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Commons Chamber

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Commons

Wednesday,19th May, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Bridgwater Gas Bill

Order for consideration, as amended, read.

I object to the consideration of this Bill, as no notice of it has been given on the Order Paper.

Bill, as amended, to be considered upon the next Sitting Day.

Oral Answers To Questions

Questions To Ministers (Foreign Parliaments)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can furnish a list of the countries, outside the British Empire, in the Parliaments of which the practice of the interrogation of Ministers by means of questions is in operation?

In present circumstances it would be impossible with the material at our disposal to draw up a list with any degree of accuracy, but if my hon. Friend desires, I can take steps to obtain up-to-date information as regards those countries with which His Majesty's Government now maintain diplomatic relations.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he knows of more than about two countries in the whole world that have our democratic practice?

No, Sir, I do not know that I do, but, of course, methods differ. There are interpolations of different kinds, not always like our Question time.

Is it not a fact that at Question time, in a few moments, we always give the Government a great deal of advice?

Is it not a fact that Question time is very good for the Ministers?

British Council

House Of Commons Official Report (Overseas Libraries)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many of the overseas libraries of the British Council are regularly supplied with copies of Hansard and with the bound volumes of Hansard?

The British Council have supplied copies of any particular issues asked for by their representatives or institutes overseas, but no regular distribution has been made hitherto.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that in the reference libraries of these places there should be a greater record kept of the Proceedings of this House?

The British Council are quite willing to distribute Hansard regularly to their representatives abroad whenever it can be used to advantage.

Overseaslibraries And Reading-Room Centres


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many libraries or reading-room centres have been established overseas by the British Council?

The British Council have founded 67 libraries and reading-room centres overseas. They supply additional books and current periodicals regularly to these, as well as to 17 libraries attached to Anglophil societies and to a large number of university and school libraries.

Is this not exclusive of centres of occupied Europe established before the war?

Tangier (British And French Rights)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now take steps to restore British and French rights at Tangier?

British rights in Tangier are covered by the modus vivendi reached with the Spanish Government early in 1941 about which a full statement was made by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State on February 26th, 1941. Under this modus vivendi British rights are fully safeguarded pending a final settlement, which cannot at present be reached, since it is not possible during the war for the signatories of the relevant international instruments to enter into negotiation. I am not prepared to make any statement regarding French rights at Tangier beyond recalling that the provisional arrangement to which I have referred was expressly concluded without prejudice to the rights of third parties under the relevant international instruments.

Am I to understand that the right hon. Gentleman does not regard the present modus vivendi as permanently satisfactory?

Rome (Bombing)


asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can give an assurance that no agreement, explicit or tacit, exists that Rome shall not be bombed; and whether, in view of the importance of Rome as a railway centre and the number of targets of military importance in and around the city, the bombing of Rome will be included in the aerial offensive against Italy?

No assurance or agreement exists of any kind whatever that Rome shall not be bombed. On the contrary, as stated to the House on previous occasions, we shall not hesitate to bomb Rome if the course of the war should render such action convenient and helpful.

May I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend whether, in view of the known accuracy of our bombers, he will give instructions that they should avoid the antiquities as far as possible, as in the case of Cologne Cathedral?

I have nothing to add to the reply which I have given en this matter.

Royal Navy

Barge Sinkings, Welsh Coast


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has considered the report on the disaster off the Welsh coast; and can he now make a statement concerning the report?

I regret that I am not yet in a position to add anything to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend on 12th May. Proper consideration of the report will take some little time.

British Sailors, Philippines (Treatment)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to the punishment of British sailors who were said to have posed as civilians in the Philippines; and whether he will make a note of such actions for eventual retribution?

Owing to the difficulties of obtaining news regarding prisoners of war in the Philippines, it has so far proved impossible to obtain any information beyond what has already appeared in the Press. Further inquiries are, however, being made through Diplomatic channels.

Captains (Promotion)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many captains of the Royal Navy have been promoted to the rank of rear-admiral and acting rear-admiral, respectively, without consideration of their place on the list, since 14th December, 1940?

Since 14th December, 1940, 19 captains have been promoted to the rank of rear-admiral and five captains to the rank of acting rear-admiral, irrespective of their positions on the captains' list.

Is it not a fact that, in spite of these promotions, there are still very few, even rear-admirals, under the age of 50 in the Royal Navy, with the result that the Navy, instead of being the senior Service, is rapidly becoming the senile Service?

Any such suggestion, in view of the record of the Royal Navy in this war, is most uncalled for.

Wound Pensions {Serving Personnel)


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether pensions in respect of wounds are being paid to officers and men wounded during this war but still serving?

Pensions in respect of wounds sustained in this war are not payable to officers and men while they continue to serve, but on termination of their service they are eligible for consideration for awards from the Ministry of Pensions.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the practice that was in operation until this war was brought to an end; and is he not aware that all through the last war and the period before the war officers who were being paid wound pensions were being paid while in the Service?

I think that my hon. and gallant Friend has been a little misinformed. The present position was that it was based on the change adopted by this House after the Report of the Select Committee of this House in 1921.

Will the right hon. Gentleman further consider this matter, because there are now officers serving who have lost limbs in this war but who have not been paid any wound pension at all, and is that not contrary to previous practice?

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will refresh his memory about the arrangements which have been made and which brought certain other advantages with regard to the payment of pensions for disease as well as for wounds by bringing all the practice into line in 1921.

Nigeria (Copper Production Grant)


asked the Secretar of State for the Colonies whether, in respect of the grant of £750,000 made to the Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mines to increase copper production in Northern Nigeria, this development will employ more Africans; whether conditions will be attached to such grant and employment with respect to family accommodation and some proportion of permanent settlement with reasonable amenities; and whether conditions will be imposed preventing colour-bar practices and the adoption of the, recommendations of the Commission into the Copperbelt disturbances?

The Ministry of Supply is making a grant of 50 per cent. of the cost of certain capital expenditure at the Nchanga copper mine for the purpose of obtaining an increase in output. Within that expenditure a sum of £135,000 is provided for the building of a township and native housing. There is no information here as to the exact items upon which the £35,000 will be spent, but the company is asking its local management in Northern Rhodesia to supply this information. The Ministry of Supply contract does not include provisions dealing with the matters referred to in the second and third parts of the Question.

May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether, when this grant is actually made, conditions with regard to the welfare of the African workers can be embodied in it, particularly in regard to work of a superior character, so that the colour bar does not operate, and, further, that certain wage standards should be established and general welfare provisions made with regard to the conditions of employment?

The hon. Gentleman will realise that this grant is made by the Ministry of Supply for the express purpose of increasing copper output during the war, and that must be the primary consideration.

Solomon Islands Operations (Awards For Civilian Gallantry)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many British administrative officers and natives in the Solomon Islands have been decorated for gallantry during recent operations against the Japanese?

The British Administrative Officer who was acting as District Officer, Guadalcanal, and was serving as a captain in the Island's Defence Force, has been awarded the Military Cross. A civilian award for gallantry has been made to a native retired sergeant-major of police, who has received the George Medal. In addition, exceptional devotion to duty in a theatre of war has been recognised by the award of the C.M.G. to Mr. Marchant, the Resident Commissioner; of the M.B.E. to a British District Officer; and of the B.E.M. to three native officers of the local Administration.

In view of the very great gallantry shown, not only by the administrative officers, but also by the native population, would it be possible to recognise this gallantry by some similar method to that by which the gallantry of Malta was recognised?

Trinidad (Food Control)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of discontent in Port of Spain arising from food shortage and alleged maldistribution; and whether he will make inquiries into the matter with a view to removing hardships and grievances?

Representations made to him regarding the administration of food control in Trinidad have been forwarded to me by the Governor who has stated that they are being examined by the Control Board which advises the Food Controller on matters of policy. I have asked the Governor to send me a further report as soon as the Board's recommendations have been received and considered by him.

In view of the apparent grave shortage and even hunger, cannot something be done meanwhile to expedite this matter?

The Committee are considering whether it would in fact be advantageous to alter the system.

Colonial Empire (Conscripted Labour)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in what British Colonies legislation for compulsory labour service has been passed; and what are the numbers conscripted under these laws in each territory?

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to unskilled manual labour conscripted for work in Government civil undertakings or private undertakings. Such conscription is permitted only when the labour necessary for purposes essential to the conduct of the war or maintenance of the life of the community cannot otherwise be obtained. The territories in which schemes for the conscription of such labour have been authorised by legislation are Nigeria, Kenya, Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia, Mauritius, Fiji and Seychelles. As the further information asked for by my hon. Friend necessitates a statement of some length, I will, with his permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is there anything really very dreadful in conscripting certain natives for food production when everybody in this country is conscripted?

Does the Minister appreciate the great distinction between natives who have no self-government and ourselves?

May I ask the Minister whether private firms for whom these people are being conscripted pay the full 1000 per cent. E.P.T., or do they make a profit out of the conscripted labour?

Conscription can only be where there is need for work which is necessary for the war effort.

Following is the statement:

The only labour conscripted in Nigeria for schemes of this character is the labour conscripted for the tin mines, and the latest figure in my possession was given in my reply to a Question by my hon. Friend on the 24th March. In Kenya, the total number of conscripted men in employment at the end of January last was 14,561, out of a total of 254,810 labourers registered as being in employment. In Tanganyika, 3,623 labourers were conscripted during the period March to December, 1942. In December, 1942, a further requisition was issued for 5,000 men in view of labour requirements for the following six months, but it is not known what proportion of these has been compulsorily recruited. In Northern Rhodesia, the only conscription is for a small Government Labour Corps of about 500 men, of whom 115 only were compulsorily recruited. The Corps is used on farms for food production, or for any urgent Government work. Government supervision is provided for at all times. In Mauritius, a Labour Corps is in process of formation on the same lines as the Northern Rhodesia Corps, and with the same safeguards. I have no particulars at present regarding the number of men enrolled. In Fiji, a Defence Regulation exists empowering the Director of Man Power to direct any male person between 18 and 60 to perform essential work in the employ of the Government or of contractors working under the direct supervision of the Government or certain public Authorities. I have no information what, if any, use has been made of this Regulation. In Seychelles, the Compulsory Service Ordinance provides that adult male persons can be, if necessary, enrolled to do any work or render any personal service which the Governor may think necessary to order in aid of or in connection with the defence of the Colony. So far as the conscription of labour for civilian purposes is concerned, it is not known whether any use has been made of these powers. Compulsory powers have also been taken under the Food Production Ordinance as amended by Defence Regulations to secure the planting of land with a view to increasing the food supplies of the Colony. I understand that only about 11 men have been called upon to render service in this connection up to the present.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why forced labour was abandoned in Kenya; and what is now the position of those workers who have been conscripted in that Colony?

Recruitment of labour by conscription was suspended in February in order that the food supply difficulties should not be aggravated by a further addition to the numbers of Africans employed outside the Native Reserves. While I have no definite information on the point, it now seems probable that those recruited prior to the suspension will complete their period of service. But I am asking the Governor for a report.

Has the release of these natives materially improved the food situation there?

It helped during the critical period. Of course, improvement depends upon the new crop, and I am glad to say that in most areas of East Africa crop conditions seem favourable.


Agricultural Holdings


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give the approximate number of agricultural holdings in Jamaica, giving the number of separate holdings of half an acre and holdings of not more than 5 to 10, 10 to 50, 5o to 100 acres; 100 to 200, 200 to 500 acres; 500 to r,000 and the number exceeding 1,000 acres, respectively?

I regret that I am not in possession of this information. I will ask the Governor whether he can supply it in this form and will communicate with the hon. Member when I receive his reply.

Does not the Minister consider that in view of the economic developments now taking place in Jamaica it is highly important that there should be an accurate return as to the distribution of land?

I am asking the Governor for that, but I cannot guarantee that the information will be available in exactly the form for which the hon. Gentleman has asked.



asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the new Constitution has now been accepted by the Legislative Council of Jamaica; and whether with, or without, amendment?

I am glad to say that that Legislative Council have, by an unanimous vote, accepted the proposals for a new constitution. The elected members have submitted to me a number of proposals on points of detail and these are being examined, but the acceptance of the constitution is not conditional on the decisions of His Majesty's Government on these matters.

Seychelles (Defence Regulations)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will take steps to amend Section 10 of the Seychelles Defence Regulations (No. 4), 1942, as the penalty of immediate forfeiture of all foodstuffs grown by the offender is out of proportion to the offence of pilferage?

No, Sir. The Seychelles Defence Regulation to which my hon. Friend refers leaves it to the discretion of the court whether the full penalty should be imposed, and the court would, no doubt, take into consideration any mitigating circumstances.

Does it not seem very unreasonable to withhold the livelihood of an offender in such cases?

The hon. Gentleman must remember that the offender has deprived someone else of his livelihood by stealing these crops.

Ceylon (Child Adoption Ordinance)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Adoption of Children Ordinance, 1941, of Ceylon, passed by that Government with the object of restraining child slavery, but which contained a section suspending its operation; whereby it can only be brought into force by proclamation, is now in operation; and, if not, will he take immediate steps to effect the same?

The Governor of Ceylon reported in January last that steps were being taken to prepare and to introduce in the Ceylon State Council at an early date legislation providing for certain amendments to this Ordinance which were regarded as desirable before it was brought into operation. I will ask the Governor for a further report and will communicate with the hon. Gentleman when I have received it.

