§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.5 pm.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I am sorry to have to ask the House of Commons for the Second Reading of a Bill of this kind at so late a date in the Session. I hope, however, that I shall be able to show that there is no other course open to the Government, that we urgently need these powers and that we must have them before the House adjourns. The House will want answers to these three questions: Why is it that we want these powers now; why is it that we want these particular powers; arid can we be assured that these powers are not excessive for the purpose and will not indirectly undermine some of the most cherished liberties of our fellow subjects? Let me deal with each of these questions in turn. Let me begin by reminding the House in a few sentences of the history of these terrorist attempts. The first move was in January of this year, when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary received what purported to be an ultimatum from the so-called Irish Republican Army demanding an instant withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland, giving a limit of four days for their departure, and threatening this country with reprisals if the ultimatum was not accepted. Shortly afterwards the terrorist attempts began. Let me say, in passing, and this is my only reference to the bigger political issues that are involved in these questions, that I can imagine no worse way of influencing public opinion either in this country or in Northern Ireland than these terrorist attempts. They inevitably make the rift deeper and deeper between Northern and Southern Ireland. Nothing is less likely to bring about the reconciliation without which a united Ireland is impossible.
Shortly after this ultimatum there began these terrorist attempts, and amongst the documents that were discovered by the police in their searches was a very interesting document known as the 1048 "S" Plan, the plan under which these terrorist attempts were to be organised and the policy that lay behind these attempts. I have here a photograph of this plan in my hand, and I shall be perfectly ready to show it to any right hon. or hon. Gentleman who wishes to see it. It is a very remarkable document. It is not the kind of irresponsible, melodramatic document that one sometimes discovers in these searches. It is a very carefully worked out staff plan, the kind of plan that might be worked out by a General Staff, setting oat in detail the way in which an extensive campaign of sabotage could be successfully carried out against this country. The document runs into many thousands of words and deals with practically every aspect of the matter. Here is a sentence that I take from Part III of the plan:It must be shown that this is the time to strike, that England has never been in so critical a condition, barred as she is by political tradition from adopting the only measures that would ensure her strength, namely, totalitarian methods.I go on and find a diagram setting out in detail the various methods of sabotage. I pass on and I find a chapter dealing with the methods of direct action. I give a quotation or two from this chapter:This may concern itself with military, air, or naval opposition or movements, should these arms be called actively into service in suppressing our sabotage and other." activities. Our weakness would reduce this form of action to a minimum.The second legitimate but probably very inaccessible aim could be the destruction or sabotaging of aeroplane factories and stores, munition factories and stores, etc. These would probably be so well guarded that success would be chancy.The third target, and this will probably be the most important, because the most effective, the most unequivocal and the most justifiable, is the Public Services.It goes on to deal with a number of other categories, and the chapter ends with this paragraph:The last group to be considered might prove to be an important one, especially if adopted as punitive action for incitement to repressive violence against our campaign or merely for the spreading of injurious propaganda about the revolutionaries and Ireland generally. This is the large-circulation English Press.I pass on to several more pages and I come to a series of paragraphs dealing with the essential services of the country. There is a paragraph dealing with 1049 water, not indeed giving any instruction for the pollution of water supplies, but giving instruction for damage to water supplies. There is a paragraph about drainage, giving instructions as to how a drainage system can be effectively interfered with; a paragraph about fire brigades, pointing to the advantages of destroying supplies of hose. Then perhaps the most remarkable of any of the paragraphs in the document, is a very long paragraph dealing with electricity supply, giving a number of details about key points, about the system of the grid and so on, pointing to a number of ways in which these essential services to the community might be brought to a standstill. Then a paragraph about attempts within Government offices, and an interesting passage inciting the terrorists to steal official notepaper. Lastly, a long paragraph dealing with the transport system, and dealing also with key industries in some detail, pointing, for instance, to the importance of magneto factories and so on. I hope I have said enough to show into what detail this document went, and on what accurate information, on the whole, it is based. The sinister fact about it is that the numerous attempts that have been made since last January have one and all, as far as I can gather, been based on this or that instruction given in the document from which I have just quoted.
§ Sir S. Hoare
About the beginning of the year. The hon. and learned Member will see the importance of it, as since then there has been a whole series of outrages and attempted outrages, and every one of them, so it seems to me, took its inspiration from this plan of campaign.
Since January there have been no fewer than 127 terrorist outrages, 57 in London and 70 in the provinces. It is true that so far there has been a very limited loss of life. Indeed, in the document from which I have quoted, and other documents that have come into our hands, it is clear that in the early chapters of the campaign the attempt was intended against property and not against human life. Nevertheless, during the period of these outrages one man was killed in Manchester, one man lost his eye in Picca- 1050 dilly the other day, and 55 persons have been seriously or less seriously injured. These outrages were within an inch of inflicting very serious damage upon the community. There was an attempt on Hammersmith Bridge. Had it not been for the gallantry of Mr. Childs who, I am glad to think, has subsequently been rewarded for his bravery, Hammersmith Bridge would have been destroyed. If it had not been for the prompt action of an inspector and a police constable in the outrages that took place in Tottenham Court Road and in South-West London, not only would very grave damage have been done to property, but there would have been loss of human life as well.
Let me remind the House of what took place in Piccadilly on the evening of the 24th June last. At 9.30—I draw the attention of hon. Members to the time; a moment when the streets of this part of London are thickly crowded—a bomb, containing 11 sticks of gelignite, was found in the cubicle of a lavatory in Oxford Circus. The attendant placed the bomb in a bucket of water and called the police. This prompt action saved an explosion. At 9.57 the same evening a bomb exploded on the footway opposite Number 2, Glasshouse Street, when four persons were injured and taken to hospital. One has since lost his eye and of the others one had one of his eyes injured, another had a wound on his wrist and the third had abrasions over both eyes. Extensive damage was also done to property. On the same evening a police officer found on the kerb opposite Number 2, Glasshouse Street, a bomb containing 10 sticks of gelignite, with detonator and fuse attached. He removed the stick containing the detonator and dismantled the bomb. At 11.15 the same evening a bomb exploded at Lloyd's Bank, 39, Piccadilly, just at the time when people were coming out of the theatres. The stonework was seriously damaged, and it was only by a miracle that there was not extensive loss of human life. The same evening another bomb exploded at the Midland Bank in Park Lane and blew the massive door of the bank right over Park Lane into Hyde Park.
These outrages show us the miracle that has taken place in avoiding the loss of human lives. It was not due to the terrorists but it was due to the interposition of Providence that loss of life was avoided. It was due also, as I said just 1051 now, to the courageous action of members of the Metropolitan Police. Let me say this of the police, not only in London but in the great cities of the provinces, where outrages have also taken place, they could not have behaved more efficiently or more courageously. Look at their record. In this space of time they have brought a large number of these terrorists to trial. No fewer than 66 have been convicted by the ordinary processes of law. In addition, they have seized 1,500 sticks of gelignite, 1,000 detonators, two tons of potassium chlorate and oxide of iron, seven gallons of sulphuric acid and four cwts. of aluminium powder, enough to cause millions of pounds worth of damage and, what is more important than damage to property, the loss of the lives of at least 1,000 men and women.
It may be asked, with this record, with the fact that 66 of these terrorists have been convicted, what is the justification for asking for further powers, and asking for those further powers at this particular moment. I will tell the House. In the first place, these terrorists are becoming much more astute. They are careful now not to be caught with arms and explosives upon them. They move quickly from place to place. They are here to-day and gone to-morrow. As a rule, they leave no written instructions, but give their orders by word of mouth. Time after time in recent weeks the police have been baulked by the absence of power to search and control suspects who, they were convinced, were terrorists. That was the case after the Piccadilly outrage. The police were convinced that they had arrested some of the perpetrators, but they had not evidence sufficient to take action in a court of law, and the result was that these suspected persons after a day or two were released.
Experience has shown that further powers are essential if grave loss of life and property is to be avoided; but there are two other reasons why we need these further powers. I said just now that in the early chapters of this campaign attention was concentrated upon damage to property. In recent weeks several cases have been brought to our notice that show that the campaign henceforth is to be much more ruthless and is not to take account of human life. Thirdly, and perhaps this is the most important reason 1052 why these powers are urgently required, we have in our possession reliable information that the compaign is being closely watched and actively stimulated by foreign organisations. I would ask the House not to press me for details. It would not be in the public interest to divulge them but they must accept my assurance that these are not unchecked suspicions founded upon gossip, but definite conclusions reached upon reliable data.
In face of these reports of foreign intrigue, in face of six months experience that shows that we need further powers, can Parliament safely adjourn without strengthening the forces of law and order? Suppose that in August or September we were faced with war, or an emergency of some kind, would not the danger of serious sabotage be immeasurably increased by these terrorist outrages? They were within an inch of blowing up Hammersmith Bridge, they were within an inch of blowing up the Southwark Power Station, they were within an inch of blowing up the aqueduct on the North Circular Road; they have carefully surveyed the more important bridges, railways works, munition dumps, war factories and aerodromes. They have been engaged upon a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament. If a series of outrages such as these took place in the critical days of an emergency, how serious it would be for the country and how defenceless, and rightly defenceless, would any Government not be that had not taken every possible precaution against it. In view of these facts I am certain that the country approves and demands that more drastic action should be taken against the plotters and perpetrators of these crimes against the community.
What then should these new powers be? How can we avoid their trenching upon liberties that have always been our most cherished possessions? Let me come to the powers that are proposed in the Bill. Let me begin by drawing the attention of hon. Members to the problem with which we are trying to deal. It is essential that we should keep in mind during these discussions that the problem is the problem of the men and women who, we are convinced, are engaged in the plot, but against whom we have not sufficient evidence to obtain conviction in a law court. Let us be quite clear on 1053 that point at the start of these discussions. They do not carry arms, so that we cannot prosecute them under the Firearms Act; they are clever enough not to have explosives on their premises, so that we cannot prosecute them under the Explosives Act, so that the police cannot search their homes. Many of these suspects are here to-day and gone tomorrow. Most of them—let the House note this fact—are comparatively recent arrivals in this country. These are the suspects against whom this Bill is directed. The suspects against whom we desire to exercise these powers claim, generally, to be citizens of Eire.
Keeping in mind the objective of the Bill let us for a moment consider the various alternatives which may be suggested to deal with it. First of all, there is the alternative which has probably occurred to any hon. Member who has thought about this problem; he has asked himself this question: Why should we not proscribe the I.R.A. as an illegal organisation and make it a criminal offence for anyone to be a member of it? The answer to that question is a simple one. So far as I know, there is no list of members of the I.R.A., certainly no circulated list of the members, and I do not believe it would be possible in one case out of a hundred to prove that this or that suspect was a member of the I.R.A. I set aside, therefore, that method for dealing with this emergency.
I come to the second alternative; the proposal to set up a system of passports and identity cards between Ireland and Great Britain. A further examination of that method goes to show that it is likely to be ineffective. In the first place, there is the very large number of men and women constantly passing between Ireland and these snores, the narrowness of the passage between Ireland and Scotland, the ease with which people may pass backward and forward between Southern and Northern Ireland and from Northern Ireland to these shores; and, thirdly, the fact that a passport without full knowledge about the bearer of the passport is of no use at all. The mere fact that a man carries a passport or an identity card is no check unless you have some information about him from the place from which he comes. For these reasons, and as things are now—I do not wish to prejudice what may happen in 1054 some indefinite future—we have set aside the alternative method of passports.
There is a third alternative; it is a rough-and-ready method, and has a great deal of attractiveness to people who have not gone fully into its application. If is the method of internment; why not intern these suspects as we interned foreign suspects during the War? Here again I do not wish to prejudge the actions of any future Government or of this Government in some new situation, but I say to the House to-day that, as things are, I am opposed to the method of internment. I think it looks, and is, much too like the system of concentration camps. Further, I say this. When I was Secretary of State for India I had a great deal of to do with the problem of internment, and I say that one of the difficulties of internment is that to intern a man may be comparatively easy, but it is a much more difficult problem to know when and how to release him. For these reasons the Government have set aside these three alternatives and have fallen back upon the proposals contained in the Bill.
Speaking generally these proposals are founded upon the action of the Dominion Governments. I believe there are similar powers of deportation and prohibition in the laws of every one of the great Dominions. They are also founded upon the very valuable experience we have gained from our administration of the Aliens Act, under which the Secretary of State has executive power of prohibiting the entry of aliens, deporting these aliens and making aliens register. These three powers we are proposing to apply to this limited number of misguided terrorists. It is the first time we have ever applied them to British subjects, I acknowledge that fact, but I say that it is necessary to apply them now and I say to the House that in this emergency I believe they are essential.
We have tried to make it clear in the Bill, and if during the Committee stage we can make it clearer we will do so, that the Bill is intended to deal only with this limited number of misguided individuals, and, secondly, that it is a temporary Measure to meet a passing emergency. We have expressly restricted the duration of the Bill to a period of two years. We believe also that the individuals with 1055 whom we shall be dealing will in the main be recent arrivals to these shores, and that is the reason why we have put in the Bill a 20 years limit. A 20 years limit may sound a long time, and it is possible that it may be open to the kind of objection which I have seen stated by some critics, as to how it would deal with a young man of 19½ years. I will give the House this assurance, that we shall deal with a case of that kind sensibly and reasonably. These powers are permissive, they are not going to be used promiscuously against a great number of people. Every case will be taken on its merits and in a case like that I cannot conceive any Secretary of State ordering the deportation of a young man of that kind to a country in which he was not born and in which he has never lived.
In addition to these powers of deportation and prohibition there is also a power which we do regard as essential—namely, the power of registration. One of the great difficulties of the police has been the fact that as this plot has developed so the outrages are almost always carried out by people who come to London and Manchester and Liverpool, it may be only for an hour or two, at any rate for a very short time, and then go again and have no residence in the actual place where the outrage is carried out. It is essential that we should give the police more effective powers to keep a check on these suspects and, accordingly, the House will see a provision in the Bill that makes it possible for the Secretary of State to order that suspects should register and should give evidence of identity.
Further there is another provision in the Bill, which the police and the Government also regard as essential, extending the powers of search. I know that the House looks with great suspicion at any extension of the right of search, but let me put to hon. Members the problem with which the police are now faced. They cannot get a search warrant against a suspect unless they convince the magistrate that it is likely that the suspect has explosives or illicit firearms in his possession. I have told the House that the terrorists are becoming much more astute and that now we scarcely ever have a suspect who has either explosives or firearms in his possession, and it has so come about in recent weeks that time after time the police have been 1056 baulked in their attempt by inability to search the suspect's house. What we propose in the Bill is not an unlimited extension of the right of search but a very limited extension of the right of search. It is restricted to the scope of the Bill—namely, terrorist attempts, and hon. Members will find that it is based almost entirely upon the Section which gives a right of search already under the Explosives Act. We are asking the House to apply to these cases of suspects a right which we already possess under the Explosives Act.
To complete the picture, there is a further power on which the House will no doubt look with meticulous attention. There is an emergency power given to a superintendent of police to make a search without a search warrant in cases of great urgency. That provision is based on the actual experience of the police in recent weeks. We have had cases in which the police have obtained a search warrant against a particular individual in a particular house. They have gone to the house, it may be at great risk of their own lives in the middle of the night, and found that the man has changed his lodgings, it may be has only gone down the street to another address or a little further a field, and it is essential in the interests of public security that there should be no delay and that the superintendent of police should be able to follow up the clue at once and go without any further delay to the address that he has been given.
