§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That a sum, not exceeding £167,169, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices." [NOTE—£100,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Sir J. D. REES
I put down a Motion for the reduction of the salary of the Home Secretary anticipating, I confess, a less unsatisfactory reply than I received to question No. 19, asking whether the Government proposed to employ the gaol population of the country in making munitions for the troops. I am perfectly well aware that a proposal of the kind may be open to very serious objection; at the same time I am informed that in France this measure has been 816 taken, and it is rumoured, I do not know with what authority, that a similar measure has been taken in Germany. The right hon. Gentleman in answering me said, that the gaol population were already doing other duty necessary for war than that of making munitions. I presume since they are occupied in this manner that there can be no objection to state what is the duty to which the gaol population are put. The Government have, naturally, this body, for various reasons, completely under control. They are not able to raise any objection connected with trade union rules or any other of the many difficulties which are acute at the present time. For my part I should not in the least fear if I were in charge of a gaol to use them for the purpose of making munitions. The criminal, or potentially criminal classes, outside the gaol throughout the country at the present time are displaying a most excellent spirit, and are showing that they, like other people, are good patriots and anxious not to trouble the magistrates and the Government and their fellow-citizens or anybody else with their delinquencies or natural propensities during the present crisis. I confess I do not understand why any prejudice should exist against employing them. One of our Allies already does so, and I believe our chief enemy also does so.
There is also the example of the East in British possessions from which I think the Government in Great Britain might very usefully take many very valuable hints. I am aware that this is not a popular view on Benches opposite, but, nevertheless. I think there are other forms of government besides democracy from which hints might be taken. In the Crown Colony of Ceylon it is quite the usual thing in times of crisis and trouble to make use of the gaol population. Quite recently that step was taken with great success by the distinguished and most able Governor who has now vacated the Governorship. I therefore do not believe myself that any difficulty would exist in taking this step, nor would any difficulty arise about the feelings of free labour, so to speak, in working alongside those they might class as criminals. For those reasons, which I have briefly put because I think the subject lies in a small compass, I have drawn attention to the question. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Brace), whom I congratulate and am glad to see on the Front Bench, will be perfectly cognisant of all the interests concerned. I am sure 817 he will have no objection to telling us what is the work at which those people are now employed. I believe there are good patriots inside as well as outside the gaols, and that they might be trusted with any work which the Government of the country might be pleased to ask them to do at the present time. Should I be in order in making any remarks on this Vote regarding the case of Custodis, Limited, which has again cropped up?
§ Sir J. D. REES
It seems to me to be very near the duty of the Home Secretary, if it is not quite. At any rate, I shall perhaps be in order in expressing regret that the action to be taken in the internment of Germans is not more speedily being accomplished. I believe, and I speak with some knowledge in one case, that the officers concerned would hardly deny that the action taken to carry out what is at length admitted by the Government to be their duty has been somewhat slowly carried out. I believe the explanation is that quarters in which to place the large number of persons, who admittedly should be interned, are wanting. I do not want to complain of any omission on the part of any Minister when all are working so successfully, but it would appear that by this time quarters should have been provided for carrying out this internment. I sincerely hope they will be provided at an early date. There is a feeling, and I can answer for it in some parts, that this action, which is felt to be so necessary, is not being carried out even now when the Government have admitted its necessity, and that considerable delay is taking place. Will the Home Secretary, when he replies, very kindly mention that matter as well as the other?
§ Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN
I wish to raise the question of the right of policemen in the Metropolitan Force to organise themselves in a trade union. The point is covered by paragraph 25 of the Regulations, which runs as follows:—No societies are to be formed or meetings held amongst the police without the previous consent of the Commissioner.That, of course, prevents these men from having an organisation or association of their own to make representations whenever grievances occur. I understand that in this country there is an association for chief constables. There is no difficulty with regard to their having an organisation of their own, and I understand that 818 nearly all the chief constables are members. They have recently had their annual conference, which was attended by Sir Edward Troup, the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Home Office. It seems to me a strange thing that a chief constable can be allowed to be a member of an association of his own, while this right is denied to members of the Metropolitan Force. It is either scarcely fair to the constables or something more than generous to the chief constables. I wish to ask that constables should be allowed to have an association of their own, in exactly the same way as the chief constables are. How comes it about that a prohibitive regulation of this sort can be put into operation? Under what Act of Parliament is it included amongst the regulations of the police? There is a little bit of history connected with this matter. The same conditions applied some years ago to the postal service. A number of men in the postal service were organised in the Fawcett Association, and two men, named Cheesman and Clery, were dismissed from the service for acting as chairman and secretary of the association. Since then postal servants have been allowed to combine in their own trade union, to do their own business, and to make their own recommendations and representations in their own way. The two men who were dismissed from the service were offered reinstatement, but they refused to accept it. Ever since then the postmen have been allowd to organise in their different unions, and without any limitation to make representations direct to the Postmaster-General, with the result that many improvements have been made in their wages and conditions.
The argument used against policemen being allowed to form a union is the same as that used in connection with the Army and the Navy—that is to say, it all comes to a question of discipline. While I am one of those who believe in discipline as much as any man either in or out of this House, I suggest that that argument has very little weight as far as the police are concerned Especially is this so when one remembers that permission to have a union of their own does not interfere with the discipline of the police in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. These are foreign countries, but I am pleased to find that in Australia also, and I believe in New Zealand, two Dominions of our own, the police are allowed to organise in their own unions. The same applies with regard to 819 Paris. It seems to me that if the countries I have named can maintain discipline among the police, and at the same time allow them to form associations or organisations, there can be very little force in the argument as applied to the Metropolitan Police. Many people in this country, and possibly some Members of this House, have very strange ideas as to what men's organisations seek to do. Whatever opinion may have been held in the past on that subject, I think that what is happening at the present day will remove an enormous amount of prejudice from the minds of many people with regard to the association of men who have to work for their living. The amount of self sacrifice that is being shown, the diligence and persistence of the men engaged in the manufacture of ammunition and the building of ships, the sacrifice of every consideration that stands in the way of the greater production of munitions of war—all these things should at least disabuse the minds of Members of this House, and of those who hold office under the present Government, of the idea that organisations of men are in themselves a danger to the discipline that is sought to be maintained.
It may be assumed by some Members that policemen have no grievances. Having had some experience as a member of a county council, and having been brought into close touch with the policemen of the Metropolitan area, I can say that grievances do exist, but the men have no spokesman to state their case. If there is a grievance, the particular constable concerned would, I suppose, be allowed to state his case. I want to deal with the unfairness of such a method of procedure. For many years I have experience of the trade union movement in this country. We contend, and I think with fairness, that to call upon the individual aggrieved to go before the chief officer of the police and state his case is most unfair. He may be a man who has had very little education, and it may be with the greatest difficulty that he puts two words together, with the result that nine times out of ten he makes a mess of his case. We contend that these men should have the right to have an association, and that on occasion somebody connected with that association—a man of some little experience and ability in stating a case—should be permitted to speak for them. A prisoner is allowed to employ a solicitor or barrister to conduct his case, but a 820 policeman is not allowed to have any skilled assistance to state his case in the best way. I suggest that the time has altogether gone by for restrictions of this kind in regard to any section of men, apart from the Army and apart from the Navy. I believe that nothing but good would result from giving these men the necessary permission to form an association of their own, to mind their own business, and to carry it on to the best of their ability. Whatever fears anyone may have in regard to discipline in the force as it exists to-day I am confident that they will find that when associations of men meet there is very little danger indeed on the point of discipline. As a matter of fact, organisations of men are a good deal more cautious as a rule than individuals acting on their own. Therefore, I would suggest that the men in the Metropolitan area should be given permission to have an association of their own without asking anybody's permission. We always assume that this is a free country. It is a free country up to a certain point. It does, however, seem to me a strange proceeding when one finds other countries in Europe, extending this freedom to the men in their police forces, and this country of ours, supposed to be the most democratic in the world, still lagging behind. That position is not a fair one to this country. It is also a very serious injustice to the men in the Metropolitan Police Force. If the Home Office will do its duty—and that is all I ask of it—those concerned will set an example for the police forces in the country which are under the control of the various watch committees of the town councils.
I ought to finish at this point, but there is another matter to which I wish to draw attention. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will excuse me for not having given him notice of my intention to bring up this matter, but I have not been able to do so. Some time ago the union with which I am connected engaged a Belgian, who had been four years in this country, to organise the Belgian refugees in this country. A short while ago this man was arrested whilst doing his ordinary trade union work. Without any communication in any way to the union he was deported to Boulogne, thence to Havre. No information, I say, was given to the union, the officials of which would have taken any steps, in reason, up to putting down £10,000 bail if necessary, and would have 821 been altogether responsible for the man. We met the representatives of the Home Office, and eventually the man was brought back to this country. There was no charge against him. Seeing the man was resident in this country for some years before the War, it does seem to me a very unfortunate thing that an action of this kind should be taken. It is a very serious matter to the union, whose work it interferes with—putting the union to a lot of inconvenience and unnecessary expense to bring this man back from France. But I would not, perhaps, have minded one occasion. My patience would have stood even that instance. To-day, however, I have received a telegram to say that this same man was yesterday rearrested at Newcastle. He was allowed out on his own recognisances, and I suppose he will be tried again at the Police Court at Newcastle.
§ Mr. C. DUNCAN
Heaven only knows, but I suppose with being an alien. In his company there was another Belgian, a town councillor of Antwerp, who is also a member of the Belgian Metal Workers' Union, which has 5,000 of their members in this country. Almost every one of these men, who are members of the Belgian Metal Workers' Union, are engaged in the production of munitions for this country to help win the War. The officers of the Belgian Metal Workers' Union are anxious to get into touch with their members in this country in order, not only to organise them, but to help their members to pay what money they can afford to pay into a fund to be remitted to their wives and children in Belgium, many of whom are starving. One of these men, too, has been arrested at Newcastle. It does seem to me a preposterous thing that this kind of thing should be allowed to go on. One of the officers in my union suggested to me this morning that if this kind of thing is to go on we should ask the Government to give the organisers of the union permits to allow them to move about in this country without being arrested. In drawing the attention of the Home Secretary to this matter I do not want to make any unnecessary grievance of it, but it is a 822 serious thing. I understand the difficulties that exist, but it does seem an unreasonable thing that men whose motives are of the best, men who are connected with friendly unions, should not be allowed to move about in this country. They are in touch with Sir Ernest Hatch and with Vandervelde, one of the Members of the Belgian House of Commons and a Minister of the Belgian State. He could go bail for these men to any extent, if necessary. I do ask the Home Secretary to make some inquiry into this matter, and to try and find some method of abating the nuisance.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I desire to call the attention of the Home Secretary to the question of granting certificates of naturalisation to alien enemies since the commencement of the War. The effect of granting these certificates is to confer very great privileges upon these alien enemies—to confer upon them all the rights and privileges of British subjects, and to render them exempt from many of those disagreeable contingencies to which alien enemies are subject. It is an exercise of the authority of the Home Office which, in my judgment, ought to be most carefully guarded. Amongst other privileges which the naturalised alien enemy reaps by reason of his naturalisation is immunity from internment. Personally, I should like to have seen legislation, if necessary, to enable the authorities to intern, in proper places, naturalised aliens, who are very often as dangerous as unnaturalised aliens.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I do not think so. I shall be glad to know where it is. My impression is that there is no power in the Executive to intern naturalised aliens, or, in other words, British subjects. The Home Secretary will correct me if I am wrong. The effect of granting these certificates is to deprive the Executive of the very salutary power possessed by it of interning these alien enemies. I am not going to make a long dissertation upon the danger of alien enemies, but I saw the other day, in a publication issued in May, what appeared to me to be a most appalling list of incendiary fires which had taken place since the commencement of the War. There were forty or fifty up to May, and I believe they have increased largely since. The strange thing about these fires is that in almost every case they have broken out in places where 823 Government contracts were being carried out, where munitions were being prepared, or in Government factories which were highly important for the prosecution of the War. I really do not know whether or not the Home Secretary can tell us if he has been able to discover the authors of these fires, but I do say that prima facie the probability is that some of these fires have taken place through the agency of alien enemies. It is the kind of thing you would expect, it is the kind of thing which is in consonance with their nature, it is the kind of thing which the German character, as disclosed in this War, would most certainly indulge in on every possible opportunity. Therefore, when you naturalise these German alien enemies you prevent yourselves from interning them, and prevent yourselves from taking the powers required for them which you have for alien enemies.
