I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in pursuance of Sub-section (1) of Section eleven of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, praying that the said Act as amended by any subsequent enactment be continued in force for a further period of one year beginning with the twenty-fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-one.
I move this Motion, which stands in the names of the Prime Minister and other right hon. Gentlemen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] If my hon. Friends will show a little patience, I will tell them where they are, and when they will be here. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be here in a very few minutes. He had an engagement elsewhere, of very great importance.
The Motion is obviously of the first importance, for the validity of practically the whole of our war-time legislation depends upon an extension of the Emergency Powers Act for a further period. I wish to assure the House that, in delegating the introduction of the Motion to an Under-Secretary, the Government intend no discourtesy to the House, but it has been brought to our notice, by the Motion which stands on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) and some 6o other Members, that it is desired to take this opportunity of discussing certain matters affecting the Home Office. I think it will be for the convenience of hon. Members if, in moving the Motion, I first explain very shortly why the continuance of the Emergency Powers Act is necessary, and then proceed to give, as briefly as I can, certain information bearing on the exercise of the Home Secretary's powers under Defence Regulation 18B, in order that hon. Members may have a background for the Debate which may follow. The Emergency Powers Act was passed on 31st August, 1939, and provides that
His Majesty may by Order in Council make such Regulations. … as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty may be engaged, and for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.
Under those powers a vast amount of wartime legislation has been enacted. Practically everything done by the Government in pursuance of the war has been done under that Act. I can imagine no quicker way of frustrating our war effort than to allow the Emergency Powers Act to lapse. Since we are all determined to pursue the war to victory, there are unlikely to be any dissentients to the Motion before the House. It is, I think, a remarkable thing that this vast mass of legislation, which has not been subject to any detailed scrutiny by this House, should have attracted the opposition of hon. Members, by means of Prayer on the Order Paper, only, as far as I can remember, on two or three occasions. That is to say, the powers which the Government have taken under this Act to pursue the war have the support of the overwhelming majority of hon. Members, to whatever parties they belong.
If hon. Members will now look at Sub-section (2) of Section 1 of the Emergency Powers Act, they will see the authority for the exercise of powers of detention without trial by the Home Secretary. Although powers of detention are obviously implicit in the words of Sub-section (1), it was thought advisable and desirable to state in terms in the Act that it was intended to exercise such powers. Sub-section (2) contains these words:
Without prejudice to the generality of the powers conferred by the preceding subsection, Defence Regulations may …make provision… for the detention of persons whose detention appears to the Secretary of State to be expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the realm …
Nothing is more repugnant to our traditions or to our inate sense of fair play than that persons should be detained without trial. In times of peace we all recognise that it is a far greater evil to the body politic for an innocent man to be detained than it is for a guilty man, to be at liberty. Detention without trial obviously involves the possibility of the detention of innocent persons. Preventive detention, as hon. Members are aware, is almost unknown to our law. It exists only in the case of the habitual criminal, and is then subject to a multiplicity of safeguards. In times of peace we are prepared to make great sacrifices in order to maintain the principle of the liberty of the subject and of the subject's right to trial. Hon. Members may recall in the months just preceeding the war the campaign of violence by terrorists of the I.R.A., which the police could very easily have prevented had emergency powers then existed. They knew who these men were and the type of crime which was going to be committed, but under the sacred principles of British law and justice they were unable to act before the crimes took place.
The House very reluctantly, on 24th July, 1939, gave the Government power to deport these persons and to detain them without trial, pending deportation. Everybody recognises also, I think, that in time of war swift and decisive action must be taken, that no risks to the security of the State should be run, and that our peace-time methods must temporarily be abandoned. It is our liberty as a nation for which we are fighting, and
it would be little satisfaction if we were to lose our national liberty that we had throughout the struggle been able to maintain the sanctity of the liberty of the individual. Therefore, after the Emergency Powers Act was passed we promulgated a Defence Regulation. That was Defence Regulation 18b in its original form. It provided very simply that
the Secretary of State, if satisfied with respect to any particular person that, with a view to preventing him acting in any manner prejudicial to the public safety or the Defence of the Realm, it is necessary so to do, may make an order directing that he be detained.
There was in that Regulation provision for one or more advisory committees and for objections to be made by a detained person. The House will recall that on 31st October in that year that Regulation came under some very severe criticism from all quarters of the House, including some hon. Members who are now members of His Majesty's Government. The result of the criticism in the House was that the Government undertook to consult Members of all parties and to amend the Regulation. These discussions took place, and by general consent a satisfactory solution and compromise was arrived at. The effect of the amendments, briefly, was to provide that the person detained must be either of hostile origin or associations, or must have been recently concerned in acts prejudicial to the public safety or the De fence of the Realm. In either case, of course, it must also be necessary, in the opinion of the Home Secretary, to exercise control over him.
By Sub-sections (4), (5) and (6) of the new Regulation 18B, a number of other safeguards were added. In the first place, the person detained has the right to be informed that he can make objections to an Advisory Committee. The Chairman of the Advisory Committee must inform him of the grounds for his detention and must furnish him with such particulars as are sufficient to enable him to present his case. Lastly, the Home Office must make a return monthly to Parliament of the action taken under Defence Regulation 18B. It will be observed that by these amendments the powers of the Home Secretary have been greatly circum scribed. [Hon. Members: "How? "] Under the original Regulation my right hon. Friend could detain anybody if he was merely satisfied that it was necessary to exercise further control. Under the new Regulation the person to be detained had to fall either into the class of persons of hostile origin or association, or in the class of persons who had been recently concerned in acts prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm.
The hon. Member says that it is a distinction without a difference, but towards the end of April, 1940, after the invasion of Norway, hon. Members in all quarters of the House were pressing the Lord President of the Council, who was then Home Secretary, to take action against some organisations of a subversive character, and on 25th April my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council informed the House that he was considering whether some strengthening of the Regulation was desirable for the purpose of checking the activities specifically directed towards impeding the national war effort. My right hon. Friend had to do that because, under the Regulation, as it had been amended in the previous November, it was not possible in very many cases for my right hon. Friend to take the action, not only desired by hon. Members in all quarters of the House, but the action which the Government desired to take against members of the British Union of Fascists. Therefore, on 22nd May, 1940, a new Regulation was promulgated which was added to Defence Regulation 18B. That is known as Defence Regulation 18B (1a). If hon. Members will study the paragraph which regulates 18B, they will see the following words:
If the Secretary of State has reasonable cause to believe any person to have been, or to be a member of, or to have been, or to be active in the furtherance of the objects of any such organisation as is hereinafter mentioned, and that it is necessary to exercise control over him, he may make an order directing that that person be detained.
The organisations concerned are described in the following words:
The organisations referred to are organisations with respect to which the Secretary of State is satisfied that either the organisation is subject to foreign influence or control, or
the persons in control of the organisation have, or have had associations with per sons concerned in the Government of, or sympathises with the system of Government of any Power with which His Majesty is at war.
It was not until that Regulation had been
promulgated that my right hon. Friend saw his way clear to take the action which he did take at the end of May against the leaders and organisers of the British Union of Fascists. Subject to that modification, Defence Regulation 18B is still in the form in which it was settled as the result of the all-party discussions in the autumn of 1939. Perhaps I may give the House some information as to the action taken by the Home Secretary under the powers thereby conferred upon him. Under Defence Regulation 18B, 1,779 orders have been made. I informed the House on 25th March that at that time there were 866 persons detained. That number has fallen to-day to 762; that is to say, a further 104 persons have been released since 25th March. Of the 1,779 persons who have been detained at one time or another, just under 800 were members of an organisation such as is described in Defence Regulation 18B (1a), and of the remainder just under 1,000—approximately 800—are persons of hostile origin. Hon. Members will see that the number detained as having been recently concerned in acts prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm is comparatively small.
No, the hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The figure which he has given is the figure of the cases which have been before the Advisory Committee. This is the total number of cases which include those dealt with by release by the Home Secretary without reference to the Committee at all. Of the 762 persons still detained under this Regulation, 292 are detained under Defence Regulation 18B (1a) as members of an organisation which is subject to foreign influence or control, and the remaining 470 are detained under Defence Regulation 18B as it stood. As regards the work of the Advisory Committee, the position at present is as follows: Early this year the Committee concluded the first hearing of air cases submitted to them, and, as hon. Members are aware, the size of that Committee has been reduced because the number of cases remaining to be dealt with— new cases arising from time to time, and reviews of cases in which new information has come forward or cases which the Committee for some reason or another express a desire to go into again—are not so numerous. I think something like 80 cases have been referred for second review to the Advisory Committee and that the great majority of these cases have been dealt with by the Committee.
Hon. Members probably wonder who these persons are. It is a great pain and grief to me that I am not able to give them the detailed information upon which these people have been detained. It would make my life very much easier if I could show them the Home Office files, but hon. Members will also see that where you have to detain a person with out charge, it is not fair to pass on to anybody the grounds of suspicion—for it is only suspicion—upon which they are being held. Many of these persons are being detained only for fear of what they might do, and I do not think it would be in any way fair to them to put before their friends or advisers detailed information which the Home Office possesses.
May I ask a question on that point? A number of these men are ex-Service men. The actual number in one camp is 80, of whom quite a number have served in the present war. When they are taken from their units, is the reason why they are being arrested made clear to them, or do they have to wait until they go before the Advisory Committee?
No, Sir, the order itself is a short form of the grounds of the man's detention. He is told that he is being detained under Defence Regulation 18B and under which specific part of the Regulation he is being detained. Before he goes before the Advisory Committee he is given a further statement of the grounds of his detention and particulars of the reasons for his detention, in accordance with Sub-section (4) of the Regulation. When he gets to the Advisory Committee every fact which can possibly be put to him is put to him by the chairman of the Committee at the hearing.
He is given at least three days' notice, and usually longer, before he goes before the Committee, after the statement of the grounds for his detention. Detailed evidence upon which he is being detained is, of course, only put to him at the actual hearing before the Committee.
It is not evidence in the sense that it is evidence in a court of law. It is allegations or facts which are held against him. When they consider that 760 persons have been detained without trial, hon. Members may wonder who they are. Obviously, a large number are of hostile origin or association or are persons who are British subjects only by accident of birth. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but there are many cases of persons who possess British nationality yet have lived the whole of their lives up to now in Germany and cannot even speak English. Some persons of dual nationality possess British nationality because they were born on a British ship, and those persons obviously, from a security point of view, must be treated more or less on a par with persons of the nationality which is really theirs. Then there are also persons who belong to a sort of international underworld, who float from one capital to another without any strong national loyalties of any kind. There are, perhaps, a few persons who have been naturalised, sometimes with very good references and very good support, about whom doubts subsequently develop. I should like to assure the House that each individual case is the subject of careful and anxious inquiry at the Home Office, both before and after the order for detention is made, and we have all these cases under constant review.
I want to pay a tribute to the work of the Advisory Committee under Sir Norman Birkett. I have seen hundreds of letters from these detained persons complaining—naturally complaining— about the Home Secretary, about myself, about the conditions of detention, and so forth; but I can only remember one case out of many hundreds or thousands of letters in which there has been a word of complaint about the conduct of their case before the Advisory Committee. On all sides one hears the highest tributes to the fairness with which these cases have been conducted, and I should like publicly to express the gratitude of the Government to Sir Norman Birkett and his distinguished colleagues for the work which they have so public-spiritedly done for such a long period.
I think I have said enough to give a background for the Debate which is now to follow. We shall welcome constructive criticism either of the terms of the Regulation or of our administration of it. We shall welcome any practical suggestions which hon. Members may bring for ward, but let hon. Members always have one difficulty present in their minds in suggesting Amendments to the Regulation, and it is this—I do not think you can divorce power in this matter from responsibility. The Home Secretary is responsible for the internal security of this country, and I do not think you can pass his responsibility for action under this Regulation to some extraneous body. Certainly, my right hon. Friend could no longer continue to be held responsible for what may happen unless he is in possession of the powers which this Regulation gives him. My right hon. Friend has onerous duties. He does not ask for sympathy. Many other people have disagreeable tasks to perform in time of war, but like others, if my right hon. Friend discharges his duties fairly, courageously and vigorously, we shall bring nearer the happy day when these extraordinary powers can be dispensed with.
I was going to see whether that question was raised in the course of the Debate, and leave my right hon. Friend to reply. We have only a short time for the Debate, and I did not want to add unnecessarily to the length of my introductory speech, but I can tell the hon. Member that, in the case of the women, practically all have been transferred to the Isle of Man, and as far as the men are concerned, I think 90 per cent. or thereabouts are on the Isle of Man at present, and the remainder, some 60 or 70 persons, are still at Brixton.
I am sure that all hon. Members are much obliged to my hon. Friend the Under-secretary of State for the very reasonable and careful explanation he has given of the working of these Regulations. I think every hon. Member recognises, and does not for one moment dispute, the need for these Defence Regulations in time of war, and coming to the one Regulation about which at the moment there is, at any rate, some doubt as regards its administration —I refer to Regulation 18b—I think everybody recognises also that, in a war time emergency, the Government must have these powers. It is on that account that we have not sought to place on the Order Paper any Amendment to the Prayer which is before us. We did not want in any way to befog the issue by putting down a reasoned Amendment, convinced as we are that the Home Secretary must have Regulations such as are included within the Defence Regulations.
With regard to Regulation 18b, which is the Regulation that causes great concern, I am not at all convinced that its administration in its present form is an adequate safeguard against unfairness and even the imprisonment and detention in some cases of the innocent. Before pursuing that matter, I should like to add that I do not think anybody makes any complaint personally against the administration of the Regulations either by the former Home Secretary or the present Home Secretary; the complaint is against the form of the Regulations themselves at the present time. The Under-Secretary mentioned the Advisory Committee and explained how a detainee could go to it and how he received before information as to the charges which were the cause of his detention. I have seen recently a list of those charges as they were sent to a detainee. I ask the House to remember that, in the ordinary way, if a person is charged with something, he is innocent until he has been proved guilty, and it is on the other party to prove his guilt. It appears to me that these detainees are in exactly the opposite position. They are detained on suspicion and their only hope of getting their release is to establish and prove their innocence. It is not up to the Government to prove that they are guilty; the wretched detainees have to prove their innocence. In the circumstances —and bearing in mind that, after all, these are not, strictly speaking, legal transactions and the persons are not being charged by the ordinary processes of the law, but detained on suspicion—it may well be that this cannot be helped, but that brings me to a further point which is of very great importance.
Let us consider the information given to the detainee. In a whole list of things, one of the items will be probably some thing of this sort—"That you were at a certain date in company with a certain person of hostile associations." I am putting it very broadly. The point I want to make is that if the information is that the person was on Wednesday, 13th July, in company with Mr. Brown, a recognised Nazi agent, at Hampstead, and if he can prove that instead of being at Hampstead on 13th July he was at Brighton with his wife, obviously the charge falls to the ground; but when he gets the kind of in formation which says, "You were on a certain date in company with a certain person at a certain place "—and when in any case he is not given a great deal of notice—it does not seem to me very easy for him, in those circumstances, to be able to prove his innocence or to prove that he was hot at a certain date at a certain place with a certain person who has not been named. That is one of the difficulties these people must have.
I do not propose to go into individual cases to-day—that would make a very long story—but it seems to me, from the correspondence I have seen and on the facts, I admit limited, which I have had, that there are persons detained to-day be cause they were associated before the war with certain organisations prescribed in these Regulations, but who, since the out break of war, have no views or loyalties other than the loyalty which is due to their country. I sometimes wonder whether the Home Secretary and his advisers are sufficiently taking into account the difference between an organisation which, as an organisation, might be dangerous to the State, and an individual who perhaps took a very loose part in that organisation, and who, by himself, can under present circum stances be of no real danger. to the State. After all, the purport of these Regulations is not punitive but purely preventive. Therefore it seems to me that the Home Secretary and his advisers should consider whether a person who is possibly no longer associated with such an organisation is still dangerous and should be detained for the safety of the State.
