Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign Lawyers (Entry Refusal)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st July 1952.

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Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne 12:00 am, 31st July 1952

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) why he first detained, then refused leave to land and finally deported, Madame Enthoven, a Dutch citizen, Madame Lucianne Bouffioux and Maitre Thomas, both Belgian citizens and Signor Rizzo an Italian citizen, who are all distinguished lawyers and whose purpose in visiting this country, as was well-known to his immigration officers at the time, was to have private consultations with Mr. D. N. Pritt, Q.C., about certain legal matters in which they were interested together;

(2) what information he had, and whence he obtained it, before refusing permission to land to certain foreign lawyers, concerning the precise legal questions which they desired to discuss in London with Mr. D. N. Pritt, Q.C., on Saturday and Sunday, 21st and 22nd June.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I will, with permission, answer Questions Nos. 9 and 10 together.

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

On a point of order. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will answer these Questions separately because there are separate points involved, raising quite different issues. It would be convenient if they were answered separately.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Perhaps we had better hear the answer and then we can judge.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I hope that the answer covers both points. If not, I will try to deal with them, if you should so decide, Mr. Speaker. The answer is as follows:

The foreign lawyers to whom the hon. Member refers were refused leave to land because they were coming to this country on the business of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, which carries on Soviet propaganda under the guise of concern with legal matters. The information on which leave to land was refused was obtained by the immigration officers in the course of their ordinary examination of the persons concerned when they arrived.

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

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that those of us who have known him for as long as I have respect him very much as a democratic lawyer? This body was proposing to hold a private discussion among some individual members of its committee with a well-known and highly distinguished lawyer in this country. Does he think that that affords a good ground for the exercise of his discretionary powers? Will he say what question of public safety was involved or whether there was anything in the records of these ladies and gentlemen which made them amenable to the criminal law in any way?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

The principle upon which I acted I have made clear to the House on more than one occasion. It is that I will not let people come into an artificially created body which under the guise of some harmless name is really an instrument of Soviet propaganda. I am quite prepared to consider their coming into the country to deal with legal business in individual cases.

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

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman now aware that the precise question which these ladies and gentlemen were proposing to discuss, and which I submit to him with very great respect they had every right to discuss, was the arrest of a member of a democratic Parliament in another country, and that questions of Parliamentary immunity, which are of great importance to all democracies, were involved in it? Will he bear in mind that the question which they wished to further itself became adopted by the French Court in question, so there could not have been anything very nefarious about it? May I have a reply?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

The subject which the hon. Gentleman mentioned was a question concerned with a particular Communist. It was quite obvious that it was for the purpose of using this body, which I have described twice, for the purposes which I have indicated that these people had come.

Photo of Sir Stephen McAdden Sir Stephen McAdden , Southend East

Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell us whether the organisation to which he refers is one of those Communist front organisations which members of the Labour Party are forbidden to support?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I do not want to be controversial on this matter. I have stated the principle, and I think I take the vast majority of the House with me on the principle I have stated.

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

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what facilities are afforded to his officers, to the immigration authorities, or to the police for listening without the authorisation of telephone subscribers concerned to telephone conversations between private citizens and those having business with them.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

The express authority of the Secretary of State is required before a third person is given permission to listen in to a telephone conversation without the authority of the subscriber. The Secretary of State gives his authority only in exceptional circumstances.

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

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say, first of all, under what authority he acts when he gives this permission, what power he has to do it, and whether it is not a case that the precise purpose for which the meeting referred to in Question No. 9 was to be held became known to him only by the unauthorised use of this procedure.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

To deal with the second point first, if the hon. Gentleman is still referring to the subject matter of the last Question, that became known from the documents in the possession of the people when they were stopped by the immigration authorities. With regard to the first point, it is a power which has been used by every Government of whatever political faith since the telephone was invented and is a Prerogative power.

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

I asked what was the source of the power. Are we to understand that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has no statutory authority at all to give this permission? What is it that gives him his Prerogative power of which no hon. Member has ever heard up to this moment?

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I cannot imagine that there is any hon. Member who is not aware of this power, because it has been discussed several times. I have said that it is a Prerogative power and I have given the conditions under which it is used.

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

Owing to the extremely unsatisfactory, not to say mischievous—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—nature of the replies which have been given to Questions Nos. 9, 10 and 11, I beg to give notice that I shall take an early opportunity of inviting the House to debate the matter.