difficulty is that, on the contrary, nobody has the right to enter this country and the reason for an alien's exclusion, the general rules, do not give anything on which to judge. I am saying that the terms of reference of the committee are all wrong because we must decide what are the rules, as in America, for excluding people and then set up a tribunal to judge. As it is, there will be no rules on which a tribunal can judge.
Sir F. Soskice
When 2,700,000 aliens are being allowed to land and 1,400 are being refused, it makes very little difference in practice whether there is a prima facie right to land or not. The alien has the very strong hope that he will land. Prima facie right or not, the procedure is that refusal of leave to land is a decision which is never taken in the first place without very careful inquiry into the individual case. The person who is refused leave to land is always allowed to get in touch with friends or relatives by telephone and they are given the opportunity to make representations on his behalf. No alien is sent away by the authority of the immigration officer alone. He has to consult his superior. Where there is a case of difficulty, it goes to London and to Ministers for decision. Whether there is a prima facie right to land or not, with all those safeguards and with the numbers in fact allowed to land, that is a distinction without a difference.That is how the inquiry will work at the admission side. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne then referred to the case of a person who had applied for and had not yet got naturalisation and was, therefore, an alien and subject to our arbitrary power to expel him. My hon. Friend did not invite me to deal with the facts and hon. Members will understand that, while I am perfectly prepared to do so, I would be in danger of infringing your Ruling, Sir Herbert, if I set about it, and I will not do so. However, I hope that the Committee will recognise that there are two sides to every story and that this is one of those stories. 6.30 p.m. Take the case instanced by my hon. Friend, that the terms of reference to this Committee were so narrowly drawn that they could not consider that sort of case. His argument was, "Here is a man who, after years, is subject to your arbitrary power to tell him to go". But the terms of reference invite the Committee to consider whether a person who is required to leave, which would include that person, is to have a right of appeal or any other rights with regard to it. Therefore, I ask him to consider this seriously. The terms of reference are so drawn as precisely to cover the sort of case which he instanced as an example of the undesirability of there being an arbitrary power vested in the Home Secretary to require persons who are aliens to leave. Having listened most carefully to his arguments, and having had some part in drafting these terms of reference, I feel that they cover the objections which have been uttered here. In substance, the point made is that considerations of humanity, justice and human dignity require that even although a Minister is subject to criticism in this House there should be a further judicial inquiry in the case of an executive act which is adverse to the individual. The Committee can inquire about that, but there are two views on this. There are practical difficulties about it, but it may be that the Committee will think that those difficulties ought to be overcome. Certainly it is within its terms of reference, and I would hope that my hon. Friends would feel, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has very generously said, that at any rate in this regard the Government have gone far to meet the perfectly legitimate and proper criticisms that have been voiced for years in the course of these debates. We must go into it and see where we stand and then we can consider how we may change the legislation properly. In those circumstances, I hope that the Committee will agree that, having thoroughly discussed this Amendment, we should at least be given an annual renewal, for one year, of the Aliens' Act, 1919, Section 1. We could not get on without some control, even if the existing control is one which ought to be changed as a result of an inquiry by the Committee. I therefore hope that the Committee will not accept this Amendment.
I would like to ask the Home Secretary to deal with one or two more points before we leave this matter. What I am primarily concerned with at this point are the terms of reference of this Committee. My right hon. Friend says that considering the enormous number of people we admit and the few who have been refused admission, it does not really matter whether there is a basic right to come in or no basic right to come in. In that case why are we talking about a tribunal? If one is going to have a tribunal, then it must have some law or rules on which to judge. The American tribunal has a perfectly good set of rules on which to judge the law permitting the exclusion of an alien. The tribunal decides whether the Executive is inside the rules or outside of them in excluding that alien. That is a justiciable question. If, on the other hand, the alien has no right to enter anyway and there are no rules, it seems that there is no justiciable question for that tribunal to consider. I would ask that the terms of reference of the inquiry should be extended to see whether it could recommend, as in America, laying down the general rules under which aliens may be excluded.If these general rules are then laid down, the appeals Committee set up after the Executive act could decide whether the Executive acted within the rules. If there are no rules there is nothing for the Committee to decide. To deal with the question raised when the alien is here, my right hon. and learned Friend says that what is conceived is the placing of the law which we renew annually on to a permanent basis. That law covers the control of aliens while they are here. Would it be within the terms of reference of this Committee to consider and advise on what rules are necessary, if any, to control movement of aliens while they are in this country, and will it be within the terms of the Charter of Human Rights to lay down and reconsider the 1948 Act with regard to naturalisation? As my right hon. and learned Friend says at that time, that Act did not require him to give reasons. It is none the less part of what happens to aliens when they are here, and I should have thought this was a perfect opportunity to consider that. After all, since the 1948 Act we have adhered to the Charter of Human Rights. There is something to be said for making oar law comply with it. There is another question with regard to expulsion orders. If an alien has no right to be here there are no grounds for removing him. Unless one has some grounds, it is a little difficult to see what is the justiciable question to decide whether the Executive is or is not acting within its rights. Will my right hon. and learned Friend extend the terms of reference to consider not merely whether one sets up a tribunal but whether that tribunal has any rules upon which it can adjudicate?
Sir F. Soskice
With the leave of the Committee, I will speak again. If my hon. and learned Friend is saying that aliens should have a right to land here, I can answer him by pointing out that that can only be a matter of broad Government policy. I do not see how on earth one can expect an independent tribunal investigating questions of appeal to investigate broad issues of policy of that sort. It is certainly for the chairman to interpret his own terms of reference, but I would think it would be unlikely for him to take it upon himself, within the terms of reference, to decide broad issues of Government policy. This must be for the Government and not for a committee. Whether aliens, and in what circumstances, are to have a right to land in this country cannot be a matter for the Committee. It must be a matter of Government responsibility. Therefore, I would answer my hon. and learned Friend by saying that my view is that the answer to his question should be "Certainly not".
The purpose of my Amendment was to enable us to have a debate on a subject which is of interest and importance. I thought it was right that we should have this debate. I must say that I lean a little nearer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's view than some of his hon. Friends. [HON. MEMBERS: "How do you know?"] My own view is that a very substantial measure of executive power will, in any event, have to be retained by the Home Office in this matter. But these matters are referred to the Committee, and since we have had a full discussion on it and I know that some hon. Members on both sides of the Committee wish to move on to a wider discussion of the question of Commonwealth immigration, I would beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
The Temporary Chairman
Before I call the next Amendment dealing with the Commonwealth Immigration Act, it should be noted that only those provisions which concern control of immigration are continued and, therefore, are debatable. The provisions relating to deportation are permanent. They do not expire, and, therefore, cannot be discussed under the next Amendment.
On a point of order. It may be within your knowledge, Sir Herbert, that within recent weeks both the Prime Minister and the Lead