The next thing which causes me a considerable amount of concern is this: The Advisory Committee have been appointed by the Home Secretary, and the chair man of the Advisory Committee has been nominated by the Home Secretary. The Under-Secretary in his speech to-day paid a high tribute to the present chairman. The Home Secretary has himself on several occasions assured us that all the information and all the evidence, if it can be called evidence, which comes to him as Home Secretary is passed on to the Committee, and that they are aware of all the facts which are known to him. Yet I find that in 132 cases the Home Secretary has differed from the opinion of the Committee which he himself has set up. He was asked at Question time to state whether he differed from the Committee because he had received sub sequent information, and he replied in the negative. I understood him to say that the only reason he differed from the Committee was because, on the facts as presented, he arrived at a different conclusion. It seems to me to be a common-sense proposition that if you appoint a committee of able men with an expert chairman to consider and devote them selves to these cases, it is as likely, if not more likely, that their view as to whether a person at liberty would be a danger to the State should be worth as much as that of a very harassed and overworked Home Secretary. I cannot conceive that he could find it possible to devote the time or detailed attention which the Committee must obviously give to these cases.
The only other point which seems to arise in this connection is in regard to responsibility. I am quite sure that the Home Secretary cannot care about his responsibility. 1 am almost surprised that he has not tried to divest himself of it. He seems to have an idea that because he is responsible for national security he has to be personally responsible whether Mr. A., Mr. B., or Mr. C. is kept under detention. That is a point of view which I do not accept, and I do not: see any real grounds for it. The Home Secretary has to administer these Regulations, appoint a committee and a chairman, and do everything else which is necessary in the public interest, but it docs not seem to me to be vitally necessary—neither should I have thought it was in the public interest—that he should have to consider personally whether Mr. X., Mr. Y., or Mr. Z. has made a case for release from detention.
I want to be clear as to what the suggestion is. Is it that I should delegate the power whether a person should be released or not to the Committee, and leave it to the Committee to decide? My hon. Friend argues that I should delegate the power, but he says he is still going to hold me responsible to this House whether a person is or is not detained.
I would say that the Home Secretary would still be responsible for national security, regulations and ad ministration. We could certainly not hold him responsible for an individual case which the body he had appointed to exercise his authority had allowed to go free. There: is nothing very terrible about that. Even in this country some accidents, although there may not be many, may occur. To that extent I would certainly absolve him from responsibility. There are several remedies I could suggest to my right hon. Friend. Mainly, what we want is some form of appeal in those cases where the Committee have recommended that a person should be released whom the Home Secretary does not think it safe to release. There is more than one method by which that could be achieved. I will not try to describe the methods which could be introduced, because it would take time and would only be setting up a skittle for the Home Secretary to knock down and take us away from what is the main issue. If the Home Secretary will agree that it is desirable that some remedy should be found, then with a little good will I have no doubt we could find a suit able method.
That is all I want to say about Regulation 18B as it regards the ordinary citizen. I have, however, still a word to say about it, more" particularly with reference to the way in which it affects Members of this House, and that I consider to be, if possible, even more important than the point of view which we have just been considering. I want hon. Members to remember the conditions under which these Regulations were passed. We heard from the Under-secretary that there was some consultation with the different parties. I believe that is so, but it was of a very limited nature. It took place at a time when this House was very occupied with very critical matters and when it was quite willing, and rightly willing, to accord immediately to the Government almost anything that they demanded in the national interest. But as time has gone by, and certain features of the ad ministration of the Regulation have been criticised, not only by Members but also by the learned judges, I suggest that they should try to consider whether it is not right and proper that some amendment should now take place. Under these Regulations the Home Secretary has power to arrest any Member of the House on suspicion and keep him in detention. As far as I know, he has the power to arrest any number of Members and keep them in detention, and I believe he is under no obligation at present to explain or justify to any representative body of the House, even in Secret Session, his reasons for keeping such Members in detention.
I should continue to sit with shame as a Member of this House if I did not protest against that state of affairs. I believe it is quite contrary to all that is best in our Constitution, and I believe it defeats all that is most necessary in the rights and Privileges and powers of Parliament. Some hon. Members may refer to the fact that, as regards the Member of the House at present in detention, the
matter was considered by the Committee of Privileges. If I am right, and I think I am, the question which that Committee had to decide was really whether the Home Secretary was strictly acting within the powers which had been given him by the House, and it decided that he was strictly within those powers. That was really, I think, the effect of the decision of the Committee of Privileges. But that is not the point that I am raising. I claim that the House at that time, without due consideration, gave to the Home Secretary powers over Members of the House, the representatives of the people, which it was unwise, and I think quite wrong, to give to any Minister of the Crown. It certainly was the view taken earlier in the history of the House. I mentioned in the earlier Debate that in 1715 Parliament had taken the precaution of inserting a proviso which made impossible what arises under the present Regulation. The Prime Minister the other day, speaking in this House, said:
Personally, I labour constantly to secure the power, authority and prestige of the House of Commons. That shall always be my faithful effort and endeavour, because I think it would be a glorious thing if we came through this with all our Parliamentary faculties un-diminished, nay, having in fact played a vital part in the struggle."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1941; col. 830, Vol. 372.]
The question that we are raising to-day is not going to win and it is not going to lose the war. I do not consider that the Prime Minister, with all the troubles that he has on his shoulders to-day, should be worried even with the kind of thing that we are discussing to-day, important as I believe it to be, but I believe it to be not only important to-day, but important on account of the influence that it will have on the business and the traditions of the House in the future, and, having quoted those words of the Prime Minister's, which I am certain express very sincerely his views on that matter, and which his attitude to the House ever since he has been Prime Minister and has been in the House bears out, I think his colleagues should take those words into account and endeavour to amend these Regulations in such a way that they should no longer be, as I maintain they are to-day, an affront on the membership of Parliament.
Some days ago there appeared on the Order Paper a Motion in the names of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) and over 60 other Members which I think more or less covered the ground which he has covered in this Debate. I mention that, because my hon. Friends behind me had a very full discussion on this Motion and asked me to express their views, and their views were, by a very large majority indeed, that they were not prepared to support the Motion or the views that the hon. Gentleman has expressed.
I do not know that it is necessary for Members of a party to tell the House when a party discussion took place. I say that it took place. and it was a very full one. The basis of this Motion, which I thought on account of its basis needed a serious discussion by my hon. Friends, was that we are by these Regulations undermining the whole sys tem of English jurisprudence. I think that must be admitted. I am not a lawyer, but I understand that it is a principle of English jurisprudence that people must not be interned or imprisoned unless a verdict is found against them after prosecution in a court of law. That, I understand, is the broad principle, and undoubtedly that is overridden by this Regulation under which people have been interned by the authority of the Home Secretary. But it appears to me that it is inevitable that these principles should be in abeyance under present conditions, because, as far as I understand it, the bulk of those who are interned are not necessarily guilty of any criminal offence at all for which a verdict could be found against them. I do not know that it is a criminal offence to have been a Fascist, though you may be a potential danger in time of war, and the Home Secretary obviously may have reason in hundreds of cases to believe that there are people who are sym pathetic with the enemy and who might, if they could, assist the enemy. But they have not assisted the enemy yet; they have not tried to assist the enemy yet. Nevertheless, they are not the kind of people we want to have wandering about during an invasion. That is why this special power is necessary. Indeed, the same powers, although not in the same form, were taken in the last war, and none of the terrible consequences which have been mentioned ever arose.
Yes. The power was used in the last war, and we have to face the fact that such a Regulation is more necessary in this war than in the last, because in this war we are fighting an enemy who uses as part of his military operations the fact that he hopes to get the assistance of persons inside the country who have not previously been spies or traitors but who are in sympathy with the doctrine of anti-Semitism and with dictatorship. That is why it is right for the Home Secretary to have this power, and I hope he will not make the mistake that was made in other countries of Ministers being afraid to use it until it is too late. I hope that the House will not tie our hands by taking the power from the man who is responsible.
It is not necessary to make a very long speech, because the issue appears to be very simple. There is only one safeguard against abuse, and I think that it has been adequate. I do not think any cases are quoted where it is held that there has been unfair use of the power on a large scale, because the safeguard has been completely adequate. That safeguard is the day-to-day control over Ministers in this House. The Minister has to defend him self in the House, he has to answer questions and he has to reply to Debates. Although he may not go into particulars, the House can tell very well from his answers what is the nature of his defence and whether he is on the whole abusing or properly using his power. The hon. Member for Gravesend has made one fairly concrete suggestion as an alternative to the present system. That was that the Minister should put these matters before the Advisory Committee, and if he and the Committee did not agree, they should go to some court of appeal who would decide them. If that happened, the House would lose all control over the Minister. He could answer, "It has nothing to do with me; it was settled by the secret court of appeal." In fact, it would be the worst possible method of dealing with the subject, and worse for the detainees. We should have secret hearings before a body which was not a court and a Minister who was not responsible to the House of Commons. I cannot imagine anything which would better combine all the faults we want to avoid. If there were some Select Committee of Members, the Minister must in the end take their advice. Again, that would mean transferring to a body of Members those judicial functions for which the Minister is responsible and for which finally he would be held answerable by the House.
I do not see what all the dangers are that have been referred to. In fact, the thing is working fairly well. The case which is in all our minds is that of a Member of this House. I doubt whether it will be found that any injustice was committed there. One need not probe into mysteries, but facts are coming to light to show that in that case there certainly was a good deal of evidence on which the Minister could act. We come back to the position that the security against abuse is criticism in this House and the public authority which the House possesses in the country.
May I put to my right hon. Friend a friendly point, not concerning this case? I have inspected one of these camps, and it would be unfair to say that the people in the camps belong to any one class. There are wage-earners and a large number of ex-Service men. I think that my right hon. Friend should take that into consideration and should not deal merely with-one aspect of the case or one particular case.
Nothing that I have said indicated that I even know to which class the great mass of these people be long. The reason I happen to have concentrated on one particular case, which is that of a man in a good position, is that it is the case of a Member of Parliament which has been brought before the House.
I suggest to the Home Secretary that this Debate shows there is a good deal of uneasiness about the method by which the Advisory Committee conducts its investigations and about the kind of in formation which the detainee has. I have heard complaints about the length of time he is kept waiting before his case is taken up, and it would give a sense of security if the right hon. Gentleman would deal fully with the method by which he secures the views of the Advisory Committee. Beyond that the safeguard is criticism in this House and the public authority which this House possesses. This House continually criticises the Home Secretary, and is regarded as wielding great public authority in this country, and one of the reasons for that undoubtedly is that the House has shown itself capable of making the sensible and temporary adjustments in the law which the law requires.
I think the first point to which the House has to address its mind is the one which underlies the speech of my hon. Friend who opened the critical part of this discussion, and that is whether the detention should be by an administrative act or as the result of a judicial process at some stage. I am sure that this class of detention is completely outside the range and power of ordinary judicial procedure. One does not have to come to the time of trial. Judicial procedure in criminal matters functions as the result of evidence prepared by certain police methods. The police methods are directed to the preparation of a case for trial and to full and detailed proof at the trial. In war-time there is neither the time nor sufficiency of public safety for these elaborate methods to be worked out to their conclusion, and that point must be accepted. If the House will allow me to refer to one well-known case with which I was connected, it took six months for the Ruxton murder case to come to trial, and, as some hon. Members may recall, it involved intricacies of proof which justified that time being taken. That is one consideration which must always be borne in mind.
Secondly, you must remember that in a time of war you cannot expose your methods to the public, or even to the ex position which invariably accompanies a trial in camera. You certainly cannot afford to expose your agents, or the names of the classes of your agents, to a similar public exposition in these cases. There fore, in the preliminary work you cannot insist that the ordinary course is taken, and when you come to the point of decision—and this I would ask my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) seriously to consider—you are not dealing with a judicial decision but with an administrative opinion which can only be formed by an executive officer of the Crown. There are three cases in which the Home Secretary has to have reason-ale grounds for concluding that there is necessity of control. That is an administrative matter, and it must be a matter for which a member of the Executive is going to take the responsibility. In the other cases he has to have reasonable grounds for supposing there is a danger of the utilisation of the organisation to which the prospective detainee belongs, again a matter for administrative opinion. Great though my respect is for the judiciary and the procedure of the profession to which I once belonged, I say respectfully that I do not think a judge who is accustomed to make his decision on evidence, and conclude whether certain facts are proved, is a person who can make up his mind on a point which essentially involves political considerations and a full knowledge as to the dangers of the country at a given time. Therefore, on the preliminary point which I submit underlies this discussion I unhesitatingly suggest that this is a matter for executive as opposed to judicial action.
Advancing from that point, one comes to the considerations which the hon. Member has put forward as to the lack of good working in the present procedure. With great respect I suggest that he has been guilty of over-simplification in saying that the Advisory Committee really reverse the procedure and presume that a man is guilty until he is proved to be innocent. That is a very facile phrase which is borrowed from the language of the droit administratif and is not really applicable to the position. Here you have a Committee who have to decide the advice which they will give. They decide as to the whole of the facts, when they have considered the whole of the matter before them, and there is no question here of proof of innocence or proof of guilt. It is a matter of getting reasonable people presided over by those of whom we have heard from my hon. Friend the Under-secretary coming to a conclusion as to the advice they should tender. Therefore, again, when one faces the actuality as opposed to the easy representation of the matter I do not think that there is sub stance in that point.
I wish to do full justice to the arguments which my hon. Friend so patiently and so courteously put before the House, and he proceeded to say that there are cases in which there is disagreement between the Advisory Committee and the right hon. Gentleman, and that in such a case the Home Secretary ought to give way to the Advisory Committee. On what basis the Home Secretary is to give way to the Advisory Committee I cannot see. It seems to me a complete non sequitur that because he has had advice he should then abrogate his own—not powers, I am not concerned with those— duty to consider the question of whether there is the necessity of control in these cases or not. I followed my hon. Friend with the greatest care of which I am capable but I find it absolutely impossible to imagine that you can ask any administrative officer to perform a responsibility with which he is charged and at the same time completely withdraw from him the right of making up his own mind. I am sorry, but it is a form of national organisation which is beyond such comprehension as I possess. The same argument really applies to the suggestion of a court of appeal.
Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves that point I want to ask him a question. I do not always under stand his points. Does not what he speaks of prevail throughout the Government, and is not the Minister finally responsible always, although he deputes his power? Is not the Secretary of State for War responsible for the acts of the Commander-in-Chief?
I hope the House will acquit me of any desire to deliver a constitutional lecture. Nothing is further from my wish. My answer to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is that, from the Parliamentary point of view, a Minister is answerable to Parliament for his Department, but, in the last 25 years, Parliament has placed on Ministers what are known as quasi-judicial functions. A Minister has to apply his mind first of all to certain considerations, then to come to a conclusion upon those considerations; and then, having that conclusion in mind and other facts in his mind from his political experience, he must come to an administrative decision. That is not a mere Parliamentary or national responsibility but is a personal responsibility, which is laid upon the Home Secretary, to perform first a judicial function and then to proceed to an administrative act, bearing in mind the conclusions to which he has come. I hope that that will make the point to some extent clear. If the hon. Member would like to pursue it further, there is a report on Ministers' powers which was much in favour on the benches in front of him, and which will give him a complete education on the point.