I have given to the House the outline of the proposals contained in the Bill. The whole basis of them is this special emergency. There must be power in the hands of the Executive to act on information which is short proof in the legal sense. The responsibility for such executive action must rest on the Minister who is responsible to Parliament. As to an appeal tribunal—here I come to a question which I know is in the minds of hon. Members. An appeal tribunal, in the view of the Government, will either demand a legal procedure which in the nature of things is not applicable to these cases of suspects, or it will accept the Home Secretary's word and merely provide him with a screen against criticism for what is really his own executive action. Our view—and it is a view we have reached after very careful and impartial consideration—is that it is better to avoid subterfuges and to state 1057 frankly that the acts taken under this Bill are executive acts and that the Government, being responsible, must answer charges in Parliament if the powers are abused.
These are the Government's proposals. They are based on the actual experiences of the last six months. They are doubly urgent both on the ground of order and security and on the ground of even graver risk if a war emergency came upon us. They are drastic, but drastic action is necessary. They are novel, but we are living in altogether abnormal times. The Government are convinced that in the interests of the State the Bill must be passed without delay. But they wish it, if possible, to be the Bill not only of the Executive, but of the whole House, and they will be prepared to consider with impartial care any proposals for improving it, provided that the Bill in its final form gives the Executive and the police the effective powers that are needed to deal with cases of suspicion to which a legal procedure is not applicable and with a grave emergency that threatens the lives of our citizens and the security of the State.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I think every hon. Member regrets the events which have created a situation calling for new powers on the part of the Executive. I should like to express my view emphatically, and irrespective of the political motives behind the I.R.A. campaign, that terrorist methods will achieve nothing. I do not believe that in these days the people of this country, having witnessed the use of terrorism abroad, will ever have solutions of political problems forced upon them against their will. I imagine that I part company with many hon. Members when I say that I desire to see a kind of united Ireland, which would not perhaps commend itself to the majority of hon. Members, but the way in which a minority have chosen to attain those ends will, I believe, defeat their own objects. As we know now, there are more rational ways of solving our current problems than by violence.
Everybody, I think, has been stirred by these stupid outrages that have taken place in recent months. Indiscriminate action directed, so the Home Secretary has told us, primarily against property, but likely to injure individuals, completely ignorant of what all the bother 1058 is about, is completely indefensible, and is repugnant to British public opinion. Nor can it achieve any political object. And the problem with which we are faced to-day, goes deeper than that, as we have learned from the Home Secretary. The question of public safety is involved. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to an attack upon an important bridge. There have been attacks upon trains. There have been mysterious large-scale fires; and naturally, as a politician and therefore having a suspicious mind, I have wondered whether those mysterious fires might have been caused, not by accident, but by design. The right hon. Gentleman has informed us that, in what, I gather, is a sort of developing campaign, there is a danger of industrial sabotage. If I had time, I should like to go into that aspect of the problem. I think there is a serious danger of sabotage in factories engaged in the production of the means of defence. One is entitled to ask where this campaign is going to end. There was a hint in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—and I am wondering whether there is not the probability —that this technique might be used in time of war. The right hon. Gentleman talked very guardedly—quite rightly so— of foreign Powers. I do not intend to ask him who provides the money for this campaign. If this be veiled, indirect aggression, then the situation we are facing becomes even more serious. But I do not propose to dwell upon that aspect of the problem. Prevention is better than cure, and I understand that prevention is the primary purpose of this Bill.
I, and most of my hon. Friends, accept the view that, in present circumstances, further powers are necessary to cope with this very ugly and very unfortunate situation. Therefore, we shall not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. It is not that we are satisfied with the Bill, as I shall try to show later in my remarks; but we shall not oppose it, because we attach importance to the closing words of the Home Secretary, when he referred to the Bill being a Bill of the whole House. Consequently, I take it that in further stages the Bill will be capable of amendment. While it is essential that the State should take all the measures necessary for the protection of life and property, there are, in our view, proposals in the Bill which are somewhat 1059 alarming, and with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt, I was going to say artfully, but perhaps I had better say skilfully, and in a way that avoided some of the major problems.
Most hon. Members are jealous of the liberty of the subject. Private Members on all sides of the House, and the organised Opposition, must always scrutinise with a most critical eye any suggestion of an increase in the powers of the executive. We have had experience of the operation of the Official Secrets Act, which was passed into law for one purpose and in the course of time most shamefully used for other purposes. We have had experience of the administration of the famous D.O.R.A., that most unfortunate dame who covered a multitude of innocences which were converted into sins that nobody had ever suspected. It is from the point of view of the possible future use to which this Bill might be put, from the point of view of the liberty of the subject and the powers of the executive, that we have to examine the Bill very carefully. I know that the Bill has a title that is tightly drawn; it would appear on the surface that the Bill could not be used in a manner never intended by Parliament; but after recent experiences with regard to the Official Secrets Act, my faith in the effectiveness of the titles of Bills has gone by the board.
I believe, in the first place, that the Bill takes very dangerous powers for the executive, and secondly, that it holds serious possibilities of infringing the liberty of the subject. In 1934, there was before the House a Bill which created a good deal of suspicion on these Benches—the Incitement to Disaffection Bill. In my view, that Bill, as regards its machinery, was more satisfactory than the Bill now before the House. In the present Bill, very wide and vaguely defined powers are given to the Home Secretary. In the 1934 Act, the person who took action, or on whose decision action was taken, was a judge of the High Court. Under this Bill, it is to be the Home Secretary. I know that in this House we may not criticise judges, and I would not presume to do so; but I would say that judges are expected to be superhuman, above all suspicion of 1060 holding views which might influence their decisions, and above all suspicion of taking decisions because of panic. Nobody expects Home Secretaries to be superhuman. Experience has shown that Home Secretaries are in no way superhuman. Often they are human; often they are, quite naturally, guided by political prejudices and views. They are, quite naturally, swept off their feet at moments of panic. I would rather that the power in Clause 1, Sub-section (2), of the Bill should rest with a judge of the High Court than with the Home Secretary.
The Home Secretary is given enormous powers in Clause 1, Sub-sections (2), (3) and (4). He is given powers to deal with people who are suspected of certain crimes, if they have not been in this country for a certain period of time. He is given powers of expulsion and powers of registration, in a way which puts many respectable citizens of this country, under the terms of Clause 1, Sub-section (2), in the position of being, one might almost say, undesirable aliens. It seems to me that those powers are judicial in character and ought not to be exercised by a political chief. I have no doubt that many Members with greater legal knowledge than I have will tear to pieces the powers given to the Home Secretary in Clause 1.
In Clause 4 the question of the liberty of the subject is especially at stake, where large powers are given for detention, where any constable may arrest any person whom he suspects to have committed an offence under the Act. I do not think that is the kind of power that ought to be given in that kind of way, nor do I think it right that there should be given powers of detention without any charge being made for an unspecified period of time. The right hon. Gentleman referred to concentration camps. These small evils may grow into large ones. I do not know on what scale the right hon. Gentleman is thinking of the number of persons whom he might wish to detain, but it seems to be clear that, if the liberty of the subject is to be retained, the power of detention without trial ought to be very strictly limited, and that the power to-arrest and detain people ought to be carefully protected, and not allowed to go to the type of individuals referred to in the 1061 Clause. I have tried to put what I regard as the general attitude we take towards the Bill. We realise the need for further powers for the Executive. We shall look very carefully at the Bill between now and the Committee stage in order to ensure that the Executive does not get for itself an authority which it ought not to exercise, and to see that injustice shall not be done to innocent subjects because of the interference which might arise under the Bill with the liberty of the subject. I hope, when it passes to the Statute Book, it will succeed in deterring any further outrages of the kind.
§ 5.3 P.m.
§ Sir Hugh O'Neill
The Home Secretary was, very rightly, careful not to refer to the political aspect of this Measure. I most certainly do not intend to make any political reference except, as a reason for my intervention in the Debate, to say a word on behalf of myself and other hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies. It might have seemed perhaps rather odd if no Member representing an Ulster seat had said anything on a Bill of this character, because, after all, as the Home Secretary said, the object of the terrorists in their campaign is to try to bring about the withdrawal of the British forces from Northern Ireland. My only reference of a political kind will be to say that I agree most heartily with both the Home Secretary and the acting Leader of the Opposition that a campaign of terrorism of this kind is the very last thing ever likely to influence the political opinions of the British people. My friends and I representing Ulster constituencies are naturally supporters of the Bill. After all, this House of Commons is not the first Assembly which has had to take some special measures of this kind to meet a similar campaign. Quite recently the Southern Irish Parliament have had to carry through very drastic legislation of a similar kind. Indeed, I think the legislation they have passed is very much more drastic than anything proposed by His Majesty's Government. I think in certain circumstances they took powers of internment, and in certain circumstances they also proposed to set up special courts, apart from the ordinary courts of the country, to deal with matters arising out of the terrorist campaign.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
Is it not a fact that in that Bill, in case of offences against the State, there is both a power of appeal and also a power of the Legislature to repeal the Act at any time by Motion?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I was merely quoting, shortly and without going into detail, the fact that another Legislature had passed extreme legislation to deal with a similar situation. Of course, as is well known the Parliament and Government in Northern Ireland had, many years ago, to bring in special legislation to deal with a similar state of affairs.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House how many people have been detained without trial in Northern Ireland since the beginning of the year?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I said when I started that I did not wish to enter into the political aspect of this discussion. I could not tell the hon. Member, but I think I am entitled, I hope without interruption, to say that some time ago it became necessary for the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland to pass drastic and very special legislation to deal with a campaign of this character. Members in this House, probably, do not realise that in Northern Ireland we have been faced with a terrorist campaign of this nature on and off, without much intermission during the whole of the last 20 years. That campaign has sometimes been more violent and sometimes less violent. Sometimes it has taken the character, of serious loss of life through outrages. At other times it has taken a character such as the present campaign in Great Britain, namely, attacks upon Army recruiting offices and places of that sort by a rather crude kind of bombing. In order to meet that situation special legislation had to be introduced. There was one other situation which the Northern Ireland Government had to meet, and which, I am glad to say, I do not think the British Government have to meet, and I hope never will, and that is the very difficult question of the intimidation of witnesses. These terrorist organisations sometimes threaten witnesses. I hope that no such situation will arise in this country—it is not the 1063 character of the British people to be threatened—but that was, and is, a definite aspect of the situation with which the Northern Ireland Government have had to deal.
I support the Bill. Most heartily do I reciprocate what the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to the splendid conduct of the police forces in this country in dealing with this very difficult situation, conduct which perhaps one could divide into two categories, first of all the actual conduct of the police forces and the individuals in them and, secondly, the success with which they have met in bringing the criminals to justice. It is no mean achievement that 66 of these terrorists should have been convicted. In common with Members in all parts of the House I dislike these special measures which aim at impinging upon the liberty of the subject, but in times of crisis you have to bring in special measures to deal with that crisis and I hope, when the Bill becomes law, it will have the desired effect, and that this ill-judged campaign of violence and outrage will be successfully overcome.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
Even before the Debate began every Member throughout the House was fully aware of the general circumstances which have given rise to the Bill. Those circumstances have been amplified in the account of recent events given us by the Home Secretary and, of course, everyone, in whatever part of the House he may sit, must agree that this is a very dangerous conspiracy which, if it were allowed to continue, would imperil life as well as property. If there are good grounds for the belief that certain persons resident in this country, or likely in the near future to come to this country, are parties to or sympathisers with that conspiracy, everyone must agree that there is a strong case for subjecting them to some form of restraint. It may be reasonable to suggest that there should be powers in certain circumstances to require them to leave this country.
No one in any part of the House is likely to quarrel with the aims of the Bill. I should like to congratulate the Home Secretary upon his decision not to resort to internment. I think that is a decision that ought to be universally welcomed, though I noticed that it was greeted with 1064 ominous silence on that side. The cheers all came from this side, and none from that. I think the right hon. Gentleman was a little unfortunate in the support that he has just received from Northern Ireland. The Bill goes a long way, but at least we can be thankful that it does not resemble the Northern Ireland Special Powers Act, which has been in force, not for the period of a brief emergency but ever since 1922, and which violates every standard of British justice. Under that Act over 30 people have been imprisoned in Northern Ireland since the beginning of this year without any trial of any kind, and without any charge having been formulated against them.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I must ask the hon. Member to remember that there is. a definite rule about criticisms in this House of the actions of other Parliaments in the Empire.
§ Sir S. Hoare
May I remind you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that Mr. Speaker has more than once ruled that the maintenance of law and order in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Government of Northern Ireland and not of this House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That confirms what I was about to point out. The Parliament of Northern Ireland is not subordinate in all matters: in the matter of the legislation in question, the Parliament of Northern Ireland is solely concerned and it is a matter which is within the powers of another Parliament. The Ruling of Mr. Speaker was that matters which were entirely for the Northern Ireland Parliament could not be criticised in this House.
§ Mr. Buchanan
But surely there is also this point? I admit that Mr. Speaker has given that Ruling, but if an hon. Member who supports a Measure of this kind has been, in some degree, responsible for another Measure in another part of the world is it not permissible for other hon. Members here to draw attention to that fact? When an hon. Member is supporting this Bill is it not permissible for other 1065 hon. Members to refer to action taken by him, or for which he was partly responsible in Northern Ireland? While it is not our part here to criticise the Northern Ireland Government, is it not permissible to criticise the action, in Northern Ireland, of a Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament who is here and who supported a certain Bill in Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is putting a hypothetical case which does not, in my judgment, arise in this instance; it may be in order to refer to the action in another Parliament of an hon. Member of this House, but that question has not arisen now.
§ Sir R. Ross
Would I be in order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in proceeding now with my interruption of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot)?
§ Mr. Foot
I had not intended originally to refer to Northern Ireland. I only did so because I gathered that the Northern Ireland Special Powers Act was being held up as a kind of model to us, and I wanted to express the hope that we should never in any circumstances adopt a measure which was anything like that Act.
§ Sir R. Ross
I think the hon. Member ought to know of what that Act consists. The people to whom he has alluded as having been interned have the right of appeal to a tribunal, a right which they have not exercised, because they are members of the I.R.A.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think the hon. Member's remark shows the importance of the Ruling which I have just given.
§ Sir R. Ross
I am sorry if I have transgressed, but I was rather led off by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot).
§ Mr. Foot
If I have succeeded in making plain what I wanted to say about the Special Powers Act, I am perfectly willing to leave that aspect of the matter. As I have said, we all appreciate the 1066 gravity of the circumstances in which this Bill has been introduced, but even those circumstances cannot altogether justify the precise provisions of the Bill, and especially of Clause I. The right hon. Gentleman referred to totalitarian methods. Even if we are dealing with a serious emergency, I am sure it is the desire of the whole House to keep as far away as possible from anything which could be described as totalitarian methods.
I wish to address my remarks particularly to Clause I. Roughly speaking, it comes to this—that if the Secretary of State is satisfied that any person is connected with, or a sympathiser with, or an instigator of, this conspiracy, he may send that person into exile; he may put him under a system of registration, requiring him to register with the police as he moves from place to place, or, if such a person is outside the United Kingdom, he may prevent him from entering this country. The operative words of the Clause are "If the Secretary of State is satisfied." That is the gist of the matter. The Secretary of State is the sole judge; there is to be no trial, and there is to be no appeal. It is true that under a later Clause if a person fails to comply with an Order which the Secretary of State has made, he is brought before a court, but the court cannot inquire into the grounds upon which the Order was made. It can only satisfy itself, first, that the Order was made by the Secretary of State, and, secondly, that it has not been complied with. If satisfied on those two points it must convict, even though the original Order might have been without any justification. These matters are left entirely to the Department.
