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Refugees

Volume 155: debated on Tuesday 27 June 1922

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19.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, if the number of refugees to this country from Ireland is increasing; and whether he can give any estimate of the number of destitute or semi-destitute persons who have come to England for protection?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. With regard to the last part, I regret that the information at my disposal is not sufficient to enable me to form an estimate of the total numbers. Assistance has been given by the Irish Distress Committee to approximately 150 persons. Applications received total 300.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to the representations made last night by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea with regard to setting up a Royal Commission to deal with these cases, in view of the fact that the hon. Baronet, as Chairman of the Committee, understands the position?

I do not think a Royal Commission is necessary, but I am considering whether my hon. Friend's Committee might not be somewhat enlarged, in order to enable it to undertake the other work which public Departments are pressing upon it, and I am discussing that with the Treasury. The Treasury have given carte blanche, within certain limits, to the present Committee, and they must necessarily be consulted if an addition is made.

Does the first part of the right hon. Gentleman s answer mean that refugees are not coming over in increasing numbers, or does it mean that no more are coming over?

I do not think that there has been any great egress in the last fortnight. On the contrary, I think it is slackening. At any rate, the fact that only 300 persons have applied in three weeks certainly shows that the number of persons with whom we are dealing is confined within fairly definite limits.

Is it that they have ceased to come over, or that they are still coming, but not in increasing numbers?

We cannot tell whether there are a few refugees coming day by day, but I do not think there is any formidable exodus.

Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire into the position in Glasgow, where I understand that a very large number are coming over, and where it is probable that the Committee does not deal with them?

The allegation as to the refugees in Glasgow is that they come from Belfast, and are almost all Catholics. It is strenuously denied by the Northern Government, who say that no great exodus is taking place from Belfast to Glasgow.

Does it matter whether they are Catholics or Protestants, and ought they not to be looked after?