In every one of the cases to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred, in which the Minister exercises a quasi-judicial function and is responsible administratively to the House, the House is in possession of the full facts or can obtain them, and can judge whether the Minister is acting rightly or not.
The hon. Gentleman is very well versed in the Law Reports and probably knows a good many of them by heart. If he will look at the case which concerned the Board of Education and a number of cases which follow the same line, he will see that it has never been exacted from Ministers that they are compelled to disclose all their sources of in formation to the House or to anyone else. If he will pursue that line of research, he will find much to be gained from it.
Before the hon. Member for Ipswich raised his point I was going to deal with the final conclusion of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend, that some form of court of appeal was the remedy. I understand that he did not desire to elucidate his remedy in detail. There again, I suggest that a dilemma stares him in the face and is really unanswerable. Either you have to make the court of appeal act on judicial proof—I have endeavoured to show that judicial proof is completely outside the scope of war time practice—or you have to make your court of appeal simply a super-advisory body with personalities of greater standing or with certain other powers. In that second case you cannot get away from the ultimate responsibility of the Minister for his executive acts.
The residuum with which we are left of my hon. Friend's complaints simply comes down to matters of administration in a minor sense, that is, to speed, industry and care in procuring the hearing before the Advisory Committee and seeing that the person is properly versed in the matter which he has to meet. I was very glad that the Under-Secretary of State paid the tribute to the Chairman of the Advisory Committee. The House will understand that the Advisory Committee are all old friends of mine, and therefore I shall not follow that matter in any way. No-one will doubt that kindness and sympathy are pre-eminent qualities of them all. I therefore feel that we have a procedure which has acted with great fair ness in a very large majority of cases, and I am sure that the Home Secretary will be only too glad to secure these improvements on what are really minor points. On the major point, I suggest that, for the House to take away from the Home Secretary the right to make the decision and act upon it or to cut it down, would be a betrayal of the interests of this country and of its safety at the present time.
I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member upon making such a lucid case in defence of a very bad cause. It was put forward, as always, in a most impressive manner and with a great deal of experience behind it, which is apt to overawe simple people like myself. I want him to recollect that he was using all those abilities to prove that it was right for the Home Secretary to imprison some 1,800 citizens, some eight or nine months ago, and then, on the advice of a committee sitting in secret and without anyone knowing what they were charged with, to let 1,100 of those people out. Last April or May, the Under-Secretary of State said, upon an agitation in the House of Commons—surely a very bad basis for judicial proceedings—that more than 1,800 people were imprisoned. We are now told that in 1,100 cases the imprisonment was a mistake.
I listened to the statement of the Under-secretary of State, and I understood that 700 people still remain in prison. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke officially for the Labour party told us of the man date, and he justified this on the ground that, at any time, these men might be a menace in the case of invasion; so 1,100 were shut up when there was no invasion but are now to be allowed to run about when invasion is still a possibility, in the minds of hon. Gentlemen. This may be good politics, but it seems to me to be very far away from either British justice or British playing the game, and the only possible place where these men can have their grievances ventilated is on the Floor of this House. I would not associate myself with the hon. Member for Graves-end (Sir I. Albery) in seeking to reduce in any way our right to raise the treatment of these people on the Floor of the House.
I think the hon. Gentleman intended to do that, and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary at once seized upon that as the logic of his proposal. It would be true to this extent: if the committee were made into a judicial committee, with a standing similar to that of a judge of the High Court, it would not be answerable for its actions to, nor could it be criticised in, this House. At present, if I know about it, I can raise every individual case,, and I want to retain the right to do that.
I am with the hon. Gentle man in feeling that the case of any Member of this House arrested under these Regulations deserves the consideration of some Committee of this House, but I am not in favour of setting up any form of tribunal that would be a buffer between the private Members of this House and the Home Secretary.
The most important point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite was that in war-time you cannot afford the time that ordinary legal proceedings would take. But let me quote one case in regard to which I did intervene with the Home Secretary, in which a man was 12 months in gaol before he went before the tribunal. Immediately he went before the tribunal he was released on their recommendation to the Home Secretary. The worst thing they could say against him was that he had been a Member of the Labour party and had lapsed—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Or of the I.L.P."] I am quite sure he was not a member of the I.L.P.—and that he had once spent a holiday in Germany, and until the outbreak of war kept up a correspondence with a member of the German Social Democratic party. He waited 12 months to be tried; the hon. and gallant Gentleman argues that we must have speedier procedure, and suggests that this is a speedier procedure.
It was a very limited period of time. He knew all the time he was waiting that he would have an opportunity of appearing some day and o stating his case, and he prepared all the evidence as best he could, but undoubtedly during most of the time he did not know what the charge was, and only in the last few days did he receive specific information. However, I was not so disturbed about the arrest of Fascists, because to some extent they were asking for it. I remember once hearing Sir Oswald Mosley at a public meeting telling how when he came to power heads would roll in the dust, and that sort of thing. When a man who was going to do such desperate things to his fellow men finds himself suffering some little inconvenience and interference it does not evoke the same feeling of sorrow and sympathy, but it does not matter how objectionable they may be, I think the public have a right to be told precisely what is held against them. An hon. Gentleman has said that it would not be fair to publish what is held against these men because it is only suspicion. He cannot take the ground of fairness, because as soon as a man is arrested and put in gaol everybody assumes the very worst, and anything that you can publish in the way of evidence about him will reduce what people think he has done.
I heard also what was said about the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern (Captain Ramsay). The right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Labour party talks about the case appearing in the Press the last few days as evidence that he deserved to be shut up. 1 have read those reports fairly closely, and 1 can see nothing in them which leads me to think he ought to be shut up in a prison—nothing at all. I cannot see any evidence that this man was a danger to the general safety and security of the realm, and if military prowess is a test of character, in the last war the hon. and gallant Gentleman had as good a record as anyone else in this House. It seems to me that the suggestion that he has been engaged in something treacherous is just—
I just felt that I would like to disagree with the decision, arrived at by the right hon. Gentleman before the case is concluded, that the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern is guilty, and say that I jumped to the conclusion that he was innocent. But what disturbed me more than any of the arrests of Fascists or suspected Fascists was the arrest of a number of Scottish Nationalists in the West of Scotland. I do not know who was responsible, and I have not been able to find out yet, be cause I have found that the judicial and administrative officers in Scotland were engaged in what I understand is known in vulgar parlance as "passing the buck "—nobody was responsible. I wonder who collected the evidence. I wonder how the Minister sets his machinery going against people of doubtful political opinions. Who brings in the evidence, and to whom is it presented? I forget the exact figures, but somewhere about 20 homes of decent Scottish people who never had an anti-British idea in their heads in their lives were raided, and documents, papers, letters and the rest of it were taken. They, themselves, were taken into the police station and cross-questioned and cross-examined.
Then, the outcome is that one man is kept under these Regulations, and the Minister, answering me at that Box, talks about a great collection of weapons and so on, and in the House creates the impression that this is a great arms conspiracy which is being planned through out Scotland, that the heather is going to be alight, the fiery cross, the tartans and the bagpipes out, and goodness knows what. That is the impression left upon the House, and then, when the authorities begin to examine this man, they find that he is not a member of any Scottish Nationalist organisation at all. They find that he is a crank collector of old firearms, and the worst charge they can bring against him is that he was in pos session of firearms. That, supposedly, justified wholesale raids in the West of Scotland. I wish to be absolutely fair. When the Secretary of State for Scotland became aware of what was happening in his name he examined the facts—he knew all about the movement concerned—and liberated the one man who was detained.
I read in the Press last week of the arrest of an Irishman, Mr. Cahir Healy, a former Member of this House and with whom I was formerly on very friendly terms. I know that he is a most perfervid Irishman and that he believes in an Independent Irish Republic, but he is a man who I would not believe for one minute was a pro-German, or was trying to work against the interests of the Irish people or of the British people. With my definite first-hand knowledge of the Scottish affair, I go on the assumption that Mr. Cahir Healy's arrest and imprisonment are on the very same grounds, with the difference that the advisers in Northern Ireland who are, as a majority, his political and religious antagonists, would probably not be prepared to take the same broad view of their responsibilities as did the Secretary of State for Scotland.
If the hon. Member will permit me, I think everyone in the North of Ireland is very sorry that Mr. Cahir-Healy—an honest Republican he has been described as—should have been arrested, and there must be good grounds for it. But it was not done at the wish of the people of Northern Ireland. It was done by the Home Secretary, on his responsibility. It is perfectly obvious that Mr. Healy's arrest gives him, in the circles in which he moves, a great access of popularity. That, I think, is clear to anyone who knows Ireland. It was certainly not done in the nature of a political move. I do not think any of us would support such a thing. It was done on the Home Secretary's own discretion. He thought it proper to take these steps with regard to Mr. Cahir-Healy. I am sorry if Mr. Healy did deserve arrest, and also if arrest should have been undeserved.
I do not wish to leave the impression on the House that I was saying that the arrest was made on the initiative of the Northern Ireland Government. I notice that it synchronised with the visit of the Home Secretary to the North of Ireland, but I do not suggest it was a case of post hoc-propter hoc. But whereas the Scottish Nationalist got out because of the action of the Scottish Secretary of State, I question whether my hon. and gallant Friend, with all his width and toleration, will make any strenuous move for the liberation of Mr. Cahir Healy, a former Member of this House. If he is ready to do so, I shall be pleased to help him in any way I can.
I am quite ready to fulfil all my responsibilities. This is not my responsibility. The decision was that of the Home Secretary. It is his responsibility. The Scotch are much better at getting out of things than are the Irish.
I must not be betrayed into reminiscences. I always admired the way how, in the North of Ireland, after an election, when the parties finished up with so many aside in gaol, they came to an honourable and friendly understanding that there should be an equal number liberated on both sides. That was a North of Ireland institution that reflected great credit on the parties concerned. I think that Mr. Cahir-Healy is detained, not because he is any menace to the war effort, not because he was suspected of being better disposed to an enemy Power than he is to Britain, but because of his views of Irish politics. I think that is all wrong. In that case there might be six months, or twelve months, or more to wait before an appeal could be heard by the Advisory Committee, and I would say that a very special advisory committee should go into that type of case, because it is entirely different from a Fascist, alien or any other kind of case.
One other point I wish to make. Suppose we grant that something of this sort is necessary, though I do not, as I think that ordinary legal procedure could serve equally well and that ordinary Statute law could serve. But admitting that the Government and the House have approved this type of thing being done, I want to be satisfied that detention is of the most humane kind possible, that these men, because of political opinions that are not the views of the majority at the moment, should not be treated as criminals. When it is necessary for the State to protect itself from the political activities of these men, they ought to have a maximum of liberty and social contact that can be given to them without endangering the community. I want assurances from the right hon. Gentleman. The Home Office gave me facilities to see Brixton Prison and the conditions there, and I was satisfied that there was no cruelty and that the conditions were better than those of the ordinary prisoners. But I think that even yet there could be tremendous improvements, and I would like to hear from the Minister, when he is replying, exactly what is the method of detention and what are the conditions of life of those who are now detained in the Isle of Man.
I suggest that this Debate, following upon a number of other Debates on this Regulation, shows the House of Commons at its very best, functioning in war-time on a very difficult subject indeed. Let me remind the House, and—what is much more important—the public beyond the House, that when this Defence Regulation origin ally appeared, dealing, as it did, with that most sacred of all matters, the liberty of the subject, there was immediately a Debate, which showed how seriously the House viewed powers of this extent being given to the Executive. That was followed by discussions, in which I took some humble part, and the Regulation was modified. The modified Regulation was subsequently added to, and thereafter we had a series of Debates on the administration of that Regulation. I join with everyone else in the House in regarding this as one of the most important Regulations we have made under this Emergency Powers Act. I only wish that every other Regulation passed under this Act had been given anything like the same consideration, both by the responsible Ministers and by the House of Commons.
I cannot add anything to what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Derby (Major Maxwell Fyfe) has said. I concur entirely, as I believe that every practising lawyer concurs, with his view that you cannot substitute for this responsibility of the Home Secretary any other procedure whatever in war-time. But we in the House of Commons have a very close grip upon the Home Secretary and upon everything that he does. We are now showing how tight that grip is. We have shown it on innumerable occasions at Question Time, and we shall continue to show it. If at any time he fails, by any positive act of administration or by any omission in administration, there is only one remedy, and that is for my right hon. Friend to give place to somebody else. That is our sanction and that is the great protection of every member of the public. I will deal for the moment with one point made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Max-ton). You are bound to have the fact upon which he based his most trenchant criticism. This is a war-time measure. There will come times during the war, as there did last summer—and no one knows it better than a person, like myself, living near the coast—when the Executive will feel that, in the interests of public safety, they have to act swiftly, and that they cannot omit to deal with any person against whom it may turn out, upon investigation, that there is a well-founded suspicion. That happened in the south of England last year, and apparently there was a general sweep in the West of Scotland, of which I had not known the extent.
We have, in this House, to face this one fundamental question. Is it right, or wrong, in time of war—and, in particular, during this war, when we are fighting an enemy who has specialised, as no other enemy in history has specialised, in what is called fifth-column activities—to allow the Executive to have these powers, so that they can protect the country, even though the responsible Minister responsible for ordering a detention may, on consideration, find that that detention was not necessary, or that, if it was necessary at the time, it is no longer necessary? That is the price we pay for that protection. In regard to the cases which I have investigated, I do not believe that anyone could say in this House that, at the time any order was made, the person who gave the order was acting irresponsibly. If such a thing occurred I am sure that there would be such an outcry that the person responsible would no longer hold his position. Taking it by and large, having regard to all the difficulties, al though I do not say that there are not details of administration that could be improved, the administration of this Regulation has been good. I do not think that the House of Commons realised when this Emergency Powers Act was passed. in the form in which we passed it, what enormous power to make Regulations it gave to the Executive. Our position of being able only to pray against Regulations is one which, having regard to the enormous number and intricacy of the Regulations made, is very little protection against individual injustices.
I do not know the system under which Regulations come to be drafted. I am sure that the major Regulations are considered by the responsible Ministers. I have the gravest doubts, however, whether all the Regulations have been considered by the responsible Ministers. I feel that a great many of the Regulations which have been made under the Act for particular purposes, have been so widely worded that they cover any amount of business that the original authors of the Regulations never intended them to cover. If a Regulation is, In fact, inflicting injustice, once the Prayer is passed in this House, there is really no remedy for the subject. I pro pose to take the opportunity on another occasion of dealing with another Regulation which has just been passed, for con trolling businesses, because the attention of the House must be directed in detail to what that provides. I ask the Home Secretary and other Ministers responsible for Departments to take a great deal more care in the consideration of new Regulations than appears to be taken at present. The wording of the Regulation should be confined to dealing with the particular difficulty or hindrance of the war effort which is in the mind of the Department or Minister dealing with the Regulation. We should not have day after day, and week after week, Regulation after Regulation in very wide terms covering, goodness knows what, until the matter comes to be tested, with the result that throughout the whole of our industrial life there are instances of individual hardship which I am certain could be avoided.
It would take a little time to do so, but I will give one instance. In the summer of 1939 we passed an emergency Act dealing with enemy patents and enemy trade marks, and we gave power to the Minister, or to an official, to grant licences to use them. If there was an enemy trade mark in the way of using these patents, we gave power to deal with the trade mark. It turned out that the licensees of some enemy patents had the trade marks of British subjects standing in the way, and the Act that we had passed entirely to deal with enemy patents and trade marks was amended so as to give a subordinate official an absolute right to allow any licensee to disregard a British trade mark, and without paying any sort of compensation. That is the sort of pro vision made by His Majesty's Government to which, if the matter had been raised in this House, I am certain the majority of the Members would never have agreed for a moment. A British subject would not have been allowed to get the benefit of the trade mark of another British subject upon which the latter had spent money in order to keep the goodwill. The sort of Regulation wording of which allowed that to be done has created a situation requiring the most serious consideration of this House.