I ask the House to consider what could happen under Clauses 1 and 2 in their present form. First, a British citizen is served with an expulsion order. He is arrested without warrant and kept in prison for an unspecified period. The Order tells him to leave the country. He may have been in this country for many years. His home, his business and his connections may be here. His family may reside in this country. Yet he can be sent into exile by the Order of the Secretary of State. This is a serious matter. As the Bill stands, he is not, apparently, to be informed of the grounds on which the Order is made. He does not 1067 know what charges he has to meet. He has no opportunity of answering, because there is nothing in the nature of a trial, and, indeed, no impartial investigation at all before the Order is made. It is no answer to say that we are dealing with a dangerous conspiracy. The vital question is, who is to decide whether a man is innocent or guilty, and by what methods is that decision to be reached?
When we are discussing a question of this kind we have to deal, to a certain extent, in truisms, and perhaps it is a truism to say that we must bear in mind in these cases that, while we may be dealing with dangerous conspirators, we may on the other hand, be dealing with innocent men. If a man is innocent, what method is open to him under the Bill of establishing his innocence? A false allegation may be made against him. One can imagine how easy it would be in circumstances of this kind to make a false charge. If one member of the conspiracy, already under lock and key, makes a statement he may implicate people who are also parties to the conspiracy. But he may, because of some private spite, seek to implicate innocent persons. The Home Office may believe his statement. It would be possible for a man so charged to clear himself, if there was any form of hearing or trial at which he could put forward his own defence. It struck me that in the right hon. Gentleman's speech he did not say a word about the kind of investigation which it was proposed to carry out before an Order of this kind was made. I suppose we shall be told that there will be an investigation by the Home Office, but every hon. Member knows that that will be entirely different from a judicial inquiry. In the first place, the accused man will probably not be there. The charge will not be formulated at any rate in his presence. There will be no opportunity of testing by cross-examination the allegations against him. Above all, those who reach the decision will not be judges but civil servants.
We rightly pay tributes from time to time in this House to the efficiency of civil servants, but that does not mean that we should entrust to them functions which are not properly their's, and one function which should never, in any circumstances, be entrusted to civil servants is the administration of justice. I hesi- 1068 tate to remind the House of the recommendations of the Donoughmore Committee, with which hon. Members must be familiar. Having gone into this matter they said definitely that judicial questions should not be determined by Government Departments and these are, preeminently, judicial questions. The objection which many of us feed to a Clause of this kind is that, by it, we remove every safeguard for the man who is innocent. The principal criticism is that he cannot know what is being charged against him. One could make a great many quotations bearing on this point. I notice that the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) in a newspaper some days ago reminded his readers of a provision of Magna Carta. It might not be out of place to remind this House of a provision of the Petition of Right which they passed when they were dealing with a not dissimilar situation. Article 5, having referred to previous Statutes passed for the protection of the subject, against arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, says:Nevertheless against the tenor of the said statutes and other good laws and statutes of your realm to that end provided, divers of your subjects have of late been imprisoned without any cause shown; and when for their deliverance they were brought before your justices by Your Majesty's writ of habeas corpus thereto undergo and receive as the court should order and their keepers commanded to certify the causes of their detainer, no cause was certified but that, they were detained by Your Majesty's special command signified by the Lords of Your Privy Council, and yet were returned back to the several prisons without being charged with. anything to which they might make answer according to the law.That was one of the major complaints in the Petition of Right adopted by this House, and it seems to have a singular application to the provisions of Clause 1 of this Bill.
I know it will be said that the Bill is intended to apply only to a limited class of persons, that is to say, those who have not had 20 years' continuous residence in this country. Again the point arises, who is to be the judge of that: Under Clause 1 the sole judge is the Home Secretary. This is the kind of question on which there can be a conflict of evidence. It is not always easy for a man to establish beyond doubt that he has lived in a certain country for 20 years, even if a chance is provided for him to do so. A man may have been in this 1069 country for 20 years or more, or his home may have been in this country during all that time, and yet he might be unable to satisfy the Home Office on that point. Surely there ought to be some independent authority to whom he could appeal and say, "I am not one of those who fall within the scope of this Measure."
There is one argument which was used by the right hon. Gentleman to-day, and which has also appeared in some newspapers which I find it a little difficult to follow. It is said that, after all, the Home Secretary is responsible to Parliament and that Parliament can inquire into any misuse of these powers. That seems to be rather a remarkable argument to bring forward as a complete justification of the powers under Clause I. You might as well say, "Let us abolish our criminal courts altogether. Let us close down the Old Bailey and the assizes, quarter sessions, and courts of summary jurisdiction. Let people be imprisoned simply by the fiat of the Home Secretary and rely simply on the Parliamentary safeguard." I think I am the very last Member in this House to under-estimate the value of Parliamentary control over the Executive, but it is absurd to suggest that Parliamentary control can ever be a proper substitute for the administration of justice by the courts. Sometimes we get something which is a judicial or quasi-judicial question raised in this House. What happens? Nobody ever suggests that the rights or wrongs of the matter should be decided by this House in open debate. What we always ask for is an impartial inquiry, and what we are asking here is that, in relation to Clause I, before the powers are exercised there shall also be some form of impartial inquiry.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said he was willing to consider Amendments, and I was glad to hear him say it. I hope he will consider this suggestion, that whenever it is proposed to make an expulsion order, there should be an inquiry at some stage by an independent tribunal, not necessarily a court of appeal from the right hon. Gentleman. He referred to Dominion legislation. I am afraid I have not looked at those Acts, so that I cannot follow the comparison, but I have spent some time latterly in looking at some of the Colonial ordinances. In some parts of the Colonial Empire there is also provision for deport- 1070 ing undesirable British subjects, and what happens? I am taking the Ordinance which was recently passed in the case of Sierra Leone as an example. I never thought the time would come when it would be necessary for me to hold up the Colonial Office as a model, but I think it is a more satisfactory system than that which is proposed here. What happens there? The Governor decides that a certain British subject should be deported. He has him arrested, and after his arrest he is brought before a judge. The judge holds an inquiry into all the circumstances. Not only can he hear the evidence which is brought before him, but he can himself call other witnesses whom he wants to hear, and then, after his inquiry, he draws up a report and makes a recommendation to the Governor, who acts upon that recommendation.
I would seriously suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that there might be something like that here. I can fully see that there may be some difficulty in having an open court. There might be many cases perhaps in which it would be necessary for the court to sit in camera. I do not think that that is generally desirable, but it might be unavoidable here. Also it may be that the final responsibility must rest with the right hon. Gentleman, and I am prepared to go even that length, but let there be some opportunity for the accused man to know the case against him, to know what charges he has to meet, and to make his defence. If you do not have some system of that kind, if you merely have some departmental committee or some official, however able he may be, sitting in a Department, you are bound to have errors sooner or later, and you are bound to have the position arising when innocent men will be deported, it may be for the rest of their lives. That is the principal suggestion that I should wish to make to the right hon. Gentleman.
I want, also, to say a few words about Clauses 2 and 3. Clause 2 provides that there shall be no time limit for the expulsion order; that is to say, a man who is suspected, perhaps unjustly, may be exiled for the rest of his life. I should have thought that there should be some provision by which expulsion orders should come under periodical review. Then, in Sub-section (2) of that Clause, there is the provision about arrest with- 1071 out warrant, and detention until a ship sails. It seems to me that under this provision a man may be kept in prison for a quite indefinite period of time, still with no charge preferred against him and with no opportunity of making his defence. It is true that he must be placed on a ship as soon as may be, but how is that provision going to be enforced? In order to understand this, one has to look at the next stage, at Sub-section (a) of Clause 4, where it is provided that:any person detained under powers conferred by this Act shall be deemed to be in lawful custody and may be detained in any prison or in any other place directed by the Secretary of State.I see the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General in his place, and I think it would be of interest to the House if he would give an opinion on this point. If a man were put in prison under the provisions of Clause 2, and if the authorities did not proceed to put him on the first ship, or an early ship, but were to keep him a considerable length of time, would he be able to obtain a writ of habeas corpus if this Bill went through unamended? I think we ought to have an opinion on that matter, because it is a matter of concern to the whole of the House.
As regards Clause 3, I will only say that it seems to me that there should be some relation between the crime which we are endeavouring to punish and the maximum penalty provided in the Bill. Under Clause 3 we are not dealing with people who have committed offences under the Explosives Act; we are simply dealing with people who have broken an order that has been made, people who have perhaps failed to catch the boat when they were told to catch it, or broken some minor condition of an order. It is not a very important point, but it seems to me that in a case of that kind it ought not to be provided that there is a maximum punishment of five years' penal servitude.
Reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman to the question of search warrants, and he expressed the distaste felt in every quarter of the House for extending the rights of search. The provisions of Sub-section (3) are, of course, precisely the same as those which were contained in the Incitement to Disaffection Act, but Sub-section (4) goes further 1072 even than that Measure. I think I am right in saying that the only precedent for the powers contained in Sub-section (4) is to be found in the Official Secrets Acts. Here the police officer is given the extraordinary power to search without a justice's warrant in the case of an emergency, but who is to be the judge of the case of emergency? That is left to the sole discretion of the police themselves. I admit that when you are dealing with the sort of case which the right hon. Gentleman described, of a man who moves two doors down the street and whom you want to apprehend quickly, it may be necessary to have emergency powers, but I would suggest that there should be a slight amendment of the wording of the Sub-section, and that the police officer should be required to have reasonable grounds for apprehending a state of emergency. If that were done, he would not in the last resort be the sole judge of the emergency, but the reasonableness of his grounds could be tried out in a court of law.
§ Mr. Foot
It is an extreme case, and it may not arise, but I think there ought to be an ultimate safeguard when we are giving these quite extraordinary powers. Finally, I would make this suggestion. I make these suggestions now, because we have only one day in Committee on the Bill, and the best thing is to outline now the Amendments which we shall desire to put down. I see that the duration of the Bill is to be for two years. The right hon. Gentleman himself said most frankly that these are very exceptional and very drastic powers, and I am convinced that he himself would not have proposed them unless he had felt that something like this was imperative. Would it not be possible to confine the operation of the Bill, at any rate in the first place, to one year, and then continue it, if necessary, for a second year under the Expiring Laws Continuance 1073 Act, so that the House would be certain to have an opportunity in 12 months' time to review the working of the Measure? If that could be done, I think it would go some way to meet the apprehensions which are felt, both in this House and outside.
These are the detailed criticisms that I put forward on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself I hope the House, when we get to the Committee stage, will most jealously scrutinise the provisions of the Bill. Never before in time of peace, or at any rate in modern times, has a Minister come to this House and asked for powers like these. I do not think that anybody will dispute that they run counter to all our traditions in this country. We talk a great deal nowadays about the freedom that we enjoy, and we are accustomed to contrast our happy lot with the servitude that prevails in less happier lands. But where does the essential difference lie? It does not merely lie in the use of the ballot at election times, because there can be such a thing as the tyranny of the majority. I have always thought that the essential difference lies in this, that in a free country the relations between one citizen and another and between the citizen and the State are determined by law, to the making of which everyone can contribute, but in a dictatorship they are determined by the unfettered caprice of persons in positions of authority. That, to my mind, is the essential difference. We know, of course, that in modern times the State must have considerable power, but what matters is that it should not in any case be arbitrary power. Here we are asked, for the first time which is not a time of war, to invest a Government Department with powers of exile, powers of imprisonment, and powers of search. We all of us in all parts of the House—and I want to emphasise this —share the common determination to protect the community against outrage, but in giving effect to that determination, let us see to it that we do not destroy those essential safeguards for the rights of the citizen which are the real distinction between a free State and a slave State.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt
I have a good many things that I want to say, but I do not want to take too long. Therefore, I shall try to follow the excellent example set by the 1074 right hon. Gentleman in not referring to the provisions of the Bill. Let me say at once that I have no connection with Ireland and no sympathy with these particular outrages, but the fact that no one has any sympathy with them is an additional reason for being extremely careful that the sins of one group of persons are not used to diminish the liberties of others or to establish precedents for diminishing the liberties of others. Let me also associate myself with the tribute paid to the heroic conduct of civilians and police. I can always admire a quality of which I do not possess one atom myself, but that is no reason for passing legislation that ought not to be passed, and my case against this Bill is, while accepting everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said about the urgency of the situation, that there is no justification at all for a Bill like this.
I thought the right hon. Gentleman was not very comfortable, and I humbly put it forward as a tribute to him, in introducing this Bill. At the same time he was, as one would expect, very plausible and convincing in presenting his case. I could not help thinking that an equally plausible case for derogating practically every known safeguard of the law could have been put forward 50 times in the last 100 years. It could have been put forward with incomparably greater force in relation to the Chartists. It could have been put forward with at least as great force in respect of Lord Carson and his Irish colleagues in 1913. It could have been put forward with regard to the epidemic of garrotting, it could be put forward with regard to ordinary burglary, if it happened to become epidemic and, in my opinion, it might be put forward with regard to war profiteers, though I myself would regret it in all those cases, even the last. The right hon. Gentleman says that these people are getting more astute and moving more quickly from point to point. The right hon. Gentleman will not, I hope, think me guilty of malice if I say "So is he." He says they pass on their orders by word of mouth. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman does that or not, but surely it can be said of almost every criminal that he is getting more astute and moving more quickly from point to point when he sees anybody moving forward with large feet and a bowler hat.
1075 The right hon. Gentleman assured the House that foreign organisations were closely watching this campaign and assisting it. I accept that statement. I do not normally accept any statement of this Government, but I accept that statement, and I ask "What on earth has it got to do with this Bill?" It is just the sort of dangerous and astute statement put forward to enlist the sympathy of the House and the public in order to pass legislation which ought not to be passed. Either you can control these people by the ordinary processes of the law or you cannot—in which case you have to ask for some additional powers—but is it more difficult to detect an Irishman moving from place to place because some person of an unspecified nationality somewhere in Europe has handed some money in Ireland or America and elsewhere to some young gentleman whom the Home Secretary quite fairly and rightly describes as a misguided young man? That is typical of the dangerous way in which this sort of legislation can be passed by a wakening of momentary sympathy and anxiety in the House.
The right hon. Gentleman is a past-master of advocacy. If I could call him the right hon. and learned Gentleman I should feel there was a great addition to the skill of my profession; but he does it without legal training. His production of photostat plans, which I gather is seven months old, was dramatic indeed. If I were in the secrets of the Home Office, which I am not, I can imagine that I should find in their archives 500 similar documents in ten different languages spread over the last 70 years, but they did not bring Home Secretaries to this House asking us to tear up every safeguard of the system that we have slowly and painfully built up. The truth is that this sort of legislation is just the thing for which every impatient policeman longs, and just the thing which every guardian of our liberties ought to be very careful that the policeman does not get. If I were the head of Scotland Yard— and I share the relief of Scotland Yard that I am not—and had a lot of very difficult burglaries, and if I had a Home Secretary who said that if I sent to him a file which persuaded him that John Snooks, of Balham, was at the back of these burglaries, he would then write out 1076 a form to the effect that he was satisfied that John Snooks was at the back of them, and hand it to another policeman who would serve a notice upon John Snooks under which John Snooks would be exiled to Iceland, I should feel satisfied that I could get rid of those burglaries.
Our judicial system has been built up on the assumption that in relation to our fellow-citizens the Home Secretary is not to say that if he is satisfied with this and that, they are to be sent to some other place where they will be without a living, without their families and without anything to live upon, and that the first thing they will ever have heard of it is when the Order is issued. In this country the first thing you ought to hear if you are accused of a crime is that you are going to be charged with the crime. If it is necessary in order to secure your attendance you can be arrested, but if it is not necessary to secure your attendance by arrest you need not even be arrested. The right hon. Gentleman rejected other proposals—a little tentatively as to some of them—and held them over as a threat. I cannot discuss what he as rejected, only what he is seeking power to do. He uses the position of the alien as an analogy. It is a false analogy, because exile is a very terrible thing when it is exile, but to an alien exile from Great Britain is, in the vast majority of cases, not exile, because an alien is, normally-speaking, a person who has not got his roots in Great Britain.
