Orders of the Day — Defence Regulation 18B.

– in the House of Commons on 21st July 1942.

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Photo of Commander Robert Bower Commander Robert Bower , Cleveland

I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.

I should like to make it clear at the outset that this is no commando attack on His Majesty's Government, nor is it what a Ministry of Information speaker might describe as a back-biting attack upon the Home Secretary. There is nothing personal in this matter as far as I am concerned, but those who think like me want to draw attention to the administration of the Defence Regulations, and in particular Regulation 18B, because we consider that very great constitutional issues are involved. Times of stress like the present have always in the course of our history brought in their train great constitutional changes, and it is the duty of the House of Commons to see that these changes take the right form and are not in any way inimical to our great constitutional principles. To-day we have strange movements in the minds of men, such as Fascism and Communism, which, in my view, are different symptoms of the same authoritarian disease, and we have no reason whatever to assume that we in this country are immune. We have only to think of the example of France and how, in the matter of a day or two, that great democracy fell. So we, the Commons of England, should, be very much on our guard.

We have a tendency to think that because we have locked up a lot of so-called Fascists we have scotched Fascism over here. I do not take that view myself. I think that Oswald Mosley's edition of Fascism was a peculiar, pallid edition, and from what I saw of it, it was a lot of boys and girls who liked to run round in black shirts. Anyhow we have banned that party and have put them away, and I personally have no objection to that ban, but if we are to look for Fascism, we have to look elsewhere, and the danger is always lurking. I know that a great many hon. Members opposite will disagree with me, but I want to point out to the Committee that Fascism in other countries has always come from the Left. If you take note of the three principal authoritarian leaders in Europe—Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler—had they been British and had been sitting in this House of Commons, they would not have been sitting on these benches wearing Old Etonian ties but would have been sitting on the back benches opposite. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is Stalin a Fascist?"] There are not signs lacking that there is still Fascism abroad in this country.

Regulation 18B was passed during what was called the "phoney" war, and even then the House took the gravest exception to the original wording of the Regulation. That wording bore an interpretation very much akin to that which was placed upon the present Regulation by the decision in what has come to be known as the Liversidge case. There is no doubt whatever in my mind that when the new Regulation was brought into force the average Member of Parliament—indeed, I think it would be fair to say every Member of Parliament—thought that it bore the interpretation which was placed upon it by Lord Atkin in his dissenting judgment, which, I think, illuminates the whole matter with crystal clarity. But apart from legalistic niceties, I cannot agree that this House really would in any circumstances have deliberately given the Home Secretary, without any appeal, the unchallengeable powers which he is now held by the ultimate Court of Appeal to possess. I think all Members admit that the right to detain on suspicion in times like the present is a grave but unfortunate necessity, and I think we will all agree that subject to the misapprehension I have already referred to, this House has actually given the Home Secretary these powers. But I and many others hold that whatever the circumstances, however grave the situation, however grave the emergency, it is fundamentally wrong and fundamentally opposed to the traditions of British justice that any one man should hold such unchallengeable powers over the personal liberty of every one of his fellow citizens.

What does that mean? The Home Secretary to-day has power to detain on suspicion anybody, from the Archbishop of Canterbury down to the humblest labourer in the land. These are powers which would make Himmler absolutely green with envy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly, Himmler has no greater powers than that. That this should be allowed to continue, without challenge from even a few Members of Parliament, even for a short time during an emergency, might well establish a dangerous precedent which would have terrible consequences later. We have forged a deadly sharp weapon and have left it lying about for any man at some future time to pick up and exercise against our ancient traditions.

On 18th November last the Prime Minister was asked this Question in the House: on what grounds he has satisfied himself that the powers granted by Parliament, under Regulation 18B, to the Secretary of State for the Home Department have not been abused …? The reply was: … having regard to the provision made for the hearing of objections by Advisory Committees and the facilities afforded to persons detained to communicate with Members of Parliament. I have no doubt that if these powers had been abused, it would not have escaped the notice of Parliament or of H.M. Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1941; col. 176, Vol. 376.] I propose for a few moments to examine that Answer to see what those safeguards amount to and how much reliance can be placed upon them. An Advisory Committee, after seeing the evidence on which the Home Secretary acted, hears the detainee, but the detainee has no counsel, no access to any of his documents which may have been impounded, he is not told what is really alleged against him, and after the interview he has no idea what the Committee has reported on him. This Advisory Committee is in no sense a court of appeal or a judicial tribunal. It is the creature of the Home Secretary, and in the end he is in no way bound to implement its recommendations. Indeed, in over 100 cases he has failed to do so, and I think I am right in saying that at the present moment over 80 detainees are detained contrary to the recommendations of Advisory Committees. That is one of our cardinal objections—that these powers should be exercised at the sole discretion of a Home Secretary who is not even bound to accept the recommendations of his Advisory Committees, and that there is no further appeal. The Home Secretary has told us that the Advisory Committees have all the evidence that is at his disposal, but I want to ask him a straight question, and I hope that when he replies to the Debate he will answer it. Is this really so? Is there not at his elbow some official of the Security Department prompting him, giving him, perhaps, evidence which is not at the disposal of the Advisory Committees? If that is so, I submit to the Committee that that is pure Gestapo practice. If not, why does the right hon. Gentleman disagree with the Committees so often?

Now for the second of these alleged safeguards—the access of internees to Members of Parliament. Since I started taking an interest in Regulation 18B and asking Questions in this House, I have had letters from a large number of detainees, and, curiously enough—I am sure the Committee will find this very difficult to believe—100 per cent. of them are convinced that they are perfectly innocent and that the powers used in connection with their case have been abused. What can a Member of Parliament do? He can exercise his right of access to the Minister, or can write to him or interview him to suggest that a certain internee has made out a good case and ask for rebutting evidence. The answer is always the same—"It is not in the public interest." Therefore, according to all the evidence which a Member of Parliament can collect from any source whatsoever, the internees who write to him are innocent yet are still interned. What safeguard is there there? Access to a Member of Parliament is completely valueless. Only the Home Secretary can say whether his powers have been abused or not, and he will not come to the House in a white sheet, bearing a candle, and say, "I have interned 200 internees without any justification." The only shadow of a safeguard is the power of Parliament to repeal or alter the Regulations, but that safeguard in itself is vitiated by the fact that Parliament is debarred by its own action from getting access to the information which would impel it to act.

I do not believe that the learned Law Officers, in re-drafting the wording of Rgulation 18B, deliberately misled the House. I think they were probably just as much surprised by the Liversidge judgment as we were, and if that is so, I submit to the Committee that we should all be seeking a solution of this problem. These powers in the hands of one man raise the very gravest issues. Naturally, if they are vested in any one man, people at once begin examining the fitness of that one man to exercise them. I have had many letters talking about the indecency of men who fought and bled for us in the last war being locked up by the Home Secretary, but I do not intend to pursue this line. My objection is not to this or any other Home Secretary. I do not wish to take the opportunity of making a personal attack upon the right hon. Gentleman, because in many ways I have great regard for him.

Recently I asked the Home Secretary how many Communists were interned, in view of his own expressed opinion that the Communist party were not loyal to this country. He replied that none had been detained just because they were Communists. I then suggested that as he was not interning Communists—in my opinion quite rightly—it was only fair to release internees against whom there was even less evidence of disloyalty or of actual or potential treachery. The right hon. Gentleman in his reply made the entirely unwarrantable assumption that I was referring to Fascists. What does this mean? I, of course, acquit the right hon. Gentleman of any attempt to tar with the Fascist brush those in this House who have stood for liberty. At the same time I do take this opportunity of informing him that, as far as I am aware, I have not even one solitary acquaintance among the Fascist party. I am not interested in them as Fascists but I am interested in them, and in all other internees, as British subjects who are entitled to British justice and who have not—and this is more important than anything else—been convicted of any offence. I think the question and answer to which I have just referred reveal that the right hon. Gentleman is, politically, very far to the Left and—unconsciously no doubt—any smell of anything which might be regarded as Fascism is, to him, anathema, but Communists to him are merely mildly reprehensible.

I have no objection whatever to that. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman has the right to hold these views in what is, or at any rate was, until Regulation 18B came into force, a free country, but I feel bound to point out that if, say, I—and stranger things have happened—were to become Home Secretary, I should probably release a great many people who are now interned, whereas a great many who are at present free would be in the Isle of Man within 24 hours. What does that prove? It simply proves that no one man by himself can be trusted to exercise these powers.

In the last few days there has been a very tendentious Press propaganda, tending to discredit the internees. Coming just as this Debate was pending, I cannot help wondering whether this is entirely fortuitous. I take an example which I cull from the "Daily Herald," not because I have any particular objection to the "Daily Herald," but because it happens to give the most concise, and, in many ways, the most accurate account. The "Daily Mail" had a much longer one. This is a paragraph headed, in heavy type "18B men's Gaol Vendettas" and it proceeds to charge 18B detainees with conducting personal vendettas against prison officers by sending slanderous charges against those officers to the Home Secretary and to Members of Parliament. It suggests that many detainees have radios and typewriters in their cells and get large amounts of rationed foods in addition to their prison diet, and have other prisoners as their servants. Then, under the cross-heading "Resentment," the paragraph goes on to say that the Prison Officers' Association calls for the segregation of detainees from ordinary prisoners and suggests that all the detainees should be sent to one prison—which strikes me as a very sensible suggestion—as it is impossible under the present arrangements to maintain discipline among the ordinary prisoners, who bitterly resent the difference between their treatment and the treatment of the detainees. The ordinary prisoners, who are convicted criminals, apparently expect that the detainees should be treated as they are treated. I make no comment on that whatever.

The concluding paragraph of this statement says that the Prison Officers' Association complains of the growing practice among detainees of taking out writs against prison officers for various alleged offences, when those officers are really only carrying out their ordinary duties. Surely it is a normal legal procedure—I speak subject to the correction of any hon. and learned Member who is present—that people who are taking legal action against the Home Secretary should provide an alternative defendant in case the Home Secretary should plead that the prison officers, and not himself, are responsible and thus get himself discharged from the case. In any case, is it suggested in any responsible quarter that ordinary recourse to the law, the cherished right of every citizen, should be withheld from these people just because they are interned? If so, I can only say that we are a long way on the road to Fascism.

When this Regulation 18B was last debated in this House the party opposite held a meeting. The meeting was held on the Wednesday before the Debate and after hearing the Home Secretary but before hearing the Debate, hon. Members opposite decided to support the right hon. Gentleman, right or wrong, through thick and thin, even before the terms of the Amendment put down by some of my hon. Friends and myself had appeared on the Paper. What an indictment of the party which claims to have its roots in Tolpuddle and Peterloo! At the highest I call that the apotheosis of the old school tie and I think I can leave it at that. I only hope that, on this occasion, they will hear the arguments first, before deciding how they intend to vote on this all-important subject of British liberty.

Arrest and detention on suspicion breed suspicion, and frankly I am suspicious of the motives of His Majesty's Government in general, and of the Home Secretary in particular, in wishing to retain these overweening powers in the hands of one man. More than once the Home Office has tried to limit or circumvent the activities of Members of Parliament who have done their duty by trying to help internees who have written to them. I myself have raised two cases in this House. One was a case in which the M.I.5 authorities in the Isle of Man sent for a detainee who had been in correspondence with me, and suggested that I had been smuggling letters to him by unauthorised means. Fortunately the detainee was a very methodical man and had kept the envelopes. Suppose he had not? There is, I fear, something very much like what our friends across the Atlantic would call a "frame-up" in that. In another case a detainee was prevented from sending letters to me. I raised that case in the House. I did not like that incident particularly after the Prime Minister's assurance that detainees had free right of access to Members of Parliament.

I hope the Home Secretary will not trot out the time-worn excuse that, if he is to be responsible for the security of this great Realm, in this time of stress, he must have these powers. After all, the First Lord of the Admiralty, on the rare occasions when he favours the House with his presence, does not say "I cannot be responsible for the safety of the seas unless I can be Lord High Admiral and get rid of the Sea Lords." In that case the First Lord is prepared to be primus infer pares and to have the help of other people in the exercise of his very important duties. At the time of the period of panic in 1940—

Photo of Captain Edward Cobb Captain Edward Cobb , Preston

Was there any panic in 1940?

Photo of Commander Robert Bower Commander Robert Bower , Cleveland

Undoubtedly there was a period of panic when hundreds of people were arrested and subsequently released. Why, otherwise, were they arrested? But much time has elapsed since then, and the Government have had plenty of opportunities of sifting out these internees and finding out those who are actually or potentially dangerous or those who are not. I am under a strong impression that some hundreds of people are now being illegally detained although perfectly innocent in order to retain perhaps a half-dozen who may really be of danger.

I often wonder whether the great figures of the past are allowed to come down to watch our proceedings here and whether, to-day, we are being watched by any of those who fought for our liberties 300 years ago. I cannot help feeling that if they could speak, they might quote to us these words of John Milton: Being peculiarly God's own, that is, truly free, we are consequently to be subjected to Him alone, and cannot, without the greatest sacrilege imaginable, be reduced into the conditions of slavery to any man.

Photo of Miss Eleanor Rathbone Miss Eleanor Rathbone , Combined English Universities

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman accept that all the arguments he has used apply quite as much to friendly aliens who are detained under Regulation 12 (5A) and to aliens of enemy origin who are detained in internment camps?

Photo of Commander Robert Bower Commander Robert Bower , Cleveland

The Amendment to reduce the Vote will afford an opportunity for the Committee to deal with Regulation 18B, and I cannot make a second speech on the matter which the hon. Lady has raised.

Photo of Mr Ernest Evans Mr Ernest Evans , University of Wales

The Amendment which has been moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) enables us to discuss the operation of Regulation 18B. There is uneasiness in the country about the operation of Regulation 18B, and that uneasiness is felt by a large number of intelligent, sensible and decent people. They are not people who wish to deny to the Government any powers that may be reasonably necessary for safeguarding the security of the Realm, but they are people who are imbued with the spirit which has made Great Britain respected throughout the world as a land in which tolerance and freedom of the subject are ensured. These people feel that something is being done which is not quite in accordance with fair play as it is generally interpreted in this country, a country in which its meaning is generally understood and its practice widely exercised. I doubt whether there is any hon. Member—and I do not except the Home Secretary—who would say that the present position in regard to the administration of this Regulation is wholly satisfactory.

There are two or three matters to which I want to refer in particular. The first is the Advisory Committee. I do not think the Advisory Committee is fulfilling the functions which we expected it to fulfil in protecting the liberties of the subject and ensuring justice in this matter. That is not the fault of the Advisory Committee. It arises partly from the attitude of the Home Secretary towards the Advisory Committee and partly from a misunderstanding—I put it no higher than that—in regard to the powers of the Home Secretary. I was under an impression that, under a concession which was made to us, it would be possible to challenge the Home Secretary of the day on the interpretation of a provision under which we had reasonable cause to believe a certain thing would happen. I believed that, and I accepted the Regulations on that basis. I gathered later that I was wrong, but I must confess that it surprised me, as it did a good many other people. I want to ask a question about the Advisory Committee. We know that the Advisory Committee sits in subcommittees and in panels, and that each sub-committee or panel is presided over by a lawyer of practice and experience. What happens to the report of a sub-committee or a panel? Is it considered by the Advisory Committee or at least by the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, or does it go straight from the sub-committee or panel to the Home Secretary? That is a question to which I would like to have an answer, because the answer will affect something that I want to say in a few minutes' time.

The next thing I want to say about the Advisory Committee is that I still feel that the procedure is unsatisfactory by reason of the fact that those who appear before the Committee are not entitled to be legally represented. I do not believe that a system can be efficient in which many of the sort of people who appear before the Committee are not allowed to be legally represented. I do not believe that these people can do justice to their case in these circumstances. It is no answer to say that the Chairman of the Advisory Committee is a lawyer of experience. It is not right the Chairman of the Advisory Committee should be expected to act as advocate for the defence and also as the judge presiding over the tribunal. The question of legal representation is not a matter which affects the detainee only; it affects the tribunal itself. It would be of great assistance to the Chairman of the Advisory Committee if he knew that in the presentation of the case by any detainee the man had had legal representation. Last week a case was heard in the High Court; I do not attach any undue significance to that case, but certainly it was of great interest from the point of view of the matter we are now considering. It was a case in which a public official had been detained under Regulation 18B for a substantial period of time. He was released, and he then became the plaintiff in an action in the High Court of Justice. In the course of that case, the question whether he was a loyal and well-conducted citizen was in issue. It is true that it was not the particular issue upon which the learned Judge gave judgment, but the question was in issue in the case, and I do not think I am saying anything unfair if I say that the learned Judge who tried the case made it perfectly clear that, despite the accusations which had been brought against this public official, he was satisfied that the man was a loyal and well-conducted citizen. He also made it perfectly clear that in his opinion the evidence of the witnesses who were brought forward to allege disloyalty on the part of this man was evidence based on misunderstanding or prejudice.

One cannot help wondering whether, in a case of this sort, it was the same kind of evidence which was responsible for the order for the detention of this man under Regulation 18B. I think it is not impossible for a Judge of the High Court, sitting as a chairman of the Advisory Committee under this Regulation, with the material that is put before him and bound by the procedure which governs the Advisory Committee, to come to one conclusion in regard to a particular case, and then, sitting as a High Court Judge in the same case, on evidence that is put forward, tested, probed and examined, and with all the practice and procedure which governs the operation of the High Court, to come to a different conclusion. I do not think that is an exaggeration, but even if it be a slight exaggeration, I say definitely that the result of the case which was tried in the High Court last week shows that the present position with regard to the procedure of the Advisory Committee is unsatisfactory.

Let us examine what happens after the Advisory Committee has sat and laid a report. I am quite sure I am reflecting the opinions of most Members of this Committee when I say that it came as a great shock to us to discover these two factors: firstly, the number of cases in which the Home Secretary has found it impossible to agree with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, and, secondly, that the material upon which he acted was nothing but the material upon which the Advisory Committee acted. I know enough to realise that the presentation of facts may impress different people in different ways. I thought it very extraordinary when I saw the figures, and with the passage of time and on further reflection I still think it extraordinary. I think the fact that there should be such a diversity of judgment between the Home Secretary and the Advisory Committee, presided over by a distinguished lawyer, is really surprising, and indeed alarming. I can only come to the conclusion that the Home Secretary, when he considers the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, and in the exercise of his discretion, or as I would prefer to put it, his judgment, seems to pay more attention to the advice and guidance he receives from others than that which he receives from the Advisory Committee.

The Home Secretary has referred to this matter on more than one occasion, and his reply to similar arguments has been, "I have released people where the Advisory Committee have advised that they should be detained." I do not think I am doing the Home Secretary any injustice in saying that he rather prided himself on that fact. Far be it from me to deprive him of any satisfaction he may derive from that, but to put that forward as an answer to these criticisms shows that the Home Secretary does not appreciate the logic of the argument and of the criticisms. It is not a question of the particular decision at which the Home Secretary arrives, as the efficacy of the Advisory Committee which he himself has established and his attitude towards that Committee. The nature of his decision is, therefore, very largely an irrelevant matter. The Home Secretary is just as likely to be wrong when he releases a man whom the Advisory Committee wish to see retained, as he is when he detains a man whom the Advisory Committee wish to release. If he would prefer me to put it the other way, he is just as likely to be right; it does not affect my argument one way or the other, although I do not think the latter is likely to approximate quite so much to the truth as the former.