These facts indicate that great care should be taken in interning alien enemies. I confess I have some little doubt as to whether sufficient care has been taken, and one reason for my doubt is this: I have looked very carefully into the figures that were published of the number of Germans who were naturalised last year, during the first seven months of the year, and during the five months after the War had broken out. I find on analysis of these figures—I do not think the Home Secretary will dispute them—that the rate of naturalisation of these Germans after the War began was substantially the same as the rate before the War began. That is a very singular circumstance. I have not been able to look up the figures of this year. I do not know whether the Home Secretary can tell us whether the naturalisation of Germans has gone on at the same rate this year, during the War, as it went on during the last five months of the year. Another matter caused me uneasiness. The late Home Secretary told us that when an application is made to naturalise an alien enemy no inquiry whatever is made from this applicant as to whether he still owes allegiance to the German Emperor. It does not require either a lawyer or an expert to see what a grotesquely absurd and wrong position is occupied by the man who gets the privileges of a British subject at the very moment that he owes allegiance, and the fealty of a subject, to a sovereign who is at war with this 824 country! I suggest that the least we can do is to inquire of the applicant: "Can you offer us any proof that you have divested yourself of allegiance to the German Emperor before you ask for the privileges of a British subject?" The late Home Secretary told us it would be no good doing that, because the applicant might tell a falsehood. Let me remind the present Home Secretary that if an applicant for naturalisation is found to have told a lie, then under the powers of the Naturaisation Act of last year you can immediately revoke his certificate.
I would suggest to the Home Secretary that he might go a little further, and not only inquire of the applicant whether he has so divested himself of his allegiance to Germany, but refuse to grant naturalisation unless the applicant can satisfy the Home Office that he has so divested himself. I do not make these suggestions, I need hardly say, in any hostile spirit. Like everyone eise in the House, I heartily congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his new position. I make these suggestions in a friendly manner. I hope that he will approach this question with a fresh mind, and with what the late First Lord of the Admiralty recently called "a more modern eye;" that the right hon. Gentleman will exercise a little more care than perhaps has been exercised in granting these certificates.
There is only one other matter to which I will refer, and that is the question of granting licences for the export of commodities from this country to neutral countries. I understand that the Home Office have a representative upon the Licensing Committee which has been set up to consider this matter. There are also, I understand, representatives from the Board of Trade, War Office, and Admiralty on that Committee, but, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman is technically, at any rate, responsible for the action of his representative on this Committee, I think I am justified in asking the Home Secretary whether he will inquire into the matters which I am going to raise.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have looked into that point, and I find the War Trades Department, which issues these licences, is really to be taken as a sub-department of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade answers questions dealing with these matters, and it is on the Board of Trade Estimates that that point must be raised.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Of course, I do not want to dispute your ruling, but may I suggest that, technically, the right hon. Gentleman would be responsible for the action of his representative on this Committee, because there is no Department strictly known to the Constitution as a War Trade Committee. It is a thing set up for the emergencies of war, and this Licensing Committee is only a Sub-Committee of the War Trade Department. I would suggest that inasmuch as the Home Secretary has a representative on this Committee, I can ask him as to the action of his representative, and he will be able to communicate to his representative the result of his views. Therefore, is it not in order for me to put a question?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that would not do. We must really have one Minister or another responsible for this Department, and I am informed, after inquiry, that the Board of Trade will answer for what is done by that new Department.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
In view of your ruling, of course, I shall not raise the question, but will take another opportunity of raising it.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I desire to associate myself most cordially with my hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down in offering congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on this, his first occasion of the defence of the Home Office Vote. I am sure we all wish him great success in the discharge of his new duty. If I may say so in passing, I think his acceptance of the post is a standing refutation of an opinion entertained in quarters outside—happily small quarters—that politicians are actuated by the extent of the emoluments offered, and I think we can congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on that fact as well. I wish to emphasise what has been said with regard to the whole question of the treatment of alien enemies in this country. We were indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the other day for his statement as to the extent to which internment has been carried out up to the present time. The process is moving slowly, and I hope in a very short time the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure the House that the decision of the Government and the intention of the House have really been carried out to the most complete extent. Of course there is difficulty in obtaining accommodation for a large number of alien 826 enemies in this country, and the question is largely governed, I understand, by the facility with which accommodation can be provided. I would suggest that the military officers at the War Office at the present time have really enough to do with even more vital and pressing matters, and I think this is a thing that might well be discharged by a committee of business men, who could find premises, make arrangements to pay for them, and all that sort of thing. It surely ought not to be necessary to take the time of high officials at the War Office to provide accommodation, and I would suggest, if it is not too late and the accommodation has not been provided, that it might well be left to the right hon. Gentleman, with his expert advisers and the association of business men, to carry out what is, after all, a very simple matter indeed.
According to the right hon. Gentleman's statement the other day, there are still in London 14,000 alien enemies of military age. I think that is a very important fact, and I hope we may have a statement from the right hon. Gentleman at the very earliest opportunity that this state of affairs has been brought to an end. There is no doubt whatever as to the seriousness of this position. We have got to recognise that Germany has an organised system in this country both for spying and for danger if necessary. I saw a statement by a Noble Lord, a Member of the other House, that to his knowledge £1,000,000 per year has been spent by Germany in this country in that direction. I would not put it as high as that. I do not know how the Noble Lord gets his information, but that there has been money freely spent in every direction there is no reason to doubt. Take the case of aliens in New York. There have been organisation and successful arrangements made for no other purpose than to send spies to this country. A man of intelligence offered to come over here to be a spy, and the German Embassy and officials in America took advantage and were sending him over to this country. We have to recognise that there is, and has been from the beginning of the War and before the War, an organised system by Germany to damage this country and obtain information to its detriment.
I have been on a Committee visiting these camps. A short time ago a German who was supposed to be a spy escaped from one of these camps, and about three months after, I think it was, they were able to capture him again. He was engaged in a boat 827 carrying coals to our Fleet in the North Sea, and he had been employed in that purpose for some considerable time. That is a case known to the authorities, but it is only one of scores that might be given to show the deliberation of these men, the sacrifices they are willing to make, and the risks they are willing to run in order to discharge what they believe to be a patriotic duty to their country. Therefore, I say, in order that things may be on a proper basis, if necessary we have got to do injustice to some so that justice may be done to the rest. I do hope that with the advent of the right hon. Gentleman he will make up his mind, and I am sure he needs very little pressing, that everything necessary must be done, not only to satisfy public opinion on this point, but to carry out what is obviously an ordinary matter of necessary business in regard to this War
Some time ago there was an order issued for the registration of aliens at hotels and boarding houses in this country. I should like to know what the effect will be, and whether there has been any substantial result. Have we been able to trace admittedly dangerous enemies by means of that registration? I have a letter here from the manager of a very important hotel, who tells me that every visitor has to register, and so forth, but no one is ever told who has been at the hotel. That may be an isolated case. It is only fair to the right hon. Gentleman to say it is not in London, and is, therefore, outside his jurisdiction; but is there a systematic method in London of getting the registration forms and of following up doubtful persons? I think that is almost a necessary corollary to the issuing of registration forms at all. I would ask the special attention of the Homo Office to the whole question of hotels, especially in London. It is a remarkable fact that, until quite recently, the predominant language in the smoke rooms of some of our London hotels has been German. There is no doubt about it: I heard it myself. I admit they were mostly German Americans, but many were naturalised Germans, and, therefore, there is every reason to believe they are here for no good purpose at the present time. I ask that this question will be followed up, and I would like to know what practical result has been obtained. So far as boarding houses are concerned, I am afraid there has not been very strict 828 supervision. The right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us something on that point.
Another suggestion I would make to the Home Secretary is that he should watch with very great care persons who call themselves Swiss at the present time. Many Germans, I am told, are masquerading as Swiss in responsible positions. This I do not state on authority, but I believe it is true. I believe it is true that since the War broke out Germans have been able to go to Switzerland and obtain naturalisation papers and come back here and resume their old positions. Special attention ought to be paid at the present time to persons who make themselves out to be Swiss, and the date upon which they obtained their naturalisation papers ought to be ascertained. I think if that were done some very great surprises would be in store for the right hon. Gentleman's Department. I myself should pass a short Bill, making it a penal offence for any employer to employ an alien enemy at the present time. You can make a special exemption if you like. There may be special cases—they may be very few—where it ought not to apply. The audacity of some of these alien enemies is something remarkable. In some districts I know they insist on being on every representative committee. They are the leaders in every charitable organisation. It is obvious that their object is to disarm suspicion and criticism. An hon. Friend told me he was at a meeting the other day at which only one native-born person spoke; it was in a London constituency, and was held in connection with Some distribution of money obtained for charitable purposes. They foist themselves on committees in order to throw off any suspicion that might be entertained. Only the other day in Glasgow a German was charged with theft, and he admitted that he was drawing £1 a week from the Prince of Wales's Fund. I say that is a very serious state of affairs, and suggests laxity in some quarter. There are too many Germans, especially on the Clyde at the present time, although I hope that is a matter which will be dealt with very shortly.
I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to be specially careful with regard to cases of exemption, more particularly on the coast. At the present time there are still on the coast 2,134 alien enemies who are women and 592 men. Probably, in all those cases, the local police authority is 829 satisfied, but at a time like this, when there is so much possibility of danger with regard to these people, I think we ought to be specially careful, and I should be glad to hear an announcement that that number has been very materially reduced. I do not think we ought to have any alien enemies whatever in prohibited areas until the end of the War. Some of my hon. Friends who have been on the spot a very short time after an aerial raid over here say that the most remarkable fact was the number of Germans who were there to inquire how the thing had been carried out. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has information as to certain things carried out at the time of the raids which indicate that they have full knowledge that the raids are going to take place, and where they are going to take place. Another point I suggest is that the right hon. Gentleman should be very strict in the liberty given at the present time to Germans to change their name. For my part, I would have prohibited at the very commencement of the War any German taking an English name, because it makes it much more easy for him to carry out his purpose, if he is hostile to this country, and I see no case can be made out for our assisting Germans to change their name at the present time. If I had the power I would cancel every change of name that has taken place since the War began and make them keep their own name until the War is over. With regard to German magistrates in this country, I think the right hon. Gentleman might issue a memorandum from that subject. I think the Germans who have been made J.P.'s ought to have the decency to keep away from the Courts until the end of the War. Case after case is occurring every day where a German pronounces in broken English sentence upon an Englishman for some paltry offence, and I do not think we ought to submit even criminals to a humiliation of that kind. German magistrates ought not to be allowed to try Englishmen at the present time, and it should be suggested to them that they might very well withdraw their public services from the bench at the present time.
I also wish to refer to the character of some of the speeches that have been delivered recently in some of our public parks dealing with the War. I am not referring to London alone, but the same thing has happened in some very important provincial towns. I do not know who is organising these speakers, but 830 there is no doubt that they are good speakers. In some places, like Hyde Park, you have a recruiting meeting in one corner and a short distance away you hear someone denouncing the War in all the moods and tenses. I do not suggest any interference with liberty, but I think at a time like this it is liberty gone mad for our people whilst walking through a public park to have to listen to someone denouncing the whole operations of the War, its purposes, and everything connected with it, more especially as you may have mothers listening to the speech who may have lost sons in the War. I suggest that there should be stricter supervision with regard to the character of those speeches which are made on Hampstead Heath, in Hyde Park, and at other places throughout the country. I do not make any complaints so far as the police administration is concerned. In London I know the public have absolute confidence in Sir Edward Henry and his assistants in this and other matters, but I think we ought to give a lead in the House of Commons to the police in this matter and stricter supervision should be enforced, and as far as possible these speeches should be suppressed until the War is over; or, at any rate, until it is nearer a successful issue than it is at the present time. I hope the Home Secretary will look into these various points, and I trust it will be possible for him to give me a satisfactory reply.
§ Mr. NIELD
I think we can associate ourselves on this side of the House with all that has fallen from the last speaker, and I wish to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the persistency with which he has always tackled this question which is of so vital importance to us. Anyone who has taken any interest in this question cannot fail to have had an enormous number of communications from men of responsibility who are able to put forward concrete facts showing what a serious state of alarm the country is in with regard to the residence amongst us of so many of these alien enemies. I do not profess to believe half of what I hear on these matters, but it has been said and repeated that to-night we are to be subjected in London to a raid of Zeppelins, and something very much in excess of what we have had in this country before. Hon. Members may think that that is a warning which it is unnecessary to take any notice of, but the last speaker has shown that where Zeppelin raids have 831 occurred there has always been unusual activity amongst the alien population, which shows that they appreciate what is coming. If that is so why should this information I have received not be worthy of credence, and why should we not try to make such preparations as we can, even at this short notice? Other hon. Members, as well as myself, have raised the question of the fire at Park Royal which is on the confines, if not actually in, my own division. I beg leave to assure the Home Secretary that he ought to look with very great care into the investigation which is taking place as to the origin of the Park Royal fire. A great many of the circumstances connected with this fire are very curious. It took place at a moment when there was a great amount of material ready for delivery, and when there were large quantities of goods which could readily be consumed. I am convinced from the communications which have reached me that there is much more in this matter than the Home Office seem to think.