With regard to other Regulations in respect of trade and industry, the Government, under the Act, have two alternatives. They can either take possession of a concern, in which case they have to pay full compensation, or they can control it. Who knows exactly what "control" means? I ask the House to look at what the Government or somebody in the Government can do in a particular case. It comes to putting in officials or agents of the Government to manage a business, to dismiss all the existing managers or people concerned with the business, and still to run it as if it were the old business and on account of the owners of that business. Those are questions which, under other Regulations, are affecting industry and personal rights of all kinds. Many of them are extremely good and helpful, but some of them go far too far and are pre pared without sufficient consideration. All that I ask in this Debate is that, in extending this enormous power to the Executive and to the responsible Ministers of His Majesty's Government who are responsible for making these Regulations, we should see that they do not make a Defence Regulation one whit or tittle wider than is necessary for the specific purpose which they consider essential to the safety or well-being of the country in the present emergency.
I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) that in various respects the Regulations that are before us to-day go much further than is really necessary in the present circumstances. I hope that one result of the Debate will be that the Home Secretary will not only give consideration, as the hon. Gentleman has said, to all suggestions put forward, but that he will find it possible to hold another all-party conference, to see whether agreement cannot be reached upon certain ameliorations and amendments of the Regulations that are in force at the present time.
We all felt very great reluctance, and had a very strong Bias against it, when Regulation 18b was first brought in, but we realise that it was introduced in circumstances of war, and that it was based on the fact that we had an enemy pursuing their well-known Fifth Column method, and that something of the kind was absolutely necessary. We have to remember that this is not an ordinary national war. It is a war of ideas, and in many countries there are many sharp divisions cutting right through the nation. Fortunately, in this country we are united to a very remarkable degree indeed, but a limited number of persons on the extreme right have said quite openly, before the war and since, that they are in sympathy with the ideals and objects of our enemies. It is only natural that people of that kind, when there is any danger of invasion—and that danger is certainly not over—should be restrained from giving vent to their aspirations and should not be led into temptation. Their cases are carefully considered by the Advisory Committee and by the Home Secretary, and behind these are the Members of this House, and it seems to me that that is the most effective protection that could be given in the circumstances. The action of the Home Secretary in arresting these persons and secluding them, as he does, is not an ordinary judicial or administrative act. It is really an act of war. It is part of the war activities of the Government and is essential for that purpose. That is the reason why this has to be done in certain cases.
I cannot see that anything has happened in the last 12 months, or that there is anything in the present situation, which would make the possession of these powers less desirable for the Government now than was the case 12 months ago. We cannot pretend that we can run the war on any basis of justice. Who would pretend that the soldier or the airman who goes out and loses his life obtained justice? I say, therefore, that persons who would, if they had the opportunity, assist our enemies are getting off very lightly in being prevented from doing what they would otherwise be very much inclined to do. Having said that on the question of principle, I entirely agree that every possible step should be taken to give the persons concerned all the consideration, and all the rights of appeal that can possibly be devised. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery), in dealing with this subject, said that he would not put up any specific proposals with regard to the question of appeal. I think that he was wise, because I can not help thinking that, if he had done so, they would easily have been riddled with criticism. He put up one proposal in respect of which, the Home Secretary very quickly pointed out, it would be impossible to maintain the authority of the Government. He would, in effect, be giving to a judiciary or a judicial tribunal, the duties of obtaining security in this country in the military field.
I do not see how any responsible Minister would be prepared to go on unless he himself were able to deal effectively, as the right hon. Gentleman can deal now, with cases of this kind. I am just as anxious as any other Member to devise some method of appeal, if it is possible but as many have said, this is really outside the scope of any judicial treatment. The most one can hope for in cases of this kind, where the Home Secretary has felt it necessary to differ from the Advisory Committee and retain persons in internment, is that he would make, at least, a monthly investigation of these cases and a monthly report about them to the House so that we can be sure that his mind is. constantly directed to the cases in which the Committee has gone against him. Perhaps this is not much, but it seems to me to be about all we can possibly do under the circumstances.
In those cases the Home Secretary ought to report to the House every month. This would compel him to direct his attention to the cases and give us the extra security that is obtainable in that way. Such a proposal does not go as far as one would like, but I cannot think of anything better. When my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend dealt with the question of Members of Parliament I found myself more in agreement with him. Where a Member of this House is arrested under Regulation 18b it is only right that the Home Secretary should be advised, not by an ordinary tribunal, but by a special advisory tribunal of Members of this House, set up for the purpose. It has been said that a Select Committee is not an Advisory Committee, but Parliament could set up an Advisory Committee, if it felt so disposed, upon whose advice the Home Secretary could act if he thought fit. In circumstances of bitter controversy it is conceivable that in a case which was rather near the line, the Home Secretary might, unconsciously, be influenced to strain the Regulation in favour of the internment of a tiresome individual in order to save himself a lot of trouble. Others have pointed out that the setting-up of such a Committee would not place us in a different position from members of the public. It would simply mean that it would be our own Advisory Committee, whose advice the Home Secretary could reject if he felt so disposed. It would give us the protection which Members of this House are entitled to expect.
With regard to Regulation 88a, which deals with the question of search, I cannot help thinking that in certain cases the police have gone much too far. What possible point is there, for instance, in seizing books written by Lord Londonderry, the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), the Lord Privy Seal, or the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker)? I give these few from a very long list and I think it shows that the administration of this Regulation has been extremely foolish. There are people in Northern Ireland, friends of mine, be longing to the minority there, who are most anxious to obtain the maximum of good will and co-operation between all elements in Ireland. They are quite genuinely disturbed and alarmed over the arrest of Mr. Cahir Healy. There may be no ground for that alarm but I think it would be helpful if the Home Secretary would give the House an assurance that Mr. Healy has been arrested as the result of facts brought to his personal know ledge by his own agent—facts which he himself has investigated—and that he has not been arrested, because the right hon. Gentleman has been asked by the Government of Northern Ireland to do any thing of that kind. The responsibility is the right hon. Gentleman's and I am sure that he will shoulder it
The only other Regulation to which I would like to make a brief reference is Regulation 2D, which deals with the suppression of newspapers. It seems to me that there is a very strong case for the amendment of this Regulation, which was much criticised at the time of the suppression of the "Daily Worker." It was not that we objected to the suppression of the "Daily Worker." At that time I thought it was a perfectly proper thing to do in itself, but done in the wrong way. Circumstances are different now, and it would be very interesting to know whether any action will be taken as a result of those altered circumstances. If you had a Regulation which enabled you to suppress a paper but at the same time gave that paper, during its period of suppression, the right of appeal to a judicial tribunal, I should have thought that you had all the powers for which you could reasonably ask. I hope the Home Secretary will consider making amendments along those lines. As I have said, I hope my right hon. Friend will hold some sort of conference again, in order that Members from different parts of the House who are anxious to perfect these Regulations and amend them, can give him their views.
I make no apologies for addressing the House to-day because, after all, it is for the convenience of Administration that these Regulations exist and it is also for the convenience of Administration that this Prayer is exempted Business and that we can go on, and it is the duty of everybody, who thinks that any more ought to be said about this subject. to say it now. It seems to me that this matter, although very important and difficult, is, in essence, simple and that although the arguments are weighty and difficult to weigh against each other, they are few. I do not flatter myself that I can put the arguments better than my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Derby (Major Fyfe), but I do suggest that there are one or two points to which attention has not been drawn.
It has been said that the only defence we can have is that the Home Secretary can be brought here and questioned on the Floor of the House. That is true, but it is not so very true that we can all take superabundant comfort from it. To begin with, it is extremely difficult for hon. Members to have information upon which to frame questions in the formal sense of our procedure, or questions of the sort I am putting now. In the second place, it is not always easy for the Home Secretary to be in the House. I understand it was only due to the very unusual combination of circumstances that the Scottish Members were unusually loquacious and my right hon. Friend's luncheon was unusually inadequate that we were able to have the benefit of his presence at the beginning of this Debate. I say that in no way as a complaint. We fully understand that, with the hours we now sit, it is extremely difficult for Ministers to give direct and personal attention to what is said in the House or by individual Members. So I do not think that safeguard, although valuable, is quite all it is cracked up to be. When one looks around for the other safeguards, I must admit it is extremely difficult to find them.
I have toyed in my own mind with the idea that one might perhaps have some sort of rule that some proportion of the people detained administratively should have to be tried judicially. I think I fully followed the distinction made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Derby between the executive action and the judicial action in these matters; but in every case of arrest and detention there is a point up to which the action is executive and there is a limit beyond which it has to become judicial, or there has to be release. I fully under stand that in the cases with which we are now concerned there may be a high percentage where the judicial element can never safely be brought in, but it does not necessarily follow that there may not be some cases where the judicial element could safely be brought in, and although I can see many objections to it, I do not think we ought to dismiss with out further consideration the suggestion that some proportion—10 per cent. or 15 per cent., or 50 per cent., I do not much care what proportion—of those arrested under administrative order ought to receive some sort of trial in camera before so many weeks have passed. Perhaps that is not a very good suggestion—I do not say it is—but I do not think it is enough that once a year there should be a discussion of this kind in the House, and I ask whoever is taking notes for the right hon. Gentleman, who apparently has gone out for his tea now—I hope he gets an egg—to convey to him the suggestion that when these things come up for their annual renewal, it might be worth considering whether some sort of informal committee or conference such as there was a year ago would not be useful. If such a conference could think of improvements, well and good; if it could not think of improvements the House might have a very great deal of confidence that the thing was, unfortunately, in the miserable circumstances in which we now find our selves, the best that could be managed.
I take it that the object of all government is to reduce the amount of human suffering. This is a kind of government which thousands of generations have worked to enable our fathers to avoid; it is arbitrary government. I think it is necessary, but it does involve some additions to human suffering, and again I ask whoever is taking notes for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest to him this point, that the Home Office ought to feel a much deeper responsibility than it at present appears to feel for diminishing the amount of human unhappiness when the incident is over. Mr. B. is arrested by a purely arbitrary act. He ceases to earn a living. He leaves all his ordinary connections. He is in detention for a year, and at the end of that year the order for detention is revoked, and Mr. B. goes out. I do not suggest for a moment that the Home Office could arrange that thereupon all his rights should re-arise as they were on the day before his arrest, or that he should be compensated for his loss of earnings during that year. To ask that would be to put an excessive clog upon administration, but surely, it is not excessive to ask that the Home Secretary should feel personal responsibility on every occasion when one of these orders is revoked to see that the person released suffers the minimum of inconvenience as a result of his detention.
I should like to give an individual instance. I have no brief for the person concerned, who could be easily identified from the Home Office records. I do not know enough about him; for all I know, if we use "know" accurately, it was quite right to arrest him. For all I have to argue it might have been quite right to shoot him out of hand. I say nothing of that side of the matter. This is an officer who held His Majesty's Commission. He was arrested, he was kept in detention for a year, he got no pay for the whole of that time. He came out. He had not a registration card, or a ration book. He could not seek civilian employment because he held His Majesty's Com mission. He was not immediately re-employed by the War Office. After some agitation by various friends of his, he heard from the War Office that he would shortly be reposted. Weeks passed; I believe he is still not reposted. Fourteen or fifteen months must have passed since he was arrested, and during the whole time it was impossible for him to earn a penny, and it is not possible now. He is not allowed to fight for his country or to enter the civilian labour market. He is, so to speak, civilly dead. I do not suggest all that was not absolutely necessary for the safety of the State, but I suggest that it should be a duty upon the Secretary of State for the Home Department in such cases to make absolutely certain that the inconvenience and suffering involved are reduced to an absolute mini mum. I think the House should at least have an. assurance that that will be done in the future.
Several hon. Members who have spoken have been concerned about the position of Members of Parliament under this Regulation. I believe they have in mind a certain Member whom it would be out of place to mention to-day. With regard to one point mentioned by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), I understand that if Members of Parliament are arrested they retain their £600 a year. Can we in time of war ask for a special privilege for Members of Parliament which is denied to the ordinary citizen? It may be true that some Members of Parliament were elected by a majority, but that majority may quite easily, in the course of a few years, become a minority, and what would the constituents of those Members think if they claimed a privilege which any one of their constituents could not have? Surely, if it is right to arrest an ordinary citizen because of certain suspicions as to his conduct, it is equally right to arrest a Member of Parliament in the same circumstances.
I do not know what may have been the experience of other hon. Members, but I have put a number of cases before the Under-Secretary of State, and, although it may be that my cases were very good cases, I must say that the majority of the people concerned have been set free. I was in a position to vouch for them, and the result of bringing sufficient evidence was that they were ultimately set free. My experience justifies me in saying that I am fully confident in regard to the way in which this Act is being administered. Men who have shown their sympathy with Nazi ideals, and who have advocated a similar regime in this country, ought to be interned for the duration of the war. We cannot afford to allow potential Quislings to perambulate the country. Surely what happened in Norway, Holland, Belgium and France ought to be an object lesson to us, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will carry out the administration of the Act as he is at present doing.
The Under secretary pointed out that the unfortunate consequence of a war for freedom was that some of our liberties and freedoms had to be sacrificed. In all quarters of the House we agree with that statement, but it is unfortunate that one of the first casualties of the war for freedom should be freedom itself. I believe there is a necessity for an arbitrary curtailment of some of our individual rights, but the curtailment of such rights should be the minimum consistent with public safety, and the administration of such curtailment should be watched with the most vigilant eye by every Member of this House, to whatever party he belongs. The fundamental fact is that many innocent persons have been, and must be, arrested and imprisoned under such emergency powers. During the first three months of the last war, before I joined the Army, I happened to be chief of the special constables in my local town. I remember the cases of spying which were reported to me, which now we call Fifth Columnist activity. They revealed to me the extraordinary depths of human credulity. I saw the most respected citizens in our little town arbitrarily marched up, surrounded by fixed bayonets, under military arrest, much to the amusement of the inhabitants assembled in the market.
I could give another rather comic instance. A very eminent professor of divinity at Cambridge, the late Professor Birkett, was arrested. He was asked for a reference by the military authorities, and he gave them my name. I happened to be away at the time, but he remembered that the chef at the local hotel was his college chef. Surrounded by fixed bayonets, he was marched to the hotel, and when the chef appeared he said, "Lor', Professor Birkett, what have you been doing? "In due course he was released. I made it my business to inquire into this case, and I got hold of the informer. I asked him why he had accused this man, and the answer I received was," Well, he behaved like a spy." I asked how he behaved. The answer given was, "He used to walk about the green without a hat with his hair blowing about in the wind, flicking his fingers and talking to himself." Obviously that is how a spy would behave in the opinion of a simple informer.