In view of the years of delay in this matter, would the Minister put the maximum pressure on the local Government in Ceylon to push on with the task of implementing these Ordinances?

I am anxious to see this done, but the hon. Gentleman will realise that this is one of the matters in which Ceylon exercises a very great measure of self-government.

Stutley Colliery (Miners' Transport)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport why arrangements for the conveyance of miners from Creswell, Clown and Whitwell to Stutley colliery have been so changed as to cause inconvenience, a longer period away from home, and debars them the use of the canteen and pit-head baths they are accustomed to; and whether the arrangements are of a temporary character or not?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport
(Mr. Noel-Baker)

The new arrangements were made at the request of the Shireoaks Colliery Company. They are now, however, being reviewed by the Regional Transport Commissioner and the Regional Controller of the Ministry of Fuel and Power, who hope and expect that a satisfactory settlement will be reached this week.

Empire Cables (Censorship)


asked the Minister of Information whether the additional instructions issued to the censorship in March last year with regard to outgoing Press messages are still in operation; to what extent and with what results they have been applied during the past year to the despatches of Empire Press correspondents and others; and whether he intends to continue to make use of these powers?

Yes, Sir. Press censors are still required to refer to their directors any passage in an outgoing message which might cause serious misunderstanding or ill-feeling between the United Nations. Only a very small proportion of Press cables have, in fact, to be referred on these grounds. In practice it has not been necessary to modify or delete more than one word out of every 10,000 filed by overseas correspondents. Even then the emendations have nearly always been achieved by friendly agreement with the correspondents concerned. This is a very satisfactory state of affairs, and it is proof of the high degree of responsibility exercised by all the Empire correspondents in this country. Nevertheless, I do not think it would be wise to withdraw the powers conferred on the censorship in view of the harm that can be done by even a single indiscretion. I will gladly repeat the assurance I have given the House that these powers will never be used in such a way as to handicap legitimate criticism. It is right that the fullest and frankest despatches of Empire correspondents should be transmitted to their papers. These correspondents represent newspapers of great influence and responsibility and their work plays a vital part in the growth of sympathy and understanding between Britain and the rest of the Empire.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why quotations from American papers about certain events in this country are allowed in our Press here which the Ministry will not allow our newspapers to publish direct?

The hon. Gentleman is a little bit confused. Anything published by American newspapers is not subject to our censorship, and I do not intend to take responsibility for the Ministry of Information of the United States. I have enough work to do here.

Can the Minister explain why the Truman Committee's report on our shipping losses was published in this country from America?

If the hon. Gentleman will put that question down, I will see if I can provide him with an answer.

Scrap Metal Dumps (Collection)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works whether he will take steps to clear up the large dumps of iron-scrap which have been lying for years in most country villages before he proceeds with further requisitions from private owners?

Systematic arrangements are in operation for the clearance of village dumps, though it must necessarily take a considerable time to cover the whole of the rural areas. These dumps yield a high proportion of very light scrap, and there is a marked deficiency of heavier material which it is necessary to meet from other sources including requisitions from private owners.

Is the hom. Gentleman aware that people all over the country are tired of seeing these big heaps, which they have patriotically helped to put there, while their railings are taken away without due notice having been given? Why does he not do what the paper people do—have regular collections? Why cannot he have a collection once every year, every six months or every three months in order to remove these dumps?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that these dumps are being systematically cleared with every county drive. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Whenever there has been a county drive for scrap metal every dump has been systematically cleared. There are certain dumps in parts of the country where a county drive has not yet taken place. In addition to what I said in my answer and to reinforce it, I would like to point out that there is a large amount of light scrap in village dumps which is not rich enough in content for the purpose of smelting. Where this is so heavier metal has to be mixed with it.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether these county drives are supposed to synchronise with this war or the next?

There have been about 28 county drives so far, and if the hon. Member subtracts that number from the total number of counties, he will have his answer.

Band Performances, Royal Parks


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works the reasons for band performances in Greenwich Park being so much later in the season than similar performances in other London parks?

I regret that, owing to the limited funds available for band performances during the war, it has been necessary to reduce the number of performances in all the Royal Parks. I will, however, consider the possibility off making an earlier start in Greenwich Park next year.

May I take it that the residents of South London will not be unduly prejudiced as against other parts of London?

Yes, my hon. Friend may have that reply and may be satisfied that they are not being unduly prejudiced. The amount of money that has been made available for such entertainments has been substantially reduced and every one of the parks has had the opportunities of listening to bands limited.

House Of Commons Members' Fund


asked the right hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope), as representing the trustees, whether he is aware that the income of the House of Commons Members' Fund, derived from the statutory contributions of hon. Members, is proving to be 10 times as great as the calls on the fund; and whether, in these circumstances, he will obtain an early report from the Government Actuary, as provided under Section 3 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act?

In view of the fact that several of us take considerable interest in this Question, will steps be taken to put it on the Order Paper for the next Sitting Day or the next subsequent Sitting Day, and will some intimation be sent to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that we should like his presence here?

It is customary when a Minister is not present that the Question can be asked again later. I propose to allow that in this case.

At the end of Questions—

On a point of Order. As the right hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) was not present to answer Question 34, will it be in Order for me to put that Question again in the next series of Sittings?

Enemy-Occupied Europe (Food Supplies)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he will permit dried milk and vitamin concentrates to be sent to Greece, France, Belgium and Poland to provide children under 16 years of age, nursing and expectant mothers with a daily ration sufficient to ward off the worst deficiency diseases; and is he aware that the money, supplies and shipping are available and that the International Red Cross would be able to pro. vide for full control of the distribution?

As regards the shipment of milk and vitamin concentrates to Greece, I would refer my hon Friend t0 the answer which I gave on 11th May to my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey). Otherwise the policy of His Majesty's Government remains as laid down by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 20th August, 1940. After the fullest consideration, and with the deepest sympathy for the Allied peoples of Europe in their sufferings under German rule, His Majesty's Government are convinced that a general action of the kind described would inevitably be exploited by the enemy for his own advantage. Moreover, such action could hardly be confined to the countries named in the Question, and the provision of foodstuffs for children and nursing and expectant mothers throughout Occupied Europe would involve a very serious breach in the blockade. I regret, therefore, that except in the case of Greece the answer to the first part of the Question must be in the negative. As regards the second part of the Question, no information has been received by His Majesty's Government to show that money, supplies and shipping are now available for this purpose. Nor does there exist in France, Belgium or Poland any machinery of control which we could possibly accept as adequate. As I have frequently pointed out in answers to Questions on this subject, neutral control of imported foodstuffs is an insufficient guaranfee unless it is accompanied by control over the domestic food supplies of the countries in question.

In view of the fact that vitamins and dried milk could only be used for expectant mothers and children, is it not a fact that they could be of no value to the enemy?

I do not agree. Local supplies of milk are one of the commodities which the German occupying troops are most liable to seize, and if we sent in any substantial quantities of dried milk we should merely be adding to the pool of foodstuffs available to them.

In view of the fact that the Minister made an exception in respect of control as far as Belgium is concerned, is it not possible for this action to be taken experimentally with Belgium in order to do something at least to alleviate this very serious position?

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the original answer he will see that I made no exception as regards control in Belgium.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his reply will be 'read with very great satisfaction by many people who do not sympathise with the humanitarian agitation against the enforcement of the blockade?

Is there any evidence that the Germans have actually seized any of these foods which have been allowed in?

The only case in which they have been allowed in is that of Greece. For a considerable time throughout last summer when the first emergency shipments were going to Greece the German and Italian occupying forces were laying their hands as hard as they could on Greek domestic produce.

Will the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the best service we can do to the people in the occupied countries is to win the war as quickly as possible and that, to achieve that end, it is desirable that we should apply the very potent weapon of blockade? Further, is it not significant that just at the time when the weapon of the blockade is becoming most effective there is the strongest possible agitation to lift it?

Captured Generals (Pay)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether General von Arnim is now in England; how he will be treated; whether he will receive the same rate of pay as the Italian general captured some time ago; will it be paid by the Government of Germany; how many of our generals have been captured; how are they treated; and do they get the same pay?

General von Arnim is now in England. He will be treated in the manner appropriate to his rank like other prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention of 1929. This Convention lays down that officer prisoners of war shall receive the rate of pay, of their rank in their own forces or in the forces of the detaining Power, whichever is the less. British rates are higher than German rates, and so General von Arnim will receive the rate of pay appropriate to his rank in the German army, Italian generals in our hands receive Italian rates of pay, which are appreciably higher than, the corresponding German rates. All pay issued to German officer prisoners of war is recoverable under the Geneva Convention from the German Government after the war. One general from the United Kingdom is in German hands and four are in Italian hands. They are treated and paid in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

Could General von Arnim receive a ration card so as to prevent his getting too liberal an allowance of food?

Is any notice taken of promotions conferred on generals on the eve of their capture?

I do not know whether that applies to any generals, but the rule is that promotions are notified to the detaining Power, and thereafter conditions will apply in accordance with. the promotion.

General von Arnim is paid £16 a month, and that will be paid in sterling.

On what rate of exchange between the two currencies are the payments in sterling made?

Prisoners Of War, Far East


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can now state the number of British and Allied prisoners of war released by the Japanese authorities to date; and also the approximate number still under detention?

Except for a few Chinese and Eurasian members of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps, I am not aware that the Japanese have released any British, Dominion, Indian or Colonial troops. It is estimated that more than 108,000 of these troops are prisoners in Japanese hands. I regret that I have no figures of Allied troops who are prisoners of war.

Are negotiations going on now with a view to securing the release of as many British and Allied prisoners as possible?

I am not in a position to say that negotiations are going on at the moment, but I can assure my hon. Friend that every endeavour has been and will be made by the Government to achieve that object.

French North Africa (Administration)


asked the Prime Minister whether he is yet in a position to indicate the future form of government and administration in the North African States?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply which I gave yesterday in answer to a Question by my hen. Friend the Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne), to which I have nothing to add.

Is the process of discarding Vichy officials proceeding satisfactorily?

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that we are not fighting this war in order to acquire more territory?

Production Committees (Amalgamated Engineering Union's Report)


asked the Minister of Production the result of his investigation of the individual cases cited in the report of the Amalgamated Engineering Union on Production Committees.

I have now had the report carefully examined. The report deals with difficulties of 1942, and generally speaking I do not think it would be profitable to take further action on any of the particular cases to which reference is made. In general, I am satisfied that existing machinery is adequate for dealing with current problems.

Food Supplies

Sacks (Size)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will take steps to ensure that sugar and other commodities are bagged in one cwt. instead of two cwt. sacks as at present, so as to relieve the physical strain caused to those who handle them?

Commodities are packed in containers of varying sizes ranging up to 2 cwt. sacks. Owing to the shortage in the supply of jute it would not be possible to restrict the size of the container in all cases to 1 cwt. sacks. In the case of sugar the use of 1 cwt. sacks in place of a 2 cwt. sack would entail an increase in the quantity of jute required of well over 20 per cent.

If the hon. Gentleman's Ministry can possibly do this in the near future, will they take note of the suggestion I have made, especially in view of the fact that some of these workpeople are likely to suffer from rupture because of the heavy weights they have to handle?

We shall be glad to do so. We recognise the force of the hon. Gentleman's request.

North African Products


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Food whether, in view of the victory in Africa of the United Nations, he can make a statement as to the prospects of obtaining dried fruit, sardines and other foodstuffs for consumption in this country?

My Department has been represented in North Africa since the early days of the Allied occupation, and no effort is being spared to ensure that any useful foodstuffs in excess of local needs and of which an exportable surplus exists there are made available to the United Nations.

New Ration Books (Distribution)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the proposal to issue the new ration books, with National Registration identity cards, to the public in Portsmouth from one centre only; what representations he has received from the municipal council on the subject; and whether he will take steps to meet the objections so far as possible?

I am aware of the proposal to issue new ration books and identity cards in Portsmouth from one centre, and representations have been received from the city council. My Department's local officers will take all possible steps to minimise inconvenience to the public.

If labour shortage is the reason, as I understand it is, cannot the Women's Voluntary Services be called in?

Fish (Prices)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will give details of the prices of the varieties of fish which are below the pre-war price to the consumer; whether fishermen are satisfied with the yield to them; and whether he can state the basis on which they are remunerated?

Local and periodical variations of fish prices before the war make any comparisons with current prices difficult and probably misleading, but it would appear that, in general, the present maximum prices of soles and hake are not above pre-war prices. It is not possible to make detailed comparisons. So far as I have the means to judge, fishermen are, in general, not dissatisfied with their returns. The various sections of fishermen have different bases of remuneration into which fixed wages, poundage on the net return realised by the catch, risk money, share and stocker or perquisites may enter.

Shell Fish (Lobsters)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that lobsters have a maximum retail price of 3s. 3d. per lb. where there is no maximum wholesale price; that hotels are buying them wholesale at 5s. 6d. per lb. and that consequently there are none available for the public; and will he take action in the matter?


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will consider a revision of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Shell Fish) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 631), having regard to the fact that the maximum prices fixed are such that supplies are not likely to be available to the public?

