We’ve been here before, children.
In 1977 Mark Hosenball, a young American journalist, wrote about GCHQ for Time Out (in those days it ran serious and well-researched investigative news stories). In 1977 we weren’t supposed to know that GCHQ even existed. It was doing then what it does now, only there were fewer computers: phone-tapping was its core business. The government was mightily displeased with Mr Hosenball. The Home Secretary decided that his presence in the UK was not ‘conducive to the public good’ and ordered his deportation. He was not told why, except that it was on grounds of national security.
He and his lawyers thought that was a bit off. They said he had been denied natural justice because he could not properly challenge the grounds for his deportation without knowing what they were. He found himself ( 1 WLR 766) in front of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, then in the early stages of dementia – which the legal establishment tried to hide from the public until it became too embarrassing. The other members of the Court included Lord Denning, now chiefly remembered for his reactionary views and ability to write intelligible if quaint English.
They agreed that the deportation did not meet the requirements of natural justice but they threw out his case anyway. They said natural justice didn’t apply. Denning concluded:
There is a conflict here between the interests of national security on the one hand and the freedom of the individual on the other. The balance between these two is not for a court of law. It is for the Home Secretary. He is the person entrusted by Parliament with the task. In some parts of the world national security has on occasions been used as an excuse for all sorts of infringements of individual liberty. But not in England. Both during the wars and after them, successive ministers have discharged their duties to the complete satisfaction of the people at large. They have set up advisory committees to help them, usually with a chairman who has done everything he can to ensure that justice is done. They have never interfered with the liberty or the freedom of movement of any individual except where it is absolutely necessary for the safety of the state. In this case we are assured that the Home Secretary himself gave it his personal consideration, and I have no reason whatever to doubt the care with which he considered the whole matter He is answerable to Parliament as to the way in which he did it and not to the courts here.
So that was alright then. Keep an eye out for similar tosh in the days ahead.