I could give a dozen more cases of persons who were arrested and detained for half an hour, or perhaps a few hours, and then released. In this war, however, an individual is detained for six months before he gets the chance of being released, and, therefore, we have to be extremely careful about the administration of this Act. I cannot agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) that the administration has been satisfactory. Under the subsequent Regulation, passed last May, in the case of a person being a Member of the British Union of Fascists, the Home Secretary had to be convinced, in addition to the mere fact of his being a member of that organisation, that "it was necessary to exercise control over him." The Under secretary assured us that inquiry is made both before the Order is made and after. All 1 can say is that the inquiries must have been very superficial. Every Member of this House could give cases where men have been arrested, obviously on a false charge, and kept for many months before being finally released. I could give a case of a man living within three miles of my house. He was an elderly garage proprietor who was a member of the Peace Pledge Union. That was the only thing against him. 1 have seen the official documents, and I find that the charges against him were that he was a member of the British Union of Fascists, which in fact he never was, that he had consistently attended their meetings and consistently sold their literature. The facts were that he had been dragged to one of their meetings on one occasion in his life, and that it was entirely untrue to say he had sold any of their literature. That individual was detained for six or seven months, and his business was almost ruined during his absence. Therefore I support the strong plea which was made by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), that the Government should pay compensation when a man has been arrested and then released after six, eight or 12 months, during which time his business has been ruined in his absence.
I will give another case—and I am quite prepared to submit the name to my right hon. Friend—where no arrest should have been made. This person was a member of the British Union of Fascists, but resigned in 1936. He happened to own a motor boat and was on the Thames at the time of Dunkirk when the wireless appeal came over. He volunteered to go and rescued about 450 men, his motor boat being fairly well plastered with machine bullets. On his return to England he was arrested, but was released, I am glad to say, after two months. There are thousands of other cases where arrest should not have been made. It is incumment on every Member to see that the treatment given is not penal, but is in accordance with the pledge given to this House in Command Paper 6162, where it is stated:
Conditions of confinement will be as little as possible oppressive, due regard being had to the necessity of ensuring safe custody and maintaining order and good discipline.
If a man is arrested, even if there is some basis for the arrest, if he has done or said foolish things, we should all agree that his wife should not be punished. But I have two cases—again I can give names and addresses—where the wives knew nothing of what had happened to their husbands for 10 days. That is unfair and unjust.. I believe it does not happen to-day, but it has happened in the past. In the early colossal round-up I believe there was a certain amount of confusion. I am informed that for two days one man was unable to get a wash, because there was not a basin available and that in some cases there was solitary confinement for two, three or four weeks from 20 to 22 and even 23 hours out of 24. That is not quite in accord with the Command Paper. I believe conditions have improved enormously,
but certainly in the beginning there was penal treatment of these people.
Allusion has been made to serving soldiers. I feel that a serving soldier, whether an officer or a private, on active service who is guilty of any treasonable activity on active service should be tried by court-martial, and, if he is guilty of treason, there is the penalty of death, which could be enforced. In the case of Captain Budd there is an affidavit by the Home Secretary stating that he had committed acts in furtherance of, and sympathised with the objects of, the British Union after he had become an officer in His Majesty's Forces and during the war. How can a serving soldier commit acts during war which render him liable to detention without committing a grave breach of military discipline which renders him liable to court-martial? I should like the Home Secretary to answer that question.
In all cases of serving soldiers any case ought to be proved before a court-martial. There was a young officer who was mobilised at the outbreak of the war. He was capable and efficient and popular with all ranks in his regiment. He had committed what we consider a mere youthful folly of being a Fascist candidate in the Woodbridge Division of Suffolk. After serving as a mobilised officer for eight or 10 months he was suddenly arrested, and he disappeared. I know the desperate condition in which we are. We have to remember that we are as liable to invasion to-day as we were in June of last year. In the desperate state of the world to-day it is quite natural for the Executive to use their powers to the full. In one particular case certain internees were released by order of the court and promptly re-arrested on the same charge and interned. I quite see the point of view of the Home Office. They say that the judges ruled on the mere technicality that the charge had not been made out in proper form and that as it was only a mere technical matter they should be again interned. That is very natural, but it is utterly against the whole instinct and traditions of British justice to re-arrest on the same charge a man who has been discharged by the High Court. Just to keep sacred and intact that tradition these men, in stead of being again interned, could have been let out but confined within a certain area subject to reporting to the police and so on.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sedge-field (Mr. Leslie) asked why Members of this House should be placed in a different position from that of the general public. Under our proposals a Member of this House would be liable to arrest, to imprisonment and to internment just as a member of the public. He would appear before a tribunal in the same way as a member of the public, but the tribunal would consist of fellow Members of the House. That seems to me very necessary, for this reason. To-day every safe guard of the ordinary citizen for personal freedom and for protection against executive tyranny has gone, and the only one that remains is the freedom of the Back Bench Member of Parliament. What are the ordinary citizen's safeguards in peace time? The first is Habeas Corpus, and that has gone. The second is that every five years at the longest there has to be a genera] election. That was a magnificent check on an arbitrary Executive, and it has gone. The third check is the continuing series of by-elections, one of the most valuable things in our Constitution. It is a constant check on and criticism of the Government. That has gone. To-day we have co-opted Members, of whom there are nearly 100 in the House now.
The fourth safeguard is the idea that the House of Commons is above all a check on the Executive and that, there fore, the ordinary Member must be independent of the Executive and must not receive any position of profit without seeking re-election. Some years ago we abolished re-elections for Ministers. It was an excellent safeguard, although a horrible nuisance to the Executive. We have now gone a step further. We create new posts for Members of Parliament, salaried posts overseas and at home, and they accept them, and there again they are servants of the Executive. And now we, the ordinary Members of Parliament, can be arrested by the Executive without cause given to this House of Commons. And yet the only protection for the man and woman in the street is the back bench independent Member of Parliament who is not a Member of the Government or salaried officer of the Government. That is why it is so essential that this House should keep control over the liberty of its Members.
I have done my best to explain it to the House, and I thought I had succeeded. I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary believes that many of us are over-anxious, over cautious, over-nervous, over-suspicious of the Executive; but that is a good fault. It has been said that eternal vigilance is the price paid for liberty. Always we have to keep a look-out against any attacks being made on and encroachments upon liberty. Therefore, whatever else this House stands for, we must make the mistake, if mistake it be, of being over anxious, over-vigilant, over-cautious and over-suspicious of the Executive. That is the reason we are here. It is the venerable and majestic tradition of this House, that it has always stood for liberty, always stood as a check on the Executive. In St. Stephen's Hall are the statues of the men who have spoken in Parliament, building up that tradition, and we should be betraying the whole tradition of the House if we were not vigilant to the utmost in safeguarding the liberties of the common people of England.
The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) in the early part of his speech made reference to the experience which he had had, and which I think a great number of us have had, of frivolous reasons for the detention of some of those who have been detained under Regulation 18B. I myself know of a great number of cases. I shall not refer to them in detail because nearly all of them—at any rate the older ones—were referred to in the last Debate we had on this matter, and I am bound to say that I have not come upon a recent case where there has been detention for more frivolous reasons. The hon. Member also referred to what the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) said with regard to the great control which this House has over the Home Secretary. I support the view of the hon. Member for Lowestoft, with all due regard to my right hon. Friend, who will know that I am not speaking personally in any way, because I find that I have very little control. As a Member of Parliament I get a fright fully slow response to the suggestions put forward and the complaints made, and I would ask my right hon. Friend and the Under-Secretary to read through the Debate of 10th December last year, give their minds to the proposals made then and say honestly what real effort has been made to correct some of the injustices referred to there.
I would particularly call the attention of the Home Secretary to some recent cases in the High Court, because the point I wish to put forward is that these Regulations have not been administered in the way in which Parliament intended when they were made. The other day the High Court judges laid very strong emphasis on the point that they were perfectly satisfied that proper consideration had not been given by the then Home Secretary to the cases of a great number of people who had been detained. I refer to the present Lord President of the Council, because they are a relic left to my right hon. Friend. When people are detained under an omnibus Order—one Order contains something like 300 names—it is ridiculous to suppose that the Home Secretary could have given the cases individual attention, as laid down in the Regulations.
When my right hon. Friend winds up the Debate he will no doubt refer to what has been said by the hon. Member for Lowestoft in regard to Captain Budd, who was let out on what was termed a technical point. He will probably tell the House that when he announced his decision in answer to a Question—which I think I put to him one day—it was greeted with cheers. I do not dispute that the statement was greeted with cheers, but I will only say that in legal circles outside the response was not quite the same. I must ask the Home Secretary to say categorically that he did reconsider each of these cases himself before re-detention was decided upon. It was evident in the way the case went in the High Court that the Home Office did not expect to lose and that the Attorney-General thought he was going to win. If he had thought he was going to lose there would have been time before the decision was made to judge each individual case, but it was quite plain he did not. Did the Minister give the consideration which the Home Secretary is bound to give before people are detained?
One of the chief complaints which I have against the Home Office is of the conditions under which people are detained.
It has always been stated in this House that the conditions of detention are to be preventive and not punitive. I am not going to quote old cases but two absolutely quick and hot-off-the-ground cases that have come before me. Recently, a certain number of women, detained under the Regulations, were removed from Holloway Gaol to the Isle of Man. Some of them had babies, and one was even a nursing mother. I cannot verify the facts, because I was not there, but I have been told what happened in the report of a fairly responsible person detained by the Home Secretary. I do not wish to mention her name. She says in her letter:
This is to notify you that 41 18b's and eight children left Holloway at 10 p.m. on the 16th inst. and arrived in Pore Erin following night 17th inst., at 10 p.m. absolutely worn out, after having only breakfast provided for them soon after 5.30 a.m. at Fleetwood, 17th inst., in a market place (shut away from public), which smelt appalling. This was the sole meal provided for 18b's in 24 hours. There was no milk even on board ship for children, who were cold and starving, until approx. 3 p.m., 17th inst.
Surely that is not the right way to treat people who are in transit under these Regulations from one place to another.
I have another case, and I think the House will agree that it is absolutely disgraceful. It is the case of a reverend gentleman who shall be nameless but who has been detained within the last few weeks. It is true that some seven or eight years ago he was interested in or associated with the British Union of Fascists or the Mosley group, but he gave that up years ago. He is also a pacifist, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman will feel some sympathy for him. Was what happened to this gentleman on his detention really necessary? He was, I think, detained on 16th June. The right hon. Gentleman will have had the papers. It involved this gentleman going through the ordinary process of a convicted criminal, being searched, stripped, ordered to bathe, deprived of all personal belongings except his false teeth, put in a cell under lock and key, left there for hours and required the next morning to empty his own excreta from a pot. Is that the way to treat a person who is highly respected, is the minister of a church and has his own congregation? Surely that treatment is quite contrary to anything which this House meant when the Regulations were passed.
I do hope my right hon. Friend will look into the matter, not on account of the individual cases, but because this has happened before. It was one of the things I complained about last year. The way in which people are treated on their detention is altogether wrong. I submit to the House that it is quite contrary to what was intended that they should be in prison at all. It is quite wrong to hand the mover to people who are accustomed merely to dealing either with criminals or with prisoners on remand. They are in an entirely different category of people. I personally have no sympathy with the point of view of most of them, but surely our job in this House is to stand up for the rights of the individual, and see that these Regulations are properly administered.
I turn now to the cases of persons whose release has been recommended but in which the Home Secretary has not found it advisable to follow the recommendations of the Advisory Committee. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) made a suggestion that the Home Secretary should report once a month. I do not think it is a practical proposal to suggest that my right hon. Friend should review each case and tell the House whether he is still satisfied about it. It would be a whole-time job, for there are some 126 of them. The hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate said there were 132, but that is not quite right: there were 132 disagreements, but six of the decisions were against detention, and the persons concerned were released, leaving 126 detained. I would like to put it to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that we know that in these cases the evidence of one's own eyes is probably one of the most important factors, that it is the way a man behaves when he is giving his evidence or in cross-examination that very often influences the decision if there is any doubt. I would like to ask the Home Secretary for an assurance that, in the cases where he decides not to follow the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, he will make a point of seeing the individuals concerned for himself. These cases are not very frequent, they only occur now and then, and I shall feel satisfied if he will do that, but I shall remain dissatisfied so long as he considers that a decision arrived at by a review of the documents, without seeing the detained person, is a better decision than that of a competent Advisory Committee who have both seen the documents and cross-examined the person himself.
With regard to serving officers or men, it has always been a matter for consider able surprise to me that they could be taken from their units and detained with out being tried or sent before a court-martial. I have struggled with this matter for some months without getting any satisfaction. Even the proposal made by my Hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft that they should be court-martialled is apparently not acceptable. I have here a case of a young officer who was detained for six months, the only reason given for his detention being that he was a member of the British Union. He never was a member of the British Union, so the Home Secretary cannot have satisfied himself that it was necessary to exercise control. He cannot have done anything of the sort, for the only reason given was that this officer was a member of the British Union when he was not, so presumably the Home Secretary did nothing. This man was let out after six months; he has not been reengaged by the Army, he is left alone, and what is he to do? The Army shows no sign of re-engaging him. I do urge, with my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft, that in all these cases where military persons are detained they should be given the right of court-martial —if necessary, a secret court-martial.
In regard to appearances before the Advisory Committees, I am very tired of hearing the Under-Secretary tell us that everybody is always perfectly satisfied with the way they are treated before these Committees. Several times my hon. Friend has written to me and told me that it is no use complaining about a particular man as he has expressed complete satisfaction with the hearing he has received. My hon. Friend is not a child; he knows perfectly well what anyone concerned would do. If I were to go before such a committee, I should do my best not to quarrel with the committee—believe it or not—and at the end of the proceedings I should certainly tell them that I thought they were all fine fellows and that I hoped they would let me out. Surely he does not seriously take it that everybody thinks he has had the fairest possible trial. Do the people who express that view, when they come to think the matter over, think they have said all that they possibly could? I am still not satisfied with the way these cases are handled. The individual is not given sufficient information before he goes before the Advisory Committee, to enable him to defend him-. self. It is no use saying that that is not so. For my sins, practically everyone detained has written to me at one time or other, and I have at least 50 cases where the information supplied to them before going before the Advisory Committee was perfectly useless. When a man is kept in prison for six or 12 months, and is told at three or four days' notice that he is to appear before an Advisory Committee, he has quite inadequate information on which to defend himself. When he goes before the Advisory Committee, therefore, he is not capable of putting up the best case for himself, especially having regard to the fact that he is not assisted by a prisoner's friend or a lawyer.
I do not wish to say anything about the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern (Captain Ramsay), because it would be out of place, but I do want to say to the House that it surprises me, a comparatively junior Member of this great institution, to find the supine way in which the House as a whole have accepted the detention of one of their number without demanding to know the reason why. I do not know what he has done; it is not germane to the discussion here to-day. I only know that he is a perfectly honest, straightforward individual, perhaps with a kink in one way or another—and perhaps some of us have kinks in this strange world. What I complain of is that Members have not risen in a body and told the Home Secretary and the Government that they are not going to stand for it and that they insist on having the hon. and gallant Member brought here to state his own case and to hear what it is all about. I leave it at that. [Interruption.] The case before the courts has nothing to do with the case I am discussing. [AN HON. MEMBER: "He is stating his case."] I have not seen him in court. Of course, the newspaper reports are absolutely boloney.
There are five or six things to which I would like to press the Home Secretary to agree. I hope he will deal with them in winding up the Debate. First of all, I would ask, for persons who have been detained upwards of six months to a year, that they should have the right to a revised appeal before the Advisory Commit tee, and that they should be allowed to have a prisoner's friend with them, that it should not be at the discretion of the Advisory Committee. If they have been detained, and there is doubt in their case, they should have a right to a prisoner's friend who could prompt them and help them to state their case. Secondly, prisoners released should have every possible help given to them. I have had particulars sent to me of most pathetic cases, of people who have been released, and, because the Home Office or the police covered their identity cards with writing in red ink, they cannot get employment. They are left absolutely destitute. Surely there must be some other method in the year 1941 of keeping in touch with these people. Whether you like it or not, the fact that a person has been to gaol has a very great effect upon the mind of any one who may be considering employing him. I have sent my right hon. Friend two very bad examples. He has not replied yet, but it takes time to deal with these matters, and no doubt I shall get a reply.