One of the cardinal features of the administration of justice in this country is that a man is entitled to be considered innocent until his guilt has been proved. I am proud to feel and to know that that assumption of innocence still obtains in the courts of this country in times of war as it did in times of peace, and that it applies also when the person concerned is an alien, whatever his nationality may be. I am wondering whether the same assumption of innocence is to be found in the administration of this Regulation by the Home Secretary. It may be it is right that it should not be, but, if it does not obtain, we should, at least, have better justification for it than we have had hitherto. And so, I venture to make this other suggestion to my right hon. Friend. When he feels he is likely to be unable to agree with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, will he consult the Advisory Committee again, or will he, at least, consult the Chairman of the Advisory Committee and explain the circumstances which are weighing with him, and the circumstances which are affecting him, and any facts which he knows which may carry some weight in his mind? Will he listen to the views of the Chairman of the Committee, and will he discuss his difficulties with him before he arrives at a final conclusion? If he did that, I think it would help him and help others very considerably.

Photo of Mr Maurice Petherick Mr Maurice Petherick , Penryn and Falmouth

Suppose the Chairman of the Advisory Committee recommended a contrary view to that of the Home Secretary, does the hon. and learned Member suggest it should go back again to the Chairman?

Photo of Mr Ernest Evans Mr Ernest Evans , University of Wales

We are not sure that the Chairman of the Committee has ever given a definite decision in regard to all the recommendations which reach the Home Secretary, and that is the question I asked at the beginning of my speech. I know that this suggestion will not meet the case of those who have pressed very strongly for a right of appeal. In the past I have not been able to agree to the suggestion that there should be a right of appeal, because I believe this House of Commons is the ultimate authority to whom the Home Secretary is responsible, and that appeal to this House is the best. I am bound to say, however, that I think I shall be driven to insist on urging the right of appeal, unless the Home Secretary does something to improve the present situation. Apart from that, the suggestion I have made would, I think, have these consequences. It would give the detainee a fairer chance than he has at present, and the procedure would be more respectful to the Advisory Committee than that which the Home Secretary adopts towards it at the present time. It would also ease the difficulties of the Home Secretary. I realise very well that his job in this matter is a very difficult one, and I believe that the acceptance of this suggestion would help to ease one of the many heavy burdens which rest upon him as Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security.

I believe these suggestions would do something else, something very important. In the course of recent Debates in this House, Members have been pressing on the Government the necessity for having increased efficiency in production and equipment, but, in order to achieve victory and to win this war, something more is necessary than the equipment of the Forces and the gallantry of. their members, and that is a conviction on the part of the great masses of the people of this country that we are fighting to destroy something which is evil and to defend something which is good. I think it would be a great tragedy if on this, which in many respects is a minor matter, but which is still a matter of first principle, the confidence of the country and consequently its effort were reduced by the fear, by the anxiety and by the uneasiness that in this matter the procedure of the Government has more than a nodding acquaintance with the system which we are determined to destroy and tends to ignore the fact that the emblem of justice includes the scales as well as the sword.

Photo of Sir Stanley Reed Sir Stanley Reed , Aylesbury

The hon. and learned Member spoke of the possibility of an appeal. Would he enlighten the Committee as to the nature of the tribunal of appeal which he has in mind?

Photo of Mr Ernest Evans Mr Ernest Evans , University of Wales

I have said that I do not approve of a right of appeal.

Photo of Mr Ivor Thomas Mr Ivor Thomas , Keighley

We have listened to an extremely persuasive speech, but one which I think was based on a fundamental fallacy. The hon. and learned Member laid great emphasis upon the importance of the Advisory Committee, but let us remember that it is an Advisory Committee, and it must surely be open to the Secretary of State to reject the advice tendered to him if he thinks fit. I cannot imagine that he would feel able to maintain office if he were required to do what no other Minister of State is required to do, to accept, necessarily, the advice of an Advisory Committee. There is, however, one improvement which could be made. I am making a shot in the dark, and I am quite prepared to be told that I am wrong, but I am inclined to think that when the security police bring their cases to the Advisory Committee they do not always treat that body and its distinguished chairman with the courtesy that they deserve. Therefore there may be a little feeling rankling within the Committee which may lead to the kind of disagreement of which we have heard, and it may very well happen that the Home Secretary has in fact, despite his own statement, better evidence than that which is brought before the Advisory Committee.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

The Home Secretary has made it very clear on many occasions that all the evidence that he has goes to the Advisory Committee.

Photo of Mr Ivor Thomas Mr Ivor Thomas , Keighley

I have no doubt that the Home Secretary is convinced of that, but, as I say, I am making a shot in the dark, and I suggest that he should look into it. My contention is that the cases are not prepared for the Advisory Committee in a satisfactory manner.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Does my hon. Friend mean that he suspects that the security police keep the Home Secretary in ignorance of evidence which they place before the Advisory Committee?

Photo of Mr Ivor Thomas Mr Ivor Thomas , Keighley

No, rather the other way round, if I were forced to think along those lines. The security police, according to my shot in the dark, do not treat the Advisory Committee with the courtesy that they deserve, but I am prepared to be told that I am wrong, as I have no inside knowledge of this. I do not think that any of us can complain that this question has been brought up again. The liberty of the subject is the most important matter to which the House can direct its attention, and we certainly can have no complaint against the hon. and learned Member who spoke last. He and his party have been constant friends of liberty. I am bound, however, to welcome the mover of the Amendment as a new friend of liberty, and I trust that he will prove constant in his support of it. Liberty is no harlot to be embraced for a night. She is a maiden to be wooed with constancy and fidelity, to the exclusion of all other flirtations. I trust that we may have his constant support in this matter.

I think there was another fallacy in the able speech which we have just heard. It was rightly pointed out that English law presumes the innocency of a person until convicted, but we are not now dealing with normal English law. It is undoubtedly a fundamental principle of English law that a person is presumed innocent until convicted and also that, speaking generally, he may not be arrested on suspicion that he is about to commit a crime. It was a maxim of Roman law—Fiat justitia, ruat cœlum. It may, perhaps, be laid down as a maxim of English law, Fiat crimen, ruat cœlum; and a man is allowed to commit any action he pleases, within certain limits, provided he is prepared to pay the penalty afterwards. That is a fundamental principle of English law, but in war-time it is surely necessary to give the Government power to arrest a person on suspicion. It may be necessary for a Home Guard on sentry duty not merely to detain a person under suspicion, but to shoot him on suspicion. If he saw a person approaching an ammunition dump in a suspicious way and not responding to a challenge, he would be right to shoot him. We cannot grudge the Government power to detain a person if they have reasonable ground" for suspicion. But that is absolutely contrary to the basic principles of English law, and that makes it impossible to have a review of these powers by judicial authorities. I do not think we should ask Judges or any judicial tribunal to deal with these questions of suspicion. They are foreign to English law, but they are quite essential in time of war.

Of course, if the Government have these powers they must be vested in the Home Secretary. There is no competitor for this unenviable task. I noticed with interest that neither the Mover nor the Seconder suggested that the Government should not possess these powers. There is no suggestion that the Regulation should be abolished, but merely that alterations should be made in it. Therefore the question comes down to this: Is the Home Secretary using his powers in an arbitrary manner, or is he using them in the, interests of the State and preserving the liberty of the subject so far as can safely be done in time of war? I have looked up some extremely interesting figures. My right hon. Friend took office in October, 1940, and, according to the monthly return to Parliament, when he took office there were 1,381 persons detained under Regulation 18B. According to the latest return, in May, 1942, there were only 546. So that my right hon. Friend, so far from using his great powers under the Regulation to detain the subject and to restrain his liberty, has used them to release persons detained under this Regulation. About 800 persons have been released since he took office. I therefore suggest that there is no case to be made out against him on this ground.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

If I murdered the hon. Member, does he suggest that I should be acquitted upon the ground of the 614 Members whom I have not murdered?

Photo of Mr Ivor Thomas Mr Ivor Thomas , Keighley

I do not see the relevance of the argument, but if the hon. Member will wait, he may well see the whole 500 released if he will give the Home Secretary a little time.

Photo of Mr Ivor Thomas Mr Ivor Thomas , Keighley

I think it would prove that the Home Secretary pays very great attention to all these cases, and, as the hon. Member has raised it, I should like to say that I have had a great deal to do with aliens, and on many occasions I have had to approach the Home Office about them. I am bound to say that I have found the Home Office take extreme care in all these cases, much more than some other Government Departments with which I have had to deal.

Another fallacy has come out in this Debate. It has been suggested that persons detained under this Regulation have some stigma upon them. I do not think that is necessarily the case. They are detained on suspicion, and the suspicion, of course, may be wrong, but it must be a reasonable suspicion. If I may digress for a moment, last Friday I was witness of an extremely amusing incident in a place where the wit and learning of London are wont to assemble. I saw the Lord President of the Council sitting at dinner at the same table as a man whom he had detained under this Regulation. Everything seemed to be very amicable. Possibly each was ignorant of the identity of the other, but it was certainly edifying to those sitting around. This Regulation is necessary in war-time. It is admittedly contrary to the spirit of English law, and, therefore, the Judges should not be expected to interpret it. But there is a rule that overrides all law—salus populi suprema lex—and the Home Secretary can justify himself on that score. In war-time as in other times the strength of a chain is its weakest link. Let us see that our Link is kept very weak.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

I will not follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. I. Thomas) through his interesting speech, but I would like to point out a fallacy in it. He referred to the Home Guard and quoted that as an instance to be compared with the action of the Government under Regulation 18B. I would point out that when a man does not halt when challenged by a Home Guard sentry he has committed an offence. The sentry is not expected to shoot the man before he challenges him. He has to challenge him first, otherwise the sentry himself would be to blame. Another point the hon. Gentleman made is that no stigma attaches to those who have been interned. Their identity cards were marked in red ink, and I have had cases brought to me where no employment could be found by men who had been interned released and had their cards marked. It is true that the card is not now marked, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that once it is known that an individual has been interned, although released with nothing against him, it is practically impossible for him to get employment.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and Eastern

Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that a person who has had smallpox is almost in the same position? If people know that he has been in a smallpox hospital, they will be afraid of him for a while, and it is possible that a person who has mental deficiency is in the same position.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

You do not arbitrarily take a person from among people and put him in a smallpox hospital. I want to make this clear. If a person is found to have committed an act of treason against the State or acted as the deliberate agent of our enemies, I believe he should be shot, and I am prepared to form one of the firing party that shoots him. On 31st October, 1939, the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), who is now a Minister of the Crown, urged the House to be vigilant lest it should grant to the Government powers greater than the state of emergency could possibly demand. The right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary, then enjoying a freer life on the Front Opposition Bench, while agreeing, as we all do, that in a time of emergency such as that in which we are living it is right and proper that the Executive should be armed with exceptional powers, said that the Executive should be "subject to proper checks." He also said that as regards the Home Secretary "the House should be guarded and careful as to the powers which they give him."

It cannot be disputed that the reason the House objected to the original Regulations was because it believed that the power given to the Home Secretary was too unfettered. To meet the views of the House the Regulations were amended, but at no time did the Law Officers of the Crown or anybody else point out that so far as the liberty of the subject was concerned the amended Regulations meant precisely what the original ones did. It was not until the judgment in the Liversidge case was given that this fact was established. The effect of Regulation 18B is to abrogate the principle of Habeas Corpus without a specific enactment to that end. It is true that the Regulation was passed by the House of Commons, but it is, I contend, equally true that the House of Commons did not intend the effect of the amended Regulation to be what the judgment in the Liversidge case has now established it to be. Yet one has looked in vain for distinguished lawyers in this House to stand up and denounce this abrogation of our original ancient liberties. Blackstone, one of our greatest lawyers, wrote 168 years ago: Of great importance to the public is the preservation of this personal liberty, for once it were left in the power of any, the highest, -magistrate to imprison arbitrarily whomever he or his officers thought proper (as in France it is daily practised by the Crown) there would soon be an end of all other rights and immunities. He argued that to take away a man's life or property without accusation or trial was such an act of despotism as would sound the alarm of tyranny throughout the kingdom, but he said: confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to gaol where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public and less striking and, therefore, a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government. The Committee will recall that on Sunday, 26th April, 1942, Herr Hitler, speaking in the Reichstag, proclaimed that there was no law in Germany except his own will or whim, that no one in Germany has any rights, and that besides being head of the State and supreme war lord, he was, indeed and in fact, the supreme law lord as well. He is the law. Next day our supreme law lord, the Lord Chancellor, broadcast to the people of this country. Commenting upon Hen-Hitler's speech and the endorsement of it by Marshal Goering, who said that Hitler was to have power to punish everybody "without regard to so-called duly acquired rights," the Lord Chancellor said: The obsequious and servile members of the Reichstag had without dissent unanimously affirmed this monstrous claim like the slaves that they are. He went on to say that this was the most horrible form of slavery that could possibly be conceived and, recapitulating the four freedoms enunciated by President Roosevelt, he said that there is also a fifth freedom without which no country can truly claim to enjoy liberty. Let me quote the exact words, because they are of the utmost importance in this discussion of Regulation 18B. He said: It is the freedom of every citizen, however poor, however uninfluential, however unpopular, however wrong-headed, to appeal to the law and the courts to protect him from injury and insult, even though the wrong be committed by the misuse of official power. Some people are so ill-informed as to suppose that under the pressure of war conditions the writ of Habeas Corpus has been suspended. That is not so at all. If a man or woman is detained a writ of Habeas Corpus will ascertain whether his detention is according to the law, and if it is not according to the law the detained person will be instantly released. Defence Regulations impose extra duties and liabilities and restrict in various ways the free choice which is part of our daily practice in times of peace, but Defence Regulations are all made under the authority of an Act of Parliament and are liable to challenge by Parliament after they are made. To-day my friends and I are challenging the justice of the provisions of Regulation 18B, as they are being applied. The Lord Chancellor was comparing conditions in Nazi Germany with those obtaining in this country, and in order to reinforce his argument he went on to say: Now just see what the contrast is. Under the system of Government which the Nazis and Fascists are trying to enforce upon the world, whoever heard of anybody in a German concentration camp applying for a writ of Habeas Corpus. Apart altogether from the result, the application would only get him, and probably his lawyer, into further trouble. Now let the Committee mark this. He went on to say: Not long ago Pastor Niemoller was discharged by a German court from the accusation made against him, and in a civilised country if a man is discharged he goes free. Did Niemoller go free? Not at all. He is in a concentration camp at this moment, and what is happening to him only imagination can tell. He went on: The Germans are living as slaves because there is no German law to protect them, and because there is no German court that would dare to interfere with the edicts of the bullies in power. I have the greatest possible respect for the Lord Chancellor, both as a lawyer and as a man, and I have, I hope, the very great honour of his friendship. I apologise to the Committee for having quoted him at length, but I have done so because I want to make it clear that there can be no doubt that what the Lord Chancellor was affirming to his listeners was that Habeas Corpus still exists in this country, because the apparent infringement of it by 18B was a legal infringement, since Parliament had passed the Regulation and could challenge it at any time.

That may be what a layman would call a clever legal quibble, but I suggest that it is not an accurate picture of the present position, for this reason: The Home Secretary is judge and jury and court of appeal all rolled into one so far as Regulation 18B is concerned. It has been said that he can be challenged as regards any particular case, but how can he be challenged when he can refuse to give the House any information about the case? If I say to him, "I have investigated so far as I can the case of Mr. Jones, and as a result of the investigations which I have made I have come to the conclusion that you are detaining him unjustly," the Home Secretary need only say, "I do not agree with you, and I am not even going to tell you what are the grounds upon which Mr. Jones is detained. If you do not like it, you can go to the House of Commons and move a Vote of Censure against me. Even then the grounds upon which Mr. Jones is being detained, namely, the accusations against Mr. Jones, will never be made public to the House or anybody else." I contend that it is ridiculous to suggest that the House has any effective control over the Home Secretary in respect of any individual case of alleged wrongful detention.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Edinburgh East

Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest that in his opinion it is desirable that the Home Secretary should be compelled to declare in public, either in this House or elsewhere, the grounds upon which he is detaining any individual?

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

No, I never suggested that. My argument is concerned with the suggestion that the House has effective control over an individual case. Of course, the Home Secretary cannot disclose in public the grounds in certain cases, but if he does not disclose them, how can the House judge? To say that the House has effective control when it does not know all the circumstances upon which to judge the Home Secretary seems to me the negation of common sense. Let it be remembered that the detainee has very few effective legal facilities. He is not told why he is detained. If he goes before the Committee set up to advise the Home Secretary he is not even told what are the charges against him. He is denied legal help in making his defence before the Committee. He is acting in the dark. If the Advisory Committee decide that he should be released, the Home Secretary is under no obligation to take their advice.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

Do I understand the hon. and gallant Member to say that no charge is made against the detainee, or that he is not informed of any specific charge?

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

He is informed of the grounds of detention, but there is no specific charge made against him. The Home Secretary said the full facts are disclosed to the Advisory Committee. If this is so, then he, a layman, is overruling, on the same sets of facts, the decision come to by the expert lawyer whom he himself set up to preside over the Advisory Committee. May it not be that the Home Secretary takes into account some secret information which is not at the disposal of the Advisory Committee? I say that in cases where the Home Secretary and the Advisory Committee differ the matter should go for final decision to a Judge of the High Court. Where there is no question of differing, I say that it should be incumbent upon the Home Secretary to accept the decision of his own Advisory Committee in any case which he has submitted to it. Now what about the Lord Chancellor's suggestion that the interned person has the protection of Habeas Corpus envisaged by Blackstone. The Lord Chancellor's broadcast reference to Pastor Niemoller could have meant nothing but this, that the difference between Germany and this country was that in Germany a man who had been tried by a court and discharged could still be kept in custody in a concentration camp by what the Lord Chancellor himself referred to as "the edict of the bullies in power," whereas in this country if a person had been tried and acquitted, he would go free. Is this really so?

Most Members of Parliament, certainly those who have taken an interest in Regulation 18B, have alas had many cases brought to their" notice. I have studiously refrained from mentioning in this House any individual case that has been brought to my notice. Allegations of all sorts are made and they are very difficult to check. It is very hard to get to know what is the truth. All one can do is to apply to the Home Secretary, and here I would like to pay my tribute to him for his unfailing courtesy and kindness in every case I have submitted to him. Whatever our views, I think we would all agree that if possible a detained person should be charged and tried. That is fundamental British justice, to obtain which men and women have died in the past. Where circumstances arise in which it is not possible to make a charge—and it may be that those circumstances do arise—then an individual may have to be kept in custody, but such cases should, in my opinion, be determined as I have said by the Advisory Committee or, in the event of disagreement between the Home Secretary and the Advisory Committee, by the decision of a judge of the High Court.

