Michael Savage — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:52 pm on 12th January 2010.

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Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP 2:52 pm, 12th January 2010

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will reconsider their decision to ban the United States radio talk-show host Dr Michael Savage from entering the United Kingdom.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, the former Home Secretary made it clear that Michael Savage was excluded for engaging in unacceptable behaviour by making comments that might provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred that might lead to intercommunity violence. In the absence of clear, convincing and public evidence that Mr Savage has repudiated his previous statements, the current Home Secretary is not prepared to review the exclusion decision.

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, who will of course be aware that Dr Savage has won the prestigious award in the United States for freedom of speech from TalkersMagazine. Will the noble Lord undertake to place in the Library any statements made by Dr Savage that the Government judge to be inflammatory, together with their context? Also, are the Government aware that Dr Savage has given a rare botanical collection to Kew Gardens? Should he not be allowed to visit it and to exercise his freedom of speech in response to any questions he may receive while he is here?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, may I take those questions in reverse order? On the second, I was made aware of the collection of plants only when the noble Lord kindly let me see a letter that had been written about that, for which I thank him. On the reasons for Mr Savage's exclusion, he has made a number of radio broadcasts when he has spoken about killing 100 million Muslims, and spoken in violent and unpleasant terms about homosexuals. I do not want to quote those statements on the Floor of the House because some of them are deeply offensive, but I am happy to write to the noble Lord with them, as he has asked, and to put a copy of that in the Library.

Photo of Lord Peston Lord Peston Labour

My Lords, I was under the impression that this was part of the Government's policy of protecting British jobs for British workers-we produce enough nutcases in this country without needing to import any from the United States.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I would not want to comment on how many nutcases there might be in this country. We have a good process for identifying when we think someone should be put on the list, which includes inputs from diplomatic posts overseas and community groups. The information is then taken together, looked at by a group in the Home Office and a decision is made on whether people should be above or below that cut-off.

Photo of Lord Tebbit Lord Tebbit Conservative

Would the Minister consider taking the policy a bit further and deporting some of the foreign nationals who make unacceptable statements which are likely to cause strife in this country?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, the noble Lord makes a good point. These things are extremely difficult to do but I share his view. It is quite extraordinary how people who say appalling things about our nation hang on like limpets and definitely do not want to go anywhere else in the world. This has struck me again and again with some amazement.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, will the Minister draw the existence of Talkers Magazine to the makers of "Have I Got News for You"? They might find some material in that. More seriously, does he agree that blacklisting people without knowing why and when they want to enter the country risks making martyrs of them? We know what a good recruiting officer martyrdom can be.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on her 21st birthday today; I am sure that the House joins in with that. One has to be aware of not making martyrs of people who say abhorrent things. That is always a risk. Perhaps Mr Savage had been trying to say it in an amusing way; I do not think it is very amusing. We do not give people prior warning or notice that they are going to be excluded, but if they feel that it is wrong they can challenge it and then go through a judicial review process. We tend normally to expect an individual to repudiate some of the statements they have made if they are particularly repugnant. If they do that, we review it and there is then the opportunity to come in but that has not happened in this case.

Photo of Lord Pannick Lord Pannick Crossbench

Does the Minister accept the principle stated by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal last October in allowing the appeal of Mr Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician, against his exclusion from this country by reason of the views he had expressed? The principle was that, because of the importance of free political debate in this country, it is vital that people are excluded from this country by reason of their views only if the strongest evidence exists of a real danger to the interests of this country, not least because if people do come here and say things that are unacceptable the police have ample powers to arrest them.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very good point. The two cases are somewhat different because there is a difference between European nationals such as Mr Wilders and a non-EEA national such as Mr Savage. In the European case, we can only refuse admission if the presence is considered a threat to public policy, public security or public health and the personal conduct of that person represents a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of those fundamental interests. It was considered that that was not the case in the specific case of Mr Wilders. By contrast, Mr Savage is not a EEA national and he was excluded on the basis that his presence was not considered conducive to public good. The two are therefore somewhat different.

M

It is completely absurd that rules relating to foreigners are more lax than those relating to Subjects of Her Majesty from her other Realms, or in this case a citizen of our closest ally; which happens to share cultural roots, language, and family ties with this Kingdom.

If our membership forces us to accept these rules regarding foreigners from Europe, then why can we not apply the same rules to our own kith and kin from the Commonwealth and Anglosphere?

Submitted by Marty York

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

Is the noble Lord aware of the context in which Dr Savage said that large numbers of Muslims should be killed? Was that not in response to the question of what happens if a rogue Muslim organisation gets hold of a nuclear weapon and uses it?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I was only aware of this when I was given a letter from the noble Lord and I thank him for that. All I say is that I will provide a list of the things Dr Savage has said, some of which are fairly objectionable and unpleasant. If all those things have been said in a context that makes them okay, we will think about looking at them again, but I would be extremely surprised if some of those statements could be put in any context that would make them anything other than abhorrent.