A suggestion was made that a Committee should be appointed representing the Fire Brigade of London and some of the principal provincial centres, together with representatives of the Home Office and other officials, which should have power to investigate these matters, take evidence on oath on the spot and deal with these matters judicially under similar powers to those which are now possessed by the coroner of the City of London. I agree with the criticism that it would be undesirable to extend the Act of 1888 which constituted the coroner of the City of London to the whole of the Kingdom, because there are coroners and coroners, and it is perhaps more desirable that we should have an experienced Committee which could deal with these matters promptly on the spot and take evidence. I have a letter from one of the representatives of a large insurance company in which he says that they have no doubt and are quite satisfied that the fires which have occurred lately in industrial works and centres have been the result of the activities of alien enemies. I sincerely hope that the Home Office will bestir itself in regard to this matter, because they are causing enormous losses to the community at a moment when they can ill afford it. Reference has been made to the utilisation of prison labour. As a magistrate who has visited prisons regularly, I know the 832 class of men who are engaged there and I believe that much of that labour might be turned to profitable account in making smaller articles in relation to the manufacture of munitions of war, and I am sure this kind of labour, which is often the work of highly skilled workmen, could be utilised very properly in this way.
Another subject I wish to refer to is the retention in the police force of a greater number of young men of military age than is reasonably necessary for the protection of the people. Wherever you go in the Metropolitan Police district you see a number of men obviously in the full vigour of life who might very well be utilised in connection with His Majesty's Forces under present circumstances. It is a wonderful thing that since the commencement of this War, crime, so far as it is indicated by charges brought forward at Assizes or Sessions, has very singularly decreased. I have not heard that this is the result of the police being unable to effect captures, but I think crime, or rather the commission of crime, has relatively decreased. I know that in Middlesex we used to have thirty-five or forty cases every month, but now the Court is over very often before lunch, and on the last occasion there were only about eight cases, and those were mostly pleas of guilty. That being the condition of the country with regard to crime. I think greater facilities should be given to the police to enlist in His Majesty's Forces. I am sure the police themselves desire to go, and there are a great many others in Government employment only too willing to leave that employment in order to take their part with their fellows on the other side of the Channel and thus remove any suggestion that they are shirking their proper services to the country. I hope the Home Office will give the points I have raised serious attention, and that we may have some alteration. I wish to thank the Government for the reply which has been given to my question in reference to licences to trade with the enemy, because it was suggested in a public newspaper that there were licences to export from this country. I am very glad to have that statement from the Home Secretary, and I am sure the country will feel that we are being gradually toned up with regard to these questions. I hope the action of the Home Office under the right hon. Gentleman will show an activity which has been absent in the past.
§ Sir EDWIN CORNWALL
I share with my right hon Friend the Member for 833 Kirkcaldy Burghs the anxiety he has expressed with regard to alien enemies in our midst. I have felt it very much, and I believe nearly all hon. Members of this House have felt it, and still feel most deeply upon this question. While we have no desire to embarrass the Home Office, or any Members of the Government, who have got a very heavy task to bear at the present time in the conduct of the War and everything connected with it, I believe there is a feeling that the Home Office and the Government have not been abreast of public opinion with regard to this matter, and have been far behind the House of Commons and the country. Even when they answer questions in the House with regard to these all-important matters they do not seem to me to help the House to be satisfied. There seems to be something in the answers we listen to from the Home Office which gives the impression that they are hiding something.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
At any rate, that is the impression, and there does not seem to be sufficient frankness in the answers. I do not mean that the actual answers are not satisfactory, but they seem to miss what the House is looking for. Hon. Members seem to be expecting some answer which will help the House to feel that the Home Office is doing its very best. I always have the impression when the Home Office gives an answer that they are doing more than their answer conveys when it is read out to the House. To-day I asked a question with regard to the fire at Park Royal. The Home Secretary answered the question and eased it over as satisfactorily as he could. He seemed to me to be trying to make the answer such as would minimise the whole thing. We do not want to attach too much importance to newspapers, but at the same time that which has appeared in the newspapers has created a public opinion with regard to that fire, and I had hoped that the Home Secretary when he answered the question would have helped a little more as to the real circumstances with regard to what was destroyed. My question was not merely in connection with the actual burning, but it was also in connection with the munitions and the equipment which had been prepared for almost immediate transit for the front. That was all brushed aside, and we were given to understand that, after all, there was not 834 much in it; it was not a Government Department at all; it was not a department of the War Office. That did not matter; it was war material.
My question was more or less set aside on a technical point, because this material did not belong to the War Office at all. It was not munitions and it was not equipment, because they were not War Office works, and I need not have put the question and hon. Members and the public outside need not worry very much about it, because there was not any very serious loss to the War Office. I say that was the wrong kind of answer to give. I do not say that with any desire to attack the Home Secretary, but to convey to him and to the House how I feel on the matter. We were told, and the public believed it, that there were a large number of ambulance wagons and other vehicles ready for use to help our wounded soldiers at the front. They were burned, and the only answer we get is that, after all, there was not very much in it. That does not satisfy me that the Home Office is so desirous as we are of erring on the side of pursuing this matter to the bitter end to trace out any alien enemy who is destroying these things, so as to abundantly satisfy public opinion, if you like, of an activity of mind and purpose on the part of the authorities of this country and that everything possible is being done in a matter of this grave importance.
It is not a question of any hostility to the Government or of vindictiveness towards alien enemies personally. I need hardly say that does not enter my mind. What does enter my mind is this question: What is our duty at home? We people who are not going to the front and are not sacrificing our lives, we people here, Members of Parliament, and occupying whatever may be our positions outside this House, what are we doing to help the men who are risking their lives on land and sea fighting for this country? The slightest mistake or indifference on our part, the slightest excuse for this, that, and the other which we may urge may mean the loss of large numbers of lives of our fellow citizens who are fighting in this war. The "Formidable" went down, and many of us believed that it was largely because of alien information. The loss of these ambulance wagons may mean a great deal of suffering to people. This is the only thing which prompts me, and I am always worried morning, noon, and night with regard to this question. I may be too 835 sensitive and susceptible with regard to this alien question, but I fully share the view of my right hon. Friend (Sir Henry Dalziel). I am anxious every day with regard to this matter, and the rare occasions on which I speak will convince hon. Members that I would not have got up now if I did not feel anxious about it every day.
I am not satisfied that the Government are doing as much as the House wants them to do. We believe that the Home Office can increase its pace and its work to a much greater extent than it has been doing. My right hon. Friend suggested that there was delay in interning alien enemies, because of a lack of accommodation. I agree with my right hon. Friend that accommodation might easily have been provided by a group of business men. You do not want to wait until the busy police authorities or the War Office, whose business it is to make fighting men, and all credit is due to them for the glorious work which they are doing, can find the accommodation. Let them do that which is their work. It is not their work to go about the country finding sites on which to intern alien enemies. There are twenty, fifty, or even one hundred Members of this House, to say nothing of large numbers of responsible business people outside, who would be only too glad to give their whole time and to place their services at the disposal of the Government in connection with this work. But no, the War Office goes on in its old water-tight traditional way just as if we were not at war. I do not mean the right hon. Gentlemen on that Front Bench. They are at the mercy of the officials of the Department, these little tin gods you find in every Government Department and every Municipality. You must do it just in their way, and, if it is not done in their way, they will give no support to any Minister in his Job on that Front Bench. Why is it that the services of fifty or one hundred Members of Parliament are not taken in a matter of this kind? It is not because the Home Secretary would be unwilling to take them. It is simply because of the water-tight methods in the Government Departments of this country. If our Ministers are going to be the success which we want them to be, they must teach the Government officials that we are going through a great war, and, just as every other individual has to readapt himself to the circumstances arising out of 836 this War, so must Government officials, and they must give up their old traditional water-tight methods.
This question is just one of those questions which we could do ourselves rather than it should be done under the old Government system. Let the Home Secretary now take Members of the House into his confidence. He knows that many Members have taken an interest in this matter. Let them sit round the Table and discuss with him what could be done to bring the Home Office and the Government Departments more into accord with feeling in this House and public feeling outside. What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer do when the War began? He saw that the financial position of the country was difficult, and he called in the bankers and other people to discuss with him what was best to be done—with very satisfactory results. Why not call in Members of this House, my right hon. Friend and others, on this question? Why not let them confer with the right hon. Gentleman instead of having this Debate here to-day? Why should not Members of the House who are very anxious about this matter have been consulted long ago? I believe that we do not yet realise how deep this German secret service is. My right hon. Friend mentioned that they had been spending two million pounds a year. I should not be surprised if they are spending a large sum of money now. I believe, so far as I can judge, that this secret service goes deep down into the very life of this nation, and it is impossible for us to treat it too seriously.
5.0 P.M. I do not like, at a time like this, that there should be under our Government in official positions men of German origin and association. The hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. R. McNeill) the other day raised a question about persons of German origin occupying responsible positions. That is true, and it is not denied. It worries me considerably. I do not think that the Home Office ought to allow anybody of German origin and association to be in a responsible position where there is private information obtainable. It is not fair to these persons themselves, because they are known to the German secret service. They cannot help meeting members of that service, and they must be almost superhuman if they can escape the influence which this German secret service has upon persons of German origin and association. They are waylaid by Germans in these secret societies 837 wherever they go, and information is sought from them. It is not what one man gives away; it is what a group of men give away. The German secret agencies are able to piece the information together. I am informed that two of our most responsible Ministers even to-day—I will not mention any names, though I dare say Members of the House know them—have each a private secretary who is of German origin. The Home Office and the police authorities ought to so advise everybody that that would be impossible. It ought to be impossible. There ought to be some other occupation for people of German origin than that of private secretaries to responsible Ministers. That is what is happening. We know it. It is almost impossible to sit still in this House when these things are happening, and I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to tell us—we are all very glad that he is in that position—that he is at all events going to clear out the Augean stable, and that we are not going to have these people of German origin and association in any responsible position. Find them some other place. There are plenty of men of ability among the British people to occupy these positions. I hope that he will give the House and the country some assurance that we need not go on niggling and niggling at this question day after day, and week after week, inside and outside this House, because the Government itself is going to take the lead, and that we humble Members of the rank and file of the House can be perfectly satisfied with what the Government are doing. At the present moment I am not satisfied that the Government are doing all they should do, and I hope that the new Home Secretary will show us that he is taking the necessary steps in the matter.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I do not for one moment question either the patriotism or the sincerity which has animated the speeches we have just listened to. I am in full agreement with the speakers that the presence of alien enemies upon our benches of justices of the peace is a scandal, and one which ought to be put an end to as quickly as possible. I am opposed to the wide employment of Germans in many places, and I would gladly see it cease. But with all our patriotism, with all the feeling that such scandals' naturally arouse, there is, I wish to point out, some need for caution when we are discussing this very difficult question. Of 838 course I know nothing of what may be in the archives of the Home Secretary or his advisers, or at Scotland Yard, but I can imagine that their difficulties are not lessened but may be considerably increased by discussions which develop an undue examination of the various incidents that have taken place lately in London and throughout the country. I can imagine that difficulties might be created in the path of those who are really responsible for watching these aliens, and for detecting any schemes or plots among them—by any display of the slightest incaution, or by any insistence upon too much confidence being placed by the authorities in this House. If these schemes and plots are to be met and counteracted successfully, the very first essential on the part of the Home Secretary and his advisers is absolute secrecy, and to press them to take us into their confidence, and to tell us what they are doing in particular exigencies and to meet particular dangers, is surely not to display that caution or that carefulness for the public interest which might be expected from Members of this House.
No doubt there are fears which we all share, fears which reach us from various bodies of our constituents—fears which are reflected in the Press and possibly also in the conversations we hear around us. I confess sometimes in my own experience, when I have investigated those fears, they have proved in some cases to be exaggerated, or not founded on very solid facts. But still I admit there are fears, which I share. I admit also there are dangers. But I say that our first object should be not to calm irritated nerves or excited imaginations but to do what we can to aid the Home Secretary and his advisers, and above all to aid the Criminal Investigation Department, and those engaged in this most difficult task, in their attempts to counteract these schemes. We are doing our best to help them if we ask them to place too much confidence in us or if we invite them to discuss these very difficult questions with all the cards upon the table. It is not that I do not recognise the full sincerity and patriotic motives which animate those who have spoken this afternoon. But I also recognise the difficulties of the position, and I say that those difficulties would not be lessened, but would be rather increased, by such a discussion as we have just listened to, and therefore I deprecate it.