I saw a report in a newspaper to the effect that hotels were buying lobsters at 5s. 6d. a lb. An immediate and exhaustive investigation failed to reveal evidence of any sort to justify the report or that prices above the maximum were being paid by any buyers. In any case the current maximum price of 3s. 3d. a lb. applies to any sale of lobsters. The effect of the Order on supplies and distribution is being watched, and my Noble Friend will take any further action which may be necessary in the light of experience.

I shall be glad to have the facts on which my hon. and gallant Friend's Question is based.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member for Plaistow received two lovely crabs free of charge yesterday?

Is there no difference between the wholesale price and the retail price?

Milk (Cleanliness)


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that caps from previous fillings are frequently found at the bottom of bottles of pasteurised milk; whether the caps are pasteurised; and what steps he is taking to ensure the cleanliness of the milk supply?

My right hon. Friend has heard of a single instance of this. The enforcement of the relevant Regulations is a matter for local authorities, and he has recently taken the opportunity of asking them to concentrate attention upon cleanliness in method of production, treatment and distribution.

Is the hon. Lady aware that this Question was put down to the Ministry of Food, and an: I to understand that they disclaim any responsibility for the purity of the food supply?

Cleanliness of milk comes under the supervision of local authorities and therefore under the Ministry of Health.

Is the hon. Lady aware that this Question has nothing to do with pasteurisation, and that as the same accident in production may occur to sterilised milk, raw milk, T.T. milk or any other kind of milk, it does not reflect on the method of pasteurisation?

In view of the hon. Lady's last reply, may I ask what her Department is doing with a view to providing safe milk for the public?

Ministry Of Food (Public Relations Department)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food how many men of military age are employed in the Public Relations Department of the Ministry of Food; how many are in the respective military grades; and whether he will consider replacing the men in the higher categories by women or by men of lower military categories or over military age?

The number of males of military age employed is 11, all of whom by reason of the fact that they were over 30 at the time of registration, are reserved under existing arrangements applicable to Government Departments generally. So long as these arrangements continue the question of replacement does not arise. One was invalided out of the Navy; one has been placed in Grade 11; no others has been examined for the purpose of medical classification.

Ministry Of Supply

Tree Felling


asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that trees have been felled in an area, of which he has been informed, by contractors under his Department before any agreement has been made and in disregard of the terms of the draft agreement with the owner, in violation of the requirements of good felling and without regard to representations made to his officials on the subject; and will he take steps to rectify grievances in this case and avoid such damage and breach of contract elsewhere in future?

Yes, Sir. I regret that, owing to a misunderstanding, felling commenced on this estate before the agreement had been signed and before the work had been authorised. Steps are being taken to rectify the grievances in this case and to avoid a similar happening in the future.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his frank confession, may I ask him whether he recognises that the trees that have been felled and that were reserved for that particular estate, are no longer of value to the estate as felled trees because they cannot grow any more.

I am very sorry, and I regret what happened in this case, but I cannot do any more than promise that we will take any steps we can to rectify it.

Form Rp 331A


asked the Minister of Supply how many forms, R.P. 331A, have been issued by his Department; and what is the estimated number of man-hours required for their completion by the recipients?

We have so far issued 288 copies of this form, which has been approved by a panel representing the industry. It is not possible to estimate the time required to complete the form, as this must depend on the number and nature of the contracts held and the state of the firm's records.

Is not consideration given to the amount of time required to fill up this form? Is my right hon. Friend aware that in one small company the filling-up of this form occupied four men a whole week?

I am surprised to hear that that is so. In any case, this form was approved by a panel of the industry consisting of technical persons all engaged in this business who knew exactly what was required. In such cases as I have been able to get information about the time has varied from five minutes to three hours.

Scottish Bank Notes


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that Scottish Service men stationed in England only receive 19s. 6d. in exchange for notes issued by Scottish banks; and will he take steps to end this practice?

Scottish bank notes are not legal tender in England, and a bank cashing such notes in England may charge for the service of forwarding them to the Scottish bank of issue for collection. In practice, I am advised that the holder of a Scottish note can cash it without charge at the head office in London of any of the Scottish banks. As pointed out by my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General in the reply which he gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Kennedy) on 26th March, 1942, post offices accept Scottish bank notes if tendered in payment for any post office transaction. Generally, the number of Scottish notes presented in England has been reduced by the administrative arrangements under which payments to members of the Forces proceeding from Scotland to England are made in Bank of England notes.

Is it not about time this position was rectified? If Scottish bank notes are not legal tender in England, will the hon. Member take steps to abolish them altogether?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that banks in Scotland are more or less controlled by banks in England, and why should the shareholders benefit from this transaction?

As Scotsmen make the pound go very much further than Englishmen, is it not fair that there should be such a charge?

As the Post Office pays 20s. for each Scottish pound note, will the hon. Gentleman undertake to get a promise from the banks that they will pay 20S.?

Public Road Transport Dispute, West Riding


asked the Minister of Labour whether he can make any statement regarding the present position of the stoppage of public road transport in Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Wakefield and other West Riding districts; and what action is being taken to reach a settlement of the dispute?

Following the issue of the arbitration award in respect of the recent application on behalf of road passenger transport workers, unofficial stoppages of work or restrictions on normal services have occurred in a few areas in different parts of the country. The unions concerned have taken urgent steps to secure a resumption of work, and a full resumption has taken place, except in some areas served by certain undertakings in the West Riding.

Is not the situation rather more serious than the hon. Member seems to indicate? It is not just two places, because a large number of districts have been without transport for several days.

Is the Minister aware that this stoppage—I will call it a stoppage; I had better not use the other word—is affecting the production of coal, and will he and some of the Members behind him keep this fact in mind, and not in future throw it at the miners that they are not producing coal?

Will the Minister not take some action to bring the parties together, so as to remove what is causing the greatest inconvenience to war workers in the area in addition to the mining industry?

The unions concerned have taken urgent steps in the matter, and I would rather not add to the answer which I have given.

Business Of The House

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he has any statement to make on the proposal for extra time for the Second Reading of the Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill?

I undertook last Thursday to reconsider the question of the time for the Second Reading, and I suggest to the House that we should suspend the Rule on the next Sitting Day so as to allow the House to sit for an extra two hours on that day. In addition, I will propose that when the Draft Regulations come before the House we should have an extra day then, which would give hon. Members a further opportunity for debate.

If it should prove that the Debate on the next Sitting Day, even with the suspension of the Rule, is really inadequate, will the right hen. Gentleman consider giving rather more than one day for the discussion of the Draft Regulations?

That is a little difficult for me. The Draft Regulations come at a later stage, and that point might be examined then. There is only one way out of allowing more time now than the two hours, and that would be to sit on another day this week, and if that were the general desire of the House, that could be examined, but I understood that the two hours and the extra day for the Draft Regulations, which I think will be the most valuable time for the House to debate this matter, will probably suit hon. Members pretty well.

I am only putting the point to my right hon. Friend that the Draft Regulations may require more discussion, and I hope that will be kept in mind.

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to stick strictly to the hours, or if half-a-dozen Members want to speak will he stretch it to another two hours?

I think my hon. Friend will agree that if we say two hours, we had better mean two hours.

Vote Of Credit (Supplementary), 1943 (Expenditure Arising Out Of The War)

Estimate presented,—of the further Sum required to be voted towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on 31st March, 1944, for general Navy, Army and Air Services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament, for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war [by Command]; referred to the Committee of Supply, and to be printed, [No. 88].

Busines Of The House


"That this day, unless Progress shall have been previously reported from the Committee of Supply, the Chairman shall leave the Chair to make his Report to the House at one hour and five minutes before the hour appointed for the interruption of Business and Mr. Speaker shall adjourn the House without Question put as soon as a day has been appointed for the Committee of Supply to sit again."—[Mr. Eden.]

Orders Of The Day



Considered in Committee.

[Major MILNER in the Chair]

Civil Estimates, 1943

Refugee Problem

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a further sum, not exceeding £70, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services connected with the Refugee problem for the year ending on the 3rst day of March, 1944, namely:

Class II., Vote 1, Foreign Office10
Class II., Vote 2, Diplomatic and Consular Services10
Class II., Vote 4, Dominions Office10
Class II., Vote 7, Colonial Office10
Class II., Vote II, India and Burma Services10
Class III., Vote I, Home Office10
Class X., Vote 6, Ministry of Health (War Services)10

For some time past there has been a desire in many quarters of the House to have a Debate on the refugee problem. The date of the Debate has been postponed from time to time while the Bermuda Conference was sitting, and I understand that it is now the desire that the Debate should be on the widest possible footing, and for that reason all the relevant Votes have been put on the Paper. I regret very much that my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who led the British Delegation at Bermuda with great ability, is detained on the other side of the Atlantic by important Government business. I am, however, glad to have not very far from me my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, whose personal qualities endeared him not only to his British colleagues but to our American counterparts, and whose wide knowledge both of shipping and of Colonial problems was of outstanding value to our discussions.

For many years the refugee problem has been a matter of deep concern, and has received the most earnest attention from His Majesty's Government. Before the war, apart from the situation in China, it was, from the advent of the Nazi regime until October, 1938, mainly if not exclusively a Jewish problem and a problem confined to Europe. After 1938 there was added the exodus from Czechoslovakia and from Poland. The Committee are, of course, aware of the admirable work done in the refugee field by the League of Nations High Commission. In 1938, on the initiative of President Roosevelt, a meeting was summoned at Evian, and the Inter-Governmental Committee was formed, first under the chairmanship of Mr. Myron Taylor, who was shortly afterwards succeeded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). The Inter-Governmental Committee was designed to take effective action under the circumstances existing when it was formed. It was an executive body. It had an executive director. Its mandate, however, which was adopted at Evian, restricted its scope to refugees from Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland, and it acted under the stipulation that the maintenance and transport of refugees was not to be at the cost of Member Governments. In these circumstances it was natural and inevitable that its efforts should have come to a conclusion on the outbreak of war.

I shall have something more to say later with regard to this Committee, which represented some 32 nations interested in the refugee problem. I would only at this stage express the debt of gratitude which we owe to its executive director, Sir Herbert Emerson, who combined with this office the position of High Commissioner for Refugees under the League of Nations organisation. He has been untiring in his efforts on behalf of refugees, and many fruitful suggestions have come from him from time to time. He has a unique knowledge of the refugee problem, and the memoranda which he furnished for our use at Bermuda were of the greatest possible value.,lb/> It will, I think, be for the convenience of the Committee if at the outset I make a few introductory observations on the refugee problem, particularly as it affects the British Empire, in order to supply the necessary background. I will then pass on to give some account of the Conference of Bermuda, and to state the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards the Report and recommendations which the Conference made.

The refugee problem to-day is worldwide. No one can estimate the number of actual refugees, and the infinitely greater number of would-be refugees, resulting from the aggression of Germany, Italy and Japan in all quarters of the globe. If anyone desires to get a picture of the part played by Great Britain, India and by our Colonial and Mandated territories in contributing to the solution of this problem, I would refer them to the lengthy statement made by the Prime Minister in a written answer on 7th April to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for East Willesden (Mr. Hammersley). It will there be seen that India—I begin my survey in the Far East —has received and supported over 400,000 refugees. Moving westwards, they will see there set out the contribution made by Palestine, where 300,000 persons, Jewish immigrants, have been received since 1919. The East African Colonies have also given accommodation and relief to a large number of war refugees. They will find in that statement also a reference to the Polish refugees who arrived in Persia last year, numbering some 40,000 persons who have come directly under our wing, and who are seldom, if ever, mentioned by those who continually strive to belittle the part which we are playing in this refugee problem. Finally, turning to Europe, there are in the enemy-occupied territories alone some 120,000,000 people in countries which have become the victims of Axis aggression and who would, for the most part, if they could, escape from the territories in which they are held prisoner.

I need not stress the barbarous character of the Nazi régime in Europe. According to a recent speech by our Ambassador in Washington, no less than 8,000,000 people in Poland since the outbreak of war have suffered barbarous punishment or death. Similar conditions apply in other occupied countries. There can be no doubt that the policies of labour conscription, of deportation and of extermination, are being applied, not only to the Jews, but to other large sections of European peoples. It is impossible not to feel burning indignation at these horrors, and it is natural that civilised people should desire every possible step to be taken to bring them to a conclusion and to punish those responsible. We must, however, recognise that these people are for the present mostly beyond the possibility of rescue. It is not a question of the unwillingness of neighbouring countries to receive them. They are hemmed in, and the frontiers over which they would cross are constantly patrolled by the Gestapo and by Nazi armed forces. The avenues of escape from this reservoir of suffering humanity are few and dangerous. I trust that nothing said in the course of this Debate will have the result of interfering with them. As hon. Members know, there are considerable numbers of Greek and Yugoslav refugees in the Middle East. There are refugees who find their way into various European countries. There are others who arrive directly at our shores. The rate of outflow varies at different times and in different places. The total number who have made their escape is of course infinitesimal in proportion to the size of the problem as a whole.

