Oral Answers to Questions — Deportations (Home Secretary's Powers)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th July 1949.

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Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby 12:00 am, 28th July 1949

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has given consideration to the question of seeking, by legislation or otherwise, powers to deport to their country of origin persons seeking to disrupt the normal industrial life of Britain; and what conclusion he has now reached.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation enabling him, in suitable cases, to refuse permission to land and to deport British subjects not domiciled in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I already have power to deport any alien against whom I deem it to be conducive to the public good to make a deportation order and I have not hesitated to exercise this power. Any extension of this power to cover the deportation of British subjects would open wide issues on which I am not prepared to pronounce at the present time.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

In view of the happenings in the London docks in the last few weeks, are the Government giving consideration to this matter at all, or is this reply calculated to dispose of the matter indefinitely?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

No, Sir. I stand by what I said last week; that this is an exceedingly complicated problem which I am certain would involve differential treatment. I deport the alien because I believe that his presence is not conducive to the public good and I do not have to account for it, but I cannot think that this House would give me power to apply that to Lord Beaverbrook.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

While appreciating the seriousness of the principles involved, may I ask the Home Secretary if he would tell the House whether he is satisfied that even in a state of emergency the Government ought not to have power to refuse permission to land to a person who comes from another part of the Commonwealth for purely subversive purposes?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

If the purposes are subversive as defined by the law, I have appropriate powers to deal with subversive activities, but those limits are very carefully prescribed in the law and this House, I suggest, must be careful not to get into a panic and take action which might very considerably alter our position inside the great Commonwealth to which we belong.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham

Would the right hon. Gentleman say what is the significance of his totally unnecessary reference to Lord Beaverbrook?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

He is a nobleman who was born in Canada and I want to point out that I do not think the House would give me the same power to deport a person born in Canada—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why mention him?"]—because he is a very conspicuous example—that they would give me in regard to persons born outside His Majesty's Dominions.

Photo of Mr John Platts-Mills Mr John Platts-Mills , Finsbury

Will the right hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that most of our colonies are in a constant state of emergency so that we are repeatedly deporting from them British subjects, colonial citizens, who come here to the only place open to them, so that, if he took up either of these fantastic proposals and adopted such powers, British citizens would be suspended in mid-ocean between the colonies and the home country?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I am not responsible for what happens in the circumstances mentioned by the hon. Member.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife Eastern

Is not the right answer that the trade unions should themselves take action in regard to these men?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

No, Sir. This goes far wider than trade union activities and disputes. It is a very fundamental matter with which the position of this country in the Commonwealth is most vitally linked.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

While holding no brief for these people, may I ask if the right hon. Gentleman exercises these powers entirely on his own initiative? Are any judicial proceedings gone through, and is there any appeal against his actions? While no doubt the House have every confidence in him, a successor may not command the same confidence.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I have the same powers as have been exercised ever since 1920. As far as I know there has been no complaint at all about the way in which those powers have been exercised by my predecessors, or by myself.

Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

Is the right hon. Gentleman able to explain how it conies about that agitators from other countries are able to persuade sensible British workers to take industrial action?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

No, Sir, I am not here to explain the mental processes of other people, but the House will get itself into serious difficulties if it tries to deal with this very wide and general issue on particular cases that may recently have excited attention.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

As one who is, like several Members of the Government, of alien blood, may I ask if the right hon. Gentleman would quote to the hon. Members putting these Questions the pertinent paragraph in Magna Charta that they are anxious to tear up and destroy?

Photo of Mr Edgar Granville Mr Edgar Granville , Eye

While I can understand why the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to deport Lord Beaverbrook—which I thought a very unfortunate reference—may I ask if the right hon. Gentleman has been in close consultation with the Canadian Government at Ottawa since the docks dispute on this question, as it affects both countries?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

No, Sir. It is not my duty to be in touch with the Canadian Government, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations was so in contact.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

May I have an answer about the right of freedom to enter or leave the country without hindrance?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

May I point out to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) that Magna Charta did not apply to Scotland?