839 I feel certain that the Home Secretary and his advisers are doing the best in their power to meet these difficult exigencies. I have confidence in that. If I had not that confidence, then I say it is no use pretending to have it, but I do give the Government my confidence, and I am not disposed to ask them to discuss these matters too openly, or to take hon. Members into their confidence, telling them where precisely danger may exist and what may be the meaning of this or that manifestation of danger in any particular part of the country. It is not from any doubt of the sincerity of their motives or the purity of their patriotism that I appeal to hon. Members to recognise the force of these arguments. I hope the whole House gives the Home Secretary its complete trust, and I for one do not think I ought to make it a condition of that trust that the right hon. Gentleman should give me too much confidence, or expose to me all the plans that may be in his mind or in the minds of his advisers.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I want to ask a question of the Home Secretary. It is whether he has received a certain manifesto which has been issued? I will only read the letter which accompanied it—it is a letter addressed to myself, but I will hand the document to the right hon. Gentleman. The letter is headed: "The Independent Labour Party, City of London Branch," and it is as follows:I enclose herewith a copy of a resolution adopted at the public meeting held at Exeter Hall, under the auspices of the City of London branch of the Independent Labour Party. I trust yon will use all your influence to secure the carrying into effect of this resolution, so that the wicked and useless slaughter of workers now being carried on in the interests of the profiteering classes may be speedily put a stop to.I propose to give the document which demands the terms of peace to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
Is the hon. Baronet entitled to make a speech when he only interrupted in order to put a question?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not want to make a speech. I will simply read the resolution which accompanied the letter as follows:That this meeting calls on the British Government to declare publicly, and without delay, the basis on which Great Britain and her Allies will be prepared to discuss terms of peace with Germany and Austro-Hungary.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir J. Simon)
When the hon. Baronet asked if I had received the document he referred to, the answer, naturally, was that I had not, but an hon. Friend of mine has now passed it to me, and I can assure him it shall be examined, and put in the proper quarters for any necessary action to be taken. I hope that this intervention will not be allowed to colour the Debate, and I trust the hon. Baronet will remember that it is not always the best way to show the real sentiments of the British people to give too great an advertisement to a document which naturally causes indignation in some quarters, and which, I think, should not necessarily be quoted in this House as representative of any great body of opinion. I now come to the points which have been raised in the course of this Debate. I appreciate the friendly way in which they have been raised, and will do my best to reward those friendly speeches with all the candour that I can command.
First of all the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) raised a question whether those who were in prisons were being sufficiently used to do work connected with the production of munitions of war. Earlier in the day I answered a question on that point, and I am glad now to be able to give the hon. Gentleman information as to the sort of work these people are doing. At Question Time I said all the available labour of the prison was not being used for making munitions of war, or ammunition for the troops, because it was already fully occupied in making other war stores for the Government. I can now say further that 2,000,000 articles have been made in the execution of orders for stores required for war purposes by the Admiralty, the War Office, the Post Office, and other Departments. For example, the prison population has been making ship's fenders, hammocks, coal sacks, cartridge cases, signal cones, and mail bags for the postal service of the Expeditionary Force, and they have orders in hand for another 1,000,000 articles. To enable this multitude of orders to be executed a great deal of special organisation has been created in the prisons, and we are really indebted to the prison staffs for the energy which they have thrown into the work, involving in some cases extra hours of labour which they have willingly given. The House will be satisfied, I hope, that, so far as we properly can, we are using the labour 841 available in these institutions for purposes directly connected with the War.
§ Sir J. SIMON
In my answer at Question Time I said that all available prison labour has been used ever since the War began in making war stores for the Government. I do not mean to say that there are not some conceivable exceptions, but if exceptions have been made there is very good reason for it. Broadly speaking, all the labour available in the prisons for the purpose has been made use of. This is essentially a war topic, and nearly every other question raised in this Debate has some connection with the War. Of course that is quite right and proper. But there was one exception, and that was the question raised by the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Duncan). The hon. Gentleman discussed a question which has many times before been raised in this House. It was as to how far it would be possible to allow something like trade union organisation for the members of the Metropolitan Police Force. That question has been raised in this House many times—in times of peace as well as to-day—and I would suggest that, whatever else may be said about it, it really is not a question directly connected with the emergency of war in which we stand, and it ought not to be allowed to occupy too much public attention at this particular time. I believe I interpret quite truly the feelings of that splendid and loyal body of men, the constables of the Metropolitan Police, when I say that they would be among the first to admit that no questions should be raised now which would detract in any way from the one overwhelming duty and function of defeating the enemy. There was an observation made by the hon. Gentleman which goes to the root of this matter, and while I hope we shall not have a long controversy about it, I will ask the Committee to observe what the hon. Gentleman himself said. He urged that there should be an unlimited right of meeting, organisation, and everything that involved concerted action for the police just as there is for every other class of workers in the country except, as he said, the Army and the Navy. Why is it that my hon. Friend makes that exception? He makes that exception because, like a man of good sense, he sees at once that the public safety, secured as it is by the Army and Navy, depends upon 842 the strict discipline and the prompt obedience of the Army and Navy. He makes the exception in the case of the Army and Navy because, when you have highly disciplined forces of that sort, although they are entitled to claim the fullest and fairest consideration for any grievances they have—what body of men have a better claim?—still, common sense shows you that they cannot, as one of the conditions of their service, be allowed or expected to exercise the right of private combination against their employers, the State, in quite the same way in which the ordinary mass of the workmen, to the great advantage of the State, are constantly doing. The reasons for the exception of the Army and the Navy apply absolutely to the Metropolitan Police. The public safety of London depends upon the strict discipline and prompt obedience of the Metropolitan Police in the same way in which the public safety of the country depends upon the Army and Navy.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I cannot help thinking that for this purpose we had better, for the moment, consider our own problem. I say quite frankly that I do not know, and I doubt whether anyone in the Committee knows precisely what conditions are to be found in Paris or Norway and Sweden. All we can say is what the conditions are in our own Metropolitan area. All I am venturing to suggest is that while, for my part, there is nobody in this Committee who has a more firm belief in the value to the community of combinations and collective action on behalf of bodies of workmen with common sympathies, at the same time it is clear that the same exception which my hon. Friend willingly applied in the case of members of the Army and Navy is an exception which does suggest itself to reasonable people in the case of a body like the Metropolitan Police. That the matter may be seen in its true aspects, I would ask the Committee to observe these two further facts. In the first place, the most elaborate arrangements are made for securing that a constable—a man in the lowest grade of this fine service—shall have his grievance, even although his grievance be nothing more than a reprimand which has been administered to him, attended to by a proper system of appeal to the proper authority. He may appeal step by step, and he does, in 843 proper cases, appeal. I can claim in this matter to know something of the working of such appeals, independently of the new duties I have assumed at the Home Office. I am quite confident, from the way in which these appeals are worked, whether it be by his immediate superiors or whether it be by those in higher positions, like the Assistant Commissioner or the Commissioner himself, or my predecessor in office, that that system of appeal is one which has worked with the greatest sense of fairness to the individual complaining. The greatest trouble is taken to see if there is ground for his complaint and a full, fair and friendly hearing is given.
The second point I would submit is this: It is all very well to ask us to consider the position of the police in Paris, Norway, and Sweden. I say quite frankly that I do not know anything about that. But the Committee should remember that the Metropolitan Police here in London stand in a very exceptional position to the House of Commons itself. The Secretary of State is, in a real and immediate sense, answerable for that force. My relation, holding that office, to the London policeman is something quite different from the relation of any Member of the Government to any member of the local and provincial police forces. They have the most direct connection with Parliament. They have, I am very glad to think, many friends in this House. I do not believe there is any Member of the House of Commons who does not count among his real friends those members of the London police force who we constantly know in connection with this building and whose kindness, courtesy and attention are the admiration of every one of us. If ever there was a body of men in this country certain of getting attention to its grievances, not merely by Gentlemen who sit on this Front Bench but by the championing of private Members of this House, it is members of the London police force. We should, indeed, be very ungrateful Members of Parliament if we did not realise that we had that direct connection with and responsibility for them. On these grounds I do not think there is substance in the suggestion that the police of London are put at a disadvantage because this well-known rule is applied to them just as it is applied to the Army and Navy. Unless there be in the middle of a great War some very special and peculiar occasion which requires us to occupy time in considering this problem 844 now, I hope my hon. Friend and any who may happen to share his point of view will not think I am trying to shelve the matter in asking them to turn to matters immediately before us.
The next matter which was mentioned originally by the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Butcher), and since then developed in speeches by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) and other speakers, is the question, the very large, very grave, very urgent question, both of the policy which we adopt in relation to aliens, and more particularly hostile aliens and those who may be associated with them, and the way in which and the extent to which that policy is in practice being carried out. I should like to make it quite plain to the Committee—as they know I am undertaking a new duty, and they will not expect me to have mastered everything at the moment—that I entered upon this part of my task profoundly convinced that it was a grave and serious subject. I still retain enough of the prejudices of a lawyer to think that in ordinary times you should not do anything until you have what lawyers call proof. Although that may be, and I think is, a very valuable rule for action in times of peace when you are dealing with a population which has no reason for being other than friendly, that is not a good rule, and it is not a sensible rule, when you are dealing with a danger such as this, which every sensible man realises. I trust every Member of the Committee will agree when I say that I can never associate myself, whatever be the public clamour, with action in respect of these suspected persons which is, as I know and believe, unjust action. We should show ourselves very poor representatives of Parliamentary tradition if we were not prepared, on a proper occasion, to resist even popular clamour in cases where injustice would otherwise be done. That is quite a different thing from saying that we ought to fold our hands and require strict, precise, elaborate legal proof before any sort of precaution is taken.
I would suggest that the true rule to apply is this: We must, in the first place, recognise that the public intereset and the national interest come far in front even of inconvenience and even of the risk of misunderstanding in the case of any individual whatever, be he rich or be he poor, be he alien or be he British. In the second place, we should remember that 845 everybody who is really devoted to the cause of the country is prepared to undergo certain inconveniences, even, indeed, if the inconvenience consists in your being required to live in one place rather than another, or to register your address and to get leave before you can do this or that. What is that inconvenience compared with the sort of sacrifice which hundreds and thousands of loyal British subjects are making every day? Therefore, I would say to anybody who feels that the rule has been a little harsh in his case—and there may well be such cases—"while you protest that your own sympathies are with this country and that your own attachments are loyal and genuine, it may be so, but we feel it necessary to take precautions before we have reached the point of elaborate legal proof that suspicion against you is justified, and we call upon you to make the sacrifice, if it be a sacrifice, of submitting yourself to these regulations cheerfully and fairly, not because we call everybody who has a foreign-sounding name a traitor—heaven forbid! there are many people with foreign-sounding names who are as loyal and faithful to this country as a man who carries some ancient Saxon appellation—but because loyal people—people who are prepared to say that this country must be protected in this struggle, say they will not mind even if the regulations do turn out in certain cases to be a little hard and pressing in their individual case." That appears to be the commonsense way in which this thing ought to be viewed.
I would ask the Committee, and, so far as I may, I would ask the public, to observe these two rules: Do not let us allow ourselves to be frightened or blustered into doing unjust things merely because there is a certain amount of public clamour that they should be done; but, subject to that, let us make it quite plain that we think it right that we should do strict things, and sometimes severe things, even though they affect the complete freedom of movement of individuals, so long as it can be fairly said it is a wise precaution to take in view of the immense national interests in our charge. I can imagine that Members of the Committee will say, let us see how these fine-sounding principles are carried out, because it is no good laying them down unless a real effort is made to apply them. As the Committee knows, the Prime Minister explained the policy we propose to adopt. Let the Committee remember, although I 846 think that in these discussions it is often forgotten, that we are served in this country with a Special Investigation Department, both a highly trained staff at the War Office and a highly trained staff at Scotland Yard, which I am enough of a Briton to believe cannot be matched in Germany or out of it. It is a small staff, but it is a highly skilled staff, and it has devoted itself with tremendous energy and great assiduity to the work of protecting this country from dangers of this sort. Let the Committee remember that upon the advice of these bodies, at the very beginning of the War, we laid our hands upon every person whom the authorities had any reason to believe was dangerous because of his activities or his correspondence with this country. If you are viewing the matter in fair proportions you must start with that fact.
After you have done that it is perfectly obvious that you have a very large alien enemy population as to which, for my part, I do not feel the least surprise that public opinion should say, "Your special investigators may be all very proper, your secret inquiries may be all very complete, but still it is desirable that you should adopt definitely the policy that people who are at large as alien enemies in this country should be interned, unless there be special proof to the satisfaction of fair-minded people that in exceptional cases they should be left at large." That was the policy that was announced, and we have pursued that policy, from the moment it was announced, with the greatest energy. It is not a question of asking a number of business men to be good enough to find a place where people may be detained as my hon. Friend (Sir Edwin Cornwall) seems to think. He will not find it quite as easy as he thinks even then, for an energetic War Office and an energetic Admiralty have very properly taken great numbers of appropriate sites for the purpose of training troops. The Crystal Palace is taken by the Admiralty, and all sorts of large areas and buildings have been taken by the War Office. We must not complain, for, after all, they have taken them for very good public purposes. But the real difficulty is to find, promptly, places which will really satisfy the necessary conditions. These people are being shut up against their will; therefore it is not a question of putting them in a building. You must put them in a place which is suitably surrounded and can be suitably guarded. 847 There are considerable numbers of men to be put in one place, and it must be a place which is sanitary for such a purpose. It must be a place which is capable of being supplied with water and other necessities for such a purpose, and these things, with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, could not be done even if he gave me what he suggests—a hundred business Members of the House of Commons. Even that invaluable form of assistance would not produce that particular thing in five minutes.