We must, I think, recognise that the United Nations can do little or nothing in the immediate present for the vast numbers now under Hitler's control. He is determined not to let those people go. The rate of extermination is such that no measures of rescue or relief, on however large a scale, could be commensurate with the problem. Every week and every month by which victory is brought nearer will contribute more to their salvation than any diversion of our war effort in measures of relief, even if such measures could be put into effect. In another place, on 23rd March, the Archbishop of Canterbury, following the lead of Mr. Victor Gollancz in his pamphlet, "Let my people go," put forward a suggestion of what he described as a direct offer to the German Government. There is no indica- tion whatever that any such offer, if made. would meet with anything but a negative response. (An HON. MEMBER: "Make it.") Everything points in exactly the opposite direction. The House will remember that on 3rd February, my right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies announced an arrangement under which 4,000 children would be sent from South Eastern Europe to Palestine accompanied by a smaller number of adults. Even in this measure of humanitarian relief delays and difficulties have arisen, not of our making, which have so far prevented this arrangement being carried into effect. If obstacles are placed in the way of a comparatively small measure for the relief of Jewish children from South Eastern Europe, what hope could be expected from a much larger proposal addressed to Germany for the relief and rescue of adults? I am glad to see that the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) has not repeated in her latest pamphlet the Archbishop's suggestion.

Our glorious victories in Africa have brought substantially nearer the day of ultimate victory. Any slackening of our war effort or any delay to shipping in the attempted rescue of refugees could only delay the day of victory and result in the infliction of greater suffering on the subjugated peoples of Europe. I do not think there will be any doubt on this issue in the minds of reasonable people, but some fantastic suggestions have been put forward. For example, it has been suggested that we should exchange, or endeavour to exchange, prisoners of war and civilian internees in our hands for would-be refugees now under Axis domination. I do not think our Armies would thank us if we offered to hand back to Germany the 100,000 or 150,000 prisoners which they have just taken in North Africa. As regards civilian internees, of whose cause the hon. Lady has been such an active protagonist in the past, some have already been repatriated. Of those still remaining interned, it would be the sheerest cruelty to return some of them into Axis hands, and as regards the few hundreds of others, there would be security objections of the most formidable character to sending them back to Germany.

The aspect of the matter with which we have endeavoured and can endeavour to deal is the assistance of refugees who have already reached neutral or Allied territory. Hon. Members will realise that neutral countries in Europe are subject not only to pressure from the United Nations on behalf of refugees but also to pressure from the Axis Powers in the opposite direction. The effectiveness of our diplomatic representation has no doubt been greatly enhanced by our recent victories. It is, therefore, most important that nothing should be said in the course of this Debate which would cause these countries embarrasment. I would, however, say that the number of refugees now in the countries which we might describe as countries of primary refuge probably does not exceed 50,000 to 60,000. Of these 50,000 a considerable number, of coarse, are in Switzerland, whence no further transfer is geographically possible without re-entering Axis-controlled territory. As regards the remainder the man in the street may well ask what object is to be achieved by the transfer of refugees from neutral countries to more distant places of refuge? Why, of all places, he may ask, should refugees be transferred from a place of temporary safety to a country like Great Britain, which is subject to attack from the air, where accommodation is limited and which is dependant upon our gallant Merchant Service for a large part of its necessary supplies.

There are, I think, two answers to this question. In the first place, the burden on these neutral States who have generously received these people may become unduly heavy if the refugee population continually increases. It is desirable to show them that other countries are prepared to give them help. Secondly, many of these people are anxious and willing to assist the Allied war effort. Seeing that we are all agreed that final victory is the only sure solution it really cannot be wrong to give priority in the work of rescue to those who will contribute to this end. Of those who are unable, for various reasons, to make such a contribution, many are refugees from various parts of Europe who found their way to safety in the early days of the war, or who have moved more recently after spending the time intervening between the fall of France in June, 1940, and its complete occupation in November, 1942, in unoccupied French territory.

In the three years 1940, 1941 and 1942, 63,000 refugees were admitted to Great Britain, and that, of course, excludes the large number of British refugees from the Channel Islands, Gibraltar and elsewhere. In the last five months, the period in which it is alleged that nothing has happened and there has been unnecessary delay, a further 4,000 people have arrived here. Our diplomatic and consular representatives have been working day and night, often under great difficulties, upon this task, and the very greatest credit is due to them for their untiring efforts. This country has a unique record since December last in the admission of 4,000 refugees. No hon. Member can point to any other country which has a record which can be compared at all with that figure. I doubt if any other country has admitted a quarter of that number in the corresponding period, but if I mention it with some pride I trust I shall not be taken to make the slightest reflection on any other country whose geographical situation has been less favourable and to which transport has not been available to the same degree.

I must pass for a moment to say a few words, and to dispel, if I can, a few illusions, in regard to the grant or refusal of visas, for which the Home Office is responsible. A visa, or even the promise of a visa if a refugee reaches neutral territory, is apparently regarded as giving an assurance of safe conduct to this country. That is a misunderstanding which would be pitiful if it were not so mischievous. Visas are regarded as something like railway tickets which must be obtained in every case by refugees seeking admission to this country and which are only granted after weeks and months of delay. It is suggested that these imaginary tickets might be made available in blocks to our consular representatives abroad who could issue or promise to issue them to all corners. The facts are very different. A visa is not a ticket, nor is it a condition precedent in every case to entry into this country. A visa is an endorsement placed on a passport or other document of identity by a diplomatic or consular officer who acts under instructions which involve reference to this country of cases falling outside certain categories.It is only prima facie evidence to the Immigration Officer that leave to land may be granted under the Aliens Order.

This procedure, however, of granting visas has been very largely suspended in the case of refugees, and the suggestion to put at the discretion of consular officers a certain number of visas, described as a "block," which he could grant without reference home, would be a limitation rather than an advance upon the existing practice. In addition to the persons who obtain visas under existing conditions, many thousands of refugees from enemy-occupied countries have arrived, and are still arriving, without visas, and no refugee who has reached this country without a visa has been turned back.

I hope this statement of the plain truth may remove some serious misconceptions, and I hope I have made it clear that there is no machinery in existence nor is any conceivable in present circumstances for giving visas or the promise of visas to persons in enemy or enemy-occupied territory. The suggestion that visas should be promised to such persons is really asking the impossible. We should be pledging ourselves in advance to receive persons about whom we know nothing and whom we could not identify. There is no evidence that even if it were possible to communicate such a promise to the individual for whom it was intended, it would in any way assist him to escape from enemy territory. On the contrary, it would be an additional element of difficulty and danger if it came to the knowledge of the enemy from whom the refugee was trying to escape.

I have here a pamphlet, which no doubt, has had a very wide circulation and has found its way into the hands of hon. Members. The pamphlet is entitled "Rescue the Perishing," and it is written by the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone). It is issued under the auspices of the National Committee for Rescue from Nazi Terror. This organisation has a long and distinguished list of vice-presidents, including the two Archbishops, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Moderator of the Free Church Federal Council, the Very Reverend the Chief Rabbi, Sir William Beveridge, Professor Brodetsky, Dame Elizabeth Cadbury, and so forth. No doubt we shall hear more about it in the course of the Debate. The pamphlet is, as I say, written by the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities, and an appeal is made to readers to show their feeling on this matter by all the usual methods of democratic expression, including letters to their Members of Parliament and letters to the Press and letters to various Ministers whose addresses are supplied. Under the heading of Chapter 7, "Examples of the harsh working of the Home Office Regulations," is mentioned the case—it is the first case —of "Refugees still in enemy-occupied territory," which the hon. Lady has given me notice she intends to raise in this Debate. I will, if I may, read it to the Committee:
"Aged Jewish couple in Berlin had a son in Istanbul, a naturalised Turk. On January 4th the son cabled to his sister in London, saying he could get Turkish visas for parents if London told its Consulate in Istanbul that a United Kingdom visa would be given. Asked for immediate reply, as parents in danger. The sister [that is the sister in this country] by advice of the Home Office cabled her brother that British visa impossible while parents in enemy territory. She has just heard from her brother that her parents were deported to Poland on February 28th (i.e., about eight weeks after refusal of British visas which might have saved them). This confirms her belief that her brother had secret means of communicating with parents and helping their escape. Even if this belief illusory refusal is a bad example to Turkey. She writes: I just cannot bear it. I would feel better if England had tried to help even without success."
The hon. Lady's comment on that is that the case
"illustrates the value—denied by the Home Secretary—of United Kingdom visas in helping escape from enemy territory."
I shall be very sorry, but I shall also be very surprised, if this aged couple are deported to Poland. Many readers of the paragraph which I have quoted must have thought that the Home Secretary was devoid of all decent humanitarian feeling. Knowing the facts—which, of course, are never known in full to the person who puts forward a case such as this—what does not surprise me is that this gentleman in Turkey has secret means of communicating with his parents in Berlin. The fact is that the gentleman who makes this appeal is a naturalised Turk, who occupies an important position in a firm at Constantinople which has the agency of the leading German armament manufacturers —Krupps, of Essen. He claims to have negotiated very large sales of armaments to Turkey, and, no doubt, part of his business, when he is not engaged in selling arms, is to obtain information about the arms supplied by other countries and to forward this information to his masters in Germany. He asks us to promise visas to this country for two persons whom we have never seen and whom, if they came here, we could not identify. I lust mention this case, which the hon. Lady has continually thrown at our heads and has referred to in speeches and pamphlets. It is said to be a hard case and one in which we ought to have promised visas to these persons who are now in Berlin. Really, the only possible result of granting a visa in that case would be the moral certainty that the persons who reached our shores would be German secret service agents.

(Combined English Universities): I do not want to interrupt the Under-Secretary, but may I say this? I was not aware of the position of that man in relation to Germany, but even supposing the facts to be as alleged, the man appealed for his parents, and he has got an assurance from the Istanbul authorities that he could get Turkish visas, if he first got British visas. Suppose that he had got his parents into Turkey and that then they were passed on here. The facts mentioned by my right hon. Friend being known here, could not they have been straightway put into an Isle of Man internment camp? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Why not? It would be a great mistake to argue from this one case. If there are certain facts about this man of the kind suggested, I am fully convinced that the sister, at any rate, is ignorant of all that, and that they were really anxious about the aged parents. If the aged parents were so safe in Berlin, why was he anxious to get them into Turkey; and anyhow, how can you argue from the facts of a particular case—

I do not want to get into a dispute with the hon. Lady. I have stated the facts to the Committee. We at the Home Office cannot bring ourselves to believe that the parents of a man occupying an important position in a firm which acts for Krupps in Constantinople are in serious danger, or that we ought to facilitate their escape from German territory by promising them visas to this country.

I want to deal now with the question of the issue of visas to persons in those countries which are now neutral. As regards persons who have reached countries of primary refuge, there is no evidence to show that if visas had been issued more freely, more refugees would have arrived here. Transport is an overriding difficulty in the whole of the refugee problem. The grant of visas, in order not to cause widespread disappointment, has, therefore, been made dependent upon some advantage resulting to one national interest and to our war effort. The classes of persons who are at present eligible for visas are certain specially qualified technicians and doctors; officials of Allied Governments and their wives; persons willing to serve in the Allied Forces and their wives and children and also the wives and children of persons already here and so serving, and in certain cases their fiancees. Visas are also granted in other cases to children of persons already here or of persons who are not already here, but are entitled to visas. Finally visas are available to children who have a near relative in this country.

As regards children, I should like, once and for all, to make it clear that throughout this difficult period there have been more offers of visas available for children from different parts of the world, than there have been children able to avail themselves of them. It is inevitable, under any policy of definition such as I have described, that some hard cases will arise. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has given most careful consideration to these cases, and he proposes from henceforward, as some contribution towards meeting them and as an earnest of our good will, to make the following extensions of the categories of individuals who are now eligible for special consideration:—

  • (i) Parents of persons serving in His Majesty's or Allied Forces, or in their Mercantile Marines.
  • Persons of other than Allied nationality willing to join His Mapesty's Forces and who are certified to be fit and acceptable for them.
  • (iii) Parents of children under 16 who are already here and who came here unaccompanied.
  • In regard to these extended categories, it should be made clear that they are only of persons eligible and that, of course, security considerations will in all cases be paramount. Furthermore, it should be emphasised that all or any of the persons coming in under the present policy may be subject to internment on arrival here, pending a full security examination of their cases. Nor can it be taken, of course, that the grant of a visa at the present time implies that the person to whom it is granted will be able to remain here after the termination of hostilities.