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

On a point of Order, the Minister must not get away with that. I prefaced my question by saying that I was of alien blood.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I do not see that that alters the answer I have given. I do not think Magna Charta is involved in the issues before us.

At the end of Questions

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

On a point of Order. It will be within your recollection, Mr. Speaker, and that of hon. Members, that in reply to Question No. 71, the subject of which was the deportation of undesirable aliens, the Home Secretary—[Interruption.] Question No. 71 did arise, and was a question of deporting undesirable aliens. In the course of the reply the deportation of British subjects was raised. The Home Secretary, possibly in a jocular way, did observe that he could not deport Lord Beaverbrook. I put it to your, Sir, even if that may be the fact, the quite uncalled for introduction of the name of a Member of the other House in a Question which dealt with persons concerned with subversive activities is something which is liable to be very much misunderstood. Indeed, as it is out of Order to make references to the conduct of Members of the other House, except on a substantive Motion; as it is also out of Order to make reference or use abusive language with regard to Members of another place, I put it to you, Sir, that the Home Secretary's remarks were in fact out of Order; and the least he should do would be to withdraw absolutely and wholeheartedly, and express regret for the frivolous introduction of the name of a distinguished Member of the other House.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I do not think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has quite accurately given the context in which my remark was made. I was dealing with the difficulty that might be presented if the law relating to aliens was applied, as I was pressed to apply it last week, to British subjects not born in this country; and I gave as I thought the most distinguished example of what might happen—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO, withdraw."]—that if the House took the same view about British subjects as it has done about aliens, I might be in the position to deport a certain nobleman. If that remark has given any offence to anybody—may I say that from my knowledge of Lord Beaver-brook I doubt if it would have given offence to him—but if it has given offence to anybody, I am the last person who would desire that personal issues that give offence to anyone in this House should be raised. And I certainly unreservedly withdraw any imputation that Lord Beaverbrook is other than a good and useful citizen of this country as well as of the great Dominion in which he was born. But I do not want it to be thought that I intended anything I said to hold him up to opprobrium in any way.

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

I am sure that every hon. Member will be delighted to hear what the Home Secretary said, but, of course, I did raise this as a point of Order. I hoped, Mr. Speaker, that perhaps you could rule that this was something which should not have been said in order that it may never happen again.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I should be the last person to desire to prolong this matter on the merits of the case, but I should not be prepared to admit that what I said was out of Order. It might have been injudicious and I am prepared to leave it at that.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

Perhaps I should be allowed to talk if I want to. I have been asked for a Ruling. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman raised a point of Order about a reference to the name of Lord Beaverbrook. Frankly, it is not forbidden to mention the name of a Member of another place. It depends upon the capacity in which the name is mentioned. For instance, I have ruled before in connection with some of these newspaper proprietors, that as newspaper proprietors their names can be mentioned. They must not be attacked as Members of another place or in reference to their duties there. It is hard to lay down an exact Ruling. I think the rule is that one must not attack Members in their capacity as Members of another place. If they have another capacity, then they can be mentioned in connection with that.

If I might make a personal observation, I thought myself that the Home Secretary was giving an example of a very distinguished Canadian statesman, and showing how absurd it would be to have power to deport somebody of that sort. Therefore, while I agree that the Home Secretary was right and wise to withdraw any imputation that might be felt, I cannot lay down a definite rule that the name of a Member of another place should never be mentioned but certainly not in his capacity as a Member of the other branch of the legislature.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Mr. Speaker, may I seek your indulgence for a moment? I cannot understand what has happened here. Yesterday I sought advice about whether I could raise a question about very offensive remarks made by the Home Secretary about me, about Members of the Government and about other Members of this House, when he talked of people of alien blood without English descent. I consider that that is one of the most offensive phrases ever used in this House.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

That has nothing to do with this point of Order.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

I demand that it should be withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

Does not this matter fall within your Ruling the other day, Mr. Speaker, in the case of a Question asked by the hon. Member for Streatham (Sir D. Robertson) in which he imputed a criminal offence to named persons who had not been charged, had not been convicted, and who had no opportunity of defence?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

That has nothing to do with this point of Order. We are talking about Members of another place. That point of Order has nothing to do with that.