What has happened is this: Immediate steps were taken to find out where further accommodation could be secured. The inhabitants of the Isle of Man, who are patriotic people like other subjects of the King, naturally do not much like the idea that their island should become a place of internment for unlimited quantities of Germans. But on the other hand, like other patriotic subjects of the King, they have shown themselves perfectly willing to play the part which they are called upon to play in view of the position of the island. They are not represented in this House, but I think it would be right that I should call the Committee's attention to the fact that these Manxmen, though they are not represented in this House, have accepted most cheerfully the putting in their island of very large camps, inside which we are putting these interned Germans as fast as ever we can, and that they are co-operating in the extension of these camps, which is going on from day to day; so that there alone, as far as my figures go, we are able to provide additional accommodation for something like a thousand every week as the weeks go by. In addition to that, we have got other places inside the United Kingdom which we are trying to use. The War Office finds a great difficulty in providing armed guards for such purpose, but they have shown throughout a real desire to co-operate, and certainly no one can say that they have not been pressed by the Home Office and by other Departments to do their utmost. I am indebted to the President of the Local Government Board for the very energetic effort which he is making to find further places of accommodation, and by this means, though I say quite frankly it cannot be done in twenty-four hours, we are as a matter of fact, carrying out that policy of interning alien enemies as fast as it can be carried out. An hon. Member 848 asked me the other day whether our present rate of progress would be maintained. I would answer him by saying that our present rate of progress will, I believe, be most rapidly increased; and unless some unforeseen difficulties arise, and we do our utmost to prevent it, I am pretty confident that the time which has still to elapse before the carrying out of this policy is over will be found to be a good deal less than the time which might be calculated on the basis of what has already happened.
That is internment. But of course apart from internment there is the important question of repatriation. It is in every way desirable that we should send out of this country such persons as can safely be sent out and who belong to this class. We can send out of this country a certain number of men who are of no fighting value, either because of age or because of some permanent physical incapacity, and to a certain extent that has already been done. There is another class which I hope the Committee will consider, and consider sympathetically, and that is the class of German and Austrian women. I say quite frankly I think it would be a cruel thing if we were to say that as a matter of course and without question every German and every Austrian woman in this country was to be turned out. It would be a cruel thing to do. For consider: many of them are Germans and Austrians because, though British born, they have married German or Austrian husbands, and it would be really a monstrous thing if we were to take women—in some cases young, in some cases old—and simply because they have married Germans or Austrians, should, as a matter of course, turn them out of this country. I do not say there may not be such cases, because yon may have a wife of a German or an Austrian who has so far associated herself with her husband's relations and associations and interests and prejudices that it is better that she should be treated as having definitely joined in fact, as she has in theory, his Associations rather than maintain her own. But I hope the Committee will agree with me that there are exceptional cases of that sort which must certainly be considered. It is quite a different thing when you are dealing with some other class of women, but the women who are Germans because they are married to Germans must certainly illustrate the necessity of exception.
Whether you are dealing with the interning of men or with the repatriation of others, mostly women—men of military 849 age are interned, and some other men are repatriated as well—you need to have a body which will consider claims for exceptional treatment, and there are such claims in both classes, and very proper claims in some cases. We set up at once advisory bodies to deal with the matter. So far as the rest of the country was concerned, other than Scotland, we have appointed what are in fact two Committees. Each of them is presided over by a High Court judge, and each of them has also two Members of Parliament who act as associates and assessors to the High Court judge. The object is to secure a small body and a fair body, a body which is in touch with Parliamentary and public opinion and which will be able to deal with these cases rapidly. The House may be interested to know how far that has been dealt with. I have the figures here. These two Committees have now dealt with some 2,160 applications for exemption from internment. Of course only a certain number of people applied, because others go either willingly or because they realise that they have no chance whatever of getting excused. Some 618 of these are being inquired into and no decision has been arrived at; but as regards the rest, exemption has been granted in 286 cases and exemption has been refused in 1,256 cases. Of these 1,256 cases where exemption was asked for and refused I am told that 1,104 are Germans and 152 are Austrians or Hungarians. That will show the Committee that that machinery is really working, and I have made some personal inquiry about it, and I am satisfied that as far as that Committee is concerned they are dealing with these applications for exemption at a rapid rate.
But I should like the Committee to understand that when you are dealing with the internment of an alien it is not necessary that you should wait until his application for exemption has been disposed of before you intern him. After all, the internment camp in this country is made as healthy as it reasonably can be, and there are worse things in the month of June than being interned in the Isle of Man. Therefore we do not follow the practice of saying that no one is to be interned until their application for exemption has been heard. That would obviously mean that everyone would apply for exemption. But we proceed to intern in cases of need as rapidly as we can without regard to that, taking, naturally, those persons first of 850 all who are more particularly pointed at as conceivable sources of danger. Then their applications for exemption are dealt with, if they make them, even after they have been interned; and, supposing exemption is granted, they are, of course, let out. But the Committee will see that when you are dealing with repatriation—sending people out of the country—you cannot proceed in that order. You cannot first send someone out of the country, and then, afterwards, get the Committee to consider an application that he or she should not go. That would be on the principle of hanging a man first and hearing the appeal against the verdict and sentence afterwards. It is necessary, therefore, so far as sending people out of the country goes, that you must hear their application before you decide whether they are to go or not. There, again, efforts are being made to carry that on as rapidly as possible, and I shall be able, I hope, in a short time to give the House some figures on that subject too. Then, as regards Scotland—in this, as in other things, Scotland has to be considered as what it is, a great country with traditions of its own—Scotland has its own Committee. Of that Committee I am not in a position to speak to-day, because I really do not know how far, if at all, it has gone. It is presided over by a Scottish legal authority—by Lord Dewar—and the two other Members of Parliament who compose the Committee are my right hon. Friend (Sir J. H. Dalziel), who has taken a great interest in the subject, and the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. W. Watson), who has also consented to serve. Certainly they can get to work, as far as I am concerned, as soon as they like. They have probably done so already.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Ireland, as a matter of fact, is a country which provides us with very few of these cases. I do not know whether that is one of the wrongs of Ireland. I hope not. Of course we will make special arrangements for dealing with Ireland in case of need, but at present we have found that the two Committees appointed for the whole country, otherwise than Scotland, have been able to deal with any Irish cases.
§ Mr. M. HEALY
How is an alien to know whether he can apply for exemption from repatriation or exemption from internment?
§ Sir J. SIMON
He is told what his position is. The principle is this. An alien between certain limits of age—eighteen and fifty-five, I think, in the case of a German—will be interned unless he gets exemption. That is men. We do not intern and never should propose to intern women. But the risk of women, and also male aliens who fall outside these limits of age, is the risk of being repatriated.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I shall be very glad to consult the hon. and learned Gentleman if he has any suggestion to make. I can assure him that the United Kingdom has been scoured for places of internment, but you need a great deal more than sites. You need barbed wire, you need water, you need huts, you need supplies, you need guards, you need rifles, you need a commandant, you need a whole apparatus, and it would be the height of folly to go peppering little internment camps all over the country. What you want to do, if you are going to do the thing on businesslike principles, is to have a limited number of big camps. That is the best way in which to use your resources.
There are two remaining points on this difficult and very important subject that I ought to mention. First of all, it has been pointed out that the question is not exhausted by considering the case of enemy aliens, because you may have to consider, and for my part I think certainly it is reasonable that we should consider and deal with a certain number of cases where the individual is of hostile origin or hostile associations, but is technically not an alien. I do not myself think that you ought to draw a strict line of legal division between persons who are naturalised and persons who are natural born citizens of this country. When a person is naturalised and given a certificate he is, by the terms of that certificate, assured by the State that henceforward he will stand in the same position as a person who is a natural-born British subject. I think we should be acting very foolishly if we did not remember that we had given that promise. The right way to deal with the matter is to say, "I do not care whether a man is natural born or naturalised. There is a rule which, in time of war, we must apply, and that rule is, that when it is fairly shown that an individual is dangerous to the State, because he is at large, whether it be because of his hostile origin or because of 852 his hostile associations, then if it is fairly shown, even if he is a British-born subject, he must submit to restraint." The Committee will see that that has this great advantage, that whatever the rule is that you lay down, it is a rule that all of us, natural-born British subjects, admit to be a fair rule to ourselves, if we I come within its provisions, because of our hostile associations or acts. Applying that means that we do not in the least deny the advantages of British citizenship to anybody, but we say as a practical matter of importance, in time of war, that we ought to be able in a proper case to deal with persons, even if they are British subjects by naturalisation or otherwise, provided that they are persons of hostile origin and associations, and that a case is made out for shutting them up, or having some special security in respect of them.
An hon. Gentleman opposite said we had made no such provision, but an hon. Gentleman on this side differed from him, and the correction was justified, because one of the first things that was done when I took over my new duties as Home Secretary was to devise an Amendment in the Defence of the Realm regulations by which it may be possible with proper safeguards—of course, it should not be done without the most careful safeguards—that a British citizen may be required to live in a particular place, or to notify his movements, or submit to other necessary conditions for the safety of the State. What are the safeguards? In the first place, such a person must be reported to the Secretary of State, either by the naval or military authorities, or by one of these advisory committees, of which I have already spoken. In the second place, I thought it right that the Home Secretary, who is answerable in this House, should not be able to shield himself in connection with these acts behind the recommendation of the naval or military authorities. I thought it plainly right, in the interests of British subjects, that I should have to answer if an unreasonable one was made of this most exceptional power. Therefore, the regulation is so drawn as to secure that. In the third place, any Order that is made under these new regulations can only be made for the defence of the realm and the security of the public from danger, and it must contain express provision which will secure that the person to be dealt with shall have any representation he wants to make, as to any mistake having been made, or as to other 853 matters in his favour, fully and properly considered. The Order must, contain provision that such representation shall come before the Advisory Committee and be fully and fairly considered and dealt with by them. We ask our fellow countrymen—because, after all, these naturalised persons have taken an obligation to this country—to recognise that a rule like that—I trust it will not have to be applied in many cases—is a sensible rule, laid down in order to secure that our protection from this danger shall be as complete as possible.
There is the question of the method now being followed in respect of naturalising Germans or Austrians. I have looked into that, and I can say with complete confidence—because, of course, responsibility for naturalisation rests with the Home Secretary—that we do not, and for my part I have not the slightest intention of making any alteration, naturalise enemies during the War, except in one or two very limited classes of cases, which I am sure the Committee will regard as reasonable and necessary. We do on occasion naturalise a woman who is the widow of a German or Austrian, or other enemy husband. We naturalise such woman if she was of British origin. She may have been as a girl an ordinary English, Scotch, Welsh, or Irish girl. She marries a German or an Austrian. Her husband has died. The effect of marriage is to change the nationality of the woman, not only during the time of marriage, but even after the marriage has been dissolved by the death of the husband. Therefore she is in law still a German, or an Austrian lady. It is a very hard thing that the woman whose family connections are all British, and who, by the fact of marrying a German has acquired a German name, should have to go on with the stigma of a German name and associations—because at this time that is a stigma for a British subject—without so much as a certificate of re-naturalisation. Therefore the Home Office have, in proper cases, and we shall continue to do so, recognised that, and we have given certificates of naturalisation to women of British origin and British family whose only reason for being enemies alien at this time is that they are the widows of German or other enemy husbands.
The only other case that I can call to mind is a very rare case: it is the case where the person to be naturalised is a 854 person whose services are, for some special reason, really needed in connection with work that is being done in this country, and who cannot, do that work except under these terms. There have been cases of that sort. I look at these cases myself with a very jealous eye. So far as I know there have been no such cases during the time I have been at the Home Office. I trust the Committee will agree that we ought to adhere strictly to rule, and that there should be no certificate of naturalisation granted to enemies during this War, save in such very exceptional cases as I have indicated.
I have done my best to give the House my views as frankly and as fully as I can of these important matters, and I hope I shall be excused if I deal more summarily with a number of incidental points which were mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy asked a question about the registration of aliens in hotels. I agree that if that is the only thing it will not be worth very much, because obviously it is not possible to apply very strict and careful tests. A dishonest person is always under the temptation of telling a lie, but this method of registration is of some value. It enables the police, for example, to follow up a man who is under their eye, and of whose movements they might be suspicious. By this means they are enabled to follow him from hotel to hotel. I can speak from experience in my former office as Attorney-General that certainly the registration of aliens in hotels has been of real assistance in that regard, even if we look at it as a thing by itself. But I would like the Committee to understand this: you must look at the question in respect of aliens as a whole if you are going to judge fairly whether the Administration has taken proper steps to deal with the matter. We require aliens to be registered, whether they are enemy aliens or friendly aliens. We require an American, a Dutchman, or a Swede to register, just as much as we require any other alien. The hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Duncan) complains because a Belgian has been arrested and prosecuted at Newcastle. With great respect, I maintain that that was quite right. The reason was this: Newcastle is in a prohibited area, and it is not right, it is not safe, it is not proper that you should allow aliens of any sort to go moving about in prohibited areas without the police knowing that they are there. It was perfectly right to prosecute this man. I do not know whether he was 855 punished or not, but it was certainly right to restrain him from doing what was very dangerous, namely, claiming, because he was a friendly alien, to go where he liked without so much as a "by your leave." The next thing is that we require aliens, especially enemy aliens, before they remove from where they are to give notice where they are going. I know it causes inconvenience, and I have had letters from people who complain, for instance, because a governess, or some other person, cannot move freely up and down the country. Well, they must put up with these inconveniences, which are really nothing compared with the importance of having a reasonably strict supervision over aliens.