    I am afraid I am detaining the Committee rather long, but it is necessary that I should deal adequately with some of the charges made against the Government during the past five months. There has been a regular spate of propaganda issued by people who feel very deeply upon this matter, people whose minds are haunted and tormented by visions of what is going on in Germany and Poland. Some of this propaganda is unfair. We at the Home Office are not unaccustomed to propaganda which we, at any rate, consider unfair, and we try to remind ourselves that we must regard this sort of activity with toleration. I recall what Macaulay said in one of his speeches on the Reform Bill, about the effect of distress on the human mind. He said:
    "We know what effect distress produces, even on people more intelligent than the great body of the labouring classes can possibly be. We know that it makes even wise men unstable, unreasonable, credulous, eager for immediate relief, heedless of remote consequences. There is no quackery in medicine, religion or politics, which may not impose even on a powerful mind when that mind has been disordered by pain or fear."
    That quotation gives me some comfort when I read such a letter as that which the Bishop of Chichester addressed to "The Times" yesterday morning. The Bishop said:
    "It is quite certain that if the British and American Governments were determined to achieve a programme of rescue in some way commensurate with the vastness of the need, they could do it."
    He makes no attempt to indicate what is the programme of rescue which he suggests. It is quite true that we have our programme of rescue, and that programme is victory, and we are equally sure we can achieve it, but that, I think, is riot the programme which the Bishop has in mind. I wish he would tell us what his programme is, because in the first two paragraphs of his letter he makes a subtle suggestion that nothing has happened since 17th December when he says:
    "It will be almost exactly five months after the declaration of December 17."
    I wish he would tell us what his solution is, because we have waited for five months, and there has been no suggestion from the Bishop as to what his programme of rescue is. I have searched Hansard for the House of Lords ever since that date and have failed to find any speech by the Bishop on this subject at all. The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet) rushed into print on the second or third day of the Bermuda Conference, and in a letter to "The Times", published that day, he suggested that there would be widespread indignation unless the Conference initiated immediate measures of rescue on a scale adequate to the need. He really does seem to me, if I may say so, to have misunderstood the purpose of the Conference. Conferences do not take executive decisions. The purpose of the Conference was to confer, to analyse the facts, to examine possible methods of relief and to reach agreed conclusions and recommendations between the United States and British Governments as a preliminary to wider international collaboration.

    I now turn, if I may, to the statement which has been the subject of agreement with the United States authorities on the outcome of the Bermuda Conference. I should like to express our appreciation of the cordial spirit of co-operation shown by the United States Government Delegates. They approached, as I think I may say the British Delegation did also, this complex and difficult problem with realism but at the same time with constructive suggestions. After an exhaustive examination of all its aspects, we were able to agree on a Report which. makes a considerable number of definite practical recommendations. This agreed Report involves military questions and has other aspects which make it necessary that it should be kept strictly confidential, but I can reveal in general outline what the two Delegations set out to do and indicate, so far as is in the interest of the refugees themselves, what it accomplished.

    The basis for discussions at the Conference is to be found in the United States Government's Note of 26th February, which was published in the Press. The points set out there may be summarised as follow: Firstly, the refugee problem should not be considered as being con- fined to persons of any particular race or faith; secondly, international collaboration should endeavour to provide arrangements for temporary asylum for refugees as near as possible to the areas in which they are to be found at the present time; thirdly, plans should be considered for the maintenance in neutral countries in Europe of refugees whose removal cannot be arranged; fourthly, the possibilities of temporary asylum, with a view to repatriation upon the termination of hostilities, in countries other than neutral countries, should be explored, together with the question of the availability of shipping for transport and supply; and, fifthly, examination of the precise method of organising concerted action and providing the necessary executive machinery. It was on this basis that the Delegations settled their agenda, and determined the scope of their discussions.

    At the outset they agreed in rejecting, as contrary to the settled policy of both Governments, and calculated to injure the United Nations war effort, any proposal for general negotiations with the German Government to release potential refugees. They also rejected the suggestions made in some quarters that military prisoners in Allied hands should be exchanged against civilians, and that food should be sent in to selected groups of potential refugees. On the positive aspect of the problem, they agreed that shipping was of crucial importance. Accepting the principle that winning the war in the shortest possible time was the best service which their respective Governments could render to the refugees and to all those who are suffering under German tyranny, they concluded that it would be a grave disadvantage not only to the Allied, but to the refugee, cause to divert shipping from essential war needs to the carriage of refugees. There were, however, other possibilities, and though I cannot at this stage describe them in detail, I can assure the Committee, that they are being actively studied with a view to practical results.

    One thing which the delegates established was that, in spite of the contrary impression given in certain quarters, Great Britain and the United States are regularly accepting a continuous flow of refugees for admission to home and Colonial territories. A thorough and systematic study was made of the position of refugees who have reached and are still reaching neutral countries. It was recognised that alternative destinations must be found for these as far as possible, and that all those countries who had so generously received, and were continuing to receive, refugees were entitled to some assurance that they will not be expected to shoulder unaided and indefinitely a burden in the carrying of which there should be the fullest measure of international co-operation. This presupposed an efficient machinery of international consultation, collaboration and action. Precise recommendations on this subject were agreed to by the Delegations and made to their respective Governments. His Majesty's Government are in fullest agreement that the most effective way of planning the rescue and settlement of persons who have had the opportunity of escaping the horrors of deportation, and, it may be, death, in Europe would be through an Inter-Governmental Committee, constituted on the widest basis and with all possible means of action at its disposal.

    Side by side, however, with this project for the establishment of effective and permanent machinery, the two Delegations carefully examined all the contributions which their respective Governments could individually make to a solution of the problem. The general conclusions of both Delegations were, that while it would be creating a cruel illusion to hold out any hope of a solution commensurate with the terrible seriousness and complexity of the problem, other than speedy and final victory, far more was being done for the refugees by both countries than was generally appreciated, and that within the limits imposed by the inexorable demands of the war effort there were a number of hopeful possibilities for the future. His Majesty's Government are now studying these with the greatest care, and the United States Government, whose active and sympathetic interest in the refugee problem dates back so many years, are doing the same. Progress in this humanitarian but immensely difficult enterprise is in large measure dependent upon the widest and most complete measure of understanding between the British and American Governments.

    I regret that, in dealing with so vast a subject, I have kept the Committee so long. In some respects it would have been an advantage, and certainly I could have spoken much more freely, had the Debate been held in Secret Session. But the House and the country, with good cause, I think, dislike Secret Sessions. Moreover, there has been widespread public interest in this problem, and much has been written and spoken about it, not always with great discretion, and by no means in every particular calculated to advance the cause which the authors, equally with His Majesty's Government, have at heart. I think, therefore, that some fuller statement in public was necessary. I only hope that nothing I have said will have any unfortunate effects. I hope, also, that what I have said, in regard to our own contribution, more especially in recent months; secondly, in regard to the extension of the classes of persons who may be considered for admission to the United Kingdom; and finally—and most important of all—in regard to the establishment of permanent and effective international machinery, will do something to convince the Committee and the country that the Government are, and always have been, in earnest on this matter; and that, while the United Nations press on to the day of retribution and victory, the Bermuda Conference was not an expedient for delay, but a real step forward on the road that leads to liberation.

    (Nelson and Colne): Now that the fuller statement which the right hon. Gentleman thought it desirable to make in public has been made, is it his intention to have a Secret Session, to enable him to say those other things that he says could have been said in Secret Session?

    That is a matter which will have to be taken up, through the usual channels, with the Leader of the House

    (Combined English Universities): It is clearly difficult for me to follow my right hon. Friend, because there has been so much that he has not been able to tell us and so much which he hinted it would be dangerous to discuss in public. We feel like the schoolboy who was asked to write an essay on snakes in Ireland, and who could only say that there were no snakes in Ireland. There is so much that we are debarred from saying, and so much that it would be imprudent to say. We can all say, however, that we are glad to see my right hon. Friend and his colleagues who went to Bermuda with him, back from that dangerous journey—because all journeys are dangerous nowadays. That is the only pleasurable emotion that we can have on this subject. My right hon. Friend's whole speech seemed to be a plea for gratitude for what the Government have done in the past and for what they vaguely foreshadow may be done under the decisions of the Bermuda Conference. That is to ask for gratitude for very small mercies.

    Let me first deal with the positive side. It is difficult to deal with the points at all fully, as they were stated in such vague terms, but we gather that some effort is to be made to draw off the overflow from those neutral countries which are receiving refugees. My right hon. Friend explained that that is a really necessary concession, because those countries into which the refugees first get are not safe countries. We all know the possible dangers, and I am not going to enlarge upon them. Also, although he mentioned that in many cases the frontiers are closed, we all know that it makes all the difference in the world to the chances of refugees slipping over those frontiers if the burden is not going be too heavy on the neutral countries and they feel that they have some chance of passing on the overflow.

    We should all like to hear a great deal more about whatever help is to be given to neutral countries. So much will depend upon how many refugees they will perhaps not formally admit, but may allow to slip in. We should like to know whether the neutral countries themselves are satisfied with what has been offered to them. Are the proposals of the Conference going to achieve their purpose, which is not to relieve the burdens of neutral countries for their own sakes—they have not the burdens that we have to bear in fighting a terrible war—but to encourage them to take in refugees? I stress the point because a great deal was said by the United States representative—it might have been at one of the opening sessions of the Conference—about repatriation after the war. We all hope that the great majority of the refugees will then be repatriated, but we know that for a great many repatriation is not going to be possible, even when the country of origin is an Allied country and wants to take back its refugees, because of the economic disorder which 'is going to prevail in those countries which have suffered so long from Nazi oppression. Are the United Nations going to take responsibility, collectively or individually, for the burden, of resettlement, of course under specified conditions? I believe that to a large extent it will depend upon the answer to that question whether the decisions, of the Bermuda Conference are going to be as useful as they should in stimulating the generosity of neutral countries. Obviously, Palestine is the natural country of settlement for Jewish refugees. We are not thinking only of Jews, although Jews are the objects of greatest persecution. But we have a special responsibility for Jewish refugees, because of our responsibility for Palestine, the place to which they naturally turn.

    Then again I do not think my right hon. Friend said anything about the financial question. That Evian Conference, that inter-Governmental Committee to which he referred, led, as we all know, to very little. We all know what a poor reputation it had for generosity, courage or speed. The Conference was not to blame; the nations who constituted it were to blame. They sought to throw the whole financial cost of refugee settlement upon the refugees themselves or upon philanthropy. The American document implied that that was so. The Jewish population has been extremely generous, not only to Jews but to other refugees. Sir John Hope Simpson, in his famous book, says something to the effect that more Christian refugees have been saved by the Jews than by the Christian churches. But at this stage this enormous problem is far too heavy for philanthropy or for the refugees them selves. The countries of Christendom have a great responsibility for the refugee problem, and only the forces of the United Nations will be able to shoulder the burden. Was any guarantee given that any substantial sum of money was to be made available?

    In thinking of the neutral countries I sometimes wonder whether enough effort has been made to mobilise those of them which are not in danger, especially the wealthy and great Argentine Republic—the one country which has kept completely out of the war, and has perhaps a certain influence over the enemy countries because of its commercial facilities, and which has a tradition of Catholic christian- ity behind it. Has every effort been made to see what contribution they may be willing to make?

    There is another thing about which I was disappointed to hear so little. We thought that we might have heard more about machinery, as so much depends upon machinery. First, on the question of machinery of action abroad, we only had a reference to the Inter-Governmental Committee. I do not gather quite whether the whole matter was to be referred to that Committee or not, but if it has been referred to that body, it will have to have very much better staff and finance and have more authority behind it than the Evian Conference ever had. And at the very best, the Inter-Governmental Committee will not deal quickly enough with the immediate problem. The very essential of that is the need for speed. It is just that reflection which has so maddened those of us who have been occupied day and night pondering over this problem; that the Government seem to have shown very little sense of urgency. I am not going to refer to all the months through which the preliminary arrangements for the Bermuda Conference have dragged on, that all the time that has been wasted in regard to those children who were to be got to Palestine, as we were promised, on 3rd February, of whom, as far as we know, not one has been moved. The opening speeches at Bermuda—those dreadful speeches—breathed the very spirit of defeatism and despair. If ever there was a case of "When the trumpet sounds an uncertain note who will repair to the battle?" this was it. And there was no sense of urgency at Bermuda.

    We should like to know what is being done to hurry up this matter. That is the thought that possesses my mind night and day just now. We all know—do not imagine that we do not—the difficulties. We know that one of the greatest difficulties is transport and shipping. I have been asking myself why shipping has been so impossible to get. We have not apparently been able to get one group of people across the Mediterranean, or those children to Palestine for whom we were promised that they should go to Palestine. If shipping has been difficult in the past, it may be easier now for the very good reason that, temporarily,the Mediterranean is open.It is far less dangerous for shipping than it was be- fore the great victory of last week. But how much longer will that be? When an invasion in any part of Europe begins, what chance shall we get of shipping then? That is why we feel that speed is so enormously important. How do the Government achieve speed when they really care about a problem, and think it of first-class importance? They do not do it through conferences in Bermuda or through the lengthy method of the ordinary diplomatic channels, but they do it through inter-communication on the spot. Why is the Prime Minister at this moment in Washington? Why has he undertaken so many of these dangerous journeys? Is it not because he finds that a few hours heart-to-heart talk on the spot do more than months of communication?

    Well, then, in regard to this smaller problem—a problem which, nevertheless, concerns the possibilities of saving, if not millions, possibly hundreds of thousands, and if not hundreds of thousands, ten of thousands, and if not tens of thousands, then thousands of human beings—would it not have been worth while long ago sending people to the spot who could make a whole-time job in the key places? We all know what the key places are; they are the neutral countries, and the countries under our own control. There has been correspondence with our diplomatic agents—and I admit that some of them have done a very good job of work where they are—but they have to depend on diplomatic communications at home, and they have other preoccupations. What we want, surely, are people on the spot who can make a whole-time job of negotiating, considering, planning and executing with the Governments of the countries which they are visiting, very much in the way that Nansen did after the last war. It is true that the war was then over. When reading a biography of Nansen recently I found that it was astonishing how close the analogies were. One sentence alone was, "Shipping was the great difficulty." Somehow Nansen managed to find the ships. [An HON. MEMBER: "But the war was over."] But shipping was the difficulty even though the war was over. What matters is that of caring enough and of giving your whole time and thought to doing the thing, and yet not in the spirit of sentimental enthusiasm which the Under-Secretary seemed to impute to us. Heaven knows that we have had enough experience to make us realists. In a spirit of realism, months ago, we put across the suggestion of "a new Nansen"—for someone who could travel by air from one country to another and consider the problem on the spot. It has not been done, and we have not been told of any likelihood of its being done.