I have said that I have not quoted individual cases, but in view of the Lord Chancellor's broadcast I am bound to bring one specific case to the notice of this Committee. It refers to a Mrs. Nicholson. Let me make it plain that I do not know this lady and that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, I have never even seen her. I do not know anything about her except that I believe she is a distinguished lady doctor. I do not know what offence she is charged with or what charge was brought against her when she was tried. Her husband, however, is Admiral W. S. Nicholson, who was an old friend of mine in the days when I was in the Royal Navy. He has had a distinguished career, both during the last war and before the last war. Mrs. Nicholson was originally detained on 26th May, 1940. After a few weeks she obtained the services of a lawyer. She discussed the whole circumstances with him, and her husband took the advice of counsel. Both lawyers expressed the opinion that she had committed no offence.

Let the Committee observe how these matters were conducted. On the first occasion, Mrs. Nicholson had to discuss her case with her lawyer in the presence of the ordinary prison officials. She wished to mention certain names to her lawyer, and she wrote them down, but the paper was taken away from the lawyer on the ground that it could not be shown to him unless it was taken to the Governor. Because Mrs. Nicholson did not wish to disclose any names, her lawyer destroyed the paper. That she had behaved with propriety and discretion was borne out by the fact that, at her first interview with the Advisory Committee in October, 1940, a considerable time later and nearly five months after she had been detained, one of the members of the Committee asked her whether she had destroyed a paper during a legal interview, and when she replied that her lawyer had destroyed a paper on which she had written certain names which she did not think were suitable for a prison official to hear, the judge, Judge Cockburn said "Quite right. We never have them in here." It was after this that the authorities apparently decided to bring Mrs. Nicholson to trial. She was charged at Bow Street Police Court on 18th February, 1941, and in due course she was tried by a judge and jury sitting in camera. After a trial which lasted five days, and which, incidentally, cost this lady and her husband £1,026, she was, on 7th May, 1941, acquitted.

She had suffered the disability of being detained without trial. The authorities then brought her to trial on certain charges, and she suffered the further disability of having a secret trial, after which she was acquitted. The Lord Chancellor obviously meant the public to believe that what happened to Pastor Niemoeller in Nazi Germany could not happen here. That being so, this lady should have walked out of the court a free woman. Let us apply the Lord Chancellor's broadcast to Mrs. Nicholson. He said, and I heard him say it, that "if a man is discharged he goes free"; did Mrs. Nicholson go free? Not at all. She is in prison at this minute on the same charge—[An HON. MEMBER: "What charge?"]—One moment; I will come to that. After having been acquitted, she was taken back to detention. Now a curious incident occurred. The Governor of the prison sent for her on 13th June and asked where she would go if she were released. I believe that question is asked only in cases where release is intended.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

13th June which year?

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

Of the same year, 1941. She gave the name of friends of unimpeachable integrity and status, but, about four week later, she was informed that she would not be released. As the result of the advice of her lawyers she asked to go again before the Advisory Committee. Let the Committee mark this. This lady's lawyer, belonging to an eminent firm, advised her not to try to get her case raised in the House of Commons, not because she objected to publicity, but because, he said, Members would want to know all about the case and the Home Office would not allow them to know any details. What about the suggestion that this House is in a position to investigate cases of alleged injustice?

In September, 1941, the Advisory Committee wrote to Mrs. Nicholson saying that although there were, strictly speaking, no new reasons that had not been considered in her case as to why she should not be detained, yet, as they were anxious not to deny her the opportunity of putting forward any new circumstances, they would see her on 14th October, 1941. They said that they did not see the necessity for seeing her lawyer as they could refer to him later, if required. This lady prepared a statement; and she said it was like fighting in a fog. The Advisory Committee admitted that she was being detained on matters relating to the charges of which she had been acquitted and held, in the eyes of the law, to be guiltless, and on no other grounds. I understand that the Advisory Committee considered the case closed by the court proceedings. She pays her tribute to the Advisory Committee, and particularly to Sir Norman Birkett, for their fairness and sympathy. Two days later the Committee saw her lawyer and discussed two letters which she had written, one to her husband and one to the late Sir Reginald Poole, of Messrs. Lewis and Lewis, her lawyers. The letters had been intercepted and copied. They were not mentioned to her when she appeared before the Advisory Committee.

It was apparently suggested that these letters, which of course I have not seen—I do not know what is in them—contained allegations against those in authority and threats as to what she would do if she were released. But there was nothing secret about those letters. Every detainee knows that letters are scrutinised before they leave the prison, or if they do not know it they must be extremely stupid. Although this lady appeared before the Committee on 14th October, 1941, and although representations had been made to the Home Secretary by Admiral Nicholson, it was not until 11th January, 1942, that she was informed that she would not be released.

I would like to ask the Home Secretary a specific question. Will he answer it? Did the Advisory Committee recommend the release of Mrs. Nicholson, or not? I have had brought to my notice many cases of individuals who are detained for something it is alleged that they have done. One is forced to wonder whether, in this case, a woman is not being detained because of something she might say if she were free. I have no personal interest in this case whatever, and I am raising it only because it was brought to my notice. I imagine the only reason it was brought to my notice was because I have tried to take an interest in the discussions on 18B—believing as I do that the application of it is unjust in many cases—and because I am an acquaintance of Admiral Nicholson's. In my submission this is not an ordinary case of detention, because this lady has been tried and acquitted.

It is not only in German detention camps that spirits are broken. The effect of detention upon an innocent person must be terrible indeed. For those who are proved to be the enemies of the State we can have no pity whatever at this time, but it is significant that, after the long months of detention, waiting to be told the decision of the Advisory Committee, after the acquittal on the very charges upon which she had been detained, in her letter to me this woman now says: They can rely upon me and upon my husband, that never, under any circumstances, will I embarrass those in authority. It is not only in German prison camps that hearts are being broken. I wonder if hon. Members of this Committee realise what those people went through during the time of the air raids oh London? Convicted criminals have only themselves to thank for the fact that they are in prison. If people are traitors or potential traitors, I have no sympathy with them. We have to have Regulation 18B, I agree, but there should be safeguards. Let people who are potential traitors be charged and dealt with, but those people, some of them since released as innocent, endured the raids of London without lights because there was no blackout in the prison, without even the comfort of a cup of tea or a mouthful of food during those long terrible nights which most of us experienced when the blitz was at its height. It is true that as a result of representations which they made they were not compelled to endure being locked in their cells, and prisoners on upper floors were allowed to go down to lower floors. But I say that to keep an uncharged and unconvicted person in a part of London particularly exposed to air raids smacks of the Gestapo. To force a mother nursing a tiny baby to endure that torture is positively inhuman.

A great man, a just man and a passionate believer in liberty, Abraham Lincoln, made a speech on 19th May, 1856, in which he said: We must not be led by excitement and passion to do that which our sober judgments would not approve in our cooler moments. I believe that 18B, passed as it was at a time of excitement, must still remain, but that it should now have its working amended. I think I speak for those who feel strongly in this matter, as I do, when I say, in the words of Abraham Lincoln: We know that great political and moral wrongs are done and outrages committed, and we denounce those wrongs and outrages, although we cannot at present do much more.

Photo of Mr Frederick Watkins Mr Frederick Watkins , Hackney Central

My first thought on listening to the closing words of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech was that Abraham Lincoln would have been very much surprised if he had heard the use made at the present time of some of his words. The Debate was initiated by a speech from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower), and, if I may say so, I think that his speech would have been much more effective if he had not thought it wise to perorate with a lot of generalisations which had no substance at all in fact. He told us that Fascism was abroad in this country. There is no evidence of that and no justification for saying it. He told us that the Home Secretary possessed powers over the liberty of the subject similar to Hitler's powers. [An HON. MEMBER: "Himmler's."] There is no justification for either Hitler or Himmler being brought in in that connection. He then went on to charge the Home Secretary, and this is quite wrong, with administering Regulation 18B in accordance with political prejudice. He gave no evidence of that at all, but just made it as an unsupported charge.

Photo of Commander Robert Bower Commander Robert Bower , Cleveland

I think the hon. Member has got me wrong. I suggested that the Home Secretary, whose political opinions are very far to the Left, would quite unconsciously administer these Regulations with a Left bias, just as in the same way any hon. Member of the Right would do the same with a Right bias. I pointed out that there would be a different set of internees according to whoever might be the individual sitting on that Bench, and, therefore, no one man was fitted to exercise those powers. I was not accusing the Home Secretary.

Photo of Mr Frederick Watkins Mr Frederick Watkins , Hackney Central

I accept what the hon. and gallant Gentleman says, except that I do not think there is any justification for the suggestion that the fact that the present Home Secretary is on the Left while the previous Home Secretary was on the Right or the Centre is a determining factor in deciding who shall be detained and who shall be released. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman went on to refer to the nation being in a state of panic in the summer of 1940, and said that 18B was the result of that panic. I profoundly disagree with all those statements, and I also disagree, although the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who supported him was much more attractive to me, that there is wide uneasiness throughout the country about the administration of Regulation 18B. I have come across no uneasiness. I have never heard it mentioned in my constituency, at any public meeting or, indeed, in any private conversation with my constituents. They think it is a wise and sensible thing for the State to put under lock and key people who might damage us in time of crisis, or whose liberty might be used to decrease the public morale. There is generally no uneasiness at all upon this matter.

Behind the speeches that have been made in favour of a reduction of the Home Office Vote is the notion that among the 500 or 600 people now detained under the Regulation the majority are completely guiltless and ought not to be detained. I do not think that there is any justification for that view at all. I guarantee that if any one of us could have carried out the examination of those 500 or 600 men and women we should have reached a result, in detaining or releasing them, very similar to the result which has been reached at the present time.

Photo of Mr Thomas Levy Mr Thomas Levy , Elland

Does the hon. Member consider it unreasonable that any person who may be detained should have an opportunity of proving his innocence and justifying it before an impartial tribunal?

Photo of Mr Frederick Watkins Mr Frederick Watkins , Hackney Central

I was coming to that in a few moments. There is the notion that these people should have a normal, ordinary, legal, court trial, and that they should be released or detained in accordance with the result of that trial. I disagree. The issue at stake is not one of abstruse legal argument, but a weighing up, by competent people, of what they are likely to do if they are given their liberty. That is not a legal question, it is a human question, and in my judgment it is dealt with in very great fairness by the different panels of the Advisory Committee. I have got into touch with some of the people who have had experience before these Advisory Committees, and they tell me that they are completely satisfied with the fairness and impartiality, and even the friendliness, which they experience when they come before them. They can have their solicitors in the building, although not in the room; they can consult the solicitors beforehand, during the hearing, or after it; they can get all the legal assistance they want, and the purpose of the Advisory Committee is to try and look into their minds, to try and make out whether it would be safe for them to be allowed at large in the very critical and trying circumstances of to-day. That is not a legal question to be settled by lawyers. It is to be settled by decent, honest, intelligent people with ability to weigh up human character and conduct. I know that lawyers want to get in on everything. I believe that some lawyers would even go to the length of making it illegal for a young man to propose marriage to his sweetheart except through his solicitor. But this is not a legal problem, it is a human one, and according to my information and my belief it is dealt with very efficiently and effectively by the present Advisory Committees.

Photo of Reverend Dr James Little Reverend Dr James Little , Down

May I ask the hon. Gentleman bow he reconciles that excellent sentiment with the suggestion that the Advisory Committee's opinion should be overruled or ignored by the Home Secretary?

Photo of Mr Frederick Watkins Mr Frederick Watkins , Hackney Central

There is the further point as to whether the Advisory Committee should cease to be an Advisory Committee and be a determining body, whose decision should be operated, that if they said, "Release," the person concerned should be released, and if they said, "Detain," the person should be detained. We are living in critical times. It is true at the moment that the likelihood of invasion has receded a little, but it has not receded sufficiently for any of us to be certain that it may not occur. Hitler's tactics use the factor of surprise very much indeed, and he may launch an attack upon us at any moment. Somebody has to be responsible to this House for seeing to it that any potential spy, that any potential informer, anybody who under critical conditions might seek to weaken the morale of the people, should not be given the power of doing it. That is not a matter for the courts; that is a matter for Government. In wartime the Government must govern, and one of the functions of government is to see to it, to the best of the Government's ability, that anyone who might harm us at a critical time shall be kept under lock and key, and kept safely away from doing the evil they would seek to do. Believe me, these people are better where they are. They are enemies of our country—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not all of them."]—they are enemies of our way of life.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why are they released?"]—They do no good to the national cause.

I wish to recount one experience within my own observation. A young fellow who, in the interchanges of school boys that took place before the war, went from a secondary school in England, and some German boys came over here. When he was there he learned and accepted the doctrines of Fascism. He became a member of the British Union of Fascists. He was interned and detained. His parents came to see me and pleaded with me to try to do something because "This boy is a good boy." I did. I took the matter to the Home Secretary, and investigations took place. Ultimately, it was decided that he could not be released, and I wrote sending that message back to him in the Isle of Man. I got from him in reply a letter justifying the Home Secretary, because he said he was a Fascist, that he had worked for Germany, and that he would work for the overthrow of democracy until the day of his death. Until he made that admission when he found that his case had failed anybody approaching him and, more particularly, approaching his parents, would have come to the conclusion that here was a very much misused man. I think that the Home Secretary is administering Regulation 18B with great discrimination and fairness. The cases are reviewed from time to time. I do not know whether the Committee is aware that a detainee can come before the Advisory Committee as many times as he cares to if the circumstances change. If he changes his opinions, if the national situation changes, it may be possible for him to be set at liberty although he has been refused at a previous hearing.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member, but he said that a detainee can come before the Advisory Committee as often as he cares. Surely that is not correct. He can come before the Committee only if they will see him.

Photo of Mr Frederick Watkins Mr Frederick Watkins , Hackney Central

I know of many cases where they have been before the Advisory Committee more than once. That is perhaps a more accurate way of describing it, that it is not limited just to one appeal. I feel that there is no cause for censuring the Home Secretary or the Home Office for the administration of this Regulation.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

The issue before the Committee to-day is the Home Secretary's salary. I would have preferred a Debate that would have covered the whole range of the Home Office responsibilities than that it should be limited to the question of Regulation 18B, but I do not propose, except by a passing reference, to attempt to extend the Debate into the wider issue. I think this Committee wants an opportunity at some point to consider whether, in the light of our experience, it is necessary to continue the position of the Regional Commissioners, of their assistants and retinue, or whether they are not just rather decorative persons who are duplicating the work of the local authorities and other bodies [Interruption.] They vary. The status of the individuals and Commissioners varies in different regions; the amount of what they are doing and what they are not doing varies in the different regions. It sems to me that this is now an unnecessary part of our national structure, and that we would wish to discuss that. The Home Office Vote would be the appropriate occasion.

I would like an opportunity to discuss the question of permission to people living in the West of Scotland to visit Northern Ireland. The Under-Secretary has in this matter been even more of a dictator than his chief has been in the matter of 18B, because after one has seen the Under-Secretary on this matter of permits to visit Northern Ireland, there is no appeal to any Advisory Committee. What he says is the last word. This is a matter which is causing considerable disturbance in the West of Scotland because of the close association there is between Northern Ireland and the Glasgow area in particular. Thirdly, I think this Committee wants to consider the whole business of fire-watching arrangements, which all seem to me, as one who has not studied it very closely, to be still in a frightfully complicated mess. These things all come properly under the Home Office Vote, but the group of hon. Members who asked for the Vote have preferred that the discussion should be limited to the question of detainees under 18B, and I shall not attempt to drag the discussion away from the rather limited purpose to which they asked it should be devoted.

I wish I could be as easily satisfied as my hon. Friend above the Gangway who says he is satisfied that all the people who are at present detained are rightly detained. I wish to say this to some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. There is a sort of suggestion that the present Home Secretary is responsible for this position, but remember that it was not the present Home Secretary who shoved thousands inside. The record of the present Home Secretary has been one of steady releasing. He has reduced the total number detained to a fraction of the original number, and if an hon. Gentleman says there was panic at the time when they were shoved in, it was not panic on the part of the present Home Secretary but panic on the part of his predecessor. Mark you, I could make many criticisms of his predecessor, but although I do not know him intimately, he does not strike me as being a panicky man. I refer to the right hon. Gentleman who is now Lord President of the Council. But if there was panic, which put these people in originally, he was responsible. The present Home Secretary, over a period of two years, has progressively come to the conclusion that a big proportion of these people were innocent. The hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins) would have made the same speech when the thousands were in prison.

Photo of Mr Frederick Watkins Mr Frederick Watkins , Hackney Central

What I meant was that the idea that these hundreds of people were completely innocent was wrong. They are all guilty in varying degrees, and it rests with the Home Secretary to decide whether they are sufficiently guilty to be detained.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

Of what are they guilty? They are guilty, and so am I, and so is the hon. Gentleman, of——

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

Is not this an abuse, Mr. Williams, of the Privileges of this House? These are people against whom no charge has been brought, of whom it has been repeatedly said that their detention is preventive. Is it in Order to say that they are all guilty?

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

The words of the hon. Gentleman were perhaps not quite fortunate, but I do not think it is worth while interrupting the Debate on this matter. I think the intention of the hon. Gentleman, as far as I could hear his speech, was to suggest that these persons are properly detained.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

I agree that they are guilty—but the hon. Member also is guilty, and I am guilty, and the Home Secretary is guilty—of having political views. It is quite wrong for them to have political views which are out of step with those of the majority. I do not believe that an Advisory Committee, even one chosen with all the sagacity of the Home Secretary, can be good for this purpose. I have great doubts whether a Judge of the High Court would be a suitable tribunal. I think that half-a-dozen Members of this House would be a better tribunal to consider what is essentially a political consideration, than a Judge, who is used to handling criminal cases, complicated commercial disputes, and matters of that sort, or even than the half-dozen good citizens who sit on the Advisory Committee. If I were in the unfortunate position of being under suspicion because my political views were of a certain type, I would rather have a tribunal of half-a-dozen experienced Members of this House, even if they were my political opponents, if I had confidence that they had the right approach to politics in general.

I am going to refer to a case which I have raised before: the case of Cahir Healy, who was a Member of this House. I am perfectly satisfied that Cahir Healy is most unjustly detained. He has political views that are not those of the majority in this House, but they are the political views of the majority of ordinary, orthodox, respectable people in Southern Ireland. He writes a general theoretical letter, surveying the position of Ireland in this contingency and the next contingency and the third contingency, a general appraisal of the European situation and the world situation, and sends it to a priest across the border. It falls into the hands of the censor, and, on the basis of certain sentences in that confidential letter to a priest, he is seized in Northern Ireland and brought over to Brixton. Healy was once a Member of this House, representing a Northern Ireland constituency. He was as inoffensive a Private Member as we had here, a nice fellow to meet in the day-to-day doings of the House, and, in my view, a competent Irish politician, holding the views of the average Southern Irelander, which are also accepted as the respectable Opposition views in the Northern Ireland Parliament. He is detained in Brixton Gaol; and, as far as I can see, under the present operation of the Regulations, he is there for ever. Again taking the view of the average Irish person, he says, "I am not going to put my views before an English Advisory Committee; I am an Irishman." So there he stays.