Then I would ask the Committee to realise this, we only allow aliens, even friendly aliens, to pass in and out of this country through a very limited number of ports. For example, hon. Members from Ireland may have observed in travelling backwards and forwards that there is only one port at which we allow aliens of any nationality to pass between England and Ireland, and that is Holyhead. No alien, not even an American, can go to Ireland by Fishguard or Stranraer. However friendly they may be, they must pass between Ireland and England through that particular channel, Holyhead. Why do we do that? Because if you want to detect, and in a proper case to put your hands upon a man who is really assisting the enemy under the guise of being a friendly alien, it is a matter of the greatest importance that we should know that there are only a very limited number of ports through which he can possibly move. Hon. Members will remember that there was the case of a spy who professed to be an American, and who hanged himself the other day in prison. How was he caught? He was caught because, writing a letter in Liverpool, he spoke of going to Ireland, and the authorities knew, owing to this system of the Home Office, that if an American was going from England to Ireland there was only one way for him to go. Therefore, by inquiry from the Aliens Department at Holyhead, it was possible to detect where he had gone when he had gone and when he was coming back, and he was in a fair way of being arrested as he was in a London and North-Western Railway carriage passing from Holyhead to Euston. If hon. Members want to judge how far the control of 856 aliens in this country is being carried on, and whether the whole alien problem is being fairly tackled with good sense, I would remind them that we must not confine ourselves to a single item, such as registration of aliens in hotels, but we must look at the thing as a whole, and though I am very far from saying that the system now in vogue cannot be improved—and I shall be very glad of any suggestions from any hon. Members—it may be fairly remarked that a great deal of effort and a great deal of organisation has been put forth in trying to solve the problem.
Several hon. Gentlemen mentioned the occurrence of fires. It is obviously an easy thing to make mistakes. You may make a mistake in supposing that every fire that happens in time of war is an inciendiary fire, caused by an enemy of this country. That is, perhaps, partly because people do not notice what a lot of fires there are in times of peace. If you live in London you hear of, or see, fires every week; but in times of peace no one says that that is due to a German. In times of war there is always that temptation, and I do not complain of it, but let us be quite certain that there is not some cause for the fire which is due to an accidental origin. The sort of mistake I have pointed out, namely, supposing these fires are of enemy origin, we must bear in mind. The other mistake, which is just as bad, is for the authorities to pooh-pooh the whole thing and say it is not worth inquiring into, and that there is nothing in it. I have no sympathy with that point of view at all, and I have made it my business since I went to the Home Office to secure, as far as I can, that the very best methods are adopted in any case where there is possible ground of suspicions that there was an incendiary origin for any fires that occur. Take the case of the fire at Park Royal. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Nield) speaks with more special knowledge of that case, because it is very near his constituency.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. SIMON
That is an element which ought to be considered. All I can be expected to say is that I know that the most careful inquiries have been made by the Commissioner of Police, and the 857 answer I gave to-day was the result of the inquiries that were made. We certainly will not shut our eyes to any information which will lead to the discovery of the true cause, remembering always that we must expect a certain number of fires even in time of war. But I was assured by the Commissioner of Police that in the London Docks, the place in which you would think incendiary fires were more likely than elsewhere, it is not true to say that since the War began the number of fires has been greater than the average, and it so happens, though this is a pure accident, that the severity of those fires on the whole has been rather less than in the corresponding time of peace. I am sure that we are all very glad that that is so, but that is no reason why the thing should not be very carefully watched and closely studied. So far as I am able to do so, I shall do my best to secure this result.
An hon. Gentleman opposite said that we have got too many people in the police force and that we should let more go to join the Army. Certainly the police do not deserve to be reproached because of any unwillingness to serve their country in positions of the greatest danger. At the beginning of the War hundreds of them who were Reservists all joined the very next morning, and since that time, for various reasons, a certain additional number has been released, and at this moment the number of the Metropolitan Police is a great deal below our ordinary standard number in time of peace. To some extent the work is supplemented by the most valuable and greatly appreciated work of the special constables. Certainly we who live in London—and, indeed, the people of the whole country—have the greatest reason to be grateful to the special constables in the Metropolitan area and elsewhere. But I would ask the Committee to remember that the problem of securing the safety of London in time of war is not, after all, a problem which can be entirely overlooked. It is quite obvious that events might happen in London in which a great strain would be put upon the police force and the special constables to keep order; it might be, conceivably, to stop rioting, or to help to put out fires, or to do other things of that sort. The Commissioner of Police tells me that his force has been so depleted by Reservists having joined the Colours and others also having gone, that, while he deeply appreciates 858 the services of the special constables, in his judgment it would not be safe to allow any further withdrawals from the ranks of the police for such patriotic work. At an ordinary time you have something like three married policemen to one unmarried policeman. The proportion of married policemen has now increased, because it has been the young unmarried policeman more particularly who, for one reason or another, has left the police force in order to join the Army.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not. In nothing that I have said is there any suggestion that we are not deeply grateful to them. In these matters the Home Secretary must be guided by the very experienced Commissioner of Police, upon whose shoulders falls the great burden of preparation for the preservation of order and the defence of London in the event of an emergency. I can do nothing more than report to the House the view, which I myself share, that it is really not safe to allow any more of the police to leave the force in order to join the Army. I trust that I have dealt with the points which have been mentioned, and I apologise to the Committee for detaining them so long. I would only say, in conclusion, that my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green (Sir M. Wilson), whose statement I did not in the least misunderstand, said some things which were meant, I know, in the most friendly way, and spoke a little contemptuously about the official way. I can assure him that neither I nor the officials of this Department in the least misunderstand the spirit in which he makes that sort of criticism. I have been in my present office only for a very few weeks, but I am quite sure that from whatever else the country suffers it does not suffer from any want of efficiency or of devotion on the part of officials of that Department. That is quite impossible.
I am new to departmental life, but I am perfectly certain that the country is being served with all the strength, all the intelligence, and all the devotion of the officials of that great Department which it could ever hope or expect to receive. Nothing could exceed the labour that has been put into the special problems which arise in war time, and I can assure my hon. Friend, as far as I have seen them, that it would be the exact opposite to the truth to say 859 that they were going on in time of war as though they were in time of peace. There is not a single department in the office which has not got its own work directly connected with the problems of the War, and whatever may be the shortcomings that have to be pointed out and the improvements that may be called for, I am sure that the Committee will be willing to recognise the great devotion with which the officials have worked inside this Department ever since the War began in reference to these most difficult subjects. I conclude by thanking the Committee most sincerely for the kind references which have been made to my new work. I know very well that it is work of great responsibility and importance. I make no other comment about it except this, that it will be my most constant endeavour to show, not merely in word but in deed, that I am anxious to consult and get the advantage of the assistance of Members of this House.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I am sure that the Committee will agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the admirable manner in which the officials of whom he spoke have engaged in all matters connected with this War since it broke out, and certainly the last thing which I would desire is to offer anything whatever in the nature of hostile criticism, especially on the first occasion on which the right hon. Gentleman has had to speak on behalf of the new office, to which I am sure everyone in the House is ready to welcome him, and I will say for myself, personally, that I am heartily glad that the opportunity has arisen. But considering the great dangers which he has himself just pointed out might probably happen to London at a time like the present, considering the time which has elapsed since the War broke out and the great apprehensions which were so widely felt, and have been referred to repeatedly this afternoon with regard to further Zeppelin raids in London, remembering the great number of fires, which I confess I thought unusually high, which have recently occurred in various parts of the country, and in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that there are many fires at other times, only we do not pay the same attention to them—I am sure we were all glad to hear, and I know that he will do it, that he will watch these outbreaks of fire in London with the utmost care in future—but considering all these things, I hope that I shall not be suspected of any wish to say 860 anything whatever hostile if I do say that I am a little disappointed that on some three or four points which I will mention directly we have not had all the information which I should have been glad to have, if it had been possible for him to give it.
Originally we were told, I think, that there were something like 40,000 alien enemies of one kind or another in the country, and even to-day, if I heard the right hon. Gentleman aright, he said that there was a very large enemy population in the country at the present time. What, then, I would like to know, if possible, is how many alien enemies are there still in the country? How many have been deported? How many have been interned? And how many are still at large in the country? The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that exceptions have been made in the case of some women and others, and I should very heartedly and readily agree with him in that. He also dealt with the question of British subjects, in regard to whom some of us think a case for action could be made out. I was glad to hear him deal with them in the way in which he did. Certainly no treatment can be too severe for British subjects who are guilty of such crimes as are suggested. In my humble opinion, they are not only a great deal worse, but from their knowledge and opportunity they are more dangerous than alien, enemies. Then the right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the accommodation required was not always very easy to obtain. That I can perfectly well understand. I was glad to hear what he told us about the Isle of Man, and I thought it extremely interesting. The right hon. Gentleman said, and it is perfectly true, that accommodation for all cannot possibly be provided in five minutes. But it is more than, nine months now since the War began. There has been a great deal of time to provide accommodation in a matter of this kind, if it had been taken up with the care and forethought to which I think it was certainly entitled. The right hon. Gentleman told us that at the present moment room was being found for 100 a week in the Isle of Man. A thousand people a week for nine months is 36,000 people, and if this question had been dealt with a little earlier it seems to me that there might have been far fewer alien enemies at large in the country during the last week or two. By this time none of them would have been at large in the country if this question had been 861 dealt with earlier in the day. Then the right hon. Gentleman pointed out that out of 2,162 cases of application for exemption only 200 had been exempted and 1,200 had been refused, but he did not go on to tell us, which I hoped he would have done, where these 1,200 were at the present time. Are they interned?
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
That is very satisfactory, and all that I would ask the right hon. Gentleman now is to give some other opportunity, if he cannot answer them now, of having answered a little more fully the four questions which I have asked in the few remarks that I have made this afternoon.
§ Mr. THOMAS RICHARDSON
I am sure I may be allowed to join with other Members of the Committee in welcoming the right hon. Gentleman, with all good wishes, in the new office to which he has been appointed With his usual skill and ability he has certainly maintained his record this afternoon in the discharge of his duties, for the first time, in that particular office It may seem a little presumptuous on the part of a layman to attempt to criticise the right hon. Gentleman in reference to his reply to my hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Barrow-in-Furness, who, as the Committee remembers, raised the question of the right of the Metropolitan Police to organise themselves in a trade union. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the parallel, quoting from the speech of my hon. Friend, of the Army and Navy, but I would respectfully remind the right hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend, in the course of his speech, very carefully pointed out the very close analogy between the Civil Service and the Post Office and members of the Metropolitan Police. I suggest to the Home Secretary that the real explanation why the Metropolitan Police are meeting with such strong opposition from the Home Office in their demand to assert what I submit is an elementary right that they ought to be allowed to enjoy, is nothing more and nothing less than the same spirit that has opposed the onward growth of the trade union movement in the country.
As the hon. Member for Barrow pointed out, even in very recent times we were 862 accustomed to meet with the same argument from the Front Bench when the plea was being put forth on behalf of the Post Office employés to be allowed to exercise their civil rights. One other comment I would make on that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and it is this: It is presupposed that the order and discipline that are essential to the efficiency of the Metropolitan Police Force would be impaired if, in a moment of weakness, or from some other cause, this House was to sanction, or the Home Office approve, of the police being entitled to organise as a trade union. I would suggest that the eloquent tribute that has been given to-day, not for the first time, to the value of the trade union movement affords good ground for believing that even from the standpoint of discipline and order those qualities would be exemplified if the Metropolitan Police Force were allowed to organise as a trade union. I respectfully suggest to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Brace) that there is very useful and necessary work that I hope he will succeed in performing, and that is to educate, not only his Department, but his chief, in those fundamental principles which, if applied even to the Metropolitan Police Force, would not be inimical or opposed to the interests of the great Metropolis, but would add to their security, good will, and best interests of the community as a whole.
I have risen more particularly to call the attention of the Home Office to the fact that some considerable time ago a Royal Commission reported to this House on the question of the inspection of mines, with special reference to metalliferous mines and quarries. I had occasion, some little time ago, on a report from Cumberland, to make representations to the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman upon the importance and urgent necessity of adopting the recommendation of the Royal Commission. I do not think I need quote the Report of that Commission; in fact, from a letter I received from the late Home Secretary, the predecessor of the present occupier of that high office, it is admitted that the Royal Commission did make a very strong and very definite recommendation. The Under-Secretary to the Home Office knows more fully and completely than I do, so far as the miners are concerned, that they have been urging this question upon the attention of the House for a very considerable time. In the reply that I received from the Department the 863 reason given for not proceeding to the appointment of these inspectors, as in many other matters that are raised in this House, is the national emergency through which we are passing. I want to meet by anticipation that argument. Roughly speaking, a quarter of a million miners have joined the Colours, and the point to which I desire to call attention is that months ago the authorities issued orders that there was to be no recruiting so far as the miners in those particular metalliferous mines were concerned, for the very obvious reason that the War authorities were very much in need of steel.