    Again, as to machinery of home action. Some of us, I am afraid, make ourselves a nuisance sometimes to our hon. and right hon. Friends by the way we pester them in the Lobby, by Parliamentary questions, by letters and by our suggestions. Believe me, we are not really so unmindful of their difficulties as they may sometimes think us. I sometimes ask myself how much attention I would be able to give to this question if I were Foreign Secretary and also Leader of the House, or the Home Secretary, or the Colonial Secretary. Perhaps not much more than they have given, given their preoccupations. But there is the rub. That is the question which is troubling us. Need those problems, on which depend the chance of saving tens of thousands of people and which are so terribly difficult, continue to be left entirely to men who can only give them a few fag ends and tag ends and scraps and leavings of their already overburdened minds? It may be necessary for the Cabinet to take the burden of the final decisions, and they have their underlings behind them now to help them. But that is not the same thing as having even one man of really first-class standing with authority behind him, who could co-ordinate this whole difficult class of planning and find a way out of difficulties. that concern at least half a dozen different ministries in this country alone, to say nothing about communications with some 30 Allies.

    I should like to see a Ministry for Refugees. It is a big enough problem. We have had a lot of new Ministries lately. Do any of them in any Ministry tackle anything more difficult than this frightful problem of refugees not only in its present but in its post-war aspects? The post-war settlement of refugees is going to be a very big problem. If the Government cannot give us a Minister, let them give us at least one man of really first-class standing who can make a whole-time job of this question. I am going to make a boast. We outsiders do not pre- tend to know all the factors upon which decisions must depend. Yet we never leave the presence of Ministers when we have managed to secure a few hurried moments of discussion with them without thinking not only that we care more, which is natural, but that in a sense we know more about it. We know the possibilities and sometimes feel that we know even the difficulties better than [hey do, because we have lost no opportunity of making contact with everybody—with visiting foreigners, with responsible diplomats, with returned refugees, with anyone and everyone who we think can throw any sort of light upon all these difficulties. Nowhere can we see traces of that kind of consideration by Ministers which, we feel sure, the Government would have given to this problem if they had cared as much as we do and it they were not merely trying—I put it bluntly—to buy off public agitation as cheaply as possible.

    I must say this. Our experience is most depressing when we approach the Home Secretary from whom we feel that we might perhaps expect something, because he has a field of administration directly under his control. I must say a word or two on one of the criticisms of my pamphlet in my right hon. Friend's speech, but I do not want to waste time with details. As to the particular case he cited. How could I have known that that particular man—that naturalised Turk—might perhaps have been a suspicious person? If it were so, no great harm could happen. Turkey is an Ally, though a non-belligerent. Would they want to pass on a spy to us; and was there any danger from that elderly couple in Berlin, whose poor daughter believes them to be dead? If we found out they were suspicious people, we might have helped them,to get into Turkey and to be passed on here and then put them, where we put all other suspicious people, in an Isle of Man internment camp, and the daughter would have rejoiced to see them anywhere out of Germany. What about all those other people to whom the Home Secretary boasted that we had been so generous? The Home Secretary really does seem sometimes to be trying to have it both ways. He is always telling us, when we approach him, how very generous this country has been already to refugees, and I deal with that claim in the pamphlet to which the right hon. Gen- tleman referred. I felt terribly alarmed when he referred to it. I wondered how many inaccuracies and wrong facts he might have found out in spite of the care taken. He did not point out a single inaccuracy.

    If I had begun to try and deal with all the inaccuracies in that pamphlet, I should still be speaking.

    Then if there are inaccuracies, I hope he will point them out. To come back to the broad aspects of the question, why need the Home Secretary always have told us, when we approached him, that he must await consultation with other nations before he could do anything or even make the concessions which have been announced to-day, such as the acceptance of parents of men in the Allied Forces and several other small concessions like that? These may amount together to 10, 200 or 300 cases, but perhaps not so many, I am not sure. Anyhow, the Home Secretary really cannot at one and the same time claim how generous we have been and yet lay down regulations which show that nearly all the people brought in hitherto were admitted because we wanted them for our own purposes.

    (Horsham and Worthing): As the hon. Lady has already attacked a body engaged in this work, I must correct one inaccuracy. Her last statement is totally devoid of any foundation. The people who were brought in before the war by the Committee of which I am Chairman had nothing whatever to do with the war effort, and but for the action of that Committee 10,000 people at present in this country might never have been brought here.

    I am at this moment criticising the Home Secretary. He was not in office before the war, and I am not talking now of what was done before the war. As to the numbers brought in before the war, I commend to my right hon. Friend the few comments I made in my pamphlet on the claim of the great generosity of this country in the shape of quotations from Sir John Hope Simpson's book. I was saying that the people brought in lately had been brought in because we or our Allies needed them badly for the war effort. They cannot therefore be claimed as proofs of our generosity. Then he told us that he could not send visas direct into enemy territory and that it might endanger refugees if he communicated with them. Does he believe that I need telling that? For months past every letter I have written to refugees has reminded them of these two facts. Does the Under-Secretary really mean to deny that refugees do not sometimes have secret ways of communication with their relatives in enemy territory? I do not know how they do it, but they do do it through one channel or another, through neutral channels perhaps. But whether that is so or not in any particular case, does he tell me that it does not make a difference when a refugee arrives at the border if the authorities of that country have been informed beforehand that a visa is awaiting the refugee? It is common sense that it makes a difference. In the correspondence which I sent the Home Secretary last week I cited the case of a neutral country which said it would give a visa if Great Britain would give one, and I know of many instances like that. The right hon. Gentleman also mocked at the suggestion that block visas would make any difference. Of course, they would make a difference. The Bermuda Conference has admitted that action in neutral countries depends on the possibility of passing people on. Will they not be more in a position to pass people on if Great Britain has in the hands of the Consuls some hundreds of unnamed visas available for Palestine or Great Britain or some camp under their control in North Africa or elsewhere, if the United States has another block of such visas and any other friendly country also has a block of such visas?

    I do not want to detain the Committee much longer but I must say that in one respect this country excels. There is no other country where public opinion so much favours a strong and generous policy. Yet when we approach the Home Secretary we are made to feel that pressure from public opinion has not merely helped but has hardened his attitude. It seems that he wants to show that he is a strong man by refusing to make even the smallest concession and that his attitude has been influenced sometimes less by the merits of the case than by his dislike of yielding any- thing to his critics. He has made some concession to-day, and I will say no more about that, but why does he always make us feel in his Parliamentary answers, and even in our approaches to him privately, as if the whole question of refugees was becoming a bore and an irritation to him and that he was transferring to refugees the dislike which he quite openly feels for ourselves? We feel a terrible responsibility in this matter; it is a responsibility which rests upon all countries but it rests more peculiarly on this country, partly because it is so largely a Jewish problem. In the days when the Home Secretary was merely the Member for South Hackney he felt that responsibility more keenly. Let me read a quotation from a speech he made on 24th November, 1938, during a Debate on Palestine:
    "… We must not let our horror of the German persecution warp our reasonable judgment,… we were making a contribution in Palestine by permitting the immigration of 10,000 Jews a month or 12,000 a year. But that is no contribution whatever in the circumstances which have arisen out of the German persecution in recent weeks. There is no change in the number of Jews that are permitted to go to Palestine. Therefore, the net Palestinian contribution to meet the difficulties which have arisen out of recent persecutions is precisely nil. The Government are not permitting one additional Jew to enter Palestine as a consequence of the terrible events which are happening in Europe."
    Every word of that might have been written about the situation to-day except that the persecutions in Europe are incomparably more terrible. Then thepresent Home Secretary followed that by saying:
    "Is it not an onus upon us now to lift the restrictions upon: Jewish immigration so far as they now exist and permit a much greater number of Jews to go to Palestine?…—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th Nov., 1938; cols. 1998 and 2005, Vol. 341.]
    I heartily agree. I know that the Colonial Secretary and not the Home Secretary has the responsibility under the Government for Palestinian policy. But it is a Cabinet responsibility, and if for reasons whether good or bad—and I think some of them are bad—we have shut the door to Palestine except for the few who are now able to get there, does not that enormously increase our responsibility. I admit, again, that it is a shared responsibility, and although it is not for us British people to criticise the United States, I cannot admit the claim that America has been very generous towards refugees. Some of their procedure about granting visas and so on has been even more difficult and slow than our own. But no country really has clean hands in this matter. If we had all shown greater wisdom, foresight, generosity and, above all, courage before the war, there would have been no isolationism on the other side of the Atlantic and there would have been no appeasement here. Hitler would not have dared to try to exterminate European Jewry, and the war itself might even have been averted.

    I wonder whether it has ever occurred to us how much more sensitive than ourselves were our Elizabethan ancestors. Think of Lady Macbeth and "Hamlet" and their agonies of remorse over the death of one old king Think of the hundreds of thousands of millions of lives which have been sacrificed in Europe. If our rulers and those of other nations had shown greater courage, unselfishness and generosity in the pre-war days, they would not have died. If the blood of those who have perished unnecessarily during this war were to flow down Whitehall, the flood would rise so high that it would drown everyone within those gloomy buildings which house our rulers. What is past is past. But the future is still within our control. How many more who might be saved will perish in these 20th century massacres if the problem is not approached not in the spirit of the Bermuda Conference, but in the spirit of determination to do everything possible?

    Have I sounded too bitter? I tell you, Major Milner, there is not one who would not feel bitter if he or she had my postbag and read the letters I receive by every post from agonised people who feel that the one chance left for their relatives is slipping from them and that they may soon have to take that awful journey to the Polish slaughter-house and who beg me to rescue them, not realising how impotent I am. I shall be told that in these dreadful days, anxiety is the common lot. There is not one of us who does not suffer it, more or less. Many have already suffered cruel bereavement. But there is a difference. The sacrifices which British people and our Allies are asked to make and for the most part are making so bravely are worth while sacrifices for a great and noble end, They are the only means of ridding the world of a monstrous tyranny and of opening up a brighter future for mankind. We must not and dare not-grudge them. But then deaths, of which we are thinking to-day, are so utterly useless, squalid and unspeakably cruel. They serve no purpose, except to gratify one man's lust for cruelty, for wrecking vengeance on the weak when he cannot reach the strong. Only victory will put an end to it all. But meantime let no one say: "We are not responsible." We are responsible if a single man, woman or child perishes whom we could and should have saved. Too many lives, too much time has been lost already. Do not lose any more.

    (Clay Cross): I should not have contemplated saying anything in this Debate, but I thought it a little cowardly that a back bencher like myself, who has taken no part in this matter, should not say with what great regret and disappointment we listened to the Under-Secretary's speech to-day. Indeed, I think a statement in Secret Session would have given the country more satisfaction and could hardly have given it less. I am not usually cast in the role of critic, but I have come to that mood to-day, after great consideration, to say that the Under-Secretary's statement has justified the fear that the Bermuda Conference was made an occasion for discovering difficulties and not for providing solutions to them. I heard with some astonishment the right hon. Gentleman say that the two Governments concerned were seriously considering the problems which had been discovered by the Conference. I always assumed that the two Governments, especially our own, had been considering these problems for a long time. Here I would like to say that I cannot associate myself with the very severe personal attacks made by the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) on my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I think some of her remarks were unjustified in the light of my right hon. Friend's personal career and well-known spirit.

    The House in this matter has run through a gamut of emotions. First of all, there was the emotion of revulsion and horror when we realised—as many in this country still do not realise—the real character of the Hitler method of trying to suppress the human race. Secondly, there was the feeling almost of exultation at the speech made by the Foreign Secretary in December—a speech which seemed to give assurance of positive action in the face of the problem as we then understood it. Then followed most profound disappointment at what appeared to be—and still in some senses appears to be—the inactivity of the Government, especially as it is related to the specific assurance of help contained in the Foreign Secretary's answer to a recent Supplementary Question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman).

    I am in no mood to make irresponsible. charges against the Government in view of what this country has already done. The Home Secretary failed to distinguish between the general problem as it was before the pogrom commenced and the special problem as it now exists, but the size of our contribution to the general refugee problem is warmly recognised by the leaders of world Jewry, and we may well be, as the Under-Secretary rather assumed, proud of our figures in that connection. But, whatever our history may have been, we must not cover ourselves with too much altruism: We are inclined to consider the refugees as though they had been and will continue to be a burden on this country. That assumption is entirely contrary to the facts. Many of them are engaged on work of national importance, sometimes very vital national importance. In any case we are in the presence of an altogether new and terrible situation, terrible because it has revealed the unbelievable capacity of modern man for sadistic cruelty, terrible because of the consequences of that cruelty to the victims, most of whom are charged with only one crime—the crime of being Jews. It is enough to contemplate for a moment the process of mass electrocution to realise what a chapter of horror is being written in our history. My plea to the Government is to recognise that those horrors impose upon us an inescapable responsibility, and we should endeavour to write a compensating chapter of magnificent deliverance in the same history. This responsibility falls hardly less on other countries, but their inactivity would not excuse us.