I would like the Home Secretary to give an assurance to the House about the deportation of these individuals. A number of them feel concerned because they believe that they are shortly to be deported to Canada. From inquiries I have made, I understand that that is not true, but I should like the Home Secretary to give an assurance on the point. With regard to conditions of detention, I hope that he will be very firm that these conditions will be as un punitive as possible. It is no good saying they are all right; they are not. All manner of complaints have been made. I am not going to say any more about the conditions of a particular reverend gentleman. Some form of assistance to people who have been released should be given. If their cards must be red-marked, they will not get employment, and it is our business to help them to find some new means of livelihood. I am constantly accused of being sympathetic to the Fascists. The "Jewish Chronicle" writes to me and says that I am a great supporter of Sir Oswald Mosley. The Communist paper writes to me likewise. All manner of people say all manner of things about me. I want to make it perfectly clear to this House that I have taken the action which I have taken in this matter for one reason only. I have taken up the cases of people who are Communists and semi-Communists, Jews and Gentiles, Fascists and anti-Fascists, because I think it is our responsibility to see that our liberties are not completely lost. Because a person holds views contrary to mine, that is no reason why I should not defend his liberties.
On a point of Order. As this is exempted Business, as it deals with the liberty of the subject, and as it is one of the few opportunities that Members have of stating their case, may I appeal to you, Sir, to see whether it is possible for a few more back-benchers to speak before the Home Secretary replies to the Debate?
In view of the impassioned declarations which have been made about the liberty of the subject, would it not be desirable, before the Minister replies, to have a few words said on Regulation 2D, which was used for the suppression of the "Daily Worker," to find out whether those making the impassioned declarations will be prepared to sign a declaration for the liberty of the Press?
The House has had an extended Debate on Regulation 18B. I make no complaint at all about that. There have been references to other Defence Regulations. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for, Ashford (Mr. Spens) referred to a certain Regulation covering economic matters, for which another Minister is responsible. Then there is Regulation 2D, as to which some thing was said by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and to which I hope to refer. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford will forgive me if I do not deal with his point, which is one that concerns other Ministers. I make no complaint that he should mention it, and he was in order in doing so, and indeed, I have a lively recollection of the fact that it was the legal perseverance and ingenuity of my hon. and learned Friend that assisted in defeating me when Minister of Supply on one of the Defence Regulations about which he complained to-day. It is the case that Regulation 18B was the result of discussion, compromise and concession as between my right hon. Friend the former Home Secretary and the House of Commons at a certain time.
They were representative Members chosen by the parties. I hope that I am not wrong about that. Obviously, he could not refer to the House of Commons on matters of detail all the time, and I do not see that there is any point of disputation with my hon. and gallant Friend.
As this is a very important point, it is as well that it should come to a head. There is a good deal that is done in this House where an arrangement is made, and a great many Members of the House do not know any thing about its being reached, and it leads to unfortunate situations afterwards.
I cannot admit that it was wrong and unfair of my predecessor. This arrangement was made between parties selected to confer with the Home Secretary, to go through the Defence Regulation so that it could be laid, in the light of day, before the House of Commons. And even Ministers are en titled to fairness. There was a Debate which led up to these discussions and friendly consultations, which had the result of modifying the proposed Regulations in a certain respect. It is true, as I have been reminded on a number of occasions, and as is to be expected, that I made a speech in that Debate in which I criticised my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary and his Regulation with great vigour. I said that I was not going to say that he could be trusted with it, but his successors could not. It was just as well that I did so because I regard these pleasantries
as rather cant. I argued that the House of Commons ought to be careful in granting Ministers admittedly exceptional powers under the new Defence Regulation 18B. This speech of mine has often been quoted in the House of Commons against me, naturally, but there is a part of my speech which nobody has quoted so far, and in fairness to the judicial balance of this oration I need to quote it myself, as nobody else has found it necessary so far. Right at the beginning of that speech I laid down this principle, to which I adhere to-day. I said, on 31st October, 1939:
I am not going to dissent from the view that in time of war, when the security of the country is imperilled by an important struggle with a great foreign Power, it is inevitable and proper that the executive, subject to proper checks, should be endowed with exceptional powers. I do not think there is any dispute about that in any part of the House. I freely admit, as I think will be admitted generally, that in the wording of these Regulations we may have to give an even wider form of words than we really like on the merits of the case, because we know that the Executive cannot have that overriding power which is essential to the safety of the State unless it has a wide field of discretion and is not unduly tied down.
I think a Home Secretary is lucky if he can make a quotation from a speech like that, made when he was in Opposition.
Would the Home Secretary read the next sentence?
That is a different story from the actual wording of a number of these Regulations, which give really extraordinarily sweeping powers under which, it seems to me, anybody whom the Home Secretary did not like could be hung, drawn and quartered almost without any reasonable or proper means of defending himself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1939; col. 1846, Vol. 352.]
What powers of defending himself has the internee under the present Regulation which he did not have under the Regulation which my right hon. Friend was then attacking?
I will come to that in due course. I was then criticising the draft Regulation which was before the House, with the provisions of which, in many respects, I did not agree, and said so. There is no secret about that. In consequence of that criticism, and the criticism of other hon. Members in this House, that Regulation was revised in material particulars.
My hon. Friend thoroughly enjoys interrupting a Minister's speech. He has made one interruption, and he might perhaps allow me to proceed with my speech. I have been reasonable, but my hon. Friend rather overdoes it, if I may say so. He often jumps up when a Minister is making his case. I know he is pleasant and all that, but he rather overdoes it. I think it would be convenient to clear up the less fundamental points and the administrative points in the first instance before I go on with the main principles. The speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) was one which dealt with main principles rather than detailed matters, to which subsequent reference was made, and if he does not mind, I will come to his speech later. My right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) made a speech in which he broadly supported the Regulation but said that there was apprehension on his part, and on the part of some others, about one or two points of administration. In particular, he mentioned the procedure of the Advisory Committee and the question of the delays, in the hearing of cases by the Committee. I will come back to the point of procedure, but on the question of delays I agree that in earlier days there was room for criticism about the time it took cases to get to the Advisory Committee and about the time that did elapse between the hearing of the case by the Committee and a decision being reached by the Secretary of State.
For that there were two reasons. One was that there was, of course, a large number of these cases. The decision was reached, I think rightly, that the organisation called the British Union—not that all these are British Union cases by any means—should be proscribed, and about the same time it was decided that members of this organisation, at and above the rank of a certain official, unless there was a reason for the contrary, were prima facie cases which ought to be considered for detention. Nevertheless, all those cases were looked into individually by my right hon. Friend. Those detentions on a very large scale admittedly jammed the machine, and it took time for the Advisory Committee to reach them. And, I must tell the House frankly that in many of those cases there was a conflict of view between the Committee and the security services. It was understandable that that should be so. The consequence was that sometimes further consideration had to be given in order to arrive at a decision as between the Advisory Committee and the security services. The result was that there were delays. Certain issues of procedure, policy, and principle had to be settled, and it so happened that they were under consideration when I went to the Home Office, and were settled very soon afterwards.
I made up my mind that I would clear up these cases as quickly as I could. I worked through the Christmas holidays in order to catch up with the large number of cases. I read them in detail and gave very careful consideration to them, with the result that in a short time we had done away with the accumulation and were dealing with current cases. I admit that there was delay for a time, and I think it was in evitable, but I can also say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley that there is no delay now, that after detention the cases rapidly go to the Advisory Committee, and then rapidly come to me. There is no undue delay. It does happen sometimes that further information may come along, or that further inquiries have to be made in relation to points I may raise, and this may cause a little delay, but all this is necessary for the purpose of arriving at an intelligent decision.
My hon. and gallant friend the Member for West Derby '(Major Fyfe) made a very able speech. He speaks to the House not as a man who one might suppose would be in favour of this kind of administrative law; he is a distinguished lawyer, and I think it would be a natural bias for lawyers to be in favour of the courts and against the Executive having these powers; but as a lawyer, and like a number of other distinguished lawyers, my hon. and learned Friend agrees that in this field of administration the court of justice would not be the best or the most appropriate body for dealing with these cases. He indicated that the point both of time and of security would not permit of full legal procedure. I am sure he is absolutely right. If there were some delays in dealing with these cases through the Advisory Committee and by the Secretary of State, I can assure the House that the delays would have been incapable of definition, would have been endless, if the cases had followed the normal legal procedure, and had gone through, or up to, the High Court. The courts could not have done the job; first, they would not have had the time, and secondly, it must be recognised—and it is not always recognised—that fundamentally we are not here dealing with cases in which persons are charged with specific acts and specific things. The whole procedure o£ the courts, of speeches by counsel, evidence, examination, cross-examination, and the calling of witnesses, which is calculated absolutely to prove or to disprove certain things, is not appropriate to this class of case, in which one must take into account an abundance of considerations and decide, broadly speaking, between the liberty of the individual and the security of the State, not only yesterday and to day, but the day after to-morrow, and in different conditions which may come into existence. I agree completely with my hon. and gallant Friend on this point. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) made an assumption which is quite wrong. He assumed that if a number of people were detained, and, as in the case of the Fascists, 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. of them were released, there fore they ought never to have been detained. I do not agree with that assumption. I think it is a fundamental misconception to say that because a person has been released it shows he ought never to have been detained. I would say that in all these cases there was a prima facie and a justifiable case for the Secretary of State to detain them, and justifiable grounds in my judgment for my predecessor or my self to release them in due course in the light of examination by the Committee and study of the cases by the Secretary of State.
The hon. Member referred to Mr. Cahir Healy, who has been detained under an Order under Regulation 18B. I should like to point out, as indeed was pointed out by one of the hon. Members for Northern Ireland at the time, that responsibility for that detention is mine and mine alone. There is no responsibility on the part of the Northern Ireland Government. Facts came to my notice which led me to the conclusion that it was right and proper that Mr. Healy should be detained. Of course, he will have all the rights of any other detained person if he cares to avail himself of them. It was done, and I say this to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, in the light of evidence which came to me personally and which was examined by me person ally. I considered it my duty to the State to put Mr. Healy under control for reasons which seemed to me, personally, to be adequate. The Order for the detention of Mr. Healy was made because I had reasonable cause to believe that he had recently been concerned in acts pre judicial to the public safety, or the Defence of the Realm, or in the preparation or instigation of such acts, and that by reason thereof it was necessary to exercise control over him. He will have the rights of any other citizen if he cares to exercise them and every fairness will be shown to him.
It is not the case, as has been alleged by certain Nationalists in Northern Ireland, that this detention was a result of political collaboration for political party reasons between the Northern Ire land Government and myself. There was no such collaboration. I do not think they would have attempted to make any such political party approach; and I can assure the House that I would not have tolerated it. These things have to be handled by myself, forgetting party politics and party prejudices. I think I have done so in all these cases. I have great detestation for Fascist views, but it is the case that I have personally released a substantial majority of the Fascists. It is the duty of the Home Secretary to act in this matter in a proper judicial spirit, whether he agrees or disagrees with a citizen, whether he likes or dislikes a citizen, being concerned solely with what he thinks necessary in the public interest and on grounds of public security.
Will the Home Secretary say whether the evidence submitted to him was evidence, or whether it was a report of a policeman or a secret agent? Did he go over the head of the Ulster Home Secretary without even the courtesy of notification, to make this arrest in Northern Ireland territory?
I am not sure what my hon. Friend is complaining about. Is he complaining that I took this action without the consent, so to speak, of the Ulster Government? I have sole responsibility for this arrest.
I am perfectly certain the Scottish arrests would never have taken place if the Scottish Office had been consulted in advance. From my investigation, I am suggesting that if the ordinary courtesy of consulting the Home Secretary of Northern Ireland, in whose territory this arrest was made, had taken place, the advice would probably have been against it.
For the purposes of this Regulation the territory is within my jurisdiction. You cannot have it both ways. The Nationalist critics of Northern Ireland are complaining that this action was taken by me by the desire of the Northern Ireland Government in order to put away a political opponent of theirs. If I am responsible for the action, I really cannot share, or pretend to share, responsibility for it with the Northern Ireland Government. I am responsible to the House, and I must face that responsibility, and, though the Northern Ireland Government were treated with every courtesy and told the decision that I had come to, there was no collaboration with them in order to reach a joint decision. I can assure the hon. Member that his Nationalist friends would have been very cross if that had been done, and I think with some justification.
I am not trying to make a point at the hon. Member's expense, nor did I suggest that he was in collusion with anyone or that, if he had been, there would have been anything wrong about it, but I gathered that he had certain broad sympathies with the Nationalists, and I warned him that they would not at all share the view that he has taken.
The hon. Member for East Wolver hampton asked whether we would have another round-table conference. I think that when there is a situation, as there was in October, 1939, of disagreement between the Minister concerned and a considerable number of Members of all parties of the House, there is a great deal to be said for a round-table conference. It was effective and eminently sensible, and it was right for it to be done, and it had good results. But I do not think as a general rule Ministers ought, so to speak, to attempt to delegate their responsibilities to a Committee of the House. When you are in a jam and in some sort of disagreement with the House, it is right that that should be done to resolve the difficulty, but I think it is best in the ordinary run of administration, particularly on these Defence Regulations, that Ministers should take responsibility If they feel that it is right to consult Members of the House and get their reactions to certain things, by all means let it be done, but from a Parliamentary and Constitutional point of view it is best for the Minister to take his action and wait for any shootings at him that may come when the House knows what he has done.
But surely it is the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility on behalf of the House. He can not use the language of delegating his responsibilities to the House if a Committee of the House advises him, because he is responsible to the House.
The hon. Member is constitutionally quite wrong as to the way in which this great Parliamentary institution works. In the first place, a Government is formed, and it has the confidence of the House of Commons. It can live only by consent of the House of Commons. It can be shifted by the House of Commons. But the basis of the whole business is that Ministers are responsible for the executive Government, subject to the check of Parliament and the powers that they get from Parliament. The point I am on is that if you weaken that responsibility which Parliament rightly expects Ministers to accept, you are in a dangerous situation in which you are making a constitutional innovation which would create great difficulties for this House.
May I ask why there are no difficulties on this occasion? Is it be cause the right hon. Gentleman has been told by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that there has been a party meeting and a party decision?
As far as I can tell, the view of the House of Commons generally is that these Regulations should in principle continue. Therefore, there are no difficulties. There may be points of criticism in administration. My difficulty in this Debate is that when I listen for Members to propose specific Amendments I have great difficulty in finding them; there have been few specific Amendments proposed.
This Debate has been pretty wide and it is not for me to decide that. There is no critical situation about these Regulations. There is nothing like the situation which arose when my right hon. Friend was bringing in his first draft before the House. That was a very awkward night. If there were a general feeling on the part of the House definitely expressed that representative Members of the House should confer with me, there would be no difficulty about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) exaggerated a little on this, as he does on other matters. If, however, the idea is that there should be a periodical consultation about the administration or the wording of the Regulations, then I think it is open to question whether it would not weaken the authority of the House of Commons in maintaining its position of independent criticism of Ministers of their day-by-day actions.
My right hon. Friend has referred to a suggestion I made. It was not for a periodical conference. It was made in the light of suggestions offered in the course of the Debate and was not con fined to Regulation 18b. There are others, such as 2D, to which the House would like to see an amendment considered.