The right hon. Gentleman referred, naturally enough, to the fact that something of which he was assuring the House was not the unchecked product of gossip. As the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) has pointed out, there is very real danger in the unchecked product of gossip, and it applies far more in the case of the individual than in the case of any general principle. That he has established beyond reasonable doubt, even on evidence which he does not disclose, that there is, say, foreign money engaged in this conspiracy is a matter about which one can imagine the Home Secretary, from the volume of information coming to him, would be able to assure the House with great ease; but how is he going to satisfy himself in the same way, and beyond the possibility of doubt, about the case of Thomas O'Flaherty? 1077 The name and address of O'Flaherty may be in the notebook of an arrested person because someone has maliciously put it there, and when O'Flaherty is suddenly turned out of England we shall never know whether the Home Secretary had any better evidence than that.
He tells us, of course, that he would use the very greatest care and circumspection with regard to, say, a young man of 19½, but the right hon. Gentleman has told us also that he has responsibilities. While, on the one hand, he would want to use the greatest care and circumspection about a particular person, on the other hand, he would want to use the greatest care and circumspection about the safety of the country, and the very fact that these drastic and unconstitutional powers have been placed in his hands would make him say, "I am not going to take the risk. I am going to turn O'Flaherty out. If he is not turned out and if the one chance comes off and he blows up Hammersmith Bridge I shall get criticised, and so I shall take the lesser evil, even though it is uncomfortable for Thomas O'Flaherty, and turn him out." We have spent several centuries building up a system so that the Home Secretary shall not do that sort of thing. As it is, he prepares, in effect, a charge against somebody of something which is very much in the nature of a criminal act though not technically made a crime. When I say "he" prepares it, it is prepared by somebody in Scotland Yard, it may be a high official, who in his turn is acting on the reports of a police spy or, it may be, acting on the information of an agent provocateur—you have to use those gentlemen. This will come into a file and it will pass from a civil servant to the Home Secretary, who will issue the judgment and the sentence and the man will know nothing about it until the sentence is communicated to him. The man will have no chance of saying "As a matter of fact it is another man of the same name living in the next street."
Do not let us have any subterfuge about the Home Secretary answering for these things in the House of Commons. Let us consider how he would answer. Thomas O'Flaherty has an order made against him and is removed from Balham to Dublin. He writes from Dublin to some Members of Parliament. The first 15 1078 Members he tries will say that they can not be bothered and that he is probably guilty anyhow, but the sixteenth asks a question in the House of Commons and the right hon. Gentleman will then say, "I am very sorry, but I realty cannot tell you anything, because to do so would be to disclose facts that are very dangerous to disclose." I write off—supposing it is myself—to Thomas O'Flaherty and say, "Can you tell me anything about it?" and he says, "I have not the remotest idea. I cannot imagine who has a grudge against me." It is all very easy for the right hon. Gentleman and not much fun for Thomas O'Flaherty. The Bill refers to the Home Secretary being required to be satisfied about something or other. He has come to this House in what I hope he will forgive me for describing as a state of "controlled jitters"—they were the words used by himself, and so I am en titled to adopt them. He is perfectly calm, he is not frightened, but he thinks there is something for other people to be frightened about, and is not taking any risk. There is to be no control, no court, no inquiry, no question in the House that he cannot burke with the general approval of hon. Members opposite —
§ Mr. Pritt
The hon. and learned Gentleman and I will have a little chat about the Marketing Boards outside, but at the moment they are almost as irrelevant as Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman says, "I am not going to take any risks at this stage. I have just told the House that I must have this legislation at once, because a war might break out, and in those circumstances I am not going to take any risk, and I shall find myself, like the young lady in the story, very easily satisfied." [Interruption.] I cannot tell you that here.
I do not want to introduce any general matters of politics, but both with regard to the need for this Bill and with regard to the right hon. Gentleman's satisfaction as to the guilt of Thomas O'Flaherty, are we to accept the same standard of accuracy as was applied to the description of the Czecho-Slovak £5,000,000 as a "mare's nest," or is it on all fours with the persistent failure of the Government to see any Italian troops in Spain? I am very sorry to introduce general matters, 1079 but is there any sane person who follows politics who trusts any statement made by this Government nowadays? And yet we are asked to introduce this quite phenomenal legislation. Another thing I want to say is that what is so serious about this is that it is a proof of the utter demoralisation of public opinion that right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who are not opposite and the general public seem quite indifferent about this matter. They are having the whole of their liberties destroyed and they do not care and they do not know.
It is true that the Bill applies only in respect of people who are thought by the Home Secretary to be seeking to commit acts of violence in relation to Irish affairs, but there will be a very nice precedent in a few years' time for leaving out the words "with regard to Irish affairs" and putting in the words "in relation to anything." The right hon. Gentleman has introduced the Bill with a great parade of anxiety about the present situation, but there is no problem here that is new. We have had, for a long and tangled history, here, in the Colonies and in India, hundreds of abominable series of outrages and clever and widespread violence but no Home Secretary has ever come before us and said: "Please pass a Bill to abolish, with regard to anybody that I think may have taken part in this show, the whole rule of law." That is what is being asked for now.
The whole of the courts are being eliminated entirely. It is very significant, indeed, that the Home Secretary, is taking responsibility in a matter that is purely judicial, that is to say, arriving at a conclusion of fact as to whether some person is prepared to commit a violent act in the nature of a crime, or indeed, a violent crime. That is essentially a judicial function in any country. The right hon. Gentleman provides that the matter shall not even be established—on hearsay evidence if you will—to the satisfaction of a judge of the High Court and he is actually clever enough to praise himself for destroying the last vestige of our liberties so that he may take the whole of the responsibility in this House for doing something that cannot be checked.
If any hon. Member feels sufficiently bold to divide against the Bill, I will go 1080 into the Lobby with him; not because I would not be willing that the House should grant legislation with reasonable safeguards to the right hon. Gentleman if he came here and said that he had a problem with which, while it had been tackled by the British police hundreds of times in the past, they were not capable of tackling now. As it stands, the Bill almost goes out of its way to destroy our liberties. It is all very well to say that these people are not criminals. They are only criminals if you get the right one. Even courts make mistakes, but probably in dealing with this matter the Home Secretary will not make anything else. I should be very happy to divide against the Bill for those reasons.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
The last two speeches to which we have listened have taken us back to a long forgotten age. They were admirable defences of the old liberty of the subject. The hon. Member who led for the Liberal party put his finger upon the fallacy underlying his own speech and that to which we have just listened when he said that these powers had never before been asked for in a time of peace. I deny that we are living in a time of peace. For three years democracy has been fighting with its back to the wall. For three years Fascism in every country—the I.R.A. are only a form of Fascism—has been fighting against democracy and liberty, and it is quite time that we took powers, the only powers that they will understand, to resist violence.
The Home Secretary has brought in a Bill to stop the outrages which have been going on in this country for six months, directed against this State in order to coerce public opinion. My criticism is that he should have brought in this legislation much earlier. It is because these outrages have been backed by the doctrines now sweeping over the world, and not without sympathy on the Government Front Bench, that we have not had these steps taken earlier. The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken said that the Government were taking powers to deal with the I.R.A. such as they had for dealing with aliens. The hon. and learned Member said that we were treating the I.R.A. worse than aliens. I would remind him of the attitude of the Government 1081 towards aliens during these last six months and point out that their attitude towards the I.R.A. has been fundamentally different. With all their outrages, the I.R.A. have had plenty of rope given to them and every opportunity for putting their case. If they are now to be exiled and sent back to Ireland, how does that compare with sending away the unfortunate Jewish refugees who come to this country and who have no other land to which to go, when it means sending them back to concentration camps in Germany? The people who are now speaking for the liberty of the subject should remember that Jewish refugees on the Continent are human beings just as much as are the I.R.A. and deserve at least as much attention at our hands.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
The I.R.A. are human beings but they are my enemies. We are fighting now for democracy, and the I.R.A. is fighting against democracy. Some of the very people who are now blowing up places with their bombs, and some who are now in our prisons, were among the 800 who went with General O'Duffy and the blessing of their church to shoot down and murder the people in Spain; and yet hon. Members ask us to treat these people better than the helpless people who harm no one and have nowhere else to fly to.
The Bill is being introduced to meet the situation, but I do not think it will do so. With whom are we taking steps to deal? With members of the I.R.A.? How do we know how many people sympathise with the I.R.A. without being members of the I.R.A.? The Government say that they are not taking steps to intern them. I was not surprised that the Government were proposing not to intern them. That would cost us far more money than sending them back to Ireland.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
There is a good deal in the laws all over the world to-day to make it difficult to send them anywhere else.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Quite likely, but "exiled" here means sending them back to the country to which they belong; where can the alien Jew go?
All parties here to-day are determined on no account to accept the solution which the I.R.A. demand. There is no chance of appeasing their terrorism. All parties in the House are agreed that we shall never consent to putting the Protestants of Ulster under the domination of the Catholics of Southern Ireland.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman appears to be attempting to discuss questions which are entirely outside the Bill.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
As put forward in the paper read out by the Home Secretary, the I.R.A. demand is that there should be a united Ireland and that the British troops should be withdrawn from Northern Ireland.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
That is a demand for domination of the Protestant minority by the Catholic majority in Dublin. The only people who deny it are the people in this Parliament.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will see that he is creating considerable difficulty for the Chair by attempting to discuss the differences between Catholic and Protestant, and to do so is quite unnecessary.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
We are all agreed that the demands of the I.R.A., put forward by violence in this country, are inadmissible, and, therefore, there is no difference in the House on that question. The other point upon which we are, perhaps, not so agreed is that Irish citizens from Ireland and born in Ireland are as much aliens to this country and potential enemies of this country as are any other aliens in the world. Therefore, there can be no reason now why we should draw any longer a distinction between immigration into this country from Ireland and immigration from other alien countries. If we took steps by law to require visas for Irish citizens coming into this country from Southern Ireland we should have exactly the same control over Irish citizens coming here as we have over other aliens coming to this country. That would be putting them exactly in the same position as the citizens of other countries, and would be dealing with the problems on exactly the same line as it is dealt with in all our great Dominions if Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It would put all these questions of registration and deportation on all-fours with the treatment dealt out in this country to those who are not fortunate enough to have been born here.
I deplore that any action of this sort should be necessary. It is necessary only because there is danger from these immigrants; and, now that there is danger do not let us forget that we are taking these steps rightly against this new form of civil war for the safety of the country and because war is being carried on against our institutions by the physical force party of the Fascist world. The Home Office have been six months making up their mind to take these steps. The matter began when 2,000 sticks of gelignite were stolen at Falkirk. There has been another case since. I want to know what steps were taken to find those people; whether anybody has been prosecuted; and how far was that theft done by the I.R.A. or by people paid by the I.R.A.? You are dealing here with a body which is intangible, of which there are no limits. Next I should like to know how many people are in gaol for having taken part in these outrages, and how many of them come under this category of having been here as residents for less than 20 years. Do they all come under that category, or is there a large number 1084 of I.R.A. people here who have been here for 20 years and more, and will be outside the scope of this Bill?
According to an answer I received the other day, we have the names of the 800 I.R.A. people who went from Liverpool under O'Duffy to fight in Spain. It will be observed that the trouble here and in Northern Ireland only started after these Franco veterans had returned from Spain to their native country. We have their names. How many of those people are now in gaol as perpetrators of these outrages? How many are now in our Army? It is necessary that we should realise that this is not isolated action against Great Britain, but is a part of the whole Fascist movement against liberty, democracy and freedom. The Home Secretary said today that he had evidence that the I.R.A. were financed from a foreign country, and I think we may guess what that foreign country is. The same violence has been going on in Palestine, financed in the same way, directed against this country. We have tolerated, with a passivity which would have been impossible had any other Government but the present Government been in power, outrages in this country actuated by the same spirit, directed by the same force and paid for by the same money. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has introduced this Bill; I wish it were a stronger Bill. I wish it would put a stop to these outrages; I wish that the right hon. Gentleman and the House would realise that this is only one phase of a war which has been going on for three years, and may well go on for many years more—a war between those who believe in force, in violence, in the power of evil, and those who believe in liberty and democracy.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey
I am not going to follow my right hon. and gallant Friend along the line that he has taken. The whole House knows how intensely sincere he is, and how deep is his feeling. I want to join with Members who have preceded me in saying that I believe that in every quarter of the House there is nothing but deep regret at this series of outrages on the part of misguided men, whatever their motive may have been. I am sure it is recognised in all quarters of the House that special measures must be taken to prevent further injury to the public good. I feel thankful to the Home 1085 Secretary for having in introducing this altogether exceptional Bill, indicated in measured language that he wanted it to be an act of the whole House, and that he was prepared to consider such suggestions as might be made to him with a view to removing some of the objections that might be felt to the Measure on the ground of danger to the liberty of the subject. He himself has recognised that it is a very serious Measure, even though it be a temporary one and intended only to deal with a very limited class of persons. I would appeal to him, therefore, to consider during the Committee stage either accepting or himself proposing some Amendment which, while in no way defeating the necessary object of the Measure, will secure that it shall not be used in an arbitrary way to the injury of that fundamental liberty which has been alluded to so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot).
It seems to me that, whatever measures are taken, we ought to see that the accused person has the opportunity of knowing the charge that is made against him, and at least the opportunity to prove that he is innocent. That in itself is a departure from the principle of our British law, which is that a man should not have to prove that he is innocent, but that the accuser should have to prove that he is guilty. The general practice in many countries in Europe is that the accused person has to prove his innocence, and the most innocent person may in certain circumstances have great difficulty in proving that he is innocent. Surely it ought to be possible for the Home Secretary to give at least that limited opportunity to the accused person. I want to give just one illustration of the way in which the Bill, as it is framed, might work unjustly. The Home Secretary might have convincing proof that a certain person, whom for convenience we will call Patrick Murphy, is coming to this country in a certain ship with the intention of taking part in some outrage that would involve loss of life. He may have absolute proof of that, and the man may be on the boat; but the man may be wise enough not to travel under the name of Patrick Murphy, and on the same boat there may be a perfectly innocent person whose actual name is Patrick Murphy. He may be at once arrested when the boat arrives, and deported by the next boat, and for the 1086 remaining period of the operation of the Act, if he attempted to land in this country again, he would be liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
§ Mr. Macquisten
Ireland would be his native country and there is no shame in sending a man back to his own country. Surely that is not doing him any harm.
