Deportation on Grounds of National Security, etc.

Part of Orders of the Day — Asylum and Immigration Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 21st February 1996.

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Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West 7:15 pm, 21st February 1996

I understand that my hon. Friends the Members for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) want to contribute to this short debate.

The new clause deals with the situation in which the authorities seek to deport individuals lawfully from the United Kingdom on grounds of national security, of the relations between the United Kingdom and any other country or for other reasons of a political nature. It does not prevent the authorities from deporting such individuals for national security reasons, but it would give those individuals a full right of appeal before the immigration appeals authority.

At present, individuals who are proceeded against on national security grounds do not have an appeal or anything like it. Instead, there is a procedure before an advisory panel—the so-called three wise men—and individuals are not entitled to legal representation or to cross-examine witnesses against them. The decision of the panel is not disclosed to those facing deportation and it is not binding on the Home Secretary.

It is not surprising that that procedure has been widely criticised, not least during the Gulf crisis when many students were taken into custody only to be released on the ending of hostilities, at a time when it might have been thought that Iraq would be most keen to secure vengeance. No other allied country took such measures.

When the Immigration Act 1971 was first introduced, there was a procedure for dealing with security cases before the Immigration Appeal Tribunal. Although it lacked certain procedural safeguards, it had a good deal to commend it. The present situation does not. Even so, that procedure attracted considerable criticism from those concerned with the rights of the individual. Perversely, that concern was met by the introduction of the present procedure, which is modelled on that applicable to civil servants whose loyalty is in doubt.

The private reasoning of Ministers in immigration cases is under criticism at present, particularly in two cases—that of the Saudi dissident Dr. al-Masari, in which Ministers' private reasoning has become public knowledge, and that of Karamjit Singh Chahal, a Sikh who has now been detained for a period equal to that for a sentence of murder, although he is held without conviction, charge or any detailed knowledge of the allegations against him.

Mr. Chahal's case is set out in early-day motion 377 and I am sure that hon. Members will be dismayed to know that he has been detained in Bedford prison for more than 2,000 days. His case is to come before the European Court of Human Rights next month. I hope that, if the court finds in his favour—I am cautiously optimistic that it will—the Home Secretary will act promptly and positively. I also hope that the Home Secretary will release Mr. Chahal temporarily, so that he can rejoin his wife and two children before the findings of the courts are made known.

The proposals in new clause 6 are by no means unusual. Acceptable procedures that meet the concerns that I outlined are employed by a number of countries in national security cases. For example, the Canadian system has been found to be extremely satisfactory by the Government and those representing detainees. I very much hope that the Home Office will seriously consider the suggestions that I have proposed in the new clause.