I accept that point. I can only say again that this is a point where in the case of a critical difficulty, in order to find out what the House wants, the round table conference idea is right, but I think it is neither fair to the Minister nor fair to the House that, un-less that situation or something like it exists, there should be an attempt to introduce a device which means that the responsibility of the Minister is not clear and that the right of the House of Commons to independent criticism is also not clear. I raise these points as interrogation marks and queries for the consideration of Members and not as any final dogmatic view.
Reference has been made to Regulation 2D. It would not be proper that I should go over the whole field that we covered in the Debate which followed the suppression of the "Daily Worker." I did seek to explain to the House at the time, as other Members with legal experience and otherwise did, that the working of the other Regulation, 2C, was exceedingly difficult from the point of view of getting a decision and getting effective action taken. I thought that 2D was right, that it was a necessary part of the armoury of the Secretary of State in administering the Defence Regulations, and that it ought not to be changed. The whole essence of the Debate was not the suppression of the '' Daily Worker,'' because hardly one of the critics of myself and of the action I took, with the exception of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), raised that as the main point. The number of Members who challenged the suppression of the paper was very small indeed. The critics in the Debate took the view that the procedure was wrong, that there ought to have been judicial procedure under Regulation 2c instead of 2D, a view which I perfectly well understand. However, when there was a Division there was no doubt about the opinion of the House of Commons. The Government had a large majority, and the number of those who voted against the Government was exceedingly small.
Therefore, I honestly cannot see that it would be appropriate that I should give undertakings about the revision of Regulation 2D. Of course, we all learn by experience as we go along, but I should have thought it was a dangerous thing to tamper with that Regulation, which I think it is necessary for the Home Secretary to have. He has the alternative of 2c if he considers it appropriate to use it, and whether he uses the one or the other he is, of course, open to immediate challenge in the House.
There is a Question on the Order Paper, the answer to which I have not yet settled, and it would be more convenient if the hon. Member would leave it till the Question is put, when I hope to be able to give a definite answer.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cam bridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) made the suggestion that there should be an informal conference with Members of Parliament before each annual renewal of the Act. I think I have covered that point in principle in what I have said. I will give the point consideration, but it does raise the question whether it is right to have an informal conference with Members of Parliament before proposed legislative action when the effective decision has got to be made by the House of Commons in formal Session, and in all probability in public Session. I think we must be careful about prejudicing the rights of the House when it comes to formal public work in deliberative assembly. The hon. Member also raised the point, to which I will give consideration within the limits that I think were intended, that in some cases these people come out into the world without advice, I do not say without help in the way of compensation, because I think that would raise great difficulties. I feel there ought to be some sort of friendly organisation, which we could assist in running, so that it did not go wrong, to which the people who come out could go for advice, counsel and such aid as we could give to enable them to find their way about the world again. I will not give a promise about it, but I will consider it in a sym pathetic spirit.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) made a speech which I think went rather far. He quoted a number of individual cases, and so did my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich, as is his wont, and other Members have raised individual cases. I should like to deal with them—I must be frank with the House—because if the reports get into the newspapers there may be prejudice against the Home Office. In the first place, how ever, I cannot reply because I was not notified of the cases, at any rate of some of them, and, secondly, I had understood that we were not to discuss the merits of individual cases.
That may all be so, and I am not being irritable or complaining about it, but the House will appreciate that I cannot deal with the cases unless I am notified that hon. Members are going to raise them. Therefore hon. Members will have the advantage if some of the cases are reported in the Press. The Home Office may, to that extent, be prejudiced without my explanation, which I cannot give. Secondly, I did understand that we were not to deal with individual cases within the limitation of this Debate. I do not want it to be thought that I accept the description of these cases as true. In the light of experience that is the last thing I should do. The various accounts of particular cases are not necessarily accurate. I do not accuse hon. Members in the least of being untruthful, but I cannot accept their accounts as accurate. It might even be true that a man who assisted in the evacuation from Dunkirk was an appropriate person to be detained. The hon. Member for Lowestoft should not have assumed, because the man assisted at Dunkirk, that there could not be a case against him. There might be, and one has to be very careful in coming to conclusions on these points.
The hon. Member suggested that the case of a soldier, instead of being dealt with under the machinery of 18b, should be dealt with by court-martial. That would mean in the case of soldiers another and different procedure being followed. I do not think it would be convenient. The Army and the military authorities would find some difficulty in handling these cases. Offences against military law are one thing, but the kind of problem dealt with under Regulation 18b is not within the general experience of the Army to any detailed extent, and I should think that courts-martial would be embarrassed if they had to deal with such cases.
I think the right hon. Gentleman has overlooked something which he stated in the House some months ago, when he said that the Regulation which allowed aliens to enlist in the Pioneer Corps came under review. I asked him whether MI 5 would have the responsibility in future as in the past of investigating each case before any of these men were allowed into the Corps, and he said he saw no necessity for it, as the military would look after the cases and military discipline would take care of them.
The case I mentioned was of a soldier who committed offences as an officer during the war. I do not suggest a court-martial for those with past membership of the B.U.F., but I cannot see why, if a soldier committed offences during the war affecting the safety of the country, he could not come under stern military discipline.
The conclusion of the hon. Gentleman does not follow at all. A man may commit in the Army offences for which the King's Regulations do not necessarily provide. He may commit a criminal offence. Suppose it is a case of murder. I had to adjudicate recently on a capital sentence of the court, and it was the case of a soldier. It would be invidious, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman would suggest it, that the cases of soldiers who had committed murder should be settled by the military authority.
But this is not treason, and that is where the hon. Gentleman persistently goes wrong. He assumes that people who are detained are worse than they are. They are not charged with treason. If there were a clear case of treason, it could be dealt with under the Treason Act, but the position is otherwise. Therefore, these matters being related to the man's life as a citizen, it would be inappropriate to deal with them by court-martial. If you had inequality of procedure between men in the Army under these Regulations and civilians out side, whether more or less favourable to the men in the Army, there would soon be trouble and criticism on that ground.
My hon. Friend also thought that it was really almost monstrous that I should have re-arrested and re-detained men who had been let out, but we had better have the facts about this, and have what the courts really said in the cases of Captain Budd and others who were before them. Only one person has so far succeeded in his application to the courts against the Home Secretary under this Defence Regulation, which I think is in itself rather a testimony to the administration of my right hon. Friend before me and of my self since then, because the courts are never afraid to upset the Executive if they think the Executive goes too far. That is one of the guarantees of British liberty, and, in fact, I sometimes think that the courts get a little pleasure out of pulling up the Executive because it has gone too far. There would, therefore, be no bias that way. Captain Budd's release was ordered not on the substance of the issue. In the opinion of one member of the court —it was one out of three—there was not sufficient evidence that the Home Secretary had applied his mind to that particular case. It is not for me to argue with the learned judges, but the point is that my right hon. Friend had signed a paper which authorised the detention of 25 persons together, instead of signing 25 papers separately. He had considered the cases separately and signed the authorisation once instead of signing it 25 times. I think he was right in signing only one paper instead of 25, but this particular judge took another view, and although it was not the decision of the court, I have taken it into account.
May I interrupt my right hon. Friend on that point, because it is important? As I understand the Regulation, it is stipulated that the Home Secretary must satisfy himself on each individual case. It is unbelievable that 350 people could have been guilty of identical offences, but they were on the same order, and the only reason given was that they were members of the British Union or of some organisation.
But my right hon. Friend did give consideration It must be remembered that they were all dealt with under the same Regulation for the same class of offence, and he was satisfied that all of them properly came within the Regulation.
He was acting within his powers under this Regulation, as he was entitled to do, and if my hon. Friend said that before he could detain any of these persons, he should have examined meticulously all the relevant material— there were 350 people—he might have got through by the end of the war, but I am not sure. Really it is no use suggesting on the one hand that the Regulation is reasonable and that security must be safe guarded, and on the other for hon. Members in a number of speeches to make suggestions about the administration of the Regulation which would really make it impossible to administer it at all. I must not criticise the judges, but I can assure the House, from my own know ledge of the papers, that we have administered this with regard to the facts of the individuals concerned. The two other members of the court said that the procedure was wrong under the Regulation and that therefore the order was bad in that respect. Because of that I ordered the release of these persons.
I released them forthwith, naturally, but I had to consider that they were released on a point of procedure. The law so decided, and that was the end of it. They were not released because they were per sons who in any circumstances ought not to have been detained. When they were released, my responsibility came up again, and I had to face my responsibility in the interests of security. If 1 had let them out and they had done something dangerous to the State, my hon. Friend would not have forgiven me because I had not acted after the court's decision.
I said that they were released on a technicality and that there was every inducement for the Home Secretary and the Home Office to act as they did. I made that absolutely clear, but I suggested that, despite that fact, they might have been kept under super vision outside instead of again being interned.
It comes to much the same thing. The hon. Member would have imposed restriction on movement, or compulsion to report to the police, and so on. I venture to suggest that what the courts do in the matter of the procedure of the Regulations does not remove from me one tittle of my responsibility to this House for the security of the country. Therefore I had to handle these cases on their merits when they were out. I came to the conclusion, after considering them individually, and signing the orders individually, that they had better go back again. I promptly reported the matter to the House, and I think it met with the general approval of the House.
The hon. Member for Ipswich raised a number of points. He wanted me to give consideration to allowing cases of persons detained for six months or a year to appeal again, and to have a prisoner's friend, which, I take it, would not exclude the possibility of a legal advocate. I honestly do not believe that that would help the situation. A legal advocate can come before the Committee if the Committee so permits. It is entirely within the discretion of the Advisory Committee whether a person should be assisted by a solicitor, but the view has generally been taken that the procedure of this Committee is that the persons are just as well, from the point of view of justice, without a solicitor, or even a friend. But witnesses can be called, and are called in many of these cases.
I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend has said with regard to the admirable way in which this Committee is conducted, not as a prosecuting body, but as a body which wants to get at the facts. Repeatedly I have seen on the records, "Is there anything else you want to say?" Moreover, if in cases of doubt, a man has had something put to him which he does not understand, or which he has thought he ought to have notice of, the Committee have repeatedly said, "If you would like an adjournment, ask for one, and we will arrange it." I think it is one of the fairest pieces of quasi-judicial administration I have ever seen in the course of a long experience. I am grateful to Sir Norman Birkett, a brilliant man of strong liberal traditions, which are right and helpful in the Chair man of the Committee, and to the members of the Committee, for the great help they have given us.
With regard to the record on the identity cards of released persons, such endorsement of identity cards is made only in the case of conditionally released persons. There must be an indication, for the guidance of the police, of the conditions under which those persons are released. With regard to the hon. Member's point about the deportation of detainees to Canada, I would have no legal authority to send British subjects there, so that I can certainly give him the assurance that I have no intention of breaking the law.
That is why I came to this House for the power. I come back to the main point which is really involved. I admit, quite freely and frankly, that the powers which the House has conferred upon the Home Secretary are very big, in fact, I should rather think, unprecedented; because even in the case of the last war, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley indicated, the powers were not so extensive. The reason for that is that in the last war we had not had developed in the world the modern Nazi technique of Quislings. That has made a great deal of difference, of which the House, I am sure, will take notice. We had to arm ourselves against that kind of thing. What do these proposals which have been made boil down to? As far as I can see, the complaint is that there is absolute power in the hands of the Home Secretary; somehow, there ought to be a check upon him, or an appeal from him, or the power ought to be taken away from him and handed over to a tribunal, or a committee, of good, public-spirited citizens.
Let us face what happens. Information comes to the Home Office about certain people—a variety of information. A large number of these people are not Fascists at all. There are people of foreign origin; people who are technically British subjects, the children of foreign parents, but born here; the children of British subjects born somewhere else, who have never or hardly ever lived in this country and cannot speak the English language; there are all sorts of British subjects, and there are some poor souls who have not a State at all, but would like to be British subjects, and sometimes go over the line. There are two ways of dealing with the matter. If you have a committee to sort that information and to decide whether detention should take place, the procedure will be materially lengthened. The process of getting a decision from a committee must be slower than that of getting a decision from a Minister; and 24 hours' delay matters from the point of view of the security of the State—a matter of minutes may be important. Then there is the point that Members of Parliament might appear before a Committee of this House. This has been considered from time to time, but the Prime Minister did not think it wise. Then there was the question of whether a soldier should appear before a court-martial, and so on. It is difficult to feel that it is wise that particular sections of the community should be picked out for special procedure. Frankly, if I were to be detained and if I were a Member of Parliament—one never knows one's luck—I, knowing what I do of that Birkett Committee, would sooner come before it than before a Committee representing in proportion the different parties of this House. And it must be considered that if the tendency were that Members of Parliament did not get detained, but were released, the public would say, "These Members of Parliament are looking after their colleagues."
I was merely pointing out that the right hon. Gentleman was misleading the House—I am sure not intentionally —by saying that he would rather appear before the Birkett Committee than before a Select Committee. What he means is that he would rather have his case decided by the Home Secretary than by a Select Committee of this House.
You see what happens through my hon. Friend making this observation and leading me on. If it was the case that the Select Committee would investigate and recommend and the Home Secretary decide, consider how impossible that would be. It would be a very great difficulty for the Home Secretary to deal with a full judicial body such as a Select Committee of the House of Commons.
An advisory committee of Members of Parliament. I do not mind what you call it; it amounts to the same thing. Here is a committee of Members of Parliament. They go through a case, and the Minister may disagree with their conclusion. What are the committee going to say about that? They are going to be very cross indeed, and, before we know where we are, we shall have a Debate in this House, and possibly a Division, if it comes within the Rules of Order, on the question whether a committee of the House, which is a very important body, or the Secretary of State should decide. If you do it in that way you will get into a position of conflict of responsibility in the field of administration, where decision above everything is necessary, whether it goes one way or the other. If, on the other hand, the committee had to decide, the second thing to do would be to have the power taken from the Home Secretary in the case of a Member of Parliament. If the committee are to decide, they would really have to decide, and questions could not properly be put to the Home Secretary. Neither would he be expected to define their duties one way or the other. Some similar considerations have arisen, such as the suggestion that an advisory committee should be made decisive— "executive" is perhaps the wrong word —but that what they say should stand and the Home Secretary should not have jurisdiction. That is to say, as I under stand it, that the Home Secretary would have power of detention but the advisory committee outside would have the power of continued detention, or of release, or of indicating the conditions upon which persons should be released.
The hon. Member for Gravesend made a suggestion, which I thought was a little unreasonable, that, although the decision as to release or continued detention should rest with the outside committee, never the less he would continue to hold the Home Secretary responsible for the security of the country. Ministers have to put up with a great deal, and they expect to do so. We are questioned very severely and argued with and criticised, and we expect all those things. But it would be grossly unfair to Ministers if the power of settling these things, which relate to security, were taken out of their hands and they were held continuously and wholly responsible for the security of the country. Secondly, I really think it would be unwise, after we once got to a decision, that the powers which now rest in the Home Secretary should be transferred to an outside committee and that such a committee should decide to continue detention or otherwise. Then, the power of the House of Commons to question the Minister, to cross-examine and to hold him accountable, and even to secure his removal from office, would seem to be removed. If questions were put to the Secretary of State with regard to cases of continued detention his answer would obviously be that "the matter has been taken out of my hands, and I am unable to give the House any guidance." If he gave that answer the power and the authority of the House of Commons would have gone. Those are, as far as I can recollect, the suggestions which have been made from various parts of the House for amendment in so far as any have been made.