I want to refer to another man. I do not know anything about him, except that my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) told an amusing story about him. This man is called Frederick Bowman. He had been all his life an orthodox member of the Conservative party until he was about 50 years of age. Then one day, because of the uncertainty of the world, he began to think about politics. That is a disastrous thing for a Conservative to do: he should continue right through life in the way he started, refusing to look at political problems, and accepting what his father taught before him. I think this man had been on a local authority, but he had not been in public life to any extent; but he had been an official of his local Conservative organisation. He read some of the things that the present Lord Tavistock had been saying. He was persuaded to take the chair at a public meeting at which my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston and some other political figure of the extreme Left were speaking. At the end of the meeting, at which my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston had given the type of speech which one would expect him to give and the other spokesman of the Left had given a speech in a similar strain, this desperate man, who has now been in gaol for about two years, said, "We will now close the meeting by standing up and singing 'God save the King'."

The hon. Member for Central Hackney expressed his complete satisfaction that the people who were in prison were likely to have something definite against them. From my political point of view, that man Bowman is not the type of person I want. But there is no evidence that these men want to see this nation overthrown or that they want to see chaos throughout the land. There is no justification for having them shut up for that period of time. I want the Home Secretary to consider this matter, and I hope it has been reported to him in his absence. I have already said that the putting in of the big lot of detentions under 18B was not his offence. His record has been one of liberating and ameliorating. With regard to the residue that is left, I wish that he or his Under-Secretary had spoken earlier and given us a description of the existing position and had told us how many are left out of the original lot, where they are, how many are inside prisons, how many are in the Isle of Man and how many are detained under other conditions. My hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) reminds me of the very important question of asking how many of the persons who were liberated on the instructions of the Home Secretary had to be re-interned because of objectionable activities in which they had taken part.

The other week I met a Scottish Nationalist who had been in for most of two years under a complete mistake. This man holds the view, which is not an average point of view in Scotland, of an extreme Scottish Nationalist, who thinks that no Act of Parliament passed by this House since the Union of the Parliaments of England and Scotland can have any application to a real Scotsman. He believes this because the Union of the Parliaments was not carried through in a proper way and that there have not been proper steps taken to establish a proper constitutional relationship between the two countries—a point of view in which only a small handful of our people are interested and which only a handful of people in Scotland support. This man propagates that view very urgently. He was in gaol for two years and was let out a week or two ago. I am sure that if the Home Secretary did not bring these people before the Advisory Committee but, with his very great knowledge of politics and of queer folk—because he has had queer associations in his time—handled them himself, I am certain that to the large proportion of them he could with complete safety say, "You can go free on parole. Give me an undertaking that you will not do this thing or the other thing, and you can walk out tomorrow." By taking that attitude he could get rid of that which is bothering the conscience of many of us. An hon. Member said that the mass of the people are not concerned. I believe that that is true. They believe that in these matters others have more tender consciences and more active minds than they have themselves, and they say, "The M.Ps. are there, and it is more their business than ours." I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman could place every one of those persons on parole and to that extent he would relieve our minds of the feeling of dissatisfaction that such things should be occurring in our country even under existing conditions.

I have had a fair number of communications from persons in various places. In the very early days, when I was troubled about this business, I visited certain internees in Brixton Prison, and I was satisfied at that time that the Governor and all concerned were handling a difficult job with very great tact and consideration. The three persons whom I interviewed at that time—all responsible people—gave me their view of the situation. They did not express any satisfaction at being there and suggested ways in which their conditions could be improved, but they had no complaints against the prison authorities or the wardens, who were charged with a somewhat difficult task. I took the trouble of appearing before the Advisory Committee in the case of an individual who was appealing, and I was satisfied that the members of the Advisory Committee at that time were also conducting their investigations in a very considerate way, and in a much fairer way than would have been possible in a court of law. But I am not sure that that general, good and careful treatment of these men which was there at the beginning is still operating.

I have had recent letters which seem to indicate considerable discontent and that certain of the prison officers are getting a little fractious. The problem of staffing prisons at the present time is a somewhat difficult one, and the job itself is not an easy one. The contact that I had had with prison warders over an extended period left me surprised that men could spend a lifetime in a job of that sort and in general come out of it with so much of the milk of human kindness, particularly when they were very underpaid and without any real prospects at all. It did not surprise me when an occasional one cropped up who was soured and contemptuous. One of these in a prison, particularly if he was holding a good position, could make the place miserable. That might well happen, and I hope that the Home Secretary will give some thought to seeing that he has the right people in the right places for handling this kind of job. It would be infinitely better for himself and everybody else, including this House of Commons, if he could see his way to run through the whole list and liberate every person possible still interned under Regulation 18B.

Photo of Sir Stanley Reed Sir Stanley Reed , Aylesbury

I only want to intervene in this Debate very briefly, because it seems to me time that this rambling discussion was brought back to certain essentials. It has been said in the course of this Debate that this Regulation 18B was carried in a fit of absence of mind or in a moment of panic, but I find it difficult to imagine how anybody in the House at that time can say that this Regulation was carried in a fit of absence of mind. If they do, that aberration can exist only in the mind of those who use the phrase. Those who were here at the time have a vivid recollection of what actually did occur when the Regulation was proposed. Of all the mass of special legislation and of the great number of Regulations which were then passed the maximum amount of attention was given to this particular Regulation. The idea of suspending the ordinary laws of this country—the laws on which our freedom and liberty are based—is abhorrent, but there was on all sides equally, the conviction that powers of this character were absolutely necessary for the safety of the Realm in the condition and perils which then existed.

There must be many of us here to-day who remember how the Regulation was debated word by word and sentence by sentence, how it was sent back for further consideration and how the lawyers put their heads together and finally drafted it in a form which seemed to them to reduce to a minimum the possibility of any abuse. The Regulation was brought back to this House and even then was reluctantly accepted. Therefore, I say again, any suggestion that the House did not know what it was doing when it passed the Regulation is absolute nonsense and can only have emanated from those who were not here or those who are saturated by prejudice. It has been said that the Regulation was carried in a moment of panic, and to illustrate that panic we were told of the general round-up of the alien population in 1940. The only essential point is that the two occasions did not synchronise. The Regulation was carried months before that particular emergency occurred, and the fact that that round-up took place has no more to do with the Home Secretary than the man in the moon. The round-up followed the urgent representations of the military authorities, who, in the imminent peril of invasion, said they could not be responsible for the safety of certain areas unless all aliens were removed, partly because of the fear of underhand work which might go on behind the front and partly because they said they could not protect aliens, in the event of any form of reverse, from the anger of the civil population.

To use that argument and to say that the Regulation was carried in a moment of panic has not the slightest resemblance to facts. On the contrary, when the Regulation was carried we did not know the full extent of the danger, nor how far treachery would go—and I use the word "treachery" as the right word instead of such mealy-mouthed terms as "Quislingites" and "Fifth Columnists." Treachery had permeated through such magnificent people as the Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians and—French. This House was convinced of the absolute necessity of the powers being invested in the Home Secretary at a time when the dangers were less than they appeared to be later and even less than we know they are to-day.

Shall I carry memories back to another feature when these powers were vested in the Home Secretary? What was the main demand in this House? Over and over again the Home Secretary was challenged from every side for not using his powers more drastically in dangers everybody could foresee. The plea made in all parts of the House was that the Home Secretary was not doing all he ought to do for the protection of the Realm. It was said, "If the Home Secretary asks for more powers to deal with every reasonable danger he shall have them." Those were the actual conditions under which the Regulation was passed, and to say that the House was not aware of what it was doing is a most extraordinary travesty of the truth. I lived for many years in India, and I have a recollection of an almost identical Regulation with this, which is almost part of the common law of the land and has been for almost a hundred years. Nobody except an evildoer ever lost a minute's sleep through thinking of it. In view of the dreadful history of Europe in the last 2½ years how dare Members ask any Government or any Home Secretary to be responsible for the protection of this Realm without powers corresponding to those which are vested in them by this Regulation? After all, if we accept the need for a Regulation of this character, what is left? There is left administration. It is solely a question, not of the powers themselves, but the way in which they are administered. I can only speak from my own personal experience.

The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Wales (Mr. Ernest Evans) made great play with the procedure of the Advisory Committees. There he speaks with knowledge I do not possess, but all I can say is that I am prepared to put my confidence in the eminent men who have accepted this very difficult and unpleasant duty. May I direct the attention of the Committee to an associated point? The hon. and learned Member said that in view of his dissatisfaction with the tribunals he might be driven to a court of appeal, and I asked him what he meant by a court of appeal. He said he had no appellate jurisdiction in mind. Now you cannot have a court of appeal other than a duplication of the Advisory Committee. A judicial court of appeal would have to bring these cases before the public, to spread abroad things which should not be known and cannot be known, and to throw upon the Government the onus of proof is, in nearly all these cases, absolutely impossible by the ordinary rules of evidence.

Regarding the administration of the Regulation by the Home Secretary, I can only give my own experience and the testimony of others in this House. I am not in the least concerned with the political views of the Secretary of State; they are not important. I am solely concerned with the administration of the Regulation so far as it can be tested, and all I can say is that every case I have taken to the Home Office has had early attention and careful inquiry, and that both I and the detainee have had what we considered to be fair end equitable treatment. Some of those hon. Members who are among the most severe critics of the Regulation have borne the same testimony—as a result of their own experience—that the Secretary of State has been fair and reasonable and most courteous in every matter that has been brought before him.

There is only one other aspect to which I wish to direct attention. Great play has been made on the fact that the Home Secretary does not always accept the view of the Advisory Committee. But why did the House, in the Regulation, call this body an Advisory Committee? Was the House completely ignorant of the meaning of the word "advice"? Did it mean that the advice should be mandatory and that in all circumstances the Home Secretary should accept it? There is a famous definition of advice which was made by a Minister who used to sit on this Front Bench. He was communicating with a great officer of the Crown who was serving abroad, and he said: In regard to the head of this State to which you are accredited, you will only give advice, you will never give anything but advice, but you must make him clearly understand that any advice you give must immediately be explicitly accepted. That definition of advice stands on record in our history of the first part of the 'eighties. But the House did not mean that sort of advice. If the House had meant that, it would have set up a mandatory tribunal, and taken from the shoulders of the Home Secretary a responsibility which he alone can bear and must bear. To challenge the Home Secretary's actions on the ground that, having this supreme responsibility, he does not always accept the advice of a non-responsible body is to strike at the very foundations of our administrative institutions and the responsibility of Ministers to Parliament.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

Does the hon. Gentleman consider that in cases of this kind a per- son who has neither seen nor examined a man is more likely to arrive at a correct conclusion than a committee of competent people who have not only seen the man but have cross-examined him and heard all the evidence?

Photo of Sir Stanley Reed Sir Stanley Reed , Aylesbury

I am dealing with the machinery which the House set up to deal with these cases, I am dealing with the specific and deliberate acts of the House; and the House decided that the Regulation should be framed and passed in these words, and that the Advisory Committee should be used to advise and not to dictate to the Secretary of State in the administration of the Regulation. Any criticism of this procedure is a criticism of the House for not knowing what it was doing—if it did not know—and for having set up machinery which is now challenged as being ineffective, if it does so regard it. To argue that the Secretary of State should in all cases accept the advice of a non-responsible tribunal set up to assist him in the administration of this Regulation is to sap at the whole principle of Ministerial responsibility and to shed the powers and authority of the House to control and call a Minister to book if he does not use fairly powers that have been entrusted to him, but takes shelter behind an Advisory Committee which, according to some, should have mandatory powers.

My memory goes back to an occasion when a servant of the Crown, at a time of great difficulty, instituted a criminal prosecution in one of these borderline cases. The action was successful and the offender was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment; and following this, there were riots and bloodshed for several days. He was asked, "Why did you not proceed by regulation?" His answer was, "If I proceeded by regulation, I should have no peace, because my actions would be challenged day by day as long as the powers were exercised." I cannot enter into the mind of the Home Secretary, I cannot express his point of view, but I say with some confidence that there is nothing he would rather be rid of than these powers and the responsibility for operating them, because by their very nature and by their opposition to all our ideas concerning liberty and freedom, whoever holds the Home Secretary's job—even the Archangel Gabriel, if he held it—can have very little peace and must be challenged time and again. I feel sure that the one thing the Home Secretary would do, if it were compatible with his responsibility, would be, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) advised, to release 99 per cent. of these internees and so save himself an immense volume of difficulty, trouble, misrepresentation, and misconstruction. But nobody has dared to challenge the necessity for the Regulation. So far as it has been attacked, it has been attacked by indirect methods. I beg the House, in view of the history of Europe during the last two years, to think not once but a thousand times before weakening the hands of the Executive in dealing with the treachery which has ruined other States and from which we cannot be entirely immune ourselves.

Photo of Dr William Thomas Dr William Thomas , Southampton

Does the hon. Gentleman think that there is much treachery in our midst at the present time? Does he not consider that the difference between the conditions now and conditions in 1940 might lead to some amelioration in the position?

Photo of Sir Stanley Reed Sir Stanley Reed , Aylesbury

Certainly not. I say that the danger to-day is as great as it was in 1940. If I am asked whether I think treachery is widespread, I say "No," but if there is one traitor who ought to be dealt with, then there should be this power to deal with him. I ask my hon. Friend to read again what was said by the Minister of Production a few days ago—that we have now entered upon the 80 most dangerous days of the war, that the whole history of this nation and the foundations of everything that makes life decent and worth living for all nations will be decided in the next 80 days. I think that statement is profoundly true. Is this the time to indulge in vain hopes and academic considerations? Is it not rather the time to bend our minds to the tasks which we have to perform? We ask the Home Secretary to administer this Regulation with the utmost consideration and preserve, as far as possible, the liberties of our people; also not detain for one hour or one minute any man or woman whom he thinks he can, compatible with his responsibility, let free. At the same time, in his administration of the Regulation, whole-hearted support in a task which is most difficult and unpleasant and the most repugnant that any Minister can be asked to shoulder. The Home Secretary should have our sympathy rather than carping criticism in his attempt to discharge, as an English gentleman should discharge, onerous duties which Parliament has thrust upon him.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

I promised to confine myself to 10 minutes, and I shall endeavour to keep within that time-limit. I have not made up my mind how I shall vote on this Amendment, and I shall not do so until I have heard the Home Secretary's reply. I raise no objection at all to the rounding-up of the 18B detainees who were finally rounded up. It was done in accordance with the law, and I would have been equally well content, had it been necessary, if it had been done without the law, for I hold with Cromwell that, if nothing ever be done in Britain which is not done except in accordance with the law, this nation may easily perish while we send for someone to make the law.

Photo of Mr Maurice Petherick Mr Maurice Petherick , Penryn and Falmouth

He certainly did not live up to himself.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

If the hon. and gallant Member had reached his stature, which cannot conceivably be said, that interjection would have been justifiable.

Major Pethcrick:

Major Pethcrick rose——

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

Unless the hon. Member gives way, the hon. and gallant Member must not interrupt.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

Whether this was done within the law or without the law, it was, in my view, necessary, and, therefore, I do not start off with the assumption that everything which has happened is wrong, and that we have nothing to do but to attack the Home Secretary. I ask him, however, to consider two or three matters about which many of us are uneasy. Many of us do not like the imprisonment which goes on year after year without an individual being brought to trial. Many of us know individuals in prison, who, however mistaken their views may be, are not anti-British.

Photo of Mrs Mavis Tate Mrs Mavis Tate , Frome

How does the hon. Member know?

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

I know some of them personally, and the assumption that everyone who is in gaol is automatically anti-British involves an assumption on the hon. Lady's part which I would not make on my own behalf—it is the assumption, too, that the Home Secretary and the Advisory Committee are automatically right, which is also an assumption I would not make. It seems to me that there are four or five things which the Home Secretary can do. He could leave things where they are, but, if he does that, I consider that he will make a mistake. In many Members' minds there is the consideration that times are not quite so urgent as they were a year or two ago in respect of invasion. [Interruption.] Cannot individual Members hear a view with which they do not agree without barking? The hon. Member must learn a little tolerance with views he does not accept.

I do not think the Home Secretary should leave matters where they are, and I hope he will try to find some way to meet what is the general sentiment at the present time. There are various courses open to him. One is to establish the right of appeal against his own decisions, which is not an easy thing to do, and I do not urge this on him. The second course is to discuss with the Chairman of the Advisory Committees cases where he does not agree with the findings of the Committee. For my part, I believe there might be more freedom of contact there. The third possibility is to bring the man in question to trial. In some cases I believe that would be inadvisable from the national point of view. It would be impossible, because much of the evidence is evidence which would not be admissible in a court of law. The third possibility is to allow a man to go out on his own recognisance, and, in view of the fact that nearly all those who have been released have not subsequently given trouble, I believe the Home Secretary could, without danger to the State, carry out that process further than he has done. At any rate, I ask him to consider whether there is not some step which he could take which, without relaxing either his responsibility or powers of control, would meet the feelings which many of us have that men are in prison to-day who ought not to be there.

Photo of Miss Eleanor Rathbone Miss Eleanor Rathbone , Combined English Universities

They are not imprisoned; they are interned.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

How long does internment last before it becomes imprisonment? Are we to justify indefinite internment on the ground that it is not imprisonment? Surely that interruption is about as irrelevant as some of the others I have heard.

Photo of Dr William Thomas Dr William Thomas , Southampton

Like the hon. Member's speech.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

The hon. Member does not have to listen to it.

Photo of Miss Eleanor Rathbone Miss Eleanor Rathbone , Combined English Universities

I did not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but three times I have heard him use the word "gaol." I would point out that a great many of these detainees are not in gaol. Does he suggest that it is irrevelant to draw a distinction between those who are interned and those who are in gaol?

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

That brings me to another matter—the conditions under which these people are interned or imprisoned, whichever the hon. Lady prefers. If these people are not convicted persons, and if they are merely internees, I want to know why they are put in the same prison with common criminals.

Photo of Mrs Mavis Tate Mrs Mavis Tate , Frome

Because of the lack of space.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

There is space in the Isle of Man almost as large as in the. hon. Lady's mind.

Photo of Mrs Mavis Tate Mrs Mavis Tate , Frome

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for saying I am so large-minded, which is something I could never say of him.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

I imagine that the hon. Lady could never make an admission which was not irrelevant. It is not irrelevant to this Debate to mention that people who are not convicted persons are kept in the same prison as people who are.

Photo of Sir Noel Goldie Sir Noel Goldie , Warrington

Does that not happen to every accused person who is not released on bail?

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

Certainly, but it does not continue for three years. Another ignorant interruption; why is the hon. and learned Member here at all? There are three elements in this situation. There is the position of the detainee himself. He feels, and feels rightly, that he is not a convicted person, and many of them object to being detained in prison alongside convicted persons. Then there is the position of the convicted person, and here we get a situation of which I do not think this Committee has been made aware. Someone said it was a shame that convicted persons should complain that detainees had better conditions. It may be a shock for hon. Members to learn it, but there are criminals in gaol who think that larceny is less an offence than treason, and who regard themselves not in a lower category than detainees but in a higher category, and resent, rightly or wrongly, that the detainee should be better treated than the convicted person. I am not saying they are right or wrong, but I am saying that it creates a problem in prison administration.