§ Mr. Harvey
The hon. and learned Member is hardly treating the subject in a way that is worthy of the grave issues at stake. I am dealing with the right of an accused person to establish his innocence before an impartial authority. I believe that there ought to be that opportunity. It could be given in a very brief space of time, without in any way endangering the public safety, while the accused person was still under arrest. If that opportunity were given, and if at the same time the accused person were informed of the grounds of the accusation made against him, a grave and fundamental right would be preserved in its essence. I hope that the Home Secretary will make it quite clear that it is his intention, as I believe it to be, that the exceptional powers given in this Bill shall only be used for the preservation of public order and of greater security for public liberty.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I desire to say at the outset that I am in agreement with all other Members who have preceded me in deprecating the acts of violence which have been perpetrated in this country by members of this organisation. At the same time I must confess that, as I listened to the Debate, I began to wonder greatly. When I listened to the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), I began to wonder whether the Bill was not a Bill brought in by the National Government to repress the enemies of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. That seems to me to be practically the purport of his remarks, and I was astounded to hear it, coming from him. Judging from the various things that he said, the major part of his life has evidently been all 1087 wrong, and in his latter days he seems to have adopted an entirely new viewpoint. Because of his dislike for Mussolini, he would like, apparently, to become a Hitler or a Mussolini in this country and crush out anybody who had a different opinion from himself. I read with great interest the large type at the beginning of the Bill:To prevent the commission in Great Britain of further acts of violence designed to influence public opinion or Government policy,and so on. If I could believe that the long Title of the Bill was really practical, I should be an enthusiast for the Bill. I wonder at the modesty of it. I wonder that it does not go on to say:and to prevent all acts that are wrongful acts.If a national crisis were in any way on the lines of what is dealt with in this Bill, we should only have to bring in a Bill to prevent any further national crisis. But the unfortunate thing is that, even when an alleged National Government brings in a Bill with such a Title as this, there is no guarantee that the Bill will be in the least effective. The whole difficulty of the situation is that, as has already been pointed out, we cannot persuade people by Acts of Parliament to do absolutely everything that we would like them to do. It presents a wonderful vista of what one might ask the Government to do. One might have a Bill from them to prevent anybody in this country from ever saying or thinking anything different from the members of the present Government, though that would be very difficult, because of the way in which the Government keep whirling about, changing from one thing to another. The public would be in very great difficulties.
As I listened to the Debate, I became all the more convinced that, while the Government are anxious to prevent the commission in Great Britain of further acts of violence, this Measure is not in any way fitted to make that possible. It is simply a Bill to make it possible for the Home Secretary to take action against people in respect of whom he has suspicions that they may commit acts of violence. That is an extraordinary position for the Home Secretary to be in: that if he—advised, I agree, by his Department—has suspicions that certain people are engaged in a conspiracy, he 1088 should be at liberty to subject them to penalties. The Bill does not propose that he should be enabled to take them into court and there prove a case against them, but that if his Department has suspicions about people they may become subject to certain penalties.
We hear much about our liberties in this country. Is anything worse being done in the totalitarian countries than what is proposed in this Bill? This is an absolute negation of justice, and I was very surprised when I heard the right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway say that the Opposition were not going to divide against the Bill. I listened to the Home Secretary with very great interest when he dealt with the problem that he has to face. It is true that he has to face the question of how to stop these outrages. He said that there were three ways that had been considered and put aside. There was general satisfaction that he had decided against internment; evidently it was thought that it would look too much like German methods if we went in for internment and concentration camps. But the Government are taking powers here to take steps against people against whom they are unable to prove a case, and I do not think that any Government are entitled to do that. I know that this seems plausible: it seems very desirable that we should have some method of preventing those outrages; but this is not a method of preventing outrages. If it were, we should be able to stop all crime by working on the same methods as those laid down in the Bill. If there was a suspicion about a certain person that would be enough. That person would be locked up, or put out of the country: sent to some desert island. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as the Home Secretary evidently thinks.
He said that if the Government were not to take some such steps and during the Recess we found ourselves engaged in a war, the Home Office would be in a terrible position. We were in a War from 1914 to 1918, and during those years there was a rebellion in Ireland, a great movement in which the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland were united against the Government of this country in their desire to see Ireland a nation once again. Yet we did not have the Government of the day introducing a Bill for the prevention of violence. During 1089 all that period of crisis it was not necessary. I believe that the Government are handling this matter in altogether the wrong way. The way that I would suggest is that which should be used in handling the whole problem of crime: to try to remove the causes of crime, and, having done that, to try to create a machine that will be able to take efficient action against people who can be proved guilty of crime. To act on suspicion is only going to lead to many difficulties for a lot of people. Various hon. Members have pointed to the possibility of anonymous complaints. We have had experience of that in the administration of pensions and of the Unemployment Insurance Acts. In connection with those matters there have been many regrettable instances of ill-speaking people sending anonymous letters about their fellow-men and women. But those are small matters compared with the possibilities created by this Measure.
When I was re-elected to this Parliament some people in Glasgow came to me and spoke about the condition of things in Northern Ireland. I know that I cannot go into those matters here, that I cannot pursue the question of the conduct of affairs in Northern Ireland and the administration of the Special Powers Act there; but I know the tremendous resentment which is felt by those people in Glasgow because of the injustices inflicted on their friends. The same sort of thing is being introduced into this country. Because of a handful of people who are taking this terrorist line, many thousands of other people are going to be subject to the greatest ignominy and hardships. I do not believe that this will be effective in dealing with that small section of people who are carrying on this policy of violence. The Home Secretary has given no evidence that this would be in any way effective in dealing with the problem. He told us about the number of convictions already secured. While there have been many outrages in the country, there have been a tremendous number of convictions in respect of them, so the police are evidently capable of handling the situation with their present powers. If they do want further powers, this House should not give such powers if they are going to be a negation of the liberty that the people of this country have enjoyed for centuries.
1090 There seems to be a tremendous capacity for criticism of what goes on in the totalitarian States, and at the same time a tremendous enthusiasm for following the lines adopted by the totalitarian States. This Bill is thoroughly in the totalitarian tradition, and I hope that the House of Commons will think carefully, and think again, before giving to the Home Secretary powers which will allow him to arrest people on suspicion, put them out of the country on suspicion, put them into prison on suspicion, and keep them in prison on suspicion without being able to prove any case against them. The fact that that has been done in the Colonies and in India is no argument for doing it here. What we should do is to sweep it away from wherever this House of Commons has power—in the Colonies and in India—and to allow the people there to have liberty and justice. If you give them liberty and justice you will not have these outrages.
I am a Socialist, and social democrats have never believed in terroristic methods. Such methods have been against the policy and ideology of social democracy. I see no reason to change my views on that. I have no faith in methods of terrorism. I believe that it is in seeking to develop and press forward the ideal of brotherhood and justice that we shall be able to make progress, and I regret that the Home Secretary, in dealing with terroristic acts, should be adopting the same methods in trying to deal with them. I believe we have to deal with this question in a different way altogether. I would say to some of my hon. Friends that I believe the proper way to deal with it is by inducing the people of Northern Ireland to have a bigger vision and to see the way to peace in the people there having a bigger say in the admiistration of that country.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
I do not think I have any great claim to speak on this, because I have been in the House only for the last half hour, but I do not wish to let slip the opportunity of expressing what I most profoundly believe. This Bill is only tinkering with a very great problem indeed, which will not be dealt with by such provisions. As far as the methods are concerned, if the Home Secretary thinks that they are likely to be efficacious the House is bound to give him 1091 these powers, and then to keep a close supervision over him in order to see that they are not abused. But even if you succeed in suppressing these terrorist acts, the way will be open for similar acts on the part of other dissatisfied people. The only remedy, in my belief, is a system of identity cards. I do not see the need for a passport system between this country and Ireland, but I believe that the police will always be hankering after extra powers as long as they cannot identify any particular criminal. I think that the Home Secretary would receive wide support in the country if he introduced legislation along those lines.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not think that the Home Secretary or the Government can find any complaint with the tone of the Debate this afternoon. Nobody has compared the right hon. Gentleman to a dictator— a Hitler, a Mussolini or a Stalin, and, although we have fault to find with the methods which are proposed to be taken under this Bill, I think I can say that we are all in agreement with the objective at which it aims. It is significant that, under the stress of these terrorist acts, and the threat of war to which the right hon. Gentleman has called our attention, so few hon. Members should have taken part in this Debate, which is of vital importance to the subject. Why are we here? We are the elected representatives of the people, and not one of us would uphold the acts which have taken place, but surely it is our duty to protect the rights and liberties of all those who have sent us here, and yet this afternoon few hon. Members have had courage enough, although they have had plenty of opportunities, to get up and criticise this Bill, which, as hon. and learned Members have told us, is threatening the liberties of the subject in a manner which many of us cannot even foresee at the present moment.
I was considerably surprised to hear the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member of Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) because, listening to him on many occasions, as I have done, I have been convinced as have other hon. Members, that he is ready to enter the lists on every possible occasion in the interests of justice. Why, because Hitler or Musso- 1092 lini or some other dictator has committed acts against Jews, or even Gentiles with which none of us could agree should we be so clouded in our thoughts that we could even commend the actions which the right hon. Gentleman or some successor of his might be tempted to take against people who were not guilty? We have based our whole law in this country on the assumption of the innocence of the individual until he is proved guilty, and, therefore, why should we depart from these principles, as somebody may be tempted to do in the future if this Bill becomes law in the form in which it has been introduced in this House?
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to events which took place on 24th June last when, by the acts of some of these miguided individuals, life and property were endangered. What was almost the effect of these acts on that occasion? A certain individual had to be protected by the police because the crowd were after him when they thought that he was one of the instigators or one of the people who had committed the crime. There is no doubt that on occasions like that all law goes by the board if the mob takes the law into its own hands. What is the effect if the mob takes the law into its own hands? It uses lynch law and even threatens the life of an innocent individual who happens to be running away from the crime. We can all understand the justifiable speed of such an individual in order to get as far away as possible on such an occasion. The forces of law and order are brought in to save the individual from the mob.
There is a certain analogy between that illustration which I have given and the law which we are supposed to protect and which the Government themselves are supposed to enforce. Under this Bill, a man who may not be guilty of any crime except perhaps that of bearing an Irish-sounding name, will be put under suspicion, and if there is sufficient evidence, he will be deported, or he may even be committed to prison in certain circumstances. Are we then to throw away all those functions and customs that we have set up in order to protect the individual until he has been proved guilty? Why is it that we are to do away with the Habeas Corpus Act, as I assume we shall? A threatened individual may not even be put into prison so that 1093 he can be claimed out of prison under the Act. I may not be versed in the law, but I am well versed in the feelings of justice which ought to animate every hon. Member who is sent to this House, and, although I recognise the seriousness of the occasion, there are inherent dangers in this Bill against innocent individuals.
I would quote to the House what happened during the crisis last September. It is taken from the "Star" of to-day. It says that during that crisis the Chief Constable of Hull banned some political meetings on the score that a state of emergency existed, though no such state of emergency had been declared under the 1920 Act. If that sort of thing can happen in a period of crisis, as it did last September, what is likely to happen when the public nerves are on edge and all sense of reasoning is perhaps lost, and when, merely because somebody says that somebody with an Irish-sounding name is harbouring somebody else he may be a possible criminal and can be proceeded against? I have not the slightest doubt that the right hon. Gentleman and his Department will act with all circumspection, and that if individual cases come under the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, they will be dealt with very carefully, but it may be that in the times through which we are passing the right hon. Gentleman himself may not be able to deal with every individual case. What are we going to do? Are we going to hand the trial of these persons over to civil servants? Surely, that is not our purpose.
I may say, in passing, that I have found the right hon. Gentleman quite sympathetic in the administration of the law. I remember the sympathetic hearing that he gave to some of us when we pleaded for the people who had been tried by a court of law and convicted during the Harworth disputes. On that occasion I had every reason to be satisfied with the sympathetic attitude that the right hon. Gentleman adopted towards us and those who had been convicted. I have not the least doubt that that attitude would be adopted in any cases which were brought to his attention, but I am afraid that men will be condemned without even the right hon. Gentleman himself being able to investigate thoroughly every case which is brought to the attention of his Department.
I have been impelled to rise because I am not able to take too complacent a 1094 view even in this matter, where the safety of individual life may be in danger, and I wish to record my protest at the apparently easy way in which this Bill is about to pass its Second Reading in this House. I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not take our attitude this afternoon in not going to a Division as meaning that we are prepared to give him a blank cheque even in matters of this nature, because I can assure him that many of us—I would 0say that all of us at any rate on this side of the House —are not prepared to surrender without protest our right to consider Measures like this on their merits.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Nearly all hon. Members— and I have heard all the speeches but one— have prefaced their remarks by condemning these outrages. Most of the people I have heard condemning them appeared almost to be taking part in a rake's progress. When I recall the records and careers of certain Members of this House, I do not always find that they have dissociated themselves from forms of violence. I remember certain hon. Members opposite actively associating themselves with a movement of a far more aggressive character with regard to Northern Ireland, and a movement which, if it had been allowed to develop, would have involved far greater consequences than that which we are now discussing. In those days I was working in a shipyard in Northern Ireland, and I saw how men were being drilled and supplied with uniforms and guns Weapons were actually being imported.
§ Sir R. Ross:
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Shall I be in order in following the hon. Member along this particular line as regards Irish politics, because it will be quite a pleasure for me to do so?
§ Mr. Buchanan
I am only illustrating the attitude of certain hon. Members, and I am not so sure whether the present Home Secretary was not of that opinion. They made political enemies out of that kind of thing. In those days I saw Members opposite associating themselves with such a movement. At that time I happened to be on neither side; I was neither a good Nationalist, nor a good 1095 Orangeman, and in consequence I fell between both sides. I look at hon. Members who have come to this House, and I see them standing aghast at this sort of thing. Who is to blame for the Irish Republican movement? The people who are most to blame to-day are those who talked of success by force at that time. It is useless for them to come to this House and talk pious humbug in the way they have done. Even on this side of the House I am not altogether taken with the view that all unconstitutional movements must be vicious. Some of us here have been associated with unconstitutional movements, such as the General Strike, which, if it had continued, would have had serious effects on the community.
§ Mr. Buchanan
If such movements are successful they must affect the community; there are other ways besides shooting which may cause injury. There is, for instance, the prevention of food supplies. When I hear people advancing these arguments here to-day I cannot feel the same kind of indignation. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said that foreign money is behind this movement, and asked not to be pressed for details. The Leader of the Opposition says, "I do not believe anything else which this Government says, but I am inclined to believe that." I remember the agitation in Northern Ireland during the War years, when it was said that German money was behind it, but I always took the view that whether foreign money was behind it or not, a great many of the people took that action apart from any foreign influence because they thought that it was right action.
During the War years some of us on the Clyde took an opposite view about the War. What was said about us? German gold; German money. What was said even during the General Strike? Bolshevist money and Bolshevist influence. To-day it is foreign money. In my view there never was a matter to which it was so easy to give an answer. I have always been a moderate in politics from nature. I think that nature constitutes you in a certain way, and while you may try to be a rebel, if nature has not constituted you that way you 1096 will never succeed in being one. I have a list of the men who have been in prison. They number something like 38 up to the last figures I have got, and there are one or two subsequently released in Scotland owing to an Appeal Court decision. Their sentences vary from 18 months to 20 years and the average is nine years. Will any man in this House tell me that for foreign gold you can get a man to do 20 years or even nine years? These men are not bribed by foreign gold. The problem would be easy if they were. The problem is a far more serious one. It is because they are not foreign gold people that you have a problem like this. I know people who are bribed by foreign gold and I know that they would think that 20 years was a sentence sufficient to intimidate anybody.
§ Mr. G. Nicholson
Is it not possible that the organisation behind these men may be influenced by foreign gold and that the organisation may get hold of perfectly good and sincere fanatics who are not influenced by the foreign gold?
§ Mr. Buchanan
I have met one or two of those men and frankly I do not think that is so. Their problem is not that they are influenced by gold but that they look upon this in the same way as a man looks upon religion. Take the case of the Roman Catholic faith. I know people holding that faith who, if it were interfered with to-morrow, would go to the scaffold rather than suffer interference. Gaol and anything like that holds no terror for them. These people connected with the Irish movement hold their movement in the same way as religion. It is a deep inward feeling. There is no use a man going down to them as I have done and saying "Try the Labour movement. Come and organise your fellows in Britain and try to get the Irish problem settled in a constitutional way." They do not see it. They answer me quite simply." What are you talking about? Surely other people were successful in defeating a free Ireland by force. The whole history of our movement has been that, and we reply to-day that we have no chance in the constitutional way." That is the problem, a deep sincere movement of men who are not of the criminal class. Let any man who knows the criminal community watch a judge sentencing a man just escaped from a charge of murder and getting 15 or 20 1097 years. Watch him when he goes to gaol. His face from red becomes yellow. The dread and the hate are there. But watch the young Irish republican He may be 30 years of age but he goes shouting; he goes thinking that he is a martyr, and glorying.