    I plead that those who can come here should be allowed to come here, where we can save them from the torture chamber or from the horrible contemplation of the fate that awaits them. I plead also that we should fling wide open the doors of Palestine. The absorptive capacity of modern Palestine is undoubtedly high. The Jews there have turned the desert into a fertile country, and the absorptive capacity of that fertile country has been lifted in consequence. I am assured that there is a man-power shortage and that Palestine would gladly take about 30,000 families or 70,000 people. The Palestinian has his father, mother, sisters and brothers, in the hell's cauldron that we call Europe; he waits feverishly to receive them. Whatever we can do to unite them we should regard it as our fundamental duty to do. The White Paper quotas, which seemed to mean so much five years ago, now mean little, and we ought not to be limited in a period of grave crisis by figures which were fashioned in other circumstances. There must not be another Struma disaster. I should hope that, these things having been accomplished, or at least attempted, we could turn with renewed assurance to the task of trying to induce other free countries to make their maximum contribution. This is not an occasion for unrestrained criticism. Our record of general refugee asylum is not one of which we need be ashamed, and it would be foolish to ignore some of the difficulties which must be met if our contribution is to be enlarged, but I plead most earnestly for such further action as will enable us to say with pride that we have left nothing undone which it was within our power to accomplish, or even to attempt.

    (Kingston-upon-Hull, North:West): I cannot help feeling that the Committee will be conscious of a very definite sense of disappointment that the Under-Secretary has not been able to say something more definite with regard to the decisions and discussions that have taken place at Bermuda. It might have been very difficult for him to do so, but he certainly gave us very little information with regard to what has taken place there, and, from what he has told us, it does not seem as if anything very definite has emerged from those decisions. Of course, very little has been done since the beginning of the war in the way of helping these unfortunate people who are now suffering from Nazi tyranny, but I realise the difficulty that has stood in the way, and it has not been made any easier from the point of view of the Home Office by the propaganda that has been going on ever since this question arose. The Home Office has to a large extent ignored that propaganda and has allowed rather incorrect statements to get abroad and to get a long start and has taken very few steps to overtake and correct them. We have had an example in this Debate of incorrect statements which the Home Office has allowed to spread abroad. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) said that, had it not been for the action of the Government, millions and millions of Jews would have gone to Palestine.

    I do not think I can have said millions and millions could have gone. That would be an exaggeration. The point was that, if the door had been opened to Palestine before the war, far larger numbers could have got in, and that increases our responsibility for doing something now.

    The hon. Lady actually used the word "millions," which I was going to point out was absurd in the case of an agricultural country, if anything rather smaller than Wales. Statements of that kind have made additional difficulties for the Home Office and for the Government. Of course, there has been a situation which we can only describe as an impasse. Neutral countries would not accept refugees until they were assured of a visa which would enable them to come to Great Britain, and Great Britain would not grant that visa until the refugee was actually in a neutral country, and nothing further could be done. From what we have heard to-day it does not seem as if anything has been done that will make matters easier in that direction. One of the great difficulties in admitting large numbers of refugees to this country is the fact that a very considerable proportion of the population does not want them. It has been said—I should not like to say whether it is true or not—that to admit a large number of refugees of the Jewish religion might easily fan the smouldering fires of anti-Semitism which exist here into a flame. Many people regard that as absurd, but from my own experience I am not at all sure there is not something in it. From almost exactly this date three years ago until the beginning of the year I was working with the Home Guard in the East End. The zone for which I was responsible comprised the Boroughs of Bethnal Green, Stepney and Poplar and some of the outlying districts of ther boroughs.There was undoubtedly in existence a very definite anti-Semitic feeling. When it came to the selection of officers, or non-commissioned officers, one was always up against that problem. One heard it said directly anything went wrong that the Jews were to blame—quite untruthfully. If there was any question of a black market, it was said, untruthfully, that the Jews were largely doing it. When that terrible disaster took place at a shelter three or four months ago the rumour was put about that it was panic on the part of the foreign Jews. It is quite untrue, as was shown by the fact that only something like 5 per cent. of the casualties were members of the Jewish religion.

    Another reason why it is difficult to admit refugees in any large numbers is that it is almost certain that a great many of them would automatically gravitate towards the East End. Apart from anything else, the housing accommodation there is a very serious difficulty. During the blitz of 1940-1 something like 30 per cent. of the housing accommodation was either completely destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. It did not matter so much then, because the great desire of the people was to get away. To-day they are trying to come back, and to allow refugees to crowd in would simply turn the accommodation difficulty into an accommodation impossibility, and, should we decide to bring any large number of, these unfortunates into the country, I cannot help feeling that that area should be debarred to them. I admit that it is rather like the system of concentration camps, but really it is not worse than not allowing our own citizens into areas where by reason of military necessity it is considered better that they should not be. Although it may be preferable that those refugees should not come here, I cannot help feeling that it is absolutely essential that we should do something to endeavour to help in this terrible problem. The hon. Lady suggested a largely increased quota for Palestine. The difficulty there is that one has always been up against the antagonism of the Moslems, and a largely increased immigration would probably increase the friction.

    One cannot get away from the fact that the long-range part of the refugee problem is largely a Jewish one. We have in this country a large number of refugees from Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries, and there are people only too anxious to get away from the occupied parts of Russia. We hope, when the war is over, those refugees will want to get back to their own countries. With regard to the Jews, that is not so certain, because I cannot help feeling that it is very doubtful whether the German Jews would ever wish again to live among the people who have treated them so abominably in the past. It is fantastic to say that their treatment has been entirely due to the Gestapo. They may have been the active agents of that treatment, but these Jews know perfectly well that that treatment has been upheld by a large number of their neighbours. I cannot conceive that in the future they will wish ever again to live among those people.

    We must try to do something, and I have a suggestion to put forward that has not, so far as I am aware, been discussed. Our glorious victory in Tunisia has thrown open to us 4,000 miles of coastline, the entire coastline of North Africa, the Southern shores of the Mediterranean. A large part of that is open and ready for immigration. It is true that 1,800 miles of that 4,000 miles is in the hands of the Free French, and we do not know yet what attitude they are likely to adopt with regard tic assisting in the refugee problem. The Jewish population of North Africa is to-day quite considerable. It varies from something like 2 to 2½ per cent. in the rural districts to something like 12 to 15 per cent. in the urban districts. A great part of that country is suitable for colonisation. It is true that if we start from the Nile Delta, for the first 500 or 600 miles the desert practically abuts on the ocean, and there is little cultivable land available. When we get somewhere in the neighbourhood of Tobruk the country improves, and at Derna, where we get to Cyrenaica, the country is high, the vegetation is reasonably luxurious and there is ample though not excessive rainfall. As we go on there is further desert, and then we come to the Tripoli neighbourhood, where there is again opportunity for colonisation. The town of Tripoli has its full quota of to per cent. Jews, so that any Jews who were admitted there would not be breaking fresh ground, for they would have their co-religionists there already to help them. The same conditions apply right through Tunisia, where there is again a consider- able percentage of Jews, in Algiers and right across Morocco including Tangier and Casablanca. In all these places a migrating colony of Jews would find their co-religionists, who in many cases would stand by them and help them.

    It is in Cyrenaica that the greatest opportunity exists for the settlement of these unfortunate people. As many people are aware, Mussolini, in the days before the war, conceived the idea of settling at least 100,000 Italians in Cyrenaica. At the beginning of the war 20 or 30 village settlements had been built and cultivated. Those settlements had houses, social amenities, wells and practically everything that was necessary for an agricultural community to start with. Many of those Italians will no longer wish to live there. Many of the least desirable ones, those with the strongest Fascist sentiments, can be sent home. I cannot conceive for a moment that Cyrenaica will ever be returned to Italy. I cannot imagine even a peace conference being responsible for such a policy. We can, therefore, look forward to Cyrenaica becoming a settlement such as Palestine has proved to be. A great deal of the spade work has already been done. It is true that probably the houses have been looted and damaged by the soldiery and the native population, but I should think that it is certain that the structure is still there, and in the days immediately after the war it should be possible to settle a large number of these refugees on that land. Of course, I am assuming that it will be possible to get these people away from the German-occupied territories, to get them into neutral countries and to bring them across. I cannot help feeling that it will not be impossible to do it to a small extent during the war, but after the war it should not be difficult. The shipping requirements will not be great, for the distance they will have to travel by sea is comparatively small. It seems to me that here lies, if not a solution, at any rate, an amelioration, of the conditions that exist in so many pa rtc of Europe, and I cannot help feeling that if something like that can be done, it will go far to solve one of the most urgent problems of the present moment.

    (Newcastle-under-Lyme): The Committee will agree, I think, that nothing less than a generous tribute of appreciation and profound respect should be paid to the hon. Lady who opened this discussion for the fine sentiments, the truly Christian sentiments, which were embodied in her remarks. I have perhaps an advantage, albeit a psychological one, of having succeeded a gentleman, Lord Wedgwood, whose great work for the persecuted peoples and the minorities of all lauds was indeed a striking one and one which will endure for many centuries to come. Moreover, I have the privilege—and I use the word advisedly—of being a direct representative of the harassed people to whom many allusions have been made and to whom many expressions of sincere sympathy have been extended. Furthermore it has been my lot to speak on behalf of the Zionist Federation of this country, and in that capacity to address large numbers of people not only of the Jewish persuasion, but non-Jews who have supported the policy of that organisation and who are anxious to find a practical and concrete solution to this terrible calamity which has visited mankind and sent a shock of horror through the pulses of all. About ninety years ago an outstanding statesman, John Bright, said in this House:

    "The angel of death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings.
    There is another monster who is stalking the land to-day and of him it may be said one can almost feel the heat of his breath angrily spurting from his nostrils.

    The most unfortunate elements of the world are surely the refugees of Europe, and particularly the Jewish people because their conditions are different from all others. I would not be so narrow in my conception as not to say, as every enlightened person would want to say, that all refugees of whatever religion and state who arc enduring the horrors of the Hitler regime are entitled to have the fullest consideration. The Jews, however, are unlike others in that they have no Government to speak for them, they have no consul and no flag. They have no status in any land and they are not likely to have a place at any future peace conference. Our hearts go out to them because of their hopeless plight. We have had the Bermuda Conference. It has been shrouded in mystery and no publicity has been allowed to percolate from it. I hope I do not misquote the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty when I say that he stated that the position of the White Paper on Palestine of May, 1939, would not be considered by the Bermuda Conference. That White Paper was a calamitous document, which caused consternation and sorrow in the hearts of the Jewish people. It restricted immigration into Palestine to 75,000 certificates for five years. On 3rd February the Secretary of State for the Colonies made a statement to the effect that 29,000 of these certificates would be available. Mr. Philip Murray, President of the Congress of Industrial Organisations of America, speaking on behalf of a vast number of organised American workers, said that they were not allowed to attend that Conference in any capacity, and then spoke of the indignation of American workers in particular and of workers all over the world at the fact that they should be excluded. My hon. Friend must not complain if since we are kept in the dark as to the findings of that Conference and, indeed, of its discussions, we have to forage about in an endeavour to ascertain what is behind the minds of the gentlemen who conceived this Conference which has proved so abortive, and in spite of the protestations of the hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench, has given us so little to hope for.

    I would say that as a positive solution, the Government of this country should announce to the world a statement that refugees who can escape by whatever means should be granted temporary asylum in Britain, subject of course to adequate safeguards for security reasons. They could be utilised in the war effort; indeed they are anxious to participate in it. They could be used in a military capacity where their age and sex permitted. They could be used in an agricultural and scientific capacity. Indeed, I believe that the brains and intelligence of a large number of these refugees would enrich the war effort of this country. Palestine alone of any country in the world has absorbed, can absorb, and is anxious to absorb, as many refugees as it is physically possible to rescue from Europe. It can take in 27,000 heads of families with 70,000 wives and dependants, making a total of 97,000 refugees within the next six months. If it were necessary, those efforts could be trebled and quadrupled. As a matter of fact, in 1933 to 1939 Palestine absorbed 200,000 refugees, of whom 170,000 came from Nazi lands or lands which were under Nazi control. An important factor has intervened. That is our great and glorious victory in North Africa, which has reverberated throughout the world. No one can pay sufficient homage and honour to our wonderful troops who have brought about that victory. I believe that if the troops could become vocal on this issue, they would say, "We would be proud if the Government of this country would make it possible for the very people we are fighting for, those hopeless victims of Hitler's régime, to escape their enemies." The result of that victory has reduced considerably the strain upon our shipping, although I am not unmindful of the grave difficulties which confront shipping at the present time. There is the consequent enormously increased prestige for this country in Africa and throughout the world, particularly in Arab lands, and although allusion has been made to the Arab reaction which might take place, I believe it is not as formidable an obstacle as has been suggested. It has been grossly exaggerated, and behind that exaggeration there is a certain amount of Nazi controlled propaganda. We must relax that White Paper. We must say that if Jews can get into Palestine in excess of the numbers in that White Paper every facility will be afforded them to do so, because, searching the four corners of the earth, I bid fair to say, that this country and the United Nations will find no more noble and gallant allies than the brave Jewish people who are making their splendid contribution to the cause of which we are so proud.