Then there is the position of the prison officer. His job is a rotten one in the ordinary way. I would go further and say that his conditions are rotten, his pay is rotten and his hours are rotten, and I may add that the Home Secretary has done very little to improve them. The prison officer's job is difficult enough, but he now has to apply in the same prison two entirely different sets of disciplinary regulations. That creates an impossible position inside a prison, and, if the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Colman) is receiving letters from detainees complaining that some officers are getting difficult, I get similar complaints from officers that same of the detainees are getting difficult. The root reason of the whole thing is that, instead of treating two different categories of people in different ways, in different premises and by different staffs, we try to treat them inside the same premises, with different sets of disciplinary regulations and all the rest of it.

I asked the Home Secretary the other day whether he could not keep them separate, and he replied that there was only a limited number of them, I think 70 or 80, and that it would be expensive to put them into a separate establishment from ordinary prisoners. I hope he will not say that to-day, because that reply was the most arrant nonsense. It is not difficult to separate them. He already has a gaol which is empty. It would involve him in no substantial increase in establishment charges to use that gaol for detainees and to have them looked after, not by warders, because they are not convicted prisoners, but by attendants, and so relieve the warders of this double job of trying to accommodate two entirely different sets of people within the scope of a single building. I beg him to put that right, because it is inside his administrative capacity and competence. I hope he will not surrender his powers but try to make some approach to meet the sentiment of the Committee as I conceive it and go somewhat further to relieve the Committee of any feeling that we are keeping people in prison who ought not to be there, while at the same time we do not want—neither does he or anyone else—to do anything to weaken the country in these dangerous times.

Photo of Mr Denis Pritt Mr Denis Pritt , Hammersmith North

I have been a little puzzled as to why Regulation 18B has been made the topic of a Debate, not because it is not of considerable importance, but because on the whole the matter has been so well discussed in the past that practically no argument has been put up—I have heard nearly every speech—whether about appeals, or about making the Advisory Committee's decision binding upon the Home Secretary or any other topical matter, which has not been put up before, answered by the Home Secretary with a very fair measure of success and left at that. Perhaps it is a good thing that it should be discussed now, but I am, nevertheless, rather puzzled as to why a number of gentlemen, none of whom have been very fond of civil liberty, should desire to say again everything that they had said before. There is a considerable measure of common ground. It is common ground with practically the whole of the Committee that you must have this type of power in war-time in someone. I think it is common ground that it must be in someone in a position substantially that of the Home Secretary, and I think there is a very large measure of agreement that the last word must rest with the Home Secretary. In those circumstances the problems, while they are anxious, are really relatively in a small field. Public confidence is important, and I think it can best be obtained and maintained if the public feel that right principles are being followed and also that mistakes are not being made or, this being an imperfect world, that every precaution is taken against mistakes and that as few as possible are made.

With regard to the principles which are followed, it has been said that there is a good deal of uneasiness. Some say that there is not much, but that there ought to be, and some say that there is a good deal, and in particular the hon. and learned Member for the Welsh University (Mr. E. Evans) said that what one really needs for confidence is a real public conviction that we are fighting something evil. I think for myself that the public uneasiness is mainly, not that there are too many, but, if anything, not enough people interned, and that some who are interned are being treated a great deal too well, and the suspicion is created—it is not diminished by the general orientation of the bulk of the people who are complaining of the Home Secretary—that there really is a great deal too much pro-Fascism in the country at present, and that it unfortunately synchronises with a period of time which is pretty anxious from the military point of view. The most important thing from the military point of view is the situation in which five, six or seven million available American and British troops are standing about idly and not taking part in any actual fighting, and the people who are intriguing up and down the country to try and prevent the early development of the promised second front are not wholly dissimilar from the people who are raising this agitation or from some of the people who are interned. I think public opinion would be very greatly reinforced if it were discovered that the Home Secretary was sternly putting an end to any mollycoddling of the people who are interned and seeing whether, not in any sense of panic but with the proper exercise of his own responsibilities, some more people were interned to keep them company.

When one hears people solemnly suggesting that the Home Secretary should let all these people out, I suppose including Sir Oswald Mosley and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Southern Peebles (Captain Ramsay), if they will promise to be good, one is indeed astonished. Since when has the word of a Fascist been such a sacred thing? Whether the Home Secretary keeps people in or lets them out, everyone pays him the tribute that he gives a good deal of consideration before he does either. When it is seriously suggested that if they promise to be good, the Home Secretary should say, "Out you go; I will keep one as an exhibit," if it is only a joke, I would not mind, but there are better things to joke about. If it is a serious proposition, it shows where some people's minds are going, and it is calculated to excite public indignation. We want confidence in the administration of this Regulation, and, as far as I can judge, I should think the Home Secretary has it, if anything rather more than he ought to have.

Mistakes can be made. There have been made public two or three cases where the mistakes were really grotesque, but I think that they have probably been cleared up. There have, however, been other mistakes. The best thing to do would be for the Home Secretary to make a statement—it cannot be very detailed, but a statement as specific as he can make it—about every case he interns and, if possible, about every case he holds interned. That would, I believe, greatly increase public confidence. I will give an illustration. The Home Secretary in one of the last Debates gave a case in his own favour. I am doing him the credit of assuming that he picked one of the best. He said that people were angry with him for interning a respectable married woman who was a British subject, but he asked to be allowed to state the true facts. He said that she was an English married woman because she married an Englishman, but that she was in fact a Nazi. She and her sister were in exactly the same boat and doing the same kind of work. The sister was a spinster and, as a German, was interned, but everybody was kicking up a row about this woman because she was English. If something of that sort could be said about every internee and the general public knew what was going on, it would give them a much greater feeling of confidence. In general I support the policy that has been applied by the Home Secretary, except that I hope it will be a little firmer, and if the matter is pressed to a Division, I shall vote for it.

Photo of Admiral Sir Roger Keyes Admiral Sir Roger Keyes , Portsmouth North

I wish to call attention to the case of Squadron-Leader Rutland, an officer who spent 23 years in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. While he was still on the active list of the Royal Air Force, he was sent out by the Air Ministry' to Japan as technical officer on a mission which was to teach the Japanese how to build up a naval air service. He was told to put everything at their disposal and he did his work very effectively. At that time Japan was our ally by Treaty. He went directly after the war in 1920 and remained for eight years. During the years he was there he helped the Japanese to build up a magnificent naval air service. In 1933 he was asked to return to Japan, and there is no getting away from the fact that for the next five years he acted in America as a Secret Service agent for Japan. I am not concerned to defend his activities during those five years. As a Secret Service agent he seems to have kept in close touch with the American Naval Intelligence, and I have been given the names of the American naval officers with whom he dealt.

In 1941 he was very concerned about the situation and so were the American Naval Intelligence Service. They recommended that he should come home at once to Great Britain to report. He was flown across America at their expense and brought to England at the expense of the British Government, being given a priority trip in the "Clipper." He arrived on 5th October. On the 21st he attended a meeting in which he laid down a scheme of intelligence. He elaborated it carefully and placed all his wide experience of Japan and the Japanese at the disposal of the authorities. Conscious that he might be suspect, he offered if necessary to place all his information at the disposal of any other person who was appointed to do this work. He was interviewed by all our Intelligence Departments, but was turned down and told that his services were not required. On 16th December a week after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and Malaya, he was interned under Regulation 18B.

I have said that I am not concerned in defending the activities of this officer when he seemed to be hunting with the hounds and running with the fox, but I think it a deplorable thing that his services were not used. He might have been invaluable to our naval Intelligence, which seems to have been pretty poor. He could have told them what our ships, the "Repulse" and "Prince of Wales," were likely to encounter if they went out to those waters where there was a vastly superior fleet and an enormous naval air force, both shore-based and sea-borne. It is a great misfortune that during the six weeks after he arrived in England, until the Japanese made their attack, his offer to place his intelligence at the disposal of the authorities was rejected. In all his activities he was in close touch with the American Naval Intelligence and he did nothing inimical to British interests. I cannot believe that an officer with his record had any idea when he came to England but to place his services at the disposal of the country which he had served so well in the last war.

I would like to tell the Committee what he did in the last war. He was a young flying officer in the Royal Naval Air Service and he was embarked on a little cross-Channel steamer, the "Engadine," which carried three primitive seaplanes. On the day the Battle of Jutland opened he was hoisted out in the middle of the North Sea and went off into the blue. He sent back valuable reports to the Admiral by wireless. Fortunately he was picked up. That night it blew very hard and one of our ships which was badly damaged in action, the "Warrior," an armoured cruiser, was in a sinking condition and the "Engadine" went alongside and rescued nearly all the crew. One wounded man fell between the ships, which were bumping into one another, and with an utter disregard for his safety Rutland jumped overboard and saved the man's life. He is the only living man who wears the Gold Albert Medal. I beg the Home Secretary to reconsider this case, for a great opportunity has been lost.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Edinburgh East

I think we are all glad that this Debate has taken place to-day. It has been a good Debate, and in general the speeches have been excellent and to the point. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), who made a very able and on the whole a very fair speech, to which I shall make further reference, made a comparison between what happens in this country and what happens hi Hitlerite Germany. He suggested in that parallel, that the situation here is in one respect not very different from what it is there, but I am sure he would agree that such a Debate as we have had to-day could not take place in Germany, and that if it did take place a good many heads would be rolling afterwards. It is a good thing that this Regulation should be called in review from time to time, because it is realised by everyone that it embodies a principle which is contrary to the normal procedure in this country, contrary to our ideas of justice and liberty. Everyone acknowledges that fact, and therefore it is not to the point than an hon. Member should recite passages about liberty uttered under other circumstances by high-minded statesmen and contrast them with our present practice.

This Regulation was passed because we are going through an abnormal period, and cannot adopt the same attitude towards individuals as we' do in ordinary times. As the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) pointed out, it was passed at the beginning of the war, and the view which Parliament took at that time has been closely reinforced by what has happened since throughout Europe. In countries like Holland and Norway, countries which are most like ours, there have been found to be Quislings and other people who have betrayed their country, many of them from intentions which they may have thought good but which other people thought exceedingly evil. Further than that, this whole system of suborning individuals in other countries is part of the Hitlerite technique, and that separates it from anything that has gone before, because it has been the Nazi system deliberately to find individuals in other countries who would work with the Nazi régime in destroying the liberties of those countries.

The question we have to decide to-day, in the ultimate resort, is what changes have taken place since we discussed this matter in November of last year. It has been said that the danger of invasion has become slightly less imminent. It is very difficult to form any final judgment on that matter. At the moment it may look like that, but, after all, our immunity from invasion is being purchased for us by the gallant stand which is being made by our Russian comrades, and if for one moment that were to fail, if the German forces were to be relieved of the pressure they have to keep up on the Russian Front, then the old risk of invasion and attack on these islands would return to what it was before. We must remember, also, that it is not only the fear of invasion which makes it necessary for us to take action in respect of individuals. The danger we have to fear from treasonable individuals is that they may give informa- tion to the enemy, and I should have thought that the present time when, as we are told, plans are going forward to work out schemes for possible attack on Germany in various ways, was above all others the time when it was essential that there should be no risk of people giving away information to the enemy." Therefore, I do not think that, so far as that is concerned, the situation is in any fundamental way different from what it was before.

I would remind the Committee that, contrary to the statements made by the hon. and gallant Member who moved the reduction of this Vote, most of the persons detained at the present time were detained in the first instance, not by the present Home Secretary but by his predecessor. The hon. and gallant Member, quite unnecessarily, I thought, imparted a good deal of party prejudice into this Debate, a line which, I am very glad, has not been followed from any side of the Committee. He seemed to suggest that the kind of people who are in internment were there because the Home Secretary was a man of the extreme Left. I am not expressing that opinion myself, but that was the opinion of the hon. and gallant Member. The present Home Secretary has largely been concerned with getting people out. The person who put most of the present detainees into internment, rightly or wrongly, was not the present Home Secretary but his predecessor, who I think, even in the extravagant views of the hon. and gallant Member, is not a person of fife extreme Left.

Photo of Commander Robert Bower Commander Robert Bower , Cleveland

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, because he has completely illustrated and fortified the point I was making. The present Home Secretary has let out a lot of people who were put in by the late Home Secretary. That is exactly the point I was making. I said that any Home Secretary, whoever he might be, would intern a different lot of people from another Home Secretary, and that that was proof that no one man was fit to exercise these powers.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Edinburgh East

The hon. and gallant Member has not repeated in any shape or form the argument he made at the beginning.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Edinburgh East

No, I shall not give way again. I have given way once, and I am entitled to reply to the hon. and gallant Member's interruption, which is really not in accordance with the facts. The suggestion he made in his opening remarks was that the present Home Secretary had interned a good many persons who are on the Right in politics, because he himself was on the Left, whereas the hon. and gallant Member, being on the Right, would have interned a good many people on the Left. I am trying to show that that is entirely incorrect. I do not claim myself that they were people on the Right, but that was the definition of the hon. and gallant Member——

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

I must ask the hon. and gallant Member, if he rises to a point of Order, to see that it really is a point of Order.

Photo of Commander Robert Bower Commander Robert Bower , Cleveland

Sir Dennis, I submit to you that there is a point of Order when an hon. Member's speech is misrepresented in a manner so gross as to be provocative. The right hon. Gentleman has completely misrepresented my words.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

Quite clearly the hon. and gallant Member is trying to make use of the procedure of a point of Order upon a matter of which the Chair cannot take notice.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Edinburgh East

I am in the recollection of the Committee. I think that an hon. Member who makes a speech and is not ready to stay to listen to what is said in reply, is not acting in accordance with the ordinary practice of Members of Parliament. The hon. and gallant Member cannot take his medicine when it is given to him. But I am not going to let him off. I shall finish the argument I was endeavouring to make. The right hon. Gentleman who now occupies the position of Home Secretary has not been guided by party prejudice is dealing with this matter—and I do not believe anyone in the Committee, except the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) who has now gone out, thinks he has. Everyone else who has spoken to-day has taken a different view. The right hon. Gentleman is not responsible for having put a large number of these people into internment. He has not put them in on party grounds, and he has let some out because, in more spacious times, he, with his officials, has been able to examine their cases with greater care and found it possible to release a number of them.

I come to the much more creditable contribution to the Debate made by the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom. I was glad to hear his two quite specific and definite suggestions, because one of my controversies with him on the last occasion we debated this subject was on that aspect of the matter. I want to examine those suggestions. He frankly said that he did not want to get rid of Regulation 18B because he thought that it was necessary to have arrest and detention on suspicion, but he thought the way it was administered was undesirable. He thought it undesirable that one person, such as the Home Secretary, should have the power which rests with him at the present moment, and which the hon. and gallant Gentleman thought should be limited. He made two specific suggestions as to how it could be limited. I take it that they were alternatives. In the first place, he suggested that, where the Home Secretary and his own Advisory Committee had a difference of opinion, the difference should be submitted to a judge of the High Court. At first that sounds a most admirable suggestion. But it is all wrong. A judge of the High Court is a person who discusses questions of fact. That is his business all through his professional life. He has a jury to whom he submits cases, the jury makes up its mind and the judge has to pass sentence as a result of the finding of the jury. It is not the business of a judge of the High Court to deal with questions of suspicion and I think you would find that no judge would accept the role that would be imposed upon him by that suggestion or that if he did, in spite of his great legal knowledge, he would not be the person who would most wisely use it.

Photo of Mr William Shaw Mr William Shaw , Forfarshire

Is it not a fact that Sir Norman Birkett is a judge of the High Court and is still presiding over this tribunal?

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Edinburgh East

Quite so. He sits as a member of the Advisory Committee to advise the Home Secretary, and his is a most suitable appointment, but that is an entirely different matter from giving a judge of the High Court the right to decide between the Home Secretary and his own Committee as to which of them was right in a suspicion. The alternative was that the decision of the Advisory Committee should be final. In that case it would cease to be an Advisory Committee and would become a committee with absolute power. I do not know whether those who put the suggestion forward have thought out what it means. It would be the most revolutionary proposal of which I have ever heard. The committee would be set up, I do not know by whom—it might be by the Home Secretary, by this House or by some other authority outside—and it would have absolute power. I notice that the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom has just come into the House.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

I apologise for not being in my place before.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Edinburgh East

I have said a number of good things about the hon. and gallant Gentleman and I am now dealing with his two alternative proposals. I have dealt with the one about the High Court and I am now dealing with the second, that the Advisory Committee should have the final word and that the Home Secretary should not be able to interfere with that decision, either for or against. I understand that was what the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

My proposal was that, in ordinary cases which the Home Secretary referred to it, the decision of the Advisory Committee should be final, but that where he differed from the Advisory Committee, the matter should be arbitrated by a judge of the High Court.

Photo of Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Mr Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , Edinburgh East

I did not understand that those two suggestions were to operate at the same time. I thought they were alternatives. I did not fully understand what the hon. and gallant Member proposed. If the Home Secretary submits a case to the Advisory Committee and he agrees with the Advisory Committee, nothing further seems to arise, but I understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that the decision of the Advisory Committee is alternative to appointing a judge of the High Court. The hon. and gallant Gentleman shakes his head, so I am back where I was. I do not fully understand what he wants. I certainly took that to be his meaning. Other hon. Members have suggested that the decision of the Advisory Committee should be final and I was pointing out that it is a most revolutionary proposal to set up a body of people and give them enormous power to keep people in or 1er them out of prison. That body would not be responsible officials like the Home Secretary, but people with no responsibility to anyone but themselves, and if things went wrong and a man they let out did mischief afterwards, they could not be called to account in any way whatever. The question really is whether there are any additional safeguards that the Home Secretary can usefully employ. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom cited an individual case. The Home Secretary was not present when the hon. and gallant Member was speaking, but no doubt he has had the points brought before him and he may be able, if he thinks proper, to say something about that case. The hon. and gallant Member seemed to have a very strong prima facie case and I have no doubt that the Home Secretary will consider very carefully what was said.

I wish to raise a case which has attracted a good deal of attention in the public Press, not because I want to express any opinion on that case, but because I fear a danger may arise out of it in future cases. It is the case of a man who was a servant of a municipality and was detained under 18B for some months before his case was heard by the Advisory Committee. When it was heard, the Committee recommended his release and the Home Secretary, acting on that recommendation, set him at liberty; but meanwhile the local authority had dismissed the man. The judge, who held that the dismissal could not be justified on the ground of anything that the man had done, decided that the local authority was entitled to deal with him because he could not perform his duties during his detention. I am not expressing any opinion. on the merits of the individual case, but there must be some danger that detention, even though it is afterwards proved to be unjustified, might give rise to great hardship. When the Home Secretary comes to reply he will no doubt tell us how he proposes to meet that difficulty in the future.