My criticism of this Bill is not only that which others make, but that all your repression and gaoling and deportation will never solve a problem like this. You have to see what causes the problem, and apply your mind to solving the reason. I could, I think, riddle many of the provisions of this Measure. The hon. Gentleman who interrupted me referred to the heads of this organisation. One of the reasons why I feel so terribly against this Measure is that neither this Government nor any other will get the heads. You will never get them. What happened in the General Strike? The Government, which was more or less the same Conservative Government with one or two sundry changes, prosecuted and gaoled men, but the leaders were never gaoled. They caught two or three simpletons. The Home Secretary had no right to liken the men in this Bill to aliens. This is far worse. He and I have discussed the question of aliens time and again. When you send an alien out of this country he has some other country to which to go. This Bill is going to deport not aliens, but citizens of this country. A man born in this country is a British citizen. A man who may have Russian parentage is British if he is born here. He may commit an offence against the law and the Home Secretary has no power to deport. Here the Home Secretary is going to say to a British citizen that he will put him on a ship and deport him, although he has no country to go to. Where is he to go? In each country he is an alien.
The Home Secretary is taking far wider powers than are in the Aliens Act. If I was the master of the ship on which the man is to go I would think twice about the fare, especially if the man were as bad as is said. The only place to which he can go is Ireland. In Canada they reject people if they are poor and may become a charge on public funds. If you are like that Canada "bumps" you. Mr. De Valera says "I am not having them either." Where is a man to go to? Back here he must come. People say, "This Bill does not propose the concen- 1098 tration camp." This Bill does propose the concentration camp, because back that man comes and remains in gaol, or he appears before a judge and can be kept for five years not because he has committed any crime but because he cannot get any other country to go to.
I represent in this House a population of mixed people. I have an Irish and a Jewish population and a large population which sometimes does not know whether it is Jewish or Irish. I do not say that jocularly, but what I mean is that they would say they have no decided views on these matters. One of the problems in the Irish or the Jewish population is a constant feeling, when an Irishman or a Jew is working, that another ought to be in his place. I am not criticising that view because an unemployed man has a terrible feeling about his need for a job. Under this Bill what will happen is that every man who is Irish and working will be liable to be informed against, not because he has done anything wrong, but because he is thought to have taken the job of somebody else. Who, having represented a Glasgow seat, has not received letters from unemployed complaining that Irish are working? What will happen under this Bill is that a letter will go into the Procurator Fiscal saying, "This Irishman is associated with the Irish movement. We know." Immediately action is taken, although it may well be that when the matter reaches the Home Secretary he, knowing what Parliament is and knowing that he cannot justify the matter, liberates the man. But the fact that the man has been arrested means that his job has gone for ever. He is finished.
I remember the time when the Home Office deported men and put them on ships in the Clyde without a warrant of arrest and "bumped" them back. I was sitting along there, and we in this House raised the matter. When action was taken in the Court of Session in Scotland it was found that the great bulk of the men they had put on the ships had little or no connection with that movement which was upsetting Britain. In one case in my division a man had no connection at all with it. He was an innocent platelayer who went to his work morning, noon and night. He happened to have a wife who was an astute and 1099 clever woman and she had some association with the movement. When the police came they left the wife and arrested the man, and he was suffering and kept in prison and deported for a crime of which he was as innocent as I was myself The Home Secretary would have liberated him no doubt, but by the time he was liberated his job and his future would have gone.
I do not think this Bill will succeed in doing what the Home Secretary expects. If I thought it would I would not be so unhappy to-day. The men you are dealing with to-day do not fear the casual deportation or even the five years in prison. They are men who, for good or ill, will not be afraid. The Government must try to get back to some other approach to the Irish issue. I do not feel sympathy for the men who commit crimes, but I feel sometimes that they have injured other Irishmen who are innocent. I have seen a letter from a Conservative Member of Parliament who sits, I think, for Bolton, which states that one of the difficulties to-day is that since this agitation an Irishman can hardly get a job. That is true, and I feel that in this House we have raised a prejudice against the Irish. I find the Irish community in the main— when I speak of the Irish community I mean not only those from Southern Ireland but from Northern Ireland as well— a decent lot of people. The Southern Irish are a decent lot of people, capable of the ordinary decencies of life. I have lived with them and worked with them and I know them well in the city of Glasgow, and I view this Bill with a great deal of alarm because I think that, far from settling the problem, it will give rise to more acute feelings. I can imagine what will be the feelings in my own division. We have the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) wanting to keep out people from Southern Ireland, while at the same time he is demanding that more refugees should come into the country— more foreigners to come in, more Irish to be kept out. In that way there lies the solution of no problem but rather an intensification of the problems we have already.
For my own part I would have divided against this Bill, not because I do not think the Government are entitled to protect themselves against movements which 1100 they feel may challenge their authority, but because I think the Bill will not succeed in doing what they say it will do. If it could succeed, surely the terrible sentences which have been passed would have succeeded. I do not think it will succeed, but even if it does partially succeed it will not mean that the people who are the leaders in the movement will suffer but, as is usually the case, comparatively innocent, simple people will be deported, and at the end, instead of bringing to an end all this racial feeling between man and man we shall intensify it. I wish the Government had turned towards other means of trying to find a solution of this problem before they had introduced a Measure of this kind.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland
The Home Secretary said that he hoped this would be a Bill of the whole House. Of course, the whole House has sympathy with the purpose for which the Bill is introduced. I would support the Home Secretary if he brought over a squad of G men, if I were certain that he was really going to deal with the perpetrators of these outrages, who are the only people with whom we desire to deal; but I want to be assured on several points. If the Attorney-General, who, I understand, is to reply, wants this Bill to be, in fact, a Bill of the whole House, he must recognise that it is necessary to satisfy us not merely that the Bill is not to be used against people who have no connection with this violence, but that it is not capable of being so used. I wish to ask the Attorney-General two questions which I hope he will consider and answer, but before doing so, I would put the background against which these questions inevitably arise, although I would much have preferred that they had not arisen.
A good many of us on this side of the House do not really think that the present Government are in earnest in a universal desire to oppose Fascism. On the contrary we notice very frequently evidence of a desire on their part or of their supporters almost to envy the powers of the Fascists. We have seen over a period of years one little thing after another inevitably suggesting to us that great numbers of the Government's supporters would be glad to see many Fascist things introduced into this country. We remember the attitude of a great many hon. Members on the benches opposite in the 1101 struggle between Fascism and some other force in Spain. We have noticed, too, that those who have some experience of modern warfare in fighting Fascism are excluded from our armed forces. Let me pass on this hint to anyone who wants to avoid military service in this country, that if he wants to make sure of that, he should tell the sergeant that he is a Communist. Meanwhile, a gentleman who is known to have attended the Mosley meetings and shown his complete sympathy with Fascism and the Fascist leader in this country, is not only in the British Army but has recently been promoted to be assistant adjutant of his regiment. We note all these things.
We notice, also, powers of all kinds being gradually taken away from this House. We have noticed that the police force, under this Government, has been put into the hands and under the control of gentlemen instead of being in the control of men who have been drawn from the working classes and promoted from the ranks. We have seen the police under the control of these gentlemen behaving in ways which, on at least two occasions in the last few years, seem to us to be absolutely astounding, and we have found the Government refusing any sort of inquiry. We have seen all these things happening, and therefore we are entitled—
§ Sir Patrick Hannon
On a point of Order. It is a little difficult, Mr. Speaker, to relate the hon. Member's statements with the substance of the Bill. I submit that he is wandering far away from the Bill.
§ Sir R. Acland
I come back to the point at once. For all these reasons, and for other incidents which I could mention, I claim that we are entitled to wonder whether the Government or many supporters of the Government are not quite happy to see this country gradually, and not too gradually, being pushed in the direction of a Fascist power. That being so, if the Government are desirous that this Bill shall be an all-party Bill, it rests upon them to convince us beyond any shadow of doubt that there is nothing in this Bill which can help towards that process. I want to put this question to the Attorney-General. It is a question 1102 of law which, I think, he can answer. Is there anything in this Bill which prevents a policeman from searching my house? Is there anything in this Bill which prevents a policeman from searching the house of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)?
§ Sir R. Acland
Hon. Members laugh. I have said that hon. Members opposite are desperately anxious to see this country pass as rapidly as possible to Fascism, and when I ask whether there is anything in this Bill to prevent the police searching the house of the hon. Member for West Fife, the hon. Member opposite says, "I hope not." There is a General Election coming. Suppose in that campaign something relating to Ireland becomes an issue. Suppose there have been explosions and the public nerves are set on edge and the question of Ireland has become one of the issues discussed in the election. Is there anything in this Bill to prevent a policeman from searching my house, perhaps finding there political leaflets aimed at criticising the Government and containing some reference to Ireland, confiscating the whole lot and dealing with me under the terms of this Bill? The Attorney-General will say: "That is unbelievable; it simply could not possibly happen." But the Attorney-General must not tell the House that anything is unbelievable or cannot possibly happen. If during the passage of the Official Secrets Act through this House anybody had asked whether that Bill might conceivably be used in a way to suggest, rightly or wrongly, that a Member of this House would be brought face to face with its provisions, the reply would have been that it was unbelievable; yet we have seen it happen.
Therefore, I ask the Attorney-General to be very careful and to give a most serious answer as to whether there is anything in black and white in this Bill which would prevent my house or the house of any other hon. Member from being searched if, for instance, a superintendent of police in the district is prepared to say that an emergency exists. If in such circumstances the house was searched, is there any right which we could exercise against the police officer who has searched our house? Is there anything which lies in our power that we can do to get redress?
1103 If the Attorney-General desires that the Bill shall be an all-party Bill, he will have to show me in black and white whether it is legally impossible for a police officer to search my house, or he will have to show me where in this Bill I shall have my right of redress against the police officer who does search it. That is a reasonable question, and I shall be interested to know what is the answer.
May I make a suggestion to the Home Secretary? He does not like any hon. Member to express a suspicion that he or others associated with him are trying to move towards Fascism. No doubt he will say that I am absolutely wrong to make a suggestion of that kind. Will he consider doing something to convince me that I am wrong? He will agree that this is an unprecedented Bill. There has never been a Bill before which has abolished trial by jury and destroyed the right of every man to be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty. It seems almost unbelievable that we are passing this Bill to-day, without a Division, and passing it through all its stages in a couple of days. I hope, therefore, the Home Secretary will not reject my suggestion merely on the ground that it is unprecedented. I feel sure that when he considers it impartially he must agree with the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) in his criticism of the remark that the Home Secretary will be answerable in the House of Commons. This idea of answerability on the Floor of the House in connection with these matters is purely imaginary.
Will the Home Secretary consider an alternative under which, I think, the responsibility of Parliament would become a reality, because he would not be entitled to plead the need for secrecy? Would he consider the setting up of a Select Committee of this House to meet from time to time and submit to him any questions in relation to the working of this Bill in order that he may give his answers and be able to give those answers in full without there being any question of it not being in the public interest to disclose the information; then for the Select Committee to report from time to time to this House whether they are satisfied that the Bill is being operated in pursuit of the purposes which the House has in mind, and not to the detriment of any person who should be outside the scope of the 1104 Bill? I submit that proposal to the Home Secretary. I hope he will consider it as a feasible method by which the fears most sincerely entertained by hon. Members may be allayed. If something of that kind were done I think the Bill would have a real chance of being accepted on all sides of the House.
§ 7.33 P.m.
§ Mr. Benn
We have had a most interesting and useful Debate. One thing has emerged, and that is that there is a general desire to provide the Government with whatever may be necessary in the way of fresh legislation to deal with the present problem. We are not Dividing against the Second Reading of the Bill, because if a Labour Government were in power it would maintain public order just as firmly as a Conservative Government from whatever quarter it might be assailed. But let us see this matter in perspective. The Home Secretary has told us that there are not more than 100 men whom the police suspect of being mixed up in these acts of violence, and whom they want to get rid of. On the basis of that narrow problem the Government are proposing a Bill which, as the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) has said, makes a great inroad on the liberties of the people. May I remind the Home Secretary that in the time of his predecessors when the Fenians were bombing this House itself, when an inspector had his leg shot, they did not ask for such powers as are contained in this Bill. I rather fancy that the Explosives Act was passed at that time, but no Government, Conservative or Liberal, in the days when the Fenians tried to blow up Clerkenwell gaol, and made an attempt on this building itself, were prepared to ask for such powers as these to be put into the hands of the Executive.
As far as I remember, I do not think that even under D.O.R.A. any such powers are given without the right of appeal. We have been told by an hon. Member for Ulster that appeal exists under their Civil Powers Act, and I know that appeal exists under the Offences against the State Act in Eire. This is panic legislation, and I say this, which I think will be confirmed by all Members who have had a long experience of this House, that when this House is in a hurry and deeply moved, when it is unanimous, this House is nearly always wrong. I particularly warn back benchers 1105 to remember that when you get agreement between the two Front Benches there is always something suspicious. Several examples spring to my mind. There was the Ecclesiastical Tithes Act, passed in a hurry, and never operated, and the Public Meetings Act, passed in a hurry and never operated. The happenings of last September are not looked back upon with any very great pride by any of us, and I remember how we stood up and cheered the man who brought to the House the Treaty of Versailles, which was to end war and make the world safe for democracy.
It is perfectly true that this small group has no support in Ireland. It has no support among the Irish in this country, and Mr. de Valera has said quite plainly that he denies utterly the right of this small group of people to speak on the partition issue. Despite that, it is the fact that, while the courts are quite right to treat the persons who are brought before them on the charges, and rule out from their consideration anything that the men in the dock say about their political convictions, it remains true that the whole of this has behind it a political background. It is the problem of a minority. Mr. de Valera, if he wishes for a United Ireland, must make terms with the Protestant majority in the north, and the Protestant majority in the north must treat fairly the Catholic minority in Fermanagh and Tyrone. We have to consider the Protestant majority in the north and the Catholic minority in Fermanagh and Tyrone. This is a problem of great Imperial interest. As the world passes into the twilight we need friends, and a friendly Ireland will be achieved only by some gesture which will recognise the essential unity of Ireland.
§ Mr. Benn
That is my opinion, and I do not suppose that the hon. Member will agree with me.
Let me say a word about the circumstances as recounted by the Home Secretary. He did not start as early as I should have liked. In the first place, there were conversations in London between Mr. de Valera and the Government, and a very creditable agreement was reached which reflected great credit on the Secretary of State for the Colonies, but which did leave out the partition 1106 issue. Shortly afterwards, in November, this group of conspirators announced that they proposed to attempt to deal with that issue by force. They started in Northern Ireland, and they carried out outrages on the border, blowing up customs houses, and so on. Then they transferred their activities, after sending a threatening letter to Lord Halifax in January, to London and this country. And then the police got to work. I should like to join with those who have paid a tribute to the work of the police. I am not going into the question of personal courage— I mean in the matter of efficiency.