I want the Committee to keep that fact before their minds, and this further fact that the iron ore mines, speaking generally, are not only working full time, but more than full time, in the sense that, as the result of negotiations—I am not complaining in the least: I think it is very essential in certain limits—the miners in Cumberland, as a matter of fact, are working at least one more day per week. Not only that, but there are cases where they are drawing ore for sixteen hours as against eight hours. The point of my argument is that the answer we receive sometimes, when putting forward claims that involve additional expenditure, namely, the national emergency, and the fact that 250,000 miners or thereabouts have been withdrawn from the mines and are now with the Colours, is a reply which I hope will not be advanced upon this occasion. I trust it will be borne in mind that the output from the metalliferous mines, especially in the Cumberland district, is substantially larger, and I want the right hon. Gentleman in the interests of safety to see that the time has absolutely arrived when that very important recommendation of the Royal Commission, when that very urgent reform that has been fought for and demanded during so many years, ought to be conceded in the interests of the miners and their dependents.
One other point, with which I will conclude. I have already drawn the attention of the Department to the fact that the chief inspector in the particular district to which I refer, and which I have the honour to represent, has received another appointment, and has been transferred to the Newcastle district, and it is reported that the idea of the Home Office is, under present conditions, not to appoint a successor in the Cumberland district. I have 864 reason to believe that policy has been or is being carried out. I need not remind the House of the terrible loss of life in mines that goes on not only in peace time but in war time, especially in those mines in that part of the country around Whitehaven that I have the honour to represent, with its tragic history and record. I submit to the Committee and to the Home Office that if it be true that it is not intended as the result of members of the inspecting profession having enlisted, to make a further appointment and that they are going to take advantage of this national crisis as a reason and excuse why they should relinquish and relax even the far from satisfactory mining inspection which exists in this country, then that is decidedly a reactionary policy and one that ought not to receive the endorsement of this Committee.
Hon. Gentlemen will recollect that the promise has been made to appoint a substantial number of additional working men mines' inspectors, and, although it is difficult to argue in support of, or to press any claim in this time of war, yet if it be true that the policy of the Home Office is not to make further appointments, I submit that this is an additional reason why at least they should proceed to the appointment of additional assistant working men mines' inspectors. I would only add, and I am sure I will carry with me the assent and approval of the Committee, that the mining industry is one of the most important of the staple industries of this country. We are all conscious of the tragic and daily sacrifice of human life that goes on in the mines, and I submit that even this great national crisis through which we are passing ought not to be advanced as any justification or excuse for the relaxing, even in the mildest form, of any efforts put forward to protect and safeguard the interests of the miners and give security to their wives and to their children.
§ Mr. M. HEALY
I desire to call attention to another subject, which is of importance. I am informed that the Home Office is responsible for the acts of the Sugar Commission, and I wish to raise that matter, which is one of very serious importance to the city of Cork.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
Before the hon. Member proceeds, I should like to know from the representative of the Home Office whether it is the 865 case that they are responsible for the action of the Committee on this question of sugar?
§ Mr. M. HEALY
I made inquiry of the Board of Trade, supposing that they would deal with it, but I was informed that the Home Office are responsible for it.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Brace)
I am advised that the Home Office is not responsible for this question, but if my hon. Friend will wait for the Secretary of State's return he can put his question officially, and the right hon. Gentleman will inform him whether or not the Home Office is responsible.
§ Mr. J. A. PEASE
May I state, from the knowledge I possess, that I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the Minister who had this particular subject under his investigation when he was at the Home Office, and probably when the hon. Gentleman applied to the Board of Trade he was referred to the Home Office owing to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer having been at the Home Office.
I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary whether he will seriously consider the application which I made some little time ago in the form of a question with regard to the supply of distinctive uniforms for special constables in the Metropolitan area? The present Home Secretary replied that in the office they were considering a form of headgear for those officials, but that no further uniform was at present contemplated. I wish to urge upon him that he should supply, at least, in addition a tunic. There is a very urgent and insistent demand by the special constables, who are rendering great and inestimable services, that they should have some distinctive uniform which would give them a little more claim to distinction and to authority, and thus increase their efficiency. I put it to the hon. Gentleman as a matter which is really pressing and asked for and wanted by those constables, who are giving so much time and energy and zeal to a duty which is of the highest public importance to the Metropolis with the insufficiency of the police force under existing circumstances. Surely they should be considered when they make a universal demand that they should have something which would clothe them with the outward semblance of 866 authority so that they should not be mistaken on so many occasions, as they are now, for ordinary civilians, with their authority and efficiency thereby diminished. I do not wish to labour what is a very simple proposition, but I do urge very strongly the necessity of furnishing the members of the voluntary police force with a tunic in addition to a helmet or headgear. Many of them would be very glad to bear the expense themselves, and they desire it for the purpose of more efficiently carrying out the duties.
§ Mr. RENDALL
I wish to call the attention of the Home Secretary to one portion of the administrative work which the Home Office performs, and that is in regard to lunacy matters. The Home Office has been charged with the control of those matters for a great number of years, and has control over the Lunacy Commissioners, and carries out the Mental Deficiency Act passed a year or two ago. The Home Office, as soon as people realised the immense injury in the upsetting of the mental balance caused by high explosives and shells at the front, tried to do something to deal with it, and to deal with soldiers coming back in that condition. The Home Office introduced a Bill, the Mental Treatment Bill, but opposition having been displayed to that Bill, it was withdrawn. What was sought in that Bill was to get power to place the various persons concerned, chiefly soldiers, inside the walls of asylums for the purpose of treating those cases of want of mental balance which were transient and on the border line and without their being certified. The Bill having been withdrawn owing to objection, the consequence has been that the War Office, which of course has got complete military control over all soldiers, has now for some weeks, or perhaps months, been practically carrying out the same operation by virtue of the absolute power which they have over the soldiers, and the War Office has been doing what the Home Office sought to do by law, but which it did not persist in after it was shown that it was an undesirable method. My only reason now for bringing the matter up again is that the Home Office has been looked to by everybody in this country as the body charged with the protection of all persons of unsound mind. The Home Office is eventually the Court of Appeal on all questions with regard to asylums and the carrying out of the Lunacy Acts and the supervision of those institutions. It 867 seems to me that the Home Office, by taking up the line which it at present seems to take, having introduced a Bill and, having found opposition to that Bill, withdrawing it, is in fact abrogating its functions, and is therefore throwing the duty of carrying out those functions upon the War Office. The War Office has a great deal to do and has no staff specially trained for dealing with these questions. It is sorely in need of doctors and has a great deal of work to give those doctors quite apart from this very new question.
It appears to me to be more than a shame and to be a calamity that, as I am assured, thousands of men who are now returning from the front with their mental balance temporarily deranged should be placed under the control of the War Office. I have not a word to say, and it would be a wrong place to say it, against the intention and motives of the War Office in dealing with this class of case, but they are dealing with this class of case by getting hold of various asylums in the country which I should have thought were under the administration of the Home Office. They are getting those asylums from the Home Office and turning them into what they call hospitals, and they are putting into those so-called hospitals, which are really asylums, under the control of the doctors who were in those asylums, those soldiers who ought to have the most careful modern treatment and who ought to be under the control of first-rate general practitioners in the condition in which they are, and who ought not to be placed under the control of the Lunacy Acts. It does seem to me that the Home Office now should introduce some other Bill or make some other proposal to treat this large class of persons—and the number may be very large if the War is prolonged—which would prevent them from falling under the control of the War Office. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman it would be a very sad thing if thousands, and it may be tens of thousands, who are at present under the entire control of the War Office, were placed in those hospitals. The soldier has no power of appeal such as that which exists in the case of the civilian, and I venture to think that some new proposal ought to be formulated by the Home Office with a view to protecting this large class of persons.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
If I had the opportunity of speaking rather earlier in this Debate I think I should have had a 868 good deal to say about the remarkable speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel), and which most of us on this side, I think, listened to with very great satisfaction. We have been accustomed to hear from him on this question principles with which most of us have been in keen agreement. He will not think I am underrating the importance of his speech if I say that we listened with very much greater satisfaction, because it was not quite so expected, to the speech of the Home Secretary. I think if we had had such a speech at an earlier stage of the War from the Home Secretary that the public and the House would have viewed the whole management of this question with very much less misgiving than I hope we shall be able to do in the future. It was extremely satisfactory to us to hear from the right hon. Gentleman at the outset of his speech that he regarded this matter as one of grave and urgent importance—that is, the whole question of dealing with aliens in the country at the present time. I do not think we should be doing any injustice to the past management of the question if we say that up to now we have seen very little sign of its being treated as a matter of really "grave and urgent importance." The Home Secretary laid down principles which I think the country will be very ready to accept. He stated, in the first place, that we ought not to allow ourselves, in dealing with aliens in the country, to be hustled or guided by clamour from any quarter. I think that is a principle which we may all accept. But he also laid down what is more novel, I think, coming from an authoritative quarter, as to a point on which some of us have been trying to insist for some time past. He laid it down, in considering the question of the internment of aliens, that he would not consider himself necessarily confined to the production of absolute legal proofs before he took action, and I viewed this principle with even more satisfaction, when he said that for the future, at all events, there is to be no hard and fast dividing line between those who are alien enemies and those who are of British nationality, technically speaking, if they can be shown to have alien origin or association. We owe that phrase, which I think really is a valuable one, to the order which has been recently issued by the right hon. Gentleman, and it is very satisfactory tens to know that we have now added to the regulations issued under the Defence 869 of the Realm Act a provision which enables the right hon. Gentleman to place under restriction and to intern those who whether of enemy nationality or British nationality, come under the description of having hostile origin or association.
I have said that we should have welcomed this attitude at an earlier stage of the War; but in one particular we must admit that it would have been more difficult for the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor at the very outset to have taken the action which we look to the Home Secretary to take to-day. The whole situation has, in one respect, been altered by our experience of the last ten months. When the calamity of this War fell upon us we all imagined that we were going to have to deal with a civilised enemy, and we hoped it might prove to be a gallant and chivalrous enemy. We now know that it was a question of dealing not merely with a powerful military enemy, but with a vile and odious race. That consciousness has now coloured the whole attitude of our people towards those members of that race who are living amongst ourselves. Take such a point, for example, as that touched upon by the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, upon which I think the Home Secretary said nothing. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the exercise of their functions by German magistrates at the present time. That is just a point which, although of minor importance, does very much touch the sentiment of the people of this country, and very legitimately so. If we had been dealing with an honourable and chivalrous enemy there might have been no objection whatever to men of German names and origin, who have been promoted to the bench, exercising their functions at the present moment. But, having regard to all the circumstances and the people with whom we have to deal, the horrible stories of their outrages and abominations which fall upon our ears every day, I entirely agree with the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy that it is due to the sentiment of the people of this country and due to decency that a British criminal, guilty perhaps of some paltry offence, should not, criminal though he be, have to submit to the humiliation of hearing his sentence pronounced in the broken English of a German alien. The matter does not come under the jurisdiction of the Home Office; therefore I cannot go into it at any length. I would merely say in passing that not only do I think, in the name of decency, that these gentlemen of 870 German origin, names, and speech, should not exercise judicial functions at the present moment, but I think that they ought to be removed from the commission of the peace. I earnestly hope that the Home Secretary will use his influence with his colleagues responsible in this matter, and that we shall be saved during the remainder of the War from what I think is the scandal to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite called attention.
The Home Secretary has said, and no doubt it is true, that the whole of this question rests upon the principles by which we are guided in granting naturalisation to aliens. I hope that when the proper time comes, after the War, we shall have a completely new policy with regard to naturalisation. I think that perhaps the right hon. Gentleman does appreciate the feeling of the country in this respect, though I doubt whether all in authority have grasped it as yet. We are not now concerned merely with the question of danger, the question whether this or that individual is rightly suspected of evil designs against our people, or whether or not there is some alien enemy who may be guilty of an incendiary fire. All that is of the first importance; but what we want the people in authority to understand is that, not merely during the War, but after the War, we want to make a clean sweep, so far as we possibly can, of this odious race, and have England for the English in a way we have never had it up to the present time. So far as the present moment is concerned, I do not know that we have any ground for complaint with the principles upon which the right hon. Gentleman says he grants letters of naturalisation. There is only one thing that he said which I heard with some doubt, though I was glad to hear that he himself considered it to be a matter to be treated in a watchful spirit. I refer to his statement that he would grant naturalisation in exceptional cases to aliens whose work was of importance to this country at the present time. I do not know that there is any individual instance of naturalisation which has excited more misgiving in this country, and perhaps given rise more to the feeling of want of confidence in the Government in the early stages of the War, than the naturalisation of Baron Schroeder. That is an example, I think, of the principle to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. It was with indignation, and I think humiliation, that the House listened to a Member of the Government some time ago saying that 871 the naturalisation of this gentleman was necessary in order to protect the credit of the City of London. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, if similar cases come before him in the future, will not think that the credit of the City of London can depend upon the naturalisation of a German enemy, and a German enemy of a particularly poisonous type. I do not think there can be any examples of necessary and essential work in this country dependent upon the presence of alien enemies. I am very glad indeed, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman himself says that he will approach all such cases in a very watchful spirit.