The hon. and learned Member for the University of Wales (Mr. Ernest Evans) suggested that where the Home Secretary did not find himself in agreement with the decision of the Advisory Committee, he should consult with the chairman before coming to his decision. I should have supposed that that was what the Home Secretary did. If he does not do so, it can only be, because he sees some impropriety in it. I know that when dealing with cases of convicted prisoners, the Home Secretary always consults the judge before attempting to do anything in the way of reducing a sentence, but if the Home Secretary does not consult the chairman of the Advisory Committee and sees no impropriety in doing so, I hope he will be able to give his mind to the suggestion which has been put forward.

What is wanted, of course, is that investigation should be as speedy' as possible. The great crowd of cases that were waiting for hearing have now, I imagine, been disposed of, and if there are further cases of detention, I hope the Home Secretary will Be able to assure us that they will be much more promptly dealt with than has been the case in the past and that we shall, therefore, have fewer difficulties. In conclusion I would repeat what I said at the beginning. We all, in every quarter of this Committee and of every shade of opinion, dislike these Regulations. It is only because of the dire necessity of the times and of the methods adopted by Hitler and his associates that we have been forced to put them into effect. I am sure that the Home Secretary takes the same view. I believe that he is administering them as well as they can be administered and in those circumstances, if the Mover of this Amendment forces the matter to a Division, I shall certainly vote in favour of the Government, and I shall advise my hon. Friends to take the same course.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

With great respect, I would like to remind the Committee, and particularly call the attention of the Home Secretary to the object of this Debate. Those of us who were interested in having a discussion wished to have it independently of a general Debate on the Regulations in order that we might endeavour to extract from the Home Secretary some promise of modification of the Regulation under discussion. I for my part shall not make up my mind how I shall vote until I have heard what he has to say, and I sincerely hope he will find some means of satisfying the sincere feeling of a great number of hon. Members, quite regardless of what may be referred to as "the general feeling of the public outside." May I also say, with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, that it does not seem to me, because all the alternatives that have so far been put forward are considered by him or by others to be unworkable, that the necessity for finding some tribunal which is workable has been removed, and it would therefore be at least a reasonable thing to expect the Home Secretary to say that he will have this issue investigated with a view to finding whether some more satisfactory methods can be discovered, by appointing a committee to go into it.

I want to refer to two general points which I brought out when I first raised the issue in December, 1940. The impression is still about that detained persons are given sufficient information as to the reason for their detention before they go before the Advisory Committee. I want to say that that is not so. I have a case now in front of me—I shall not mention names, but the Home Secretary can have the particulars—of a man detained in November, 1940, and alleged to have committed acts prejudicial to the safety of the Realm. Twice, in May, 1941, and June, 1942, he wrote and asked the Home Secretary to provide him with some information as to what those acts were, but he has received nothing, despite the ruling of Mr. Justice Humphreys of 27th May, 1941, when he said that "a person detained under Regulation 18B is entitled to know at the outset the precise grounds for his detention." Those of us who have gone into this matter still find that the information provided to persons before they go before the Advisory Committee is inadequate.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

May I ask my hon. Friend to repeat the question, which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary heard?

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

I feel sure that the Home Secretary knows my views on this subject, that people are not given sufficient information before they go before the Advisory Committee, and if he did not hear, what I said, he will have the opportunity of reading it in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. It is still maintained by a great number of people that the reasons for detention are often inadequate. I was extremely perturbed regarding many individual cases which I investigated, particularly one, in which a man was kept in prison for two years and could not get particulars of the information laid against him or of the source of the information. Finally, his solicitors got hold of the minutes of the evidence before the Advisory Committee. It was found that there was only one person who gave evidence against him, and that he was a German refugee who, when he came to be cross-examined in the matter, admitted that every single thing he had said before the Advisory Committee was untrue. In that case, the man's immediate release was recommended, after nearly two years' detention, and so far as I can gather, that particular German seems to have been used as an agent provocateur by the Home Office.

The only other thing to which I wish to refer in a general way is the question of the conditions of detention. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) seemed to indicate that he thought that these people should be badly treated because they deserve it, chiefly, I suppose, because they do not agree with his political views. I think that that is outrageous. I have no sympathy with the political views of the people who are in gaol, but I do not think that more than about 25 per cent. of the people still detained are Fascists; there are all sorts of odds and ends. But be that as it may, the whole position laid down and understood by Parliament when these people were detained was that the conditions of detention were to be preventive and not punitive. It seems to me to be outrageous that we should find Members of this Committee recommending that their conditions should be made more onerous. I would also like to raise the question of the removal of three women from Holloway Gaol. They were given only three hours' notice, although they had been there for nearly two years, to pack up and go to another gaol. Surely that is most unreasonable—there were two old ladies, over 60, and a younger woman, under 30, who was ill. They were suddenly plucked up from their surroundings and carted off to another gaol. I propose to raise that matter on the Adjournment some other day.

I would like to remind the Committee that there are three main points before it at the moment. First, the supporters of this reduction in the Home Office Vote say that the Regulations are not being administered in the way that Parliament meant and that Members of Parliament were evidently deceived when they agreed to the amendment in the Regulations made some time ago. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) made a statement to-day that this legislation was not passed in time of panic, and that Parliament knew perfectly well what it was doing. I wish he had listened a little more attentively to the hon. and learned Member for the University of Wales (Mr. Ernest Evans), who, I believe, was one of the small number of people in this House who went before the late Home Secretary to endeavour to get the alteration made. The hon. and learned Member for the University of Wales made it quite clear in his speech that he was under the impression that the alteration was made, and that his view was the same as the view of the minority finding of the High Court Judges, namely, that the Home Secretary would have to show cause, had been adopted. It seems to me that we should not lose sight of what Lord Justice Atkin said on that occasion: Reasonable cause for an action or a belief is just as much a positive fact capable of determination by a third party as is a broken ankle or a legal right. He went on, when criticising the majority finding: I know of only one authority which might justify the suggested method of construction, namely, 'Alice through the Looking Glass'; ' "When I use a word," Humpty-Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean different things." "The question is," said Humpty-Dumpty, "which is to be master, that's all." ' After all the long discussion in that House, the question was whether the words "If a man has "could mean "If a man thinks he has." He was of opinion that they could not, and that the case should be decided accordingly. I think that the Committee should not lose sight of that minority judgment, but here we are, the High Court have decided that whatever that small committee thought they had done, they had not done, and the question before the Committee is whether we here are prepared to leave it at that or whether we are to insist that there should be some alteration.

In regard to the overruling of the Advisory Committee, I have listened again and again to the arguments put forward by Members on both sides, and so far as I have understood them they have said that it would be an intolerable thing if the Home Secretary deputed his final responsibility to a committee of his own appointment. I fail to understand that. It is what is done in every Department of State on all sorts of very highly important matters. Generals in the field do not refer to the Secretary of State for War before they take a decision, but he is responsible for them. As for saying that a detained person can communicate with a Member of Parliament and that that is some security, I do not think it gives any assurance of any kind whatever. I probably get as many letters as any Member of Parliament, and I may write to the Home Secretary or to the Under-Secretary, who are always very courteous, but I am told nothing. Did Parliament ever really mean that people should be locked up without trial for an indefinite period, possibly, if this war goes on, for 20 years?

What is the Home Secretary going to tell us to-day? Supposing the war goes on until 1950, does he propose that all the people now detained shall continue in detention without trial? It seems to me that that was not the intention of Parliament and that what Parliament intended was that when things settled down again people who had been put in, often on rumour, nothing more, should have their cases reviewed and put before an independent tribunal. I wish to refer to what the present Lord Chancellor once said when discussing the question of detention. This was on 15th June, 1940, speaking in Yorkshire. The hon. Member for Aylesbury declaimed upon the fact that these Regulations, etc., were put into force after the treason in Norway and after the invasion of the Low Countries. That is perfectly true, but the then, I believe, Chancellor of the Exchequer, was perfectly well aware of these happenings in Norway, etc., at that time when he said: We lived in a country where, if a policeman or any other official maltreated us or rushed us into a camp, it would be no answer for him to say that he was part of the Gestapo and that those were the authorised methods of the secret police. Such a person could be brought before a court and made to answer whether what he had done was within the law or not. How many people in Germany had ever brought an action against the Gestapo for damages? Of course, there is an easy answer to that one, but clearly what was in the mind of the then Chancellor was that it would be an intolerable injustice, contrary to all our principles of freedom, that people should be locked up for an indefinite period without having their case investigated by an independent tribunal. Finally, I would repeat that if Parliament did not mean what we are now told by the High Court the words in the Regulation mean, what is Parliament going to do about it? I for one do not think that the intention of Parliament at the time was that people should be treated in the way they are treated now, and I would remind my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary of what I think the Leader of the House emphasised in one of his great utterances, words to this effect, that where liberty is concerned it is the right and proper duty of the Executive to demand the minimum safeguards for security, not the maximum. I submit that the present position does not ensure a fair trial and that justice is meted out to many of the people who are detained.

Major Pethcrick:

I do not think that the Home Secretary can possibly take exception to the manner or method in which those who have been responsible for putting down this Amendment have stated their case, with the possible exception of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown), who spoke in a peculiarly arrogant and didactic fashion, so that I 'felt that his spiritual home was Berchtesgarten. I am sorry he is not here now. I would like to make one comment on a sentence in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). He was speaking in a manner with which I generally agreed when he made one comment which I thought savoured of a possibility of a very dangerous practice. He was saying that he thought that, far from the Home Secretary letting some people loose, he ought to shut up a lot more and suggested that some people who would be worth the Home Secretary's attention were those who were opposing the so-called second front. There are many who take a view about a second front one way or other, often on insufficient evidence. Some think it should be started at once, others that it should not be started and that it would be a disaster. If that is the sort of view he wishes to animate the Home Secretary in deciding whom he has to shut up—whether one set of people who take a certain strategic view should be shut up and another set of people who take an opposite strategic view should not—all I can say is that if it were done, the administration of Regulation 18B would fall into the most dire disrepute.

If we had had a Debate on this kind before the war, I should have been one of those who would have been violently opposed to any such method as is carried out by 18B. I was one of the handful of Members of this House who strongly and strenuously opposed the Public Order Bill on the general grounds that an Englishman has an inalienable right to make a fool of himself if he wants to. The whole point at the moment is that we are at war and that we have therefore to give the Executive incomparably greater powers than we should ever dream of giving them in peace-time. In peace-time it is repugnant to the ordinary Englishman or British subject that anyone should be flung into gaol or detained unless immediately brought to trial and convicted of some malpractice. Under 18B we have practice of lettres de cachet under which Louis XIV of France used to shut up those who did not agree with his somewhat authoritarian views. That that practice was very much exaggerated was shown when the Bastille was stormed in 1793. Very few people were found shut up, about half-a-dozen, two of whom were lunatics and two of whom had been detained at the request of their friends. The point against the system of lettres de cachet applies now in peace-time.

In time of war we have undoubtedly to give to the Home Secretary great powers which we should not dream of doing in ordinary peace-time days. We are in fact detaining under 18B a number of persons, some of whom may be innocent, on grounds of suspicion. This is rather simi- lar to the procedure on grounds of loitering with intent, with the essential difference that intent has to be proved under the ordinary law of the land, while under 18B persons are detained on suspicion of what they are likely to do, and it is impossible to be absolutely sure in detaining any individual case that a person is not being detained who is, to all intents and purposes, innocent. You are, to use a sporting phrase, going on the book of form, you are taking up certain people who, it may be, have had undesirable associates, who may have given utterance to pro-German sentiments in public, and people who in the ordinary way are committing no offence at all. I think in these circumstances it will be almost impossible to avoid a number of hard cases. Some have been brought up in Committee to-day.

Many of my hon. Friends, who ordinarily have my complete sympathy, have made a fairly strong case for a further, safeguard. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) has stated distinctly that he is not against 18B as a whole, and that he only wants to make quite sure that the Regulation is not abused. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower)—to whom I thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick Lawrence) was rather unfair—has, I think, put forward similar views. His fear was—I hope I am not misconstruing him—that any Home Secretary may put people into internment not because they are a danger to the public but on political grounds. He said that the present Home Secretary might put one set of people into internment and that he himself might put another set into internment. But I do not think that that is likely to happen. I do not think any strong evidence can be brought to show that anything of that kind is happening, or has happened. The furthest that my hon. and gallant Friend can go is to point to a number of hard cases.

We come to the question of safeguards. I agree with the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh that to appoint a High Court Judge as a tribunal would be unsound. The whole of the training of a High Court Judge is on points of law. The Judge would lay too much weight on actual evidence. Most of these cases have to be decided not on court of law evidence, but on hearsay, which the legal profession look on with extreme dismay, and on a number of other factors which I might call "the book of form," connected with the man's previous career. I do not think it would be right to set up any tribunal which would have the final say. If I were the Home Secretary in time of war, I would insist on having the final word on any case. I do not think there is any evidence that the present Home Secretary or the previous Home Secretary has abused his powers. Although a number of cases of hardship have been brought forward, some of them arise from the fact that the hon. Members to whose notice they were brought were not in full possession of the facts. On the one side, some Members think that the Home Secretary has been far too weak in dealing with internees of enemy alien origin; other Members think he has been too fierce in dealing with his own countrymen. If we are not satisfied with the way his powers are being carried out, we can, in accordance with constitutional practice, attack the Home Secretary in the House of Commons. But, personally, I would rather, in this present year, with all the forces that we are up against, that 100 innocent men or women were detained under 18B than that a single person who might engage in a serious act of sabotage or give military information to the enemy, went free. For those reasons, I feel that the Home Secretary should be strongly supported, and I hope that he will not give way but will adhere to the powers he has already got.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

I rise not to make a speech, but merely to ask a question. Quite rightly, the House resents the habit of some Members, including myself, of putting questions to Ministers while they are speaking. It is considered, quite properly, that while they are reading their manuscripts, they should not be interrupted. I do not suggest that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary reads manuscripts—he never does so, it is to some other Ministers that I am referring; my right hon. Friend is a competent Minister, if he will allow me to say so. I agree that very little further can be said on this subject; but I hope that hon. Members on all sides will agree with me that it is essential that, if these extraordinary powers are to continue in operation, there should be no suspicion that they are exercised unfairly against one set of persons. I agree that there are no Fascists in this House; the only crypto-Fascists are those who believe that "the leader is always right." I should like an answer to this question. The Minister may say that it is not in the public interest to answer it; and if he does so, I shall accept that. In what way can you differentiate between the behaviour of the Fascists and the behaviour of a body which describes itself as "Socialist Appeal"? This body has been denounced by the leaders of the miners' movement in this country, including some of the most Leftist members, men for whom I have a great esteem. This body is a well-known Trotskyist organisation. Its members are employed in trying to attack, not only the war organisation, but the Conservative party, the Labour party, the Liberal party, and the Communist party—every recognised party in this country. Their sole object is to sabotage our war effort. What is the difference between these people, who sympathise with the enemies of our friends—with the enemies of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics—who are in touch with Trotskyists outside this country, and the Fascists? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give most serious heed to what is being said on this subject by the accredited leaders of the miners' movement, by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Portsmouth (Sir J. Lucas), and by many others. It is most important that there should be no differentiation between one set of dangerous people and another.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

Reference has been made to the fact that we have had many Debates on this subject. That is true, but none of those Debates has terminated in a way which would enable Members to express their views on this legislation in the Division Lobby. Even now, nothing would give greater satisfaction to my hon. Friends and myself than that there should be no necessity to take the matter to a Division, but I want to make it clear that, on the major principles involved in this legislation, the safeguarding of the liberty of the British subject, nothing can satisfy us which does not provide some greater safeguard than exists at present. On the other hand, I want to make it clear beyond all possible doubt—because we have from time to time been misrepresented in this matter—that my hon. Friends and I and those who think as we do, do not question for one moment the necessity for Regulations such as 18B in this time of war. Furthermore, if a Division were taken on the question whether Regulation 18B should be completely abolished or not, we would go into the Division Lobby in favour of maintaining Regulation 18B. We realise the need for it. The matter about which we are mainly concerned is the way in which it has been administered, and above all, the fact that in our view the present situation has been reached through the House of Commons being, to a very large extent, misled.

I do not want to repeat more than can be helped arguments which have already been before the Committee, but I would ask hon. Members to permit me very briefly to go over the past history of this Regulation. The Committee will remember that when it was introduced in a time of crisis, or, at any rate, at a time when all the thoughts and activities of this House were very much occupied, there were certain diligent Members, chiefly on the Liberal benches, who expressed anxiety. I believe they were assisted by some Members on the Labour benches and a few on this side of the Committee, and they put down a Prayer against this Regulation. They were not alone in their anxieties and nobody expressed greater anxiety than the present Home Secretary. I need not repeat what he said. It has already been quoted in previous Debates. I believe the Lord Privy Seal himself took part in that Debate and was not completely satisfied and several other Members were deeply concerned about this Regulation. As a result of what happened the Government saw that the House of Commons was anxious and dissatisfied with the Regulation as then drawn. There was a conference and certain alterations took place.

Some of those alterations were, perhaps, of a quantitative kind. They defined more nearly the exact type and kinds of persons whom the Home Secretary should be authorised to arrest under the Regulation, but the more important alteration, the one which touches upon the main principle involved, was the changing of certain words, which subsequently were raised in the now well-known case in which Lord Atkin differed from the majority decision. It seems impossible, looking back to-day, to believe that the Members of the House of Commons, who came to an agreement with the Government on the alteration of those words, did not at the time believe that they conveyed some greater safeguard, but the effect of the decision which has now been given makes it clear that such was not the case and that is now the law, no matter what Lord Atkin's view may happen to be. Although the views then expressed by hon. Members must still carry great influence, the fact remains that now the position has been made clear in the law. The change in words, in so far as they concern the major principle involved, has effected no change whatever in the powers of the Home Secretary and has given no greater safeguard whatever to the persons interned under Regulation 18B, and to that extent the House of Commons was misled.

It may well be asked, why, if the House were misled, hon. Members did nothing about it? I think I can give the answer to that question. There was another safeguard, and it was constantly referred to as a safeguard, particularly by the Lord President of the Council, formerly Home Secretary. That was the Advisory Committee. The House of Commons has been assured that the Advisory Committee was, in itself, a great safeguard. After the Regulations had been amended and for the time being accepted by the House of Commons, coupled with the safeguard of the Advisory Committee, nothing happened for several months. No anxiety was expressed in this House. The reason clearly was that the House of Commons believed that an adequate safeguard had been obtained. At a later period, some months afterwards, it suddenly became apparent that the present Home Secretary had differed from his Advisory Committee and had taken action contrary to their advice in some hundred or more cases. Not unnaturally, anxiety became apparent and the case was again brought up in the House of Commons. It became clear to hon. Members that the safeguards which they thought they had received did not, in fact, exist.

Hon. Members have to decide to-day one of two things. They have to decide whether they conscientiously believe and are willing to go into the Lobby to affirm —for that is what it comes to—that under existing conditions it is not possible, and possibly not desirable, to give British subjects any adequate safeguard which will protect them from the kind of action which was taken in the days of the Bastille. Or, if they take the same view as I do, they have to decide not only that such protective action must be given, but that it is not beyond the wit of the Government or of this House of Commons to find some adequate means of providing it. I do not for a moment suggest that we have been deliberately misled, but we have definitely been misled and that is the reason why we have got into the present position. We believed that we had a safeguard which it is now clear does not exist.