I do not know how many outrages have been committed. The Home Secretary said that there were about 100, and he told us that there have been 66 convictions. I have read the accounts of most of these cases, and it must be with something of pride at British justice that one has read these accounts, although I must say that, in my opinion, excessively severe sentences of 20 years are not suitable for offences of this kind. I hope the House will forgive me if some of my observations are unpalatable, but an unwelcome word spoken timeously often renders a public service. In one or two cases the judge, finding that they had no legal aid, gave them legal aid, and the prosecuting counsel in one case said: "If there is the least doubt in this case I do not propose to press the case." In two other cases, those of Charles and Thomas Macarthy, the Attorney-General who was prosecuting said that, having heard the evidence of the prisoners, he asked the court not to convict. There was the startling case of Wharton who was brought before Mr. Justice Humphreys. The police case was made against the man, and Mr. Justice Humphreys delivered himself of some strong language, which I will read:You are a rebel against all constituted authority. You were a member of that gang which committed murders of British officers and others up to 1922. There was then constituted a different government in Ireland. You rebelled against that and fought against that and gloried in the letter which I have been reading. You have stated in a letter what, I have no doubt, is perfectly true, that the only reason you came to England was because you could get better wages here; and I have no reason to doubt what you have said in the letter was true— that you hate the English and that it was a pain and grief to you that, living in England, you had to listen to your children singing ' God save the King.' You are a hypocrite, and, in my view, you are 1107 the worst and most dangerous of the gang that is now before me.He then sentenced Wharton to 10 years penal servitude. That man appealed to the Court of Appeal, and his conviction was quashed, a conviction which had been described in those terms. That is a glorious thing, something to be proud of in these days of concentration camps. The Lord Chancellor was perfectly right to boast of this case. He said:They might remind themselves with heartfelt gratitude that they lived under the domination of law. Indeed our true liberties could not be interfered with except by due processes of law.I want to put this point to the Home Secretary. In every one of these cases the police were convinced that the men were guilty, otherwise they would not have brought the charge. What would have happened if the papers of these men, some of whom were acquitted, had come before the Home Secretary? Of course, he would have made an Order: he must make an Order. But in the case of Charles and Thomas Macarthy the Attorney-General said that, having heard their evidence, he would withdraw the charge against them. That is not what happens in the case of the Home Secretary. He will not hear the evidence at all. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to examine the persons who give evidence against these people? Will he be able to know the names of the informants who lay the information? The right hon. Gentleman has said that the sources of information could not be disclosed, because to disclose them would cause them to dry up. Let me recall to the memory of hon. Members the case of the Zinovieff Letter. Certain Members of the House who were investigating the authenticity of that letter came up against a blank wall because they could not be told the names of the people who had revealed the information, on the ground that to do so would be to dry up those sources of information. In that case, is it not true to say that innocent men will suffer? We are not concerned with the terrorists: frame charges, frame a new offence, do what you please, but give them a trial. We are concerned with the innocent people. If you do, as you undoubtedly will, deport perfectly innocent people, then your quarrel will not be with the Irish Republican Army; the field of quarrel will 1108 spread, and you will have a quarrel with Ireland, and you may even stir again those deep waters, now stilled, of Irish-American hatred. Those are things which the Cabinet should consider. The police do not consider them. The police consider the easiest way of getting a man charged, but the Cabinet should consider the broader background which I have been trying to sketch.
What is the defence made by the Home Secretary? He says that the penalty is very mild. There is prohibition, deportation, registration. But it is no comfort to an innocent man who has been punished to be told that a guilty man has been punished very mildly. That does not help the situation. Personally, I think that the punishment of deportation is very apt in the case of an Irishman who is engaged here in acts of terrorism. Obviously, it is the neatest way of dealing with the charge if you know, and if you can prove, that the man is guilty; but if that is applied more widely you get into a very different field. It has been said many times in the Debate that the Home Secretary is obsessed with the notion that he is applying to British citizens what he can already apply to aliens; but just as we can forbid aliens to come here, so we can bid aliens to go away. Is British citizenship so light a thing that it can be taken away by the Home Secretary's signature on a piece of paper? That is what is to be done. The right hon. Gentleman says that he merely puts the men in the position of aliens, desirable or undesirable. He says that he is taking, for the first time, power to prohibit a British citizen from landing on these shores. He does that on the advice of the police— for what other advice has he? He will not have a judge. He says that a judge would be either a rubber stamp or a nuisance. Therefore, he has to take the advice of the police. Let me give a concrete illustration. Suppose that at the time of the Irish civil war, Archbishop Mannix had asked permission to come from Australia in order to address meetings in this country. Will the right hon. Gentleman say that, under powers of this sort, the police would not have advised him to prohibit the entry of His Eminence into this country?
§ Mr. Benn
The right hon. Gentleman will have cases put before him for prohibition, and the entire responsibility will have to be borne by him. There is the penalty of exile. I understand it may be exile for life. As long as the Act of Parliament exists, the Home Secretary will have power to make an Order, and it may be an Order of unlimited duration. I hope the Attorney-General will clear up that matter. That is the position with regard to persons who have resided in this country for less than 20 years. But in the case of all of us, the Home Secretary has the right to require registration; that is to say, if he is satisfied in various ways, he can make an Order to require any Member of the House— for example, my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) or myseif— to have his ringer prints taken and to register with the police. This is an enormous invasion of the rights of citizens of this country. Surely, it is totally unnecessary, when dealing with a handful of terrorists, to ask us to wipe out those rights which have existed for ages in this country. I do not join in the congratulations that have been offered to the Home Secretary on his remarks about internment. He said that he was opposed to internment. I notice that the Lobby correspondent of the "Times," who does not write without knowledge, stated:It may become necessary in certain circumstances to resort to internment, but everything possible will be done to avoid resort to that method.That is very disquieting. I remember the strong fight that was put up by the Government against military service. Then, suddenly, we were told that circumstances had changed and that it was necessary for us to have compulsory military training. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that there are cases where, in fact, the Home Secretary would be driven to intern people. Suppose that an order for deportation was made and the man had nowhere to go. Suppose that, in the case of an Irishman, they would not take him, and he came back on the ship. He would have done his best to obey the order that had been served upon him. Suppose that, first of all, he was sent to prison for two years or five years. What would happen then? Under one Subsection powers are taken to detain a man without proper authority, and in the next Sub-section, it is stated that he 1110shall be deemed to be in lawful custody.I want to know whether that means that a writ of Habeas Corpus cannot be applied for in such a case? There is the machinery for internment in this Bill, and the Home Secretary's utterances do not reassure me that this is not really the ante-room of the concentration camp. The Home Secretary said that the Act is a temporary one. He said that there is foreign money behind this campaign. Will he allow the Act to lapse in such dangerous times? It will be easy for him to put it into the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. The Ulster Act, for instance, was intrdouced in 1922 and was renewed annually, and then, in 1925 or 1928, it was extended for five years, and now it is the permanent law of the land. The Military Training Act is for three years. It is a temporary Act, but the Secretary of State for War, speaking with a cinema-microphone before him, explained that this was a milestone in the history of the British Army. One does not pull up a milestone after three years. Another argument made by the Home Secretary in defence of the Bill is that the Bill is carefully framed to be aimed at one specific offence, and one only. I could make an Amendment of five words in the Bill which would turn the Home Secretary into a Himmler.
Surely, the Home Secretary has enough experience of the ways of the executive to know that if an Act of Parliament exists that can be twisted or turned to serve a purpose, it will be used in that way. For instance, the Dorchester labourers were transported under an Act for suppressing a mutiny at the Nore. Mr. Tom Mann was imprisoned under an Act passed in the year 1360, and we are all familiar with the Official Secrets Act, which has been so turned and perverted from its avowed purpose that even the Government have found it necessary to bring in an amending Bill. The Home Secretary and I both remember— I think with equal distaste— the Bengal and Bombay Ordinances that were passed at the beginning of the nineteenth century for the purpose of deporting troublesome Frenchmen from British India. There is no sort of meaning in the Home Secretary's remark when he says that he can give an assurance that this is so and that is so; no assurances, however well meant and from however sincere quarters, have the least value. The only thing that counts 1111 is the text of the Bill. If we have not learned that from experience, then we have learned nothing at all.
I think this is a Bill which will dishearten the public. We are proud that this is a free country. Our people hold their heads a little higher because they believe they enjoy a measure of freedom, that freedom has not been taken away from us, and that we have not been degraded to the level of people in the dictatorship States. I do not think public opinion will be assisted by giving the Home Secretary power to turn us all into ticket-of-leave men, if he so wishes. I do not think the reputation of our country in the world will be improved by the passage of this Bill. Our ambition is that the name of our country should shine in the world. The reputation of Great Britain is based upon what Great Britain stands for. It is not based only upon the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. It is based on the belief of people that we stand for liberty. I should like to remind the Home Secretary of some words of Burke, who was no revolutionary when he said, speaking of the maintenance of the fame of our country and our leadership in the world:So long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country the sanctuary of liberty, they will turn towards you. Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. Freedom they can have from none but you.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has every reason to be satisfied with the Debate and the general reception of this Bill—
§ The Attorney-General
I have some sympathy with myself because it always seems to me that the person who winds up from this Box, on a Bill which all parties have expressed their intention of not dividing against—[Hon. Members: "No! "]— if not all parties, then the party opposite and the party on the benches below the Gangway opposite— must be careful not to disturb, at any rate, that measure of harmony revealed by those expressions of intention. Behind those general expressions of intention, for which my right hon. Friend is grateful, there have been criticisms and, speaking 1112 for myself and my right hon. Friend, criticisms of a Bill of this kind are expected and are welcome. No one likes a Bill of this kind.
§ The Attorney-General
I did not say if the hon. Member would speak: I said if he would listen. I do not propose to touch on some of the very general topics which have been referred to by way of illustration. I propose to restrict what I have to say to the Bill and to the points that have been raised. It requires, of course, a very serious situation to justify my right hon. Friend in asking the House to give him the powers that this Bill asks for. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) complained, I think, that there had not been more speeches made against a Bill which, as he said, affected, or might affect, the homes of the people. I quite agree that the Bill may affect the homes of some people, but I think the vast majority of people in this country— and of hon. Members who have read the Bill are satisfied that it is a good one— feel that the homes of the people are being threatened by the sticks of gelignite in the hands of those who are working this conspiracy, and it is because the homes of the people are being threatened in an unexampled manner that these special powers are being asked for.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Either I expressed myself a little hazily or the right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I do not think I suggested that the Bill would affect the homes of the mass of the people. I used the expression in another connection.
§ The Attorney-General
I remember that the hon. Member referred to the homes of the people. If he was not referring to the effect of the Bill on them, I apologise. I wish to say, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, in order to allay apprehensions which have been expressed in some quarters, that he will himself consider every individual case under the Act and will give it individual attention.
§ The Attorney-General
I know what I am going to say. The right hon. Gentleman may want me to say something else, but let me at the moment say what I am intending to say, that my right hon. Friend will give individual attention to each individual case that comes forward under the Bill when it becomes an Act.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I could not give a specific pledge of that kind. Obviously, no Home Secretary could tie himself down in such a way. But I still say that I will look into every case individually.
§ The Attorney-General
I think it is clear, from every speech to which we have listened, that terrorism as an instrument is repudiated by every party and by every individual in this House. We speak of, and we value, our liberties, and there is nothing more alien to every instinct of a free people than terrorism. This Bill takes away in certain circumstances the ordinary safeguards of liberty, but the safety, not only of property but of lives, is threatened by a conspiracy, and we have had six months' experience of seeking to deal with that conspiracy by the normal methods of the criminal law. Tributes have been paid— I should like to associate myself with them— not only to the courage displayed by the police, but to the efficiency of the police force in dealing with the problem which this conspiracy presents. No one is suggesting that the failure to deal with it by the normal methods open to the police is due to their inefficiency. No one who has followed what has happened could make that suggestion. The Government, therefore, are faced with the fact that, after six months, normal methods are unable to deal with this attack on life and property.
I should like to say a word about the distinction that is drawn, and always rightly drawn, between attacks on property and attacks on life. I think it is worth reminding ourselves that the property which is sought to be attacked, and which, in fact, has been attacked, for the most part is not jewellery, motor cars or private property of well-off people, but an attack on the services which serve every member of the community, and, 1114 therefore, the distinction between life and property which is sometimes drawn is not as great a distinction in importance in this case as it is in some others, because the attacks on property are directed to the necessities and the ordinary supply services which bring to the people of the country water, light, transport, and so forth. That being so, I think it would be very difficult to suggest that a Government, faced with a formidable attack on the people of the country as a whole which ordinary methods have proved inadequate to deal with, which did not ask for the special powers necessary to deal with it, would not be failing in its duty to the people of the country.
So much by way of general preamble as to the case for the principle of the Bill. I will not say more, because the case for the principle of the Bill, or some such Bill, is admitted by the acting Leader of the Opposition and by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), and the criticisms that have been made have been with regard to the procedure set up under the Bill, and most of the points will, no doubt, be raised at a later stage. My right hon. Friend will, of course, consider all the suggestions that have been made, but there are one or two general remarks that I should like to make, and I will also answer one or two specific questions. The hon. Member for Dundee and the acting Leader of the Opposition referred to the desirability of adhering to the ordinary methods of judicial administration. My right hon. Friend cannot accept that suggestion. It is because judicial proceedings and methods have proved themselves inadequate, because, as my right hon. Friend said, there are men as to whose complicity there can be no real doubt, and about whom you could not satisfy a court by ordinary judicial process, that this Bill is introduced. It was right to enact that a deportation order under the Aliens Act should be an Executive act, and under that Act an order can be made by my right hon. Friend without any right of appeal and without any machinery of judicial process.
§ Mr. Foot
Is it not a fact that the Aliens Act was passed through the House in manuscript, without most Members having seen it at all, on the first day of the War?
§ The Attorney-General
Successive Governments and successive Oppositions have, as far as I know, raised no objection 1115 to the exercise of that jurisdiction. I accept what the hon. Member says, but the Act has remained on the Statute Book. No one has said that there is abuse of power or that Fascist methods are being employed.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Under the Aliens Act you do not keep a deportee in gaol if he comes back because he has no country to go to. Here you are going to do something different. The person dealt with here is British, possibly born in Britain, and, therefore, has no place at all to go to.
§ The Attorney-General
That is rather a different point from that with which I was dealing. Every Dominion has the power to restrict the immigration of and to deport British subjects. They have very wide powers. Those powers, of course, are not exercised, nor will the powers under this Bill be exercised in the manner which the hon. Member opposite seemed to fear. Where a man is to be deported, he will be deported to the country to which he belongs— to which he claims to belong. That is the basis of the Dominions legislation in which in some cases— I do not want to specify them— very wide powers are given to deport people in circumstances much less immediately associated with a conspiracy of violence, than the present circumstances. I think the House can rest assured that these powers, though I agree they are wide, will not be exercised, and would not be exercised, in the way apprehended by the hon. Member opposite. It is impossible in a matter of this kind to draw a hard-and-fast line, or too narrow a line, but the intention of the Bill is to enable my right hon. Friend to have power to send from this country those who are assisting, or, as the hon. Member for Dundee said, those who are sympathisers with this conspiracy, back to the place to which they belong. Having, in reply to the hon. Member for Dundee, expressed our view as to the in-appropriateness of the judicial procedure, and our view that this act is, and must remain, an executive act, I would say that the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) seemed to minimise what has been referred to as the Parliamentary control over the Minister.
§ Mr. Foot
May I put one question to the right hon. and learned Gentleman on a point to which we attach great im- 1116 portance? He has ruled out what he has called the normal judicial procedure. Will there be any procedure, or will the Government accept an Amendment setting up any procedure, under which a man against whom it is proposed to make an Order, will have an opportunity of being heard in his own defence, whether by a judicial tribunal presided over by a judge or by any other kind of tribunal?