The whole of the principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman are, I think, admirable, but it depends to a great extent on how they are carried out. The right hon. Gentleman told us, for example, that there was only one route by which aliens could travel from this country to Ireland, and that that restriction was a very great safeguard. He gave an example of how he had improved that safeguard. My own experience leads me to think that the administration in this respect requires a good deal of tuning up. I have myself at different times crossed between this country and Ireland, generally by the route mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. The only sort of supervision exercised was that two gangways instead of one were provided, and as the passengers crowded along there was a man at the top sending British citizens one way and aliens the other. Any person could easily have walked down either of the gangways. There was no investigation whether those who passed down the British citizens' gangway were British citizens.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I will personally inquire into this question. The point may or may not be a good one, but it would be a mistake to speak of this as the only check. As I have said, we must look at the thing all round. Every registered alien, before he moves from where he has been living, has to tell the police where he is going. The police know therefore the journey he is going on. In the case put by the hon. Gentleman, if an attempt to cross were made by an alien who had not obeyed the demands about the gangway he would certainly be found out, because the authorities have a list. What is now referred to is only a check in order to see that everybody is behaving as we can make them behave 872 on the information we possess. It does not depend on the voluntary action of the individual alien. We know when the alien moves and we take care that the alien officer at the port knows too.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I can only hope that the system is as water-tight as the right hon. Gentleman thinks. Whether that is so or not, I am not in a position to judge. We hear not infrequently of aliens who, notwithstanding the restrictions under which they are supposed to live, do move away from their places of abode without giving any notice at all. If an alien did that, say at Carlisle or some other place in the north, although he would be open to prosecution for doing it, as far as I know the machinery at work, he would have no difficulty in effecting a passage to Ireland if he so desired. The right hon. Gentleman has told us of the difficulties of carrying out the Internment Order announced by the Prime Minister a short time ago. I do not know that any of us are in a position to suggest any exact method of hastening the process; but I must say that it causes a good deal of disquiet when we learn of the very large number of persons to be interned and the comparatively slow rate at which the process can be carried out. The right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy told us that there were 14,000 of military age in London alone. If that is true, it is surely a very disquieting circumstance. We have practically an infantry division of Germans of military age in London. We do not know what organisation they may be under from Germany itself, but we may feel perfectly certain that they are animated by the most hostile feelings towards this country. We have reached a stage of the War when aircraft raids are becoming more insistent. We cannot for a moment put out of our minds the possibilty of an attempted invasion. We are living in a time of really grave national peril. Under these circumstances, to be told that there are no less than 14,000 Germans of military age still at large in London, in addition to those of other ages, and that it is only possible to intern 1,000 a week, shows us that we have to look forward to a very long time before the process of internment becomes anything like complete.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he is dependent upon the accommodation provided by the military authorities. We can quite understand the difficulties with, which he is confronted when he has to find suitable sites, and to provide for 873 their protection and their supply. Recognising all that, I think the country will not be entirely satisfied with a mere statement of the difficulties unless some evidence is shown that the utmost possible is being done to hasten the process of internment. There are an enormous number of public buildings of all sorts in this country. I do not believe that the whole of them are being used to the full measure of their accommodation. There are workhouses, ayslums, town halls, and hotels in various places. I cannot help thinking that if the real importance of finishing this business of internment at the earliest possible moment were recognised, the resources of the country could provide a greater amount of accommodation than the Home Secretary has mentioned, and that he would be able to intern a larger number of aliens than he is doing at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman has told us the policy of the Government in regard to alien women. In principle I have nothing to object to in what the right hon. Gentleman said. I entirely agree with him that it would be wrong, unjust, and cruel to intern, or to repatriate, as a matter of course, all women who come under the description of "hostile origin or association." I do not think that any of us would dream of suggesting such a thing as that. At the same time the right hon. Gentleman repeated a phrase which we heard either from his predecessor or from the Under-Secretary, on a former occasion, when he remarked, it never has been our policy to intern women. Both Members of the Government, I noticed, used that phrase, as if it was almost a maxim that women should not be interned, and that there would be something absolutely un-chivalrous and wrong in pursuing that policy. I must say I cannot see that.
There is not the slightest doubt that if danger arises in this country from espionage, or from any other activities of aliens, we may apprehend quite as much danger from women as from men. I think, therefore, that in the interests of the country it is quite as important, always having regard to justice and humanity—possibly within the limits as laid down by the right hon. Gentleman—that women should be kept under supervision quite as closely as men. The right hon. Gentleman, and the Prime Minister before him, has told us that there is to be repatriation of women, certain cases always excepted. With that I think we may be content, but just as in 874 the case of the internment, so with repatriation, I do hope that no time will be lost, and that no resources will be neglected which will hasten the day when we shall have got rid out of this country, with the exceptions laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, of all hostile women, as well as of all hostile men.
Attention has been called by an hon. Member to a matter upon which I put a question to the Home Secretary within the last few days. I refer to the prevalent habit at the present time of people of German names advertising a change to an English surname. When I put that question to the right hon. Gentleman he could not resist—I do not complain of it!—the opportunity of making a smart remark in reply to my question. He did so at a time, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, when it was not possible for the questioner to argue. He told me that the very last thing that people who wanted to escape the attention of the police would do would be to advertise in the public Press a change of name. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is the last thing they would do. It is perfectly possible, I think, and not at all unlikely that they would do it, for there is no very great publicity in their action. These people have no reason to suppose that the police are scanning the advertisement columns of the "Times," the "Morning Post," the "Daily News," or the "Daily Telegraph."
If a man wants to escape the odium which attaches, and attaches very strongly at the present time, to going about in English society with a German name, if a man knows that he is under suspicion and that he will not make his case any worse by advertising a change of name, it is not at all impossible that he will do as suggested, and in the course of a few days his identity will be very largely lost sight of—unless he continues to reside where he has been known. There is a very large population in this country constantly moving about, and if a man is known as Kruppstein living in one particular place, moves to another part of the country and calls himself John Howard, his identity is very soon forgotten; and even if the police do their best to keep him under supervision, he escapes at all events the very keen supervision which he might otherwise undergo at the hands of his neighbours. The matter, therefore, is a matter of some importance.
875 I venture again to press upon the right hon. Gentleman—because he did not answer my question, he only told me that there was a law at present prohibiting a change of name by those who were alien enemies he did not tell me whether—that is what I ask him—those who are not alien enemies but, to use his own phrase, are persons of "hostile origin or association," if they change their names, will be kept under the close supervision of the police? Nor did he tell me whether he is prepared to take any action in the matter. I do not know whether it would require legislation or not, or whether it should be executive action to make it impossible for these gentlemen to escape the supervision of their neighbours in the way which they do by this change of name.
Again also, I think it is a matter rather of the legitimate satisfaction of public sentiment in this country. English people object to seeing these men who have been living in this country under German names changing them. Although it may be natural for them to do it, the very fact of their anxiety to choose such a time as this to assume well-known Anglo-Saxon names is an offence against the legitimate sentiments of the people of this country. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman, either by legislation or by executive action, ought to put a stop to this practice as soon as possible. I might finish as I began, by expressing my great satisfaction with the principles which the right hon. Gentleman has laid down, and to express very earnestly the hope, that in the administration of the office that he now adorns, he will show by his action—he has told the House what he feels in regard to it—that he has got to deal with a grave and urgent matter, about which the people of this country feel extremely strongly, and will feel more strongly if his advent to office does not introduce a new policy in action, as it has done in principle.
§ Mr. WING
I wish to associate myself with the remarks which have been made respecting the new position of the right hon. Gentleman, and also that of the Under-Secretary, and also to express my satisfaction, together with others, as to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman upon the question which has been the chief topic of discussion this afternoon. However, I rise really for the purpose of supporting the hon. Member for Whitehaven, who has called attention to the 876 security of life and limb in our coal mines. The War has brought about a rather complex situation. It has taken from the mines the pick—perhaps that is too comprehensive a phrase—but a very large number of its best men to take part in the War, and whilst it has taken a quarter of a million of men from the pits, there have been about 50,000 new-comers. To lose a large number of the old workers, hewers and others, with the incoming of a large number of new men, rather increases the danger that previously existed in our coal mines, and I trust that the Home Office will not allow the present situation in any sense to bring about a relaxation of attention to security in our mines. There is a great deal of talk just now about relaxation of this rule and another; I hope that this principle will not be applied to our coal mines. On account of the reduction of the men in the mines there is a good deal of talk just now about the unemployment of deputies and overmen. May I suggest that you might decrease the number of men under their oversight, and lessen the area that they have to overlook, with a view to their being still maintained in their employment, thus adding to the general security of the mines?
There is another matter which is causing a good deal of unrest in the mining areas, especially the area of the county of Durham, a constituency of which I have the honour to represent. It is rather intense there, because such a large number of men—between 30,000 and 35,000 of them—have enlisted. At the commencement of the War they were promised, and granted, that by becoming members of His Majesty's Forces they would have, for those dependent upon them, a continuance of their houses and coal free, whilst in some instances sums of money from the proprietors were paid to the families left behind. Owing to the very large number that have enlisted, the conditions have been revised. The money has been reduced in some instances, the coal has been stopped, and a small money payment made in place of it. In other instances the question of the House has come up for reconsideration. In addition, some—indeed, a very large number of them—are now threatened with eviction to make way for the new men who have come to the pit. The point of the miners is this: That, if there is to be any inconvenience, the newcomers must suffer it, and not the wives and children of the men who have left the pit, with a very largely reduced income, 877 and have gone to the front; that they shall not in any way be sacrificed to the convenience of the new-comers. I ask the Home Office that they will see that there is no relaxation in the oversight of the mines, that they should give attention to the deputies' question I have mentioned, and that the case of the women and children of the miners who have gone to the front shall have the attention of the Home Office; that the Courts Emergency Act should be brought to their aid that they may feel secure in their homes, so that the anxiety of the home life shall not be added to the anxiety of the miners who are at the War; that the miner should feel that the Home Office is protecting his wife and family whilst he is abroad actively protecting his country.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
We have already had a very full Debate upon the alien question. On that I should only like to say that I associate myself with all the remarks which have been made as to the admirable speech of the Home Secretary, which I am sure has conveyed to the House the assurance that he will adopt a firm and just policy, and that he will protect the interests of this country to the very best of his ability against the very real danger in our midst. In regard to the mining industry, I think the Committee will agree that that industry, at all times an important one, was never more so than at the present juncture. Not only has it contributed a very large proportion of men to serve as troops at the front, but it has carried on work at home which is essential for the protection of our country at the present time. Therefore I make no apology to the Committee for dealing with one or two points briefly relating to mining matters. There has been a Committee appointed recently by the Home Secretary in relation to the conditions prevailing in the coal mining industry. It would be out of order to deal with a number of points which are raised and are of very great importance, but which do not strictly come under the administration of the Home Office. I should like, however, to ask the Under-Secretary—whom I take the opportunity of congratulating upon his well-deserved promotion and upon his qualifications for the post he now holds—whether the Home Office proposes to do something following this Report which has been issued. It would be a satisfaction to many, I am sure, to have an assurance that the Home Office is prepared to take some definite action 878 to bring about some of the results contemplated in the Report.
It will be noticed in the Report that it is desired to bring aboutco-operation between employers and employed through the medium of the organisations on bothsides, thoroughly representative of the parties.I cannot conceive anything better at this time than that we should have an effort made to sink all controversial questions on either side, and that both employers and employed should come together to assist the nation in its time of need. I am bound to say there have been indications on both sides that that is the desire and temper which prevails at the present moment, but I hope the Home Office may be enabled to take some definite action to bring about meetings between the parties, representing all the interests concerned, in order to arrive at some definite result. I am glad that in this Report no reference is made to any drastic action being taken with regard to the suspension of the Eight Hours Act. That is essentially a matter, I think, that ought to be left to conference between the parties interested. Speaking for a large industrial constituency where there are a very large number of miners, I believe the temper of the men is to give the best possible service to the country at this time, and I am sure they would be prepared to take any action they might think proper or appropriate to meet the necessity of the hour. Further, it is suggested in the Report that there might be some internal reorganisation in the mines. That is a matter upon which, I think, the Home Office might give some considerable assistance. Matters such as concentration of the work of coal getting and the means of expediting the underground haulage of coal