The Home Secretary, as is his right, is winding up this Debate and we do not know whether he can make any concessions or whether he will maintain the attitude which he has taken up in former Debates. I am obliged, therefore, to consider the arguments which he himself put forward in those earlier Debates. He emphasised the point that the House of Commons had thrown upon him this unpleasant burden, that he is personally responsible and he also appears to me to have read into the Regulation—If any alteration can be read into the later Regulation—a special instruction to himself that he shall be, more than ever, personally responsible for decisions taken with regard to those under detention, as to their release or otherwise.

I cannot understand—and possibly the right hon. Gentleman may be able to explain it—how he got himself into this position. He sets up an Advisory Committee, which he himself appoints. It has always seemed to me that any Minister in exercising his powers must continually rely upon the advice of various bodies and even upon the action of various persons whom he has appointed. But I cannot understand why, having chosen his Advisory Committee, he was not content to abide by their decision—at any rate, with a very limited number of exceptions. Even then I think he should have taken the opportunity to give some explanation to the House of why he made exceptions. One is driven to the conclusion that either that the right hon. Gentleman must have set up an inadequate Advisory Committee—although We have no reason to believe that as he himself has highly praised them—or that there must be some fundamental difference in the facts which are presented to the Advisory Committee and those which he himself considers. He has assured us quite definitely that that is not the case, that all the evidence which comes to him goes to the Advisory Committee, and that if he receives any further evidence it also goes to the Committee. He has told us in former Debates that when he differs from the Advisory Committee it is solely on a different interpretation of the same facts. The only argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, which I can remember, to account for the present position was that he, as a Cabinet Minister, had a more intimate knowledge of the conditions arising from the war than the Advisory Committee would have.

If we go back to the time when the Defence Regulations were first Tabled it will be remembered that the country was then in a state, not of panic, but of considerable anxiety. We never knew what might happen from one day to another, and I think there would have been good grounds for saying at that time that a Minister of the Crown might well be in a position to obtain information which would make him take a different view from others with less information at their disposal. But I do not think there is any justification for that statement today. The war has developed until it is world-wide; we are at war with nearly all the nations with whom we can be at war at present, and I think most of the things that the Minister would have to take into account could and should be taken into account by the Advisory Committee. Unfortunately, a great many of us cannot help having some suspicion that, apart from the Advisory Committee, the right hon. Gentleman has at his elbow other advisers to whose advice he pays more attention than to that of his own Advisory Committee and who appear to be more or less the same persons as those who have perhaps originated the internment of the internee whose case is being considered. If that be so, I think it would be best that the right hon. Gentleman should take the Committee into his confidence and tell us that that is so. It has a considerable bearing on the matters we are discussing to-day and will have a considerable bearing upon many Members when examining the necessity or otherwise of the present Regulation.

It was said at the beginning of the Debate, and I want to repeat it, that this Debate has not been raised in any petty way. It is perfectly true that the right hon. Gentleman as the result of these Regulations has been pestered by Questions in this House and by goodness knows how much correspondence. But there is really nothing personal in this matter. An earlier speaker referred to the fact that it was not the present Home Secretary who was responsible for the start of all this business and I should like to assure him that if the Lord President of the Council were now sitting in the right hon. Gentleman's place, as Home Secretary, our attitude on these Regulations would be precisely the same as it is with reference to himself to-day. I think it is a credit to this House of Commons that at a time like this, when major anxieties are besetting us, Members should attend so well and take so great an interest in a matter which concerns the liberty of British subjects, even in time of war.

There is another thing to which I would like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention, and which I think should also be taken into account by the Committee. The last time the right hon. Gentleman spoke on this subject he gave internment figures in three categories. The majority, I always understood him to say, were members of the Fascist Union. Then he lumps the figures together into categories representing persons of hostile origin and persons of hostile association. I want to suggest that these two categories should not be lumped together and I hope they are not lumped together in the right hon. Gentleman's mind. When you take the case of persons of hostile origin many hardships may be involved, although one can easily understand that it may be necessary to intern them. A man born in Germany of German parents may be a British subject but obviously his hostile origin is of such a nature that there may be little difference between his case and that of an absolute alien enemy. I think the same kind of thing might apply to a person naturalised a year or two before the war. I can easily conceive that such a person might be more dangerous than an ordinary enemy alien. But when it comes to a person of hostile association, that appears to be an entirely different category and it is dangerous to couple it with the others.

There are many young persons with somewhat adventurous ideas who are usually seeking novelty of various kinds. I believe there are now interned young persons who have had some association with people interned by the Home Secretary as dangerous to the State, but whose association with such internees has been, in fact, of quite a harmless nature. Of course, one cannot say that definitely; one can only go by such evidence as has been available; but when one hears that a young woman, for instance, whose father and mother—who, after all, have known her all her life—are ready to vouch for her, was interned merely because she had some association, mainly of a social kind, with some other person who has been taken up as a danger to the State, one gets anxious about some of the internments that have been made on account of hostile associations. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be unable to divorce himself from an acute sense of personal responsibility, and I hope that when he replies he will try to give some greater justification for the attitude which he takes up in that respect than he has been able to give to us in the past.

I believe my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) intends, if the Home Secretary is unable to relieve our anxieties, to press his Amendment in the Division Lobby. If he does so, it is my intention to go with him. In ordinary peace-time, I suppose that a Division on an Amendment to reduce a Vote would be considered equivalent to a vote of censure of the Government and certainly of the Minister concerned. But this is not ordinary peace-time, and we have done many things that are quite exceptional, including the use of this Regulation, and therefore, I suggest to hon. Members that we shall not be going into the Division Lobby with the idea of expressing a vote of no confidence in the Government or a vote of censure, and that even as regards the right hon. Gentleman himself, we shall not be seeking to express a vote of no confidence in the general conduct of his office. We shall go into the Division Lobby because we desire the opportunity of making our protest in the House against the existence of Regulation 18B in its present unmodified form. I suggest to the Committee that this is a matter which vitally concerns every hon. Member in his duty to his constituency. I hope that hon. Members may see their way to express their conscientious view on this matter in the action which they take at the close of this Debate.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) and the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower), the latter of whom moved the Amendment to reduce the Vote, have been good enough to say that there is nothing personal about this Amendment, but that it registers a point of view on a matter of public policy. I very much appreciate their saying that, although, of course, the Amendment does propose a reduction of my salary, which, I can assure the hon. and gallant Member, I can ill-afford; and if it were carried, it would, of course, have certain obvious constitutional consequences. Nevertheless, I fully appreciate the assurances that have been given that this matter is not personal to me but registers an opinion on a point of public policy. Certainly, I cannot complain if there is a Division on this matter. I have been thought before to have been perhaps needlessly reckless and almost asking for trouble in the way of Divisions. If at the end of what I have to say it is thought that that course ought to be taken, while I shall ask the Committee to support me and the Government in the Division Lobby, I shall not be able to complain in the circumstances, because if there is strong opinion, it is desirable for it to have opportunities of expression. In the remarks that I make, I hope not to be provocative or unreasonable and not to conduct myself in such a way as to precipitate the hon. Member for Gravesend and others into the Division Lobby against the Government. They must, in accordance with their Parliamentary responsibilities, decide what they think is right.

I propose to deal first with certain specific points that have been raised in various speeches, and then to pass to a more general review of the operation of this important and, as I entirely agree, exceptional Defence Regulation. The hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland thought that the Fascism of Sir Oswald Mosley was a somewhat weak and pallid affair compared with the European variety. That is a matter of opinion. Some of us who witnessed the activities of Fascist mobs in the East End of London are not quite so sure about it, and many Members of the House were very apprehensive as to the threat to public order and good government if that movement went on. I am not so sure that there would have been anything soft or gentle if Sir Oswald Mosley had become the Hitler of Great Britain. The hon. and gallant Member also referred, as did the hon. Member for Gravesend and the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), to the judgment in the House of Lords in the Liversidge case. Lord Atkin has been frequently quoted, as is entitled to be the case, although I am entitled to recall to the memory of hon. Members that his was a minority judgment. I can only say that the judgment of the House of Lords did not surprise the Home Office. We had rather expected it might go that way, because that had been our own continuous interpretation of what the Regulation meant, although what people think the law is is no certainty as to how the courts will interpret it and decide what it is. At the Home Office, we had always assumed that that was the interpretation, and therefore, we did not take ourselves out for an entertainment that night in pleasant surprise at having got a judgment we did not expect. We had rather meant the Regulation to go that way, and I am assured that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council had intended to make the Regulation go that way.

All that has been said on the other side, by some hon. Members who were parties to the behind-the-Chair Parliamentary discussions—and it is sometimes said by hon. Members who were not parties to the discussions—is that there was a clear understanding in those discussions that there would be a reasonably easy means of appeal to the courts against the decision of the Home Secretary in these cases. I was not a party to those discussions. I can only recall to the Committee the fact that other hon. Members who were parties to the discussions very distinctly take the view that they were led to believe no such thing, and the Lord President of the Council has himself said that if he had believed that he could constantly be taken into court concerning his decisions on these Regulation 18B cases, he would certainly not have brought in that Regulation or agreed to it. This argument has taken place in previous Debates. Hon. Members who were parties to the discussions have put forward these sharply conflicting views, and I can only leave the matter there. I can only say that, for my own part, I would not, with the responsibilities I carry, be happy if on each one of these cases I could be taken to the High Court and my decision reversed. I should feel that in those circumstances the task was an impossible one.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cleveland said also that the powers I have under this Defence Regulation were enough to make Himmler green with envy. That is a wild statement to make. It is one of those sweeping, extreme generalisations which are so characteristic of my hon. and gallant Friend in this kind of Debate, and I am bound to add, to be perfectly fair between the parties, a sweeping generalisation which is characteristic of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich in Debates of this kind.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

Most unnecessarily offensive.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

It really cannot have been said seriously that this Defence Regulation power would make Himmler green with envy. When we know what Himmler has been doing in Czechoslovakia in the last few weeks, and what the Germans have done with their own citizens, surely no patriotic Member of this House is going to liken a Defence Regulation of this kind with the procedure, inhumanities and abominations of that régime. In any case, I am bound to reject "the soft impeachment" with indignation. My hon. and gallant Friend also had two complaints about certain things which had happened in the Isle of Man. One was in reference to a letter which he sent to a detainee. I do not remember the particulars of that case, and perhaps he will forgive me if I do not make a reply to it in detail. I recall the circumstances of the other case, because that is the case which my hon. and gallant Friend queried with me, quite rightly and properly, in which the authorities had held up a letter from a detainee who, I think, was detained under this Regulation and was a person of foreign origin. He complained very strongly about it, and I can only say on that point that I think it would have been wiser for him to have made private inquiries from me at the Home Office, where we could have followed the matter up and have given all particulars, rather than precipitately to have put down a Question on the Order Paper. I say that for reasons which I will indicate. As a matter of fact, the letter was temporarily held up; and directly the matter came to my notice I gave instructions that the letter should be forwarded to my hon. and gallant Friend in accordance with the undertakings which had been given to this House. Sometimes the communications which these people send out are of a character or of a number—and I understand from some hon. Members that they are being pretty heavily circularised—that they raise queries among camp officers or prison officers as to whether they are doing right in sending them out, and sometimes they refer them to a higher authority.

I have given instructions that letters to Members of Parliament must be forwarded. I will quote one or two passages from this letter which the camp officer had queried and about which he was doubtful whether to send it, even to a Member of Parliament. I think the Committee will appreciate that he had some reason to be doubtful. In the course of this letter the writter referred to Britain's dishonest ways in warfare and politics, fighting her battles by proxy on land, never less than 10 to I at sea, classified our conduct as three degrees lower than the stink of an Icelandic stockfish, stated Parliament must be proud of this pockmarked papoose of its own breeding the image and likeness of the foreigners' concepts of Englishman or Britisher of today. At the end of the communication he says: Hitler makes Governments pay their debts in gold and it would hurt you immeasurably to have to do so, for the English god is gold, the foul droppings of the golden calf. I venture to say it is not surprising that an innocent camp officer, finding that letter addressed to an hon. Member of this House, should have queried with the Home Office whether the letter ought to go, possibly, in the interests of security and, for all I know, possibly in the interests of the moral purity of my hon. and gallant Friend. I decided that it should go.

Photo of Commander Robert Bower Commander Robert Bower , Cleveland

This is a matter of importance. Surely, when the Prime Minister, on 18th November last, gave an assurance to the House and to the country that internees should have free right to communicate with Members of Parliament, these instructions were communicated to the camp authorities? Surely the contents of a letter are quite irrelevant?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

Yes, Sir. These general instructions have been issued. One must remember that at times exceptional cases do arise in which, so to speak, the officer scratches his head as to what he ought to do, and it is not improper for the officer in case of doubt to seek for higher direction. Incidentally, by sidelight, hon. Members can see some of the sort of opinions which are expressed in correspondence which takes place. He also suggested that I was holding in detention hundreds of detainees in order to detain half-a-dozen whom it might be essential to detain. I do not agree that it would be legitimate or proper to reduce the number of detainees to half-a-dozen, and I think any Home Secretary who had the task of choosing this surviving half-dozen would have an exceedingly difficult and objectionable task.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans), who made a persuasive, quiet and thoughtful speech, raised a number of points, some of which I will deal with in the course of my more general observations. Among other things he referred to the allegation, which has since been repeated, that the Home Secretary pays more attention to other people's advice than to that of the Advisory Committee. The same suggestion was made by the hon. Member for Gravesend. I have been in public administration and in Government for a good many years. I always listen with great care to what people advise, including the advice of my political opponents, and at the end of the day I try to settle the thing for myself. Those who have worked closely with me will know that I decide things for myself, and I can only assure my hon. Friends that I take everybody's advice on these cases, get all the angles, the advice of the Advisory Committee, the advice of the friends and defenders of the detained person, and the advice of the security service, the police officers and the Home Office— read and consider all they have said and then come to my own decision.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

Does the Home Secretary see any of the persons concerned?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

No, Sir. I will come to that suggestion. Sometimes I disagree with a large proportion of the various people who have contributed advice, but I can assure the Committee that the decision at the end is my own independent, consciencious decision in the light of the facts and deductions which have to be drawn from the facts, because in these cases the deductions from the facts are involved. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. I. Thomas) put the same point in the form of a query in his very useful speech. That is all I can say. I can only give the Committee that assurance. I would add that I disagree with the views, or do not act upon the advice, of the security services quite as often—and that is putting it mildly—as I disagree with the advice of the Advisory Committee. The work of the security service is on the whole very good, and it is useful to have their angle and knowledge of the facts. But the judgment at the end of the day is my own independent, conscientious judgment as to what it is right to do in the interests of the State and its security.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bridge-ton (Mr. Maxton), in a charming and competent speech, said that so far as he was concerned he thought it was a political decision as to who should be in and who should be out, and therefore he would not be disposed to rely upon the Advisory Committee or upon a court of justice but would be happier, as he was good enough to say in view of his knowledge of myself, if I saw these detainees, talked to them and then came to my own decision. There is something to be said for that suggestion. It has its advantages. I do not see them now, because I cannot very well do so, since the Advisory Committee sees them and all the other parties. My trouble would be that I could not very well see the detainees without seeing the other parties to the argument, and it would be physically impossible, in view of the number of cases that have to be dealt with, and probably the House would not like it. The House attaches importance to the Advisory Committee, rightly, and the House and the public would make a great mistake if they did not think that the Advisory Committee performs a very definite and important function in the sorting-out of these cases for the consideration of the Secretary of State.

A point was raised by the hon. and learned Member for the Welsh University and by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), for whose contribution I am grateful, as to whether in these disputed cases I could, before reaching a decision, see the Committee or, as a matter of more expeditious convenience, see the Chairman of the Advisory Committee. That suggestion was made in earlier Debates and, in the past, it had in certain cases been acted upon. I have developed that practice very much. Two things happen. These so-called panels of the Advisory Committee are not really panels. They are really committees each presided over by a competent lawyer. The main Chairman, however, is Mr. Justice Birkett, who keeps a general oversight and watch on the work of this series of committees and frequently presides over the Committee himself, so at the Committee end you have that liaison and collective view and supervision which I agree are desirable. That does not whittle away from the responsibility of the separate committees, or subcommittees as they might be called, in making their reports, which reports, subject to Sir Norman Birkett seeing them on the way if he thinks they are cases that he ought to see, come straight to me. They report direct to the Secretary of State in order to help him in reaching his decision.

The other point is that I have in the more difficult cases of disagreement developed the practice of asking the Chairman of the Committee who took the case, or Sir Norman Birkett, or both, to come to the Home Office and have a talk about it. I do not want to mislead the Committee. That is not so in a considerable number of the disagreement cases, because in those cases it is quite clear that I could not help the Chairman of the Advisory Committee and he could not further help me. But where I feel that there is a case in which we may be able to help each other, and particularly they may help me, because they have seen the detainees and conducted the consideration of the case, I ask them to come along. They are always very willing to do so, and we talk about the case in the most free and easy way, it being understood, of course, that in the end the decision has to he my own. So that I think in principle that point is really met in practice.

The identity-card point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) has now been put right. At the beginning there was not an entry in every case, but there was an entry in more cases than I thought later on was really necessary. What we do now is to enter on the card where there is a restriction of movement, which is necessary for police supervision, and in all other cases if persons formerly detained want to get rid of the marked identity-card, we will arrange to give them a clean card.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

What has been done in pursuance of the promise made on the last occasion that there should be some organised system for minimising the hardship suffered by detainees upon release?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I do not think that arises out of what I have just said, and I have not come ready to deal with the point, except to say that there was no firm promise. All I said was that I will give consideration to it. The Society of Friends has a committee taking an interest in the welfare of these cases when they come out.