§ The Attorney-General
I do not think it is reasonable that I should be pressed, or that my right hon. Friend should be pressed, on those points now. [Hon. Members: "Why not?"] Let us see where we are. The principle and aims of the Bill have been accepted— not perhaps by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), but certainly by the hon. Member for Dundee. He and other hon. Members have put forward certain suggestions, and my right hon. Friend is undertaking to consider those suggestions. I do not think it reasonable to expect my right hon. Friend, either by himself or through me, to state at the end of this Debate what suggestions, if any, he finds practicable, or which of the many suggestions that have been made he considers to be the most practicable. He must have time to consider those suggestions.
§ Mr. Maxton
Surely it is possible for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to answer the general question which has been addressed to him. My hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) did not intimate that he would support the Second Reading of the Bill, though it may have been intimated by others and evidently, to judge from the attitude of the Attorney-General, it is not desirable for the Government to know, in advance, that they are likely to get their legislation through easily. I do not think it is possible for the Home Secretary to tell us now, exactly how he intends to handle this matter, but, can he not before the Second Reading is agreed to, answer the general question? Before I decide on my vote, can I have an assurance that if a man is to be charged in one of these ways, he will be heard; and, furthermore, if one of my constituents is seized under these provisions, that I will be heard?
§ The Attorney-General
I cannot imagine any circumstances in which the hon. Member would not succeed in making himself heard.
§ Mr. Maxton
I am not asking about my right to be heard on a public platform or in this Mouse. I do not need to ask anybody for that. If an unemployed man from my constituency were in difficulties about his insurance, the Minister of Labour would hear me along with the man concerned. If some Irishman in my division whom I know to be a perfectly innocent man, is seized under these powers, will he be allowed to state his case to the Home Secretary, and shall I be allowed to appear alongside him and to speak up for him?
§ The Attorney-General
I cannot give that assurance. I have made certain observations on the general policy of the Bill. We have introduced the Bill in the form which we think is right, and we do not think abuses will take place under it. Various hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have made suggestions of different kinds, and these my right hon. Friend has promised to consider. We shall have a chance to consider them when this Debate has finished, and we shall have a chance of discussing them on Wednesday. But, as I have said, it would be unreasonable to expect in the reply on the Second Reading Debate, definite assurances as to what procedure, if any, can be inserted in the Bill to meet the points which have been raised.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Do I understand the right hon. and learned Attorney-General to say that he will consider the matter, or does he rule it out altogether? I am not asking for a definite answer now on the point itself, but will he consider it?
§ The Attorney-General
I have said that my right hon. Friend will consider every suggestion that has been made, but at this stage I could not be expected to give a definite assurance as to what procedure will or will not be adopted, and I hope the House will not consider that an unreasonable attitude on my part. I was asked a further question by the hon. Member for Dundee in regard to Clauses 1 and 4. He asked whether there could be an unlimited detention without the right of applying for a writ of Habeas Corpus. Clause 4, Sub-section (1) gives leave to arrest without warrant only pending the determination of the question whether the person so arrested has committed an offence under the Act. Under the Clause as it stands, if there was a 1118 demand made to detain such a person unreasonably long, he could apply for a writ of habeas corpus.
§ The Attorney-General
Clause 4 (1) gives power to arrest a person who is suspected of having committed an offence under the Act, and to detain him pending determination of the question as to his identity. There is no power of unlimited detention, but my right hon. Friend will consider whether a definite period could not be inserted in the Clause.
§ The Attorney-General
He would have to satisfy the court that the detention was justified. In Sub-section (2) the words "in lawful custody" do not prevent a writ of habeas corpus being applied for. The hon. Member for Dundee referred to the search warrant Clause. The precedent for that was the Explosive Substances Act, and my right hon. Friend dealt with the reasons for putting in that provision. When you are dealing with a conspiracy of this kind, organised with the skill with which this has been organised, where every possible step has been taken to see that there is no suspicious documents or substances on premises occupied by suspected people, then if you want to stop them, you have to take special powers. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) asked a specific question whether there was anything in the Bill that prevented a policeman searching his house. I will take the question to myself, and ask whether there is anything which prevents a policeman searching my house. The answer is "No, if the conditions of the Bill are satisfied." The circumstances in which a search warrant can be issued by a justice of the peace are laid down in Clause 4, Sub-section (3), and in Sub-section (4) it is provided that where a police officer of 1119 not lower rank than that of superintendent thinks there is a case of great emergency, he can issue a search warrant in similar circumstances, if he is satisfied that the person in question is concerned in the preparation of acts of violence.
§ Sir R. Acland
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman satisfied with the Bill providing that he or I should have no right of redress whatever, even if we were in a position to prove up to the hilt that that police officer had no shred of proof against us?
§ The Attorney-General
The Sub-section says:Where it appears to an officer of police of a rank not lower than that of superintendent that the case is one of great emergency and that in the interest of the State immediate action is necessary.…I am prepared to take the risk of that. Both the hon. Member and myself have, ever since 1883 run the risk of having our houses searched for explosive substances without any greater safeguard than this; we have slept in our beds happily, and I believe that we shall continue to sleep in our beds just as happily after this Clause is passed. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), in a speech which covered a wide ground and in which he attempted to deal with the historical background of this Measure, said that this Bill, if it passed, would embitter that racial feeling which he and, I am sure, everybody else would like to see abolished or reconciled. I believe, on the contrary, that there is nothing which would more embitter the feeling in this country against one part of the country than a further continuance of these crimes and a failure by the Government to do their best to stop them.
§ Mr. Pritt
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman help me on one point? The Bill enables the Home Secretary to make an expulsion order in certain circumstances, and when the Act, if it becomes an Act, expires in two years' time, such an expulsion order will remain in force and the man's exile will continue with the further difficulty that after two years Sub-section (6) of Clause I will have lapsed, and so the Home Secretary could not revoke the order even if he wanted to.
§ Mr. Buchanan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that in connec- 1120 tion with the question of general arrest, the Home Secretary would have personal responsibility, but I would point out that we have no control here in this House over a police superintendent, in the sense that he is responsible to the local authority that employs him. I was going to ask whether the House should not in some way, through the Home Secretary, at least have the right to criticise a superintendent of police in a case where a warrant may have been wrongfully issued.
§ The Attorney-General
I must not be too specific. Although I agree with what the hon. Member said about the general position of the county police being responsible to the local authority, I do not think that, if there was a grave case of abuse under this Section, there would be any real difficulty about raising such a matter here.
§ Commander Locker-Lampson
I should like to ask whether hon. Members, are not greatly exaggerating the position, and whether all that this Bill is doing is merely to return people from a country they hate to a country they love.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
After listening to the exceptionally able speech of the right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) I could not understand why we were not dividing against this Bill, and after listening to the appalling explanation of the Attorney-General I shall be astonished if we do not divide against it. I was one of those who had a very close association with the leaders of the I.R.A. during the civil war in Ireland when the I.R.A. was conducting a fight in Ireland for the liberation of Ireland. I have always been for the liberation of Ireland. Most of those leaders with whom I was associated were executed, paid the penalty for their faith with their lives. But when terrorism starts in this country I am opposed to it for certain specific reasons. We on this side of the House have more reason to oppose terrorism than hon. Members opposite, because as a rule when terrorism has been employed it has been initiated and encouraged by the members of the class to which the other side belong. It has never at any time been associated with the working-class movement.
I could give quotations from Marx and Lenin to show the strong opposition that 1121 leaders of the progressive and revolutionary movement always have had to terrorism of this kind. Why? Because it causes suspicion, distrust and demoralisation in the organised ranks of the progressive movement, a very great danger. Not only so, but it provides a pretext for the reactionaries to strengthen reactionary and repressive legislation. Here we have a Bill introduced as a result of this terrorism, a Bill that is a threat to the liberties of the democratic movement of this country. Whatever terror has been used has always been the means of setting back the progressive movement and giving reactionaries the opportunity of using new reactionary powers. Terror is a very undesirable thing, but if we compare the terror that is going on in this country with the threat which this Bill makes to one of the strongest pillars of freedom in this country it will be seen that the Bill is a greater threat than the terror. I wish hon. Members would face up seriously to what it is they are doing and to whom it is they will give these powers. Reference has been made to the Fascist associations of the leaders of the Government and to the opinions that are constantly expressed by Members on the other side of the House. It is fatal to give them powers of this kind. Somebody said that no one could accuse the Home Secretary of being a dictator, but give the Home Secretary a chance to be a dictator and see how he will behave himself. If I were asked to choose between Hitler, Goering and Goebbels and the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary I should refuse to choose. The important thing is not to give them power. It can lead only to evil.
Let hon. Members imagine what can happen if a Bill like this is operating in a situation such as exists to-day. Is it not possible to get the agent provocateur working? There have been suggestions of Nazis being associated with the I.R.A., but the Nazis are associated with Members on the other side, and Members on the other side are associated with Nazis. There is the closest association. They are working to betray this country in the interests of Fascism, because Fascism represents property and privilege. The Attorney-General tries to persuade us that the Bill is introduced because we are concerned about the homes of the people. Does anybody here believe that the 1122 Attorney-General is concerned with the homes of the people? What about the homes of the people down in Stepney? Was it the I.R.A. that was threatening them? No, it was the bailiffs. And did you defend their homes? No, you sent the police down to enable the bailiffs to throw them out. In every part of the country you will find people being turned out of their homes, but not by the I.R.A. In Birmingham, the Prime Minister's own city, there is a continual threat to turn people out of their homes, and they do not get protection from the Home Secretary but from their neighbours, who gather round to defend them. This Bill is not designed to protect the homes of the people. It is a direct blow against the liberties of the people of this country, and with the slightest trouble, and without very much concern, the Home Secretary and those associated with him can easily expand the Measure in other directions.
There has been some reference to the possibility of the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) getting dragged in in connection with this. I should not be surprised, because when I was standing by the chair of the Sergeant-at-Arms this afternoon one of those Front Bench Members there passed the remark "Gallacher ought not to be getting tickets, because of the suspicious characters he might bring in." Of course it was a piece of humour, it was intended as a joke, and I took it as a joke; but the joke would never have been made about anybody else. The hon. Member would never have dreamt of saying that about any other Member, and why about me? Because the suspicion was there in his mind. All the Home Secretary has to have is the same suspicion as one of his colleagues, and off I go. Yes, it is possible.
I will give an instance. When the campaign against the I.R.A. developed about 1921 or 1922 and the deportations took place from Glasgow a friend of mine in Blantyre was informed against. It is so easy to be informed against. Always there have been people who have felt venomous against other people and have been ready to inform against them. It has happened even in factories. There have been instances of it in all periods of history. There are people who are prepared to put in reports about their neighbours just out of sheer venom and hatred. This friend of mine in Blantyre 1123 was informed against and the police went to search his house. He was a very studious lad, and the police found at his home a whole series of notes, and recurring continually in those notes were the sinister letters "I.R.A." So he was hauled up on the strength of being a member of the I.R.A. and became a subject for possible imprisonment or deportation. But he was a student of Marx, and Marx refers to the unemployed army as the "industrial reserve army," and this student of Marx was continually using the initials provided by Marx to refer to the unemployed. Every reference to the unemployed was "I.R.A." That young man had quite a lot to undergo before the authorities were satisfied that he had no connection with the I.R.A. and no evil intent other than to get rid of the parasites in this country and to produce out of the terrible chaos that confronts us a sane and sensible system. Last year, I think it was, the Prime Minister came to this House with an agreement with Eire. Eire is the whole of Ireland. Yes, at the time I drew attention to the fact that in that treaty about the ports this House was actually recognising "Ireland as One and Indivisible." I drew attention to the fact that it was a sham agreement, and that there could be no peace between this country and Ireland while partition lasted.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The hon. Gentleman must not discuss the partition of Ireland, because that is outside the scope of the Bill.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am not attempting to discuss that position other than to say that if we are to get a real solution of this problem we have to get at the basic problem. I want to draw attention to what can happen under the Bill. The hon. Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) referred to the phraseology of the Bill, which states that the Bill will go out of existence in two years; but the expulsions will still remain; and think of the injustice that can take place as a result of administration of that kind.
I would like to give hon. Members an instance to illustrate this point. I know the captain of a ship, a Russian ship. A long time ago he committed an offence, the offence of being a Bolshevist. For about 12 years he has been sailing between Leningrad and London. A decision was taken 12 years ago not to allow him to 1124 land in London. I ask hon. Members to believe that once that decision is taken it is irrevocable. That sea captain is one of the finest types of men you could want to find anywhere, and although he has been travelling between Leningrad and London for 12 years, every time his boat comes into London he is served with two notices, one to himself as captain of the vessel advising him that this man must not be allowed to leave the ship, and one to himself as the man in question telling him that he must not leave the ship. He has never been allowed to leave that boat. You can go to the Home Secretary about it and you will be told that the Department will consider the matter and will see what can be done, but nothing has ever been done to put right an injustice such as that. For some offence which everybody has forgotten, some propaganda either in this country or elsewhere, he has never to be allowed to put his foot off the ship. He said to me on one occasion: "What would happen if the Russian Government decided that I could not land in Leningrad? What a position I should be in."
That is the sort of thing that can happen under the Bill. That sort of power should never be given to a man, and I ask hon. Members to view this matter in the serious manner in which it should be viewed. Terrorism is a menace to the organisation of the progressive movement, in no matter what country it may be. The only weapon of those who desire progress is organisation. Organisation is what we believe in, but we understand at the same time that reactionary measures taken by a reactionary Government to combat terrorism can be a greater menace to the progressive forces than the terrorism itself, and that is what is happening. The Government are taking advantage of opportunities presented by terrorism in order more and more to introduce the Fascist type of legislation. I ask the House to consider seriously, and to realise for what traditions this country stands in the midst of all the terror and destruction that are going on around us. I ask them to appreciate that and to make a stand against the Bill, and to choose another and better method of dealing with the problem that is before us.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 218; Noes, 17.1125
|Division No. 269.]||AYES.||[8.52 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Peake, O.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Garro Jones, G. M.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Petherick, M.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Pilkington, R.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Ponsonby, Col. C, E.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Griffith, F, Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Apsley, Lord||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Grimston, R. V.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Astor, Viscountess Plymouth, Sutton)||Hambro, A. V.||Remer, J. R.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Hammersley, S. S.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Hannah, I. C.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet||Harris, Sir P. A.||Rowlands, G.|
|Balniel, Lord||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Hepworth, J.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Salt, E. W.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Holdsworth, H.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Holmes, J. S.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Hopkinson, A.||Selley, H. R.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Bracken, B.||Hunloke, H. P.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Hutchinson, G. C.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Keeling, E. H,||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Kellett, Major E. O.||Somerset, T.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Kimball, L.||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Lees-Jones, J.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Spans, W. P.|
|Cary, R. A.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Channon, H.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Levy, T.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Little, J.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cooks, J. D. (Hammersmith, S,)||Loftus, P. C.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hon T. M. (E'burgh, W.)||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||M'Connell, Sir J.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||McCorquodale, M. S.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Cross, R. H.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Touche, G. C.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Train, Sir J.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Magnay, T.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Maitland, Sir Adam||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Denville, Alfred||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Donner, P. W.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H D R.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Markham. S. F.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Mellor, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Drewe, C.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Mitcheson, Sir G. C.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Montague, F.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Moore, Lieut. Col. Sir T. C. R.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Moreing, A. C.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's'.)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Errington, E.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Munro, P.||Wise, A. R.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Evans. E. (Univ. of Wales)||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Fleming, E. L.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES. —|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and|
|Furness, S. N.||Patrick, C. M.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.|
|Buchanan, G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Stephen, C.|
|Cove, W. G.||Maclean, N.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Gallacher, W.||Maxton, J,||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Naylor, T. E.||Mr. Pritt and Mr. Silverman.|
|Hardie, Agnes||Parker, J.|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]