    May I say in all humility and with deference that I am not regardless of the fact that, like all other peoples, they have their faults and shortcomings. One cannot persecute a people for thousands of years and expect them to be the embodiment of all the virtues, and, as Shakespeare said:
    "Be thou pure as ice and chaste as snow, Thou shalt not escape calumny."
    Were the Jews to be as perfect as human beings could possibly be, I still believe that a tinge of anti-Semitism would be directed towards them. I ought to say in parenthesis that there are some Jews in this country who take the view that if they emphasise their English ancestry, the fact that they have had their roots in this country for many generations, in the event of some subsequent wave of anti-Semi- tism in this country they will be immune. I would give a clear refutation of that fallacy. In Germany and elsewhere, Jews who wanted to be more German than the Germans, and who, in this country, have tried to prove that they are more English than the English have been given the treatment which in my opinion they richly deserve, because while the Jews are rightly and properly loyal to the country in which they live, as I know they always will be, at the same time their eyes are directed and have been directed for many centuries to Palestine, to that land from which their culture spread. They are the people of the Book. They are the creators of the Bible. They have given to the world the great Nazarene whose most noble contribution was a tender sympathy for the poor and innocent, and if I may say so with great respect, for I know the Committee are kindly in their dispositions, were those precepts of Christianity to be practised to-day, there would be no Jewish problem, no problem of persecution. There would be no problem of a tiny fragment of people being immolated on the fires of hate and exorcised from the midst of mankind.

    It has been said that attacking the Jews is driving a wedge, militarily, diplomatically and ideologically, into the ranks of Hitler's opponents prior to piecemeal subjugation and annihilation. If there be any truth in that, I trust that one outcome of this Debate will be to bring about a kindlier and warmer feeling between the Jewish people and the great non-Jewish community and to expand that kindliness and understanding. May I also pay a tribute to those very noble Christian men and women who, in spite of taunts and derision, have upheld the principles of democracy as we conceive it in this country? It is not too much to say that the greatness of England, the triumph of this little island in this most vital period of its history is to a large extent due not only to the expanding power of its arms, but to the power of its spiritual influence, that noble and tender consideration for the weak and the refugees of all countries of the world. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North West Hull (Sir A. Lambert Ward), who immediately preceded me, referred to over-congestion which might occur if numbers of Jews were to come into this country. I realise that there are practical difficulties. I recognise that the intermixture of a people of different roots and habits must inevitably create difficulties, but I believe that if the Government were bold enough and courageous enough to give a lead to the country, and say that racial hatred and antagonism is anti-British and against the well-being of the country, and if we were to devise legislation which should root out anti-Semitism, I am positive that a great number of people in this country would recognise the value of such an act on the part of the Government, and to a large extent that antagonism would no longer exist. In Russia anti-Semitism has been reduced to negliglible proportions.

    We really must give up referring to the position in Russia. This is a very wide Debate, but I do not think we ought to refer to the position in other countries.

    I bow in deference to your Ruling, Mr. Williams. I had ventured to interpolate one sentence as an illustration of how this great problem has been effectively dealt with by Russia. However, I will not pursue that point. I would say to my hon. and gallant Friend to whom I have been alluding, that I do not think the problem would be so difficult as he imagines. I think it was Macaulay who in a wonderful essay, speaking as an Englishman, a great parliamentarian, and a great historian, said: "An acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia." I would paraphrase that for the Jews and say: "A Dunam of land in Palestine is better than a province in Cyrenaica." Whilst we appreciate the kindly interest taken in the Jewish people with a view to solving their present territorial and economic problems I want to say, that from the religious, the historical, and economic point of view, the Jews regard Palestine, and Palestine alone, as the land in which they are prepared to make sacrifices and to which they are prepared to send their suffering brethren.

    It would take too long, and I do not want to weary the Committee by telling them of the magnificent and munificent contributions Jewry all over the world has made to the war effort and the large sums of money which those in this country have contributed, totally out of proportion to their relatively small numbers, a mere third of a million. But I would quote a statement which Captain J. Helpern, of the Anglo-American Community for the Jewish Army, made in a speech in Manchester recently. He said that up to the present in this war, the Jews had paid with 2,000,000 lives for the distorted picture of themselves which arose from the policy of ascribing their achievements to other nations and giving them credit only for the "vices" of their black sheep. More than a million Jews were serving in the armies of the United Nations, a large proportion of the Free French defenders of Bir Akim were Jews of the Foreign Legion, and over 16,000 of General Mihailovich's Forces were Jews. But the story of their sacrifices would take far too long to tell. May I say, and this is vitally true, that it is very difficult for a race to show all their finer qualities when they are largely treated as pariahs.

    The Jews are a courageous people. That can be said With great truth of the Jews who fought with Judas Maccabeus and the Jews in the Ghettoes of Warsaw who, completely unarmed, fought with wonderful heroism against their Nazi murderers. May I give one further example? The whole of the Jewish population of Palestine, a bare half million, rose in righteous wrath and indignation at the advance of Rommel. They said to the Government, "Give us an army, give us a flag, give us an identity, give us arms, and we, men, women and children, will fight against the invader. Indeed, if you do not give us arms, rather than let the tanks of Rommel ravage our fair country, we will tear down those tanks with our bare naked fingers." That was a magnificent gesture, and one which would have been translated into reality had the opportunity arisen.

    I am trying to avoid the emotion which every one of us must feel in greater or lesser degree at the sheer, stark spectacle of a whole race being liquidated. The details of the murders are too horrible for the mind to contemplate. When we think that in the 20th century, in a so-called era of civilisation, such things can be perpetrated upon a people, no matter who that people may be, I say that if this world were not to be altered as a result of the war I would throw up my hands in utter despair, disavowing my faith in the whole future of mankind; but I believe that mankind can, and indeed will, regenerate itself. I believe that if this country is bold and courageous, if this country is prepared above all other countries—and its record is as great as that of any other country—to say to the Jews of the world, "Come ye into this country as a temporary refuge, and those Jews who temporarily take refuge in this country will be able after the war to go to Palestine," the very German Jews themselves would be glad of the opportunity of going to Palestine. If the Government will recognise that to be its true policy, it will be not merely carrying out a great eleemosynary principle, but will perform a deed which will preserve the name of this country for time immemorial as the greatest and most. wonderful benefactor of all mankind.

    (Chippenham): I greatly appreciate the eloquent appeal that we have just heard, and I should like to join with the hon. Member in offering a sincere tribute to the hon. and noble Lady—I use those adjectives not in the Parliamentary sense, but in the ordinary sense—the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone). I have been associated with her for over 10 years in this problem of refugees, and it is impossible to exaggerate the complete disinterestedness, the great personal generosity and the unquenchable importunity which she has shown in matters dealing with it. If those characteristics and qualities have not always made her popular with Government Departments, I can assure her that they have earned her the deep admiration and affection of a great many friends, and thousands of friends, many of whom owe their lives to her work.

    The Under-Secretary of State made a speech which, quite clearly, pleased the Committee. From a Departmental point of view it was admirable for what it said, and for what it left unsaid. I have only one comment to make about it. Speaking of the Committee of which I have the honour of being Chairman, he seemed to convey the impression that we were rather naughty boys and girls because we were taking so much interest in this subject. We ought to be leaving it to that efficient and benign Government Department to which he belongs. I would remind him that he will find a good number of the members of his own party on that Committee. He almost implied that it was Wrong for us to take such an active interest in this question. What would be wrong and deplorable, at this moment in the history of Europe, in view of the appalling problems presented by the treatment of the refugees, would he if there were no committees of this kind and if there were nut men and women of every party and every religious creed throughout the country devoting their time and their lives to finding a solution to the problem. We would indeed be acting contrary to the very best traditions of our country.

    To-day's Debate has been called a Debate upon refugees generally. If by "refugees" we mean those who desire to escape from Nazi rule, it indeed covers a very wide area. All Europe to-day is a prison house. The best part of 100,000,000 people are longing to be delivered from Nazi rule and persecution. It is true to say in that sense that overwhelming victory alone will solve that problem. I want to concentrate my few remarks upon a smaller section, namely, the Jews of Europe, those people whom wa have been told by Goebbels only recently it is the German policy to exterminate. Just before I came into the Committee I was given a document in which there was information that came from Poland only a few days ago. All I can say is that that threat of Goebbels is no idle boast. The Jews are being exterminated to-day in tens of thousands. The stories of the horrors of the massacres at a camp called Treblinka would put to shame the massacres of Genghis Khan or the sufferings of the Albigenses in the past.

    We have often heard of the tragedies of the Jews in Poland and Czechoslovakia and elsewhere. The other day there came to my notice certain facts in regard to the Jews in Belgium. They are a comparatively small number, but their sufferings are illustrative of what is going on elsewhere. In pre-war days there was no Jewish question in Belgium. The Germans have created one. Just over a year ago orders were given for the extermination of the Jews in Belgium. They were forbidden to leave the country. They had to wear a distinctive badge. I wonder how many of us realise the humiliation imposed on the Jews in Europe by having to wear the yellow armlet? Happily that humiliation is mitigated by the kindness of the people of the country towards those who have to wear it. All Jews in the country were put under the curfew. They were excluded from the medical profession. They were only allowed to live in certain areas. One night 2,000 of them were rounded up in Brussels and sent off to some concentration camp in Germany. The result is that to-day, out of some 50,000 odd Jews in Belgium, 25,000, that is to say, all the young men and young women, have been deported to concentration camps in Poland or in Germany. This gives only one example from one little country. Multiply it a hundredfold. We then have an idea of the extent of the tragedy in Europe to-day.

    I have never been one of those who attributed to the Government on this question an extra dose of original sin, and I appreciate that they feel on this question of refugees very much the same as we all do. I get a little tired, however, of being told time and time again how wonderful this country has been. We may have a good record—quite true—but what does that mean? We have simply done an act of ordinary Christian duty, of which we ought to be proud of having had the opportunity. It does not give us a reason for putting an extra halo of sanctity on our heads. Before the war we allowed something between 60,000 and 70,000 German and Austrian Jews into this country. In the first place, they were allowed in by no means because of any action on the part of the Government, but largely because of the generosity of individuals who were prepared to take them into their homes or to put up personal guarantees for them. Practically every one of those people are now doing useful and in many cases vital war work, and we certainly have not lost as a country by admitting those people into our midst. In any case, some 50,000 or 60,000 lives have been saved. We had an opportunity just before the war of bringing to this country some Coo Jewish doctors, and had we done so we might have deprived the German military machine of much of its effectiveness. I am not suggesting that all those doctors should have been allowed to practice. We did our best to persuade the Government to allow them in, but we failed.

    I recognise that every member of the Government feels as deeply in his heart of hearts and as sincerely about this prob- lem as do any of us, but I sometimes ask myself whether any of us, living in comparative safety and enjoying the large measure of toleration which exists in this country, quite realise what is going on in Europe, unless we have just heard of some new and appalling instance of massacre, or seen a play like "Watch on the Rhine," or a film or read a book describing what has happened in Europe. I am confident that if any of us were brought face to face this very minute with one of those incidents, which are not isolated but are going on almost every hour of the day and night in every part of Europe, we would be much more active about it. If we could hear the Gestapo knocking at the doors in the middle of the night, taking members of the family off never to be heard of again or seen, old men and women being beaten or kicked, children taken from their parents or men and women being hung up at the end of the street in which we live, I am certain, no matter what our views might be and whether we were anti-Jewish or not, the reaction would be identical in every one of us. We would say, "Of course, we will do what we can." Everyone would say to the Government, "Go on and do what you can to open the doors. Take a risk, do something, something must be done."

    The Under-Secretary of State made play with a case that was put forward, an individual case by my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities. She may have made a mistake in the details. We have all taken up cases of refugees of which we have not been able to know all the facts, but were we wrong to take them up, even though the Home Office eventually found out all about the case? If it were a question of our own mothers or near relatives who were in Germany or Austria who wanted to get out, or of anyone in the satellite countries like Hungary or Rumania, or in a neutral country, who might be in danger of being sent back to Germany, would we not go on raising the case time and time again? We would not be influenced by any frown from the Treasury Bench. One of the troubles is that despite an immense amount of good will on the part of the Government and everybody else, little can be done. There are the difficulties of transport and food and of the overriding requirements of the war. All those must, of course, come first, and we realise it. I do not suppose that the Government are in any doubt about the wide support throughout the country which is behind their efforts. One of the most pleasing and refreshing things we have experienced who are interested in these problems is the overwhelming response in the last few months and the offers of hospitality that have come from all sections of the community, and from none more than what might be considered the poor in this country.

    Among the arguments against admitting into this country any considerable number of refugees is that people are afraid, so they say, of anti-Semitism. I know there is anti-Semitism in this country, but I am ashamed of it. The fact that anti-Semitism is increasing is a measure of the victory of Goebbels. Unless our final victory includes the defeat of anti-Semitism it will be a sham victory. I know that the Jews have been implicated in the black market, but so have Christians. It seems that whenever Jews are implicated in black market transactions it is news and that it is not such news when Christians are implicated. That is a curious sidelight and commentary upon existing affairs. When Jews are massacred in tens of thousands in Europe, it ceases to become news, but when half a dozen Jews are im