It has been suggested that in the case of Mrs. Nicholson my decision is very much open to question, because there was a case in the court in which she was involved. I cannot go into individual cases in detail, and this is certainly one of that variety in which it would be quite wrong to attempt it. But as a matter of fact this illustrates the difficulty of this class of business being dealt with by a court of law. She was before the court on certain specific issues of law, and the court, after legal argument and evidence, gave a legal decision which amounted, I think, to a verdict in her favour. It is not for me in any way to question the decision of any court of law. There could not be any argument against a court of law's decision in a particular case. It may be unquestionable that the court of law's decision was right; nevertheless it is proper that the Home Secretary, exercising these powers having regard to security, bringing in the element of public policy, and not being concerned specifically with something that someone has said and punishing him for it but considering what someone might do in certain circumstances, should come to a decision within his sphere different from the decision come to in the legal sphere. That really is the whole of the argument, that this kind of administration—because it is administration rather than judgment of a legal character—must be dealt with ministerially, because it does not fit in with the practice, the traditions or the habits of courts of law.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

What, then, becomes of the Lord Chancellor's statement that what happened to Pastor Niemoller in Germany could not. happen in this country, and is it not a fact that this lady is still interned on the same charge upon which she was tried and acquitted?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I should not wish to get into a discussion on something that the Lord Chancellor has said. It is most unwise for one Minister to attempt to explain the remarks of another without knowing all the facts. I have dealt with my own decision. It is true that this lady is still detained. I have given it very careful consideration, and I am satisfied that she is rightly detained, and she will continue to be detained as long as I am so satisfied. If in the future new circumstances arise, I shall be happy to give them consideration, but I assure the Committee, having given the case the most meticulous consideration, I am satisfied that she is where she ought to be.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

I asked the Under-Secretary a specific question and hoped for a reply. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether in this case the Advisory Committee did or did not advise that she should be released?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, we never say what the Advisory Committee recommended, and I do not think it is desirable that I should start to do so. The constitutional position is that I am alone responsible for the administration of the matter, and the House must deal with me. If we get into the field of the relations between the Advisory Committee and the Minister, the House will be dealing with the Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee will be placed in very great difficulties.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

What the right hon. Gentleman has just said brings out the major part of our grievance. How can we deal with him when we have no knowledge of the evidence on which he acts or of what evidence is available?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I quite agree that there is a difficulty. This House is not a specific court of appeal against the Home Secretary in individual cases. It cannot be, and if the House tried to be, it would find itself in difficulties. A Debate in this considerable assembly as to whether Mr. X or Mrs. Y or Miss A should be released would be impossible as an operative decision. What the House must do is to keep a watch on the Home Secretary, to have a Debate, to look out for cases where in their judgment he has gone wrong, if they can get evidence that he has—[Interruption], I know the limitations of the House. I agree that it is not altogether cricket, but I cannot help it. Having watched the Home Secretary's actions and had a Debate, the House can come to a broad decision whether or not he is on the whole fairly and prudently administering the Regulations. That is what the House can do. I do not want to deceive the Committee. These are exceptional powers which are confined to an individual. That individual has a terrible responsibility and a heavy task. It is not a job I would want to run after or a job that has great pleasure in it, but I discharge it with great interest and conscientiousness, knowing all the time that this exceptional authority has been given to me by Parliament and that I must be careful and restrained in its use. I do not want to boggle the issue. The only thing the House can do is to watch the general administration and pounce on the Home Secretary if it becomes convinced that he has not discharged this responsibility. Then the House must either reduce his powers or in a perfectly clean and understandable fashion place the responsibility for decision somewhere else.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

It is also important that I should conclude my statement by the time fixed. I did not interrupt anybody else, and I have given way several times. I say what I have said about the House and the courts without the smallest disrespect, for I have the highest admiration and respect for both. I am hot going to deceive the Committee or the country into believing that this task can be done in any other way materially different from the way in which it is being done at present. I face the Committee and the country, realising that upon my predecessor and myself was put an exceptional responsibility. Upon us were conferred exceptional powers which neither the House nor the country would tolerate in time of peace, but which I say they must tolerate in time of war, because I do not think they can do anything else. The powers having been conferred, I do not think that there is any compromise by which we could do otherwise than we are doing.

Let us look at one or two alternatives. We always have these alternatives offered, and quite rightly, because hon. Members have a duty to be constructive as well as critical, although often at the end of a Debate it comes to the point when someone says that all the suggestions that have been made are wrong, but that what the Home Secretary is doing is also wrong. It has been suggested that this Regulation being an exceptional thing the Home Secretary would surely think of some limitation on his own powers. I have thought about that and considered it, and if I could see a practical way in which the wishes of even a minority of the House could be met I would consider it not unsympathetically. Only two or three other suggestions have been made. One is that the Advisory Committee should become executive, that is to say, its decisions should be operative. That can be done. It is a clean, clear-cut policy, but it would remove the administration from effective discussion in such a Debate as we have had to-day. If the Advisory Committee were executive and its decisions operative, how could I answer this Debate to-day? I could not. I should have to say, "The Committee is functioning. It has been charged by the House with the responsibility for this work. I have no power to intervene, and I can only say I will convey to the Committee what the House has said."

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the Debate to-day.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I have answered it much better than I could have done otherwise. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend is not always reasonable in these Debates. He is a little more persistent than perhaps he ought to be. If the Committee were executive, the Home Secretary could not be held responsible for the internal security of the country. I do not see how there could be a Division, such as there easily could be to-day, except to express displeasure with the executive committee. It would not fit in with Parliamentary institutions, because the more exceptional power you give to a Minister in time of war, the more it is essential that Parliament should be the master of that Minister, and that he should feel himself accountable to it for his administration.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bridge-ton raised the point that these people—I will not say in all cases, but he implied in many cases—are detained for their opinions. That is not the case. Mr. Cahir Healy, who was mentioned as a case in point, is not detained for his opinions. I am not interested in opinions qua opinions, from the point of view of detention. I am interested in them in all sorts of other ways, but, broadly speaking, from the point of view of detention, I am not, and I can assure my hon. Friend that the opinions of Mr. Cahir Healy, his Irish Republican principles and so on, were not matters with which I was concerned or which worried me. It was something which happened which caused me to believe that it was necessary to exercise control over him.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

For the expression of an opinion.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I must not be drawn into the details of the case. I cannot accept the view that it was merely for the expression of opinions. It was not so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins), in a speech in which he supported the Government with ability, said that he did not think there was a great deal of real uneasiness in the country. I do not think there is. I think there is some uneasiness among some Members in the House and certain people outside, but as regards the country as a whole I think that the country's common-sense view is, "These powers are exceptional. In peace we would not stand them, but we have seen Norway, Belgium, Holland, Czecho-Slovakia and France, and there will be none of that Fifth Column nonsense in this country." The country also says, "Therefore, we must swallow the principle of the Minister having exceptional powers." I believe that the country as a whole, and also the Committee as a whole, believe that these powers have been exercised with restraint and care and with judicial fairness. Any suggestion that I am actuated in these cases by political opinion or sub-conscious political bias, or by political prejudice because I am a politician of the Left—which I am, and I make no apology about it—is not the case. That does not concern me in dealing with these cases. I forget my political opinions. Moreover, our governmental machine is such that there would be terrible difficulties put in the way of any of His Majesty's Ministers who tried to administer a Regulation of this kind for partisan purposes. Heaven forbid that I should bring the Civil Service into any Debate, but the Civil Service at the Home Office—many people do not know it—is one of the best guarantees of British liberty that we have ever had, and I pay it that tribute of respect and admiration.

I will give the figures of persons detained. It has been suggested that most of them could be permitted to go out on parole. There was a curious letter in "The Times" this morning from the gentleman who acts as solicitor in a large proportion of these cases. It was a most extraordinary letter, suggesting that they might all be allowed to go out on parole, if they gave financial sureties. It is an utterly impracticable and ridiculous suggestion, and I will not examine it in detail because I do not think it is worth while. But, as a matter of fact, I have, in effect, let a number out on parole. The classes of release are various. In some cases it is a clean release—a revocation of the order. We are finished with them, unless we ever should rind it necessary to detain them again. There are others who are released subject to very simple restrictions, subject merely to reporting to the police when they move from one place to another; others must report periodically to the police; others must not go to certain areas—there are all sorts of restrictions. Therefore, we have in fact already adopted the principle of release by parole.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

How many of those who have been put on parole or liberated have had to be pulled back again?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

In all—these were all originally detained by my right hon. Friend the Lord President—19 persons have been redetained after having been released. Two of them were redetained by my predecessor and 17 by myself, but I must add that 14 of those 19 were cases that came out of the judgment in the Captain Budd case. The Committee will remember that I released them out of respect for the decision of the court, quite properly because there had been a slight irregularity in their detention, though nothing material. They were very soon redetained. Really the number is five. That figure can be argued both ways. It may be argued that it shows how safe it is to leave them out on parole, but also it can be said, as I would prefer to argue it, how careful we have been in selecting the persons to be released.

I come now to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed), whose speech I very much appreciated, and I can only say that I agree with him. He was apprehensive of one or two points connected with aliens, but I think I can say that in dealing with a difficult problem—more difficult in some ways, less difficult in others—we have been careful in that field of administration. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown) raised one or two points in connection with prisons and particularly urged that we should transfer all these 18B people from prisons where they are in the same building as ordinary criminals and put them in Reading gaol. I began to think of a new "Ballad of Reading Gaol." The answer to that suggestion is that Reading gaol is now kept as a reserve against the possible blitzing of prisons, when there has to be quick movement of prisoners if damage has been done. At present there are very few prisoners there. Moreover, there is this additional difficulty, that not all the detainees are in prison because I prefer to keep them there. Some are in prison because they prefer to be there rather than in the Isle of Man. Their main reason for that in most cases is, I think, that they are in London, near their solicitors, legal advisers, friends and so on, and for reasons of personal convenience they prefer to be there. I am afraid that if I took them to Reading I should probably be accused of victimising them because I was taking them out of London. As the Committee know, I had a spot of bother the other day with the ladies in Holloway, but the hon. Member for Ipswich is raising that on the Adjournment, and I will not bother to deal with that now.

The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt), to my delight and pleasure, made a speech in my support and justified the moderation of my character and the integrity of my administration—but I think I had better pass on quickly before I cause any embarrassment either on his part or my own. I have dealt with a number of the points raised by the hon. Member for Gravesend.

I will deal now with the point or suggestion, from which I am afraid I got drawn away, that we should use a High Court Judge to arbitrate in the case of disagreement between me and the Advisory Committee. The suggestion was made in more than one quarter of the Committee. I understand that this is a praiseworthy effort on the part of some Members to get out of a difficulty in which they are placed. One has to see what will happen. The Advisory Committee, with great care, make their report, taking into account all the circumstances, including reports of the security services. Their report comes to me. There are also minutes and observations by all competent quarters on the report of the Committee. They do not all agree. They are expected to say what they think. Even the civil servants must say on each minute what they think, no matter what the man up above may say when he gets the minute. It is all done in that way. There are often conflicts of opinion between one and the other.

They come to me, and it may be that with regret, I find that I cannot agree with the Committee. It is suggested that we bring in a High Court Judge. There is already a High Court Judge as Chairman of the Advisory Committee. It would be a little bit awkward to put one High Court Judge against another, but I am there as Secretary of State of the Home Department. We can put our respective cases to the High Court Judge. He decides, and his decision is operative. It does not solve the problem. It makes the Home Secretary's position impossible. He has said to the High Court Judge that, in his judgment, speaking with all his knowledge as Home Secretary and with all the background that he has, this detainee should, in the interests of the State, remain in. Nevertheless, if the High Court Judge takes another view, out that detainee would come. It is right that this House should hold the Home Secretary responsible for security. If it does so, it must give him all the responsibility and power which are necessary.

The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) raised a point about "Socialist Appeal." I think it is a monthly publication. It is published by the Fourth International, in other words the Trotskyists. If the Communist Party of Great Britain hate anybody more than they do me, it is the Trotskyists. Sometimes, when I see front page advertisements of this paper in the Press, especially in the Conservative newspapers, I often suspect, not altogether unintelligently, that the Conservative Press is inspired to denounce the Trotskyists by the Communist party [Interruption.] The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is getting into respectable bourgeois company lately.

Anyhow, this paper is there. It has a very small circulation of somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000. They claim 20,000, but that is wrong. The matter it has printed is pernicious in many respects and objectionable. It has apparently had a couple of pedestrians going round talking to miners, but, believe me, any idea that this very limited band of people—I do not know, but I doubt whether the organisation has more than 500 members—[An HON. MEMBER: "Little drops of water"]—are responsible generally for the strikes that have taken place in the mining industry is, I think a hopeless exaggeration of what has taken place. I could suppress that paper under Regulation 2D. I might be able to pick up some of these people under Regulation 18B. I reserve the right to suppress the paper under Regulation 2D, in which case I should have the warm support of the hon. Member for West Fife——

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Why does the right hon. Gentleman want to bring me into it?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

—He and I know—and of the noble lord; before doing so or taking some of these people under 18B—and I reserve the right to do so—I must remember that these powers were given in order to protect the State against something which had a material significance and was a danger to the State. I am not yet convinced that the existence of "Socialist Appeal,"—which has not had anywhere near as long a run of naughtiness as the "Daily Worker" had at the beginning of the war—is of such danger to the State that I ought to use Regulation 2D against it. I reserve the right to do so, but it is not my wish to use any of these exceptional Regulations unless there is a case, in the public interest, for their use. I am not yet convinced that that is so.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that my action was taken not because I am a Conservative or a Communist or anything else, but because I wished to call attention to a statement made by the representatives of the Durham Miners' Association, asking whether this matter could be brought up in Debate. I am sure we shall all accept the right hon. Gentleman's answer, but We shall keep an eye on his future actions.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

How much paper does it use?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

That is for the Ministry of Supply, not for me. Not only do I not resent my Noble Friend's keeping an eye on me; I will keep an eye on myself at the same time.

I am afraid that my general argument will have to be eliminated, but I think the points which have been raised in the Debate have been covered, and that is perhaps more satisfactory. I did, however, indicate to the Committee that I would give some figures as to the present situation and the use that has been made of the Regulations. The total number detained under the Regulations at some time or other is 1,817, of whom 1,335 were detained in May, June and July of 1940. The total released to date is 1,288, and the total now detained—less than the latest figure in the Library—is 529. Of those—and here I give the separate figures asked for—322 were of hostile origin or association; those picked up under 18B (1A)—that is more or less the British Union provision—are 141, and acts prejudicial, 66. I will now give the cases of disagreement, which have been a prominent feature in the Debate. The number of cases reported on by the Committees—sometimes they are dealt with direct because the issue is simple and there can be no argument about it—number 1,582. The recommendations accepted by the Home Secretary number 1,498, and disagreements number 84. The Committee recommended release in 70 of those cases, and of those 70 cases where they recommended release and the Home Secretary continued detention, 41 were of hostile origin or association, 25 were 18B (1A) cases—that is, the British Union type of case—and 4 were acts prejudicial. There were 14 cases in which the Committees advised continued detention and in which I released the person notwithstanding that recommendation. I think that gives the essentials of the figures, and the Committee

Division No. 18.]AYES.
Albery, Sir IrvingMartin, J. H.Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Challen, Flight-Lieut. C.Maxton, J.Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)
Davies, Clamant (Montgomery)Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.Wayland, Sir W. A.
Evans, E. (Univ, of Wales)Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)
Hardie, AgnesRoberts, W.Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Harvey, T. E.Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey, W.)
Horabin, T. L.Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)Silverman, S. S.Commander Bower and
Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.South by, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.Mr. Stokes.
Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.Stephen, C.
NOES.
Asland-Troyte, Lt.-Col G. J.Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir StaffordGrigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)Crooke, Sir J. SmedleyGrimston, R. V.
Ammon, C. G.Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Gritten, W. G. Howard
Andersen, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (S[...]'b Univ.)Daggar, G.Groves, T. E.
Aske, Sir R. W.Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.
Banfield, J. W.Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)
Barnes, A. J.Davison, Sir W. H.Hambro, A. V.
Barstow, P. G.De Chair, Capt. S. S.Hannah, I. C.
Baxter, A. BeverleyDenman, Hon. R. D.Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.Denville, AlfredHeneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.
Beattie, F.Dobbie, W.Hewlett, T. H.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C.Doland, G. F.Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)
Beaumont, Maj. Hn. R. E. B. (P'ts'h)Driberg, T. E. N.Holmes, J. S.
Bennett, Sir P. F. B, (Edgbaston)Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)Howitt, Dr. A. B.
Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)Hughes, R. M.
Blair, Sir R.Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)Hunter, T.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.Dunn, E.Kurd, Sir P. A.
Bossom, A. C.Ede, J. C.Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)
Bower, Norman (Harrow)Edmondson, Major Sir T.Isaacs, G. A.
Bowles, F. G.Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)Jeffreys, General Sir G. D.
Brass, Capt. Sir W.Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)
Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.Ellis, Sir G.John, W.
Brooke, H.Elliston, Captain G. S.Keeling, E. H.
Browne, Captain A. C. (Belfast, W.)Emrys-Evant, P. V.Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.
Burke, W. A.Errington, Squadron-Leader E.Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.Erskine-Hill, A. G.Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)
Cadogan, Major Sir E.Etherton, Flight-Lieut. RalphKirby, B. V.
Campbell, Sir E. T.Foster, W.Lakin, C. H. A.
Cary, R. A.Frankel, D.Lamb, Sir J. Q.
Channon, H.Fremantle, Sir F. E.Lawson, J. J.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)Gallacher, W.Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Charleton, H. C.Gammans, Capt. L. D.Leslie, J. R.
Christie, J. A.Garro Jones, G. M.Lewis, O.
Cobb, Captain E. C.Gibbins, J.Linstead, H. N.
Colegate, W. A.Goldie, N. B.Lipson, D. L.
Colman, N. C. D.Gower, Sir R. V.Llewellin, Col. Rt. Hon. J. J.
Colville, Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)Logan, D. G.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)Mabane, W.
Cooper, Rt. Hon. A. DuffGrenfell, D. R.MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.
Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)McCorquodale, Malcolm S.

will see that I agreed with the recommendation of the Committees, whether for continued detention or for release, in 95 per cent. of the cases. That I think is not a bad record in view of the large number of cases that have been considered.

I can only say that I am grateful to the Committee for the good temper of to-day's Debate. I hope the House will think that I have treated it with proper respect in the use of these powers for I am very anxious to give the House all the help and information that I can.

Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £1,083,350 be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 25; Noes, 222.

McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.Radford, E. A.Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)
Mack, J. D.Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)Thomas, I. (Keighley)
Mathers, G.Reid, W. Allan (Derby)Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.Richards, R.Thurtle, E.
Mellor, Sir J. S. P.Richards, G. W.Tinker, J. J.
Mille, Colonel J. D. (Now Forest)Ritson, J.Titchfield, Lt.-Col. Marquess of
Molson, A. H. E.Robertson, D. (Streatham)Tomlinson, G.
Montague, F.Robinson, W. A. (St. Helene)Touche, G. C.
Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)Tree, A. R. L. F.
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Universities)Sanderson, Sir F. B.Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)Sandys, E. D.Walkden, E. (Doncaster)
Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)Savory, Professor D. L.Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)Schuster, Sir G. E.Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)
Muff, G.Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)Wells, Sir S. Richard
Nall, Sir J.Selley, H. R.Westwood, J.
Naylor, T. E.Shakespeare, Sir G. H.White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)
Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)Shepperson, Sir E. W.Wickham, Lt.-ol. E. T. R.
Oldfield, W. H.Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)Wilkinson, Eilen
Oliver, G. H.Smith, E. (Stoke)Williams, C. (Torquay)
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.Spearman, A. C. M.Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Orr-Ewing, I. L.Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. OliverWillink, H. U.
Paling, W.Storey, S.Windsor, W.
Palmer, G. E. H.Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Parker, J.Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)Wise, Major A. R.
Peake, O.Strickland, Capt. W. F.Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.
Petherick, Major M.Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)Woodburn, A.
Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Ponsonby, Col. C. E.Studholme, Captain H. G.Wootton-Davies, J. H.
Price, M. P.Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Pritt, D. N.Summers, G. S.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Procter, Major H. A.Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Pym, L. R.Sutcliffe, H.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Quibell, D. J. K.Tate, Mavis C.Mr. Boulton and Mr. Adamson.

Original Question again proposed.

It being after the hour appointed for the interuption of Business, and objecttion being taken to further proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.