I am bound to say that I was rather impressed in the course of the Debate with two facts. One is the considerable number of speeches which have been made on the argument that the Regulation should be maintained. Very influential speeches have been made on that point. Others have been made in favour of the maintenance of the Regulation, while wanting assurances and improvements in administration, which hon. Members considered necessary. Other hon. Members supported amendment of the Regulation without making specific proposals as to how they could amend it. Nevertheless, obviously they want an administration which, whether they know it or not, would really make the effective administration of the Regulation almost impossible. It has been notable that the number of specific suggestions for the amendment of the Regulation has been very limited, and I think that is disappointing, in view of the consideration which I know a number of hon. Members of this House have given to this very important matter.
In conclusion, I would say that it is useful and right that this Debate should have been held. It is always right that a Home Secretary, in exercising these very great and exceptional powers, should have two things in mind: first, that he must do his duty to the State and its security and that if there is any real doubt, security must have the advantage. He must not be cowardly in exercising his powers when the security of the State is at stake. Second, he must keep in mind the fact that he is responsible to the House of Commons and is liable to be pulled up. I can assure the House that that is in my own mind. It is right from time to time that we should have these discussions and Debates in order that administration may be reviewed, but I would say, as one who is as keen as anyone to preserve the liberty of the subject—and for that reason I have been so careful in the handling of these 18b cases myself, because they are British subjects—that after a good deal of experience of administration of one sort and another I can honestly assure the House that, broadly speaking, although there may be exceptional cases where things go a bit wrong, the administration of this Regulation need not cause apprehension in the House and the country.
Quite apart from my own instincts of respect for the liberty of the subject, which are fully shared by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, they are also present in the minds of the officers of the Home Office, who have a considerable tradition of the spirit of civil liberty, despite suspicion to the contrary which exists in many quarters. There is a liberal spirit, in the best meaning of the term, which is healthy for the Administration. More over, the House need not think that I or my hon. Friend or my officers hesitate, when they think the security services are wrong, which they sometimes are, to disagree with them. Sometimes I have disagreed with all of them if I have thought it was my duty to do so, but the House need not think that the Administration is just blindly run by the security service on this matter. Nothing of the kind. We reach our decisions in fairness and in the light of day, and I am sorry there has been a minority of cases in which I have disagreed with the advice of the Advisory Committee. It is not on the facts but on the judgment of the case and on an interpretation of the facts that I have come to a different conclusion, and I feel the House would not be happy about my own Administration if, having conferred these powers on the Home Secretary, he slavishly hid behind the Advisory Committee in coming to a decision in all these cases. The House expects the Home Secretary to exercise his own judgment and responsibility, and he has done so. The fact that I disagreed with the Advisory Committee in certain cases is no reflection on them. It was merely a question of the interpretation of the facts, and, indeed, the number of cases in which there was disagreement was small. I am very grateful to the Advisory Committee for their work and the way they have done it.
I am glad that the House has had this discussion, and I hope that I have covered the points that have been raised. I give an undertaking to the House and the country that the administration of all these exceptional powers will be watched with great care and with critical attention at the Home Office, and if at any time hon. Members feel that the Regulations are being abused, I am sure they will let me know about it, and I assure them that immediately their points will be carefully followed up and considered.
I apologise to the House for rising to speak after my right hon. Friend, but that is no fault of mine. I wish to raise a point affecting the relationship of Members of Parliament vis-è-vis the Home Secretary in their endeavour to discharge their duties in so far as they are affected by these Regulations. In the course of the Debate, hon. Members have endeavoured to avoid mentioning individual cases, and I do not propose to do so, except in so far as they relate to the principle under review. While my right hon. Friend was speaking, I drew his attention to a statement which he made in the House some time ago, to which he did not give any satisfactory reply. I have to deal with this point because it has an important bearing on the case I propose to raise.
Some time ago my right hon. Friend introduced in the House new Regulations which enabled a larger body of friendly enemy aliens in this country to enlist in the Pioneer Corps of the Army under certain conditions, and, as a result of personal experience, at that time I drew my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that there was considerable danger, if he allowed friendly enemy aliens to enlist in the Pioneer Corps, employed on certain duties as they were, and as, indeed, they are to day, unless the military authorities investigated their individual cases, as far as they were able to do so, and unless the War Office, and not the Home Office, decided whether they could be allowed to enlist in the Pioneer Corps. On that occasion my right hon. Friend brushed my suggestion aside and said that he did not think such a procedure was necessary, because after these men had enlisted in the Army they would be subject to military discipline and could be dealt with in that manner.
I come now to the particular case which I want to bring to the attention of the House. When I was in France in June of last year, I had under my command, among others, a number of Germans and Austrians who were members of alien companies of the Pioneer Corps, and at that time the Regulation laid down that in no circumstances must those men be armed. When the break-through came, I armed them on my own responsibility, and they did extraordinarily well. One of these men—I do not propose to mention his name—who was serving in an aliens company who did extraordinarily well in these circumstances, was returned to this country, suddenly discharged from the Army, interned, and sent to the Isle of Man. My right hon. Friend knows the case, because his attention has been drawn to it during the last three or four days.
I nearly interrupted the hon. and gallant Member to ask him whether he could help me, because I have the impression that the matters he is discussing do not arise under any Regulation named in the Act which is now the subject of the Motion before the House.
My impression was that it was a case which came under the Regulation alluded to by my hon. Friend. If it does not, I should not be in order in dealing with it. I will endeavour to deal with it very briefly. This man was then interned, and in due course the case was brought to my attention. I wrote to my right hon. Friend and said I was person ally acquainted with this man, and would he be kind enough to investigate it and inform me, in confidence as to the facts of the case and what were the circumstances which led to his being interned. Of course, if I were satisfied that the action was warranted by my right hon. Friend, obviously, with a feeling of responsibility shared by every Member of this House, I would not have pursued the matter further. I received no reply from my right hon. Friend, but I did receive a reply from his Parliamentary Private-Secretary. I make no complaint about that, but I do complain about the contents of the letter. He stated that he could not give me any information at all. It was neither the practice under the Regulation to inform the soldier who had been interned as to why he had been interned, nor could he inform me as a Member of Parliament, in confidence, as to the reason for this man's internment.
I put it to my right hon. Friend that this was hardly courteous treatment of a colleague who has been a Member of the House for far longer than he has, to ignore his letter and instruct his Parliamentary Private-Secretary to turn down a reasonable request. These men have come forward to fight, and they have no one to take their part and look after their interests except Members of Parliament. Incidentally, I happen to be this man's ex-commanding officer, and I felt it was my duty to satisfy myself whether a mistake had not been made. I put it to my right hon. Friend that it is quite conceivable that a mistake could be made. I cannot understand why he felt it impossible to disclose to me, this man's ex-commanding officer, in confidence, the reasons for the action he took. I am hoping in future that if a Member of Parliament asks to be informed in confidence on matters of this kind, my right hon. Friend will find it possible to do so, and I hope he will do so in this particular case.
I would like to say a word in strong support of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Cardiff (Colonel Evans) has said in regard to cases under Regulation 20A. These are extremely difficult cases. They are cases where the Home Secretary, if free to do so, would, I venture to say, admit that the most appalling mistakes and blunders have been made. I do not propose to name any of the cases. I do not think it would be right to do so, but I invite my right hon. Friend to contradict me when I say there have been the most terrible blunders made under this Regulation, which may have the most appalling consequences to our friends fighting for us in this war.
Let me give my right hon. Friend an ordinary case. It is of a Czech Jew. After Munich, believing that there was no future any longer for him there, and despairing of any improvement in Europe, he went to Palestine and settled upon the land. A year later the war occurred. Though poor, at his own expense he came across Europe with a small band of others to France, where he enlisted with the Czech Foreign Legion. He was an aviator and had a pilot's certificate. He flew fighter planes throughout the war. He earned distinction and commendations and was held in high repute until France fell. He then came to this country, something like thirteen months ago, and found, what others have at the beginning, that in some quarters of the Allied Forces there were undesirable tendencies. He may have been wrong about that, but he came honestly to that view and expressed it and made representations about it. In the result he found himself detained under Regulation 20A, and he has been detained under that Regulation the whole of this time. No information has ever been given him as to the reasons for his detention. I understand that the Home Office disclaim all responsibility, as also do the Czech people, and there is this man, who one would have thought had given the clearest possible proof of loyalty to the Allied cause, languishing in gaol, anxious to serve, and no one will give him any opportunity of knowing what it is that is alleged against him, who alleges it, or any opportunity to answer the allegations. That is wrong. There are numbers of such cases. I should have been glad if there had been more opportunity of dealing with some of the other Regulations.
My right hon. Friend, when I interrupted him in order to complete a quotation from a speech, said he would deal with the point that I raised later in his own speech. He never did, and I do not think the Debate ought to close without the point being made. What he said after the passage that he quoted was:
That is a different story from the actual wording of a number of these Regulations, which give really extraordinarily sweeping powers, under which it seems to me anybody whom the Home Secretary did not like could be hanged, drawn and quartered almost with out any reasonable or proper means of defending himself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1939; col. 1846, Vol. 352.]
I asked my right hon. Friend to say what opportunity a man interned under Regulation 18b had for defending himself beyond that which he had under the Regulation which the Home Secretary was attacking on that occasion. As I under stand it, the whole House was at that time satisfied. My right hon. Friend was clearly satisfied that these powers were so wide that they could not safely be en trusted to anybody, and it was for that reason that a conference took place and that Amendments were made in the Regulations. The Courts have since deter mined that the alteration has made no difference. My right hon. Friend is now in the position of defending the administration by himself of powers which are precisely the same as those which he had formerly said ought not to be exercised by any Minister. He has not attempted to deal with that point, and I hope that on some future occasion he will take the opportunity of explaining the position in which he finds himself.
Whatever differences of opinion there may be as to the important subject we have had before us to-day, there is one thing on which we can be agreed in all quarters of the House. There is cause for satisfaction that in the midst of a critical war the House of Commons should be able to give some hours of thoughtful discussion and that Ministers of State should be able to give hours of their valuable time to discussing the liberty of the subject and securing a measure of justice to everyone, foreigner as well as British subject. That, at least, is some thing which may be a satisfaction to all of us. I welcomed the closing words of the Home Secretary's speech, in which he, gave an assurance of his determination to follow the path of justice and liberty as far as he could in the difficult circum stances of the times. There are many of us who greatly regret that the Home Secretary could not go further than he did to meet some of the objections that have been raised in different parts of the House to important details of the Defence Regulations under this Act.
A large part of the time to-day has rightly been given to the question of Regulation 18b because of the way in which it affects the liberty of the subject. I hope that the Home Secretary will be able, as he cannot do it now, on some future occasion to make it clear to the House that he is prepared to consider some modification of the administration of that Regulation, if not a modification of the Regulation itself. The particular point I would beg the Home Secretary to consider is the grievance of those detained persons whose release has been recommended by the Advisory Committee and whom he feels it necessary to detain on his own personal responsibility on grounds of national security. We all realise the immense responsibility resting on the Home Secretary, and we know that he would only use that power when he really felt it was necessary in the country's interest. There must be a great sense of grievance on the part of such persons if they realise that the Advisory Committee has recommended their release and the Home Secretary is unable to accept that recommendation. I want him if possible to promise that before he comes to an adverse decision he will endeavour either himself, or arrange for the Under-Secretary to do so, to see personally the individual concerned and not deal with the matter simply by reference to papers.
I do not think it could stop at seeing the individual who was asking to be released. I think it would inevitably follow that the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary would in due course be driven almost to re-hearing the case, because if he has seen the detained person, will he not have to see the people who gave the information, and others concerned? It would be difficult for the Secretary of State to confine himself to seeing the detained person.
If the Home Secretary could go only as far as that, he would go a long way towards removing a grievance. The people who are being detained are, as he has pointed out, not accused of high treason, in some cases are not accused of any crime at at all, but are merely persons about whom he feels sufficiently suspicious to think that if they were at liberty they might be a danger to the public. They are therefore interned, but they are interned in prison. Surely it ought to be possible to find a place of internment other than a prison. Every day in the "Times" and other newspapers one sees advertisements of large country mansions. There was one to-day which said there was accommodation for 250 children as a school, and the house was in an out-of-the-way place in Wales. Surely it would be possible for the Government to requisition such a mansion and provide for the internment of these persons under reasonable conditions, removing the stigma of being in prison.
I should like to get out the facts here. How many of the detainees under 18B and other Regulations are in prison? I know that there are some in Leeds prison, and I should like to know why they are still detained, and also to know what proportion of detainees are still in prison.
I do not question that, but there are still in Brixton a number of persons who would prefer to be detained in internment rather than in prison. There may be some who would prefer to remain in Brixton, and I do not want to have anyone moved against his will, but there are certainly some friendly aliens who are now in prison who have not been charged with any crime and who would be more suitably interned in a place of detention not a prison.
It looks to me as if the hon. Member were going into the administration of the Order and not merely dealing with the Order itself. The administration of it is another matter.
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but in the actual terms of Regulation 20A there is a point which ought to be considered. There is no pro vision, such as is made in 18b, for the person detained to be informed of the reasons for his detention. There are many other points which might be raised on other Regulations, but it is too late at this time of day, and the Home Secretary could not deal with a number of detailed suggestions. At least 10 of the Regulations contain points that really ought to be discussed.
All that tends to show that there is very great substance in the plea that has been made to the Home Secretary, and that he has not entirely put aside, that there should be some kind of representative conference at which the various points could be discussed quietly with him. It might be that in many cases he would not see his way to make any alteration as the result of that discussion, but if he could provide that opportunity, it would remove a very real feeling of regret on the part of many Members in all parts of the House that there has been no opportunity in this Debate, and there is likely to be no opportunity within the limited time that Parliament has before we adjourn, to discuss questions that are of real importance to the liberty of the subject, and to safe guarding the liberty which the Home Secretary has shown himself most desirous of safeguarding. I beg him earnestly, therefore, to reconsider the possibility of accepting in some form the suggestion that has been made from many quarters of the House that there should be a small representative conference to go into these various suggestions with him, I hope with very fruitful results.
I should like to support the observation that in war-time some of the principles which we value in peace-time may have to go into temporary abeyance, but where a man's only representative is his Member of Parliament, Members of Parliament can be trusted to use their discretion if they are taken into the confidence of Ministers and told the reasons why. I should feel extremely worried if one of my men were kept in prison or detained and I was not told anything about it. Errors are sometimes made, of course, and we had an instance of that.
A certain kind of suspicion became attached to one of the men under my command. We went fully into the matter, and we satisfied everybody about it. Strangely enough, when we went to another area, exactly the same inquiry was started, and I had to go into the whole thing again completely, although it had all been settled before. Then, when I went to another part of Britain, to Orkney—I am not sure whether Orkney is or is not in Britain—I was surprised to find an exactly similar inquiry started all over again about the same man. I had already satisfied myself on this matter, and I satisfied the inquirers. They admitted that he was perfectly free from any kind of stigma or doubt. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider the various points which have been raised.
It is perhaps desirable to inform the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken that Orkney is represented in this House by the hon. and gallant Member for Orkney and Zetland (Major Neven-Spence).
I was not proposing to do so. I replied to the Debate up to that point, and I did not anticipate that I should have a reasonable right to ask the leave of the House to speak a second time. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary spoke at the beginning, and I spoke at the end, and I did not think it would be expected that I should ask the leave of the House to speak again. Moreover, in regard to the speech made by my hon. and gallant Friend, if I may say so, with respect to the Chair, it was nearly all, if not quite all, out of Order. I will, how ever, consider the point my hon. and gallant Friend raised.
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in pursuance of Subsection (1) of Section eleven of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, praying that the said Act as amended by any subsequent enactment be continued in force for a further period of one year beginning with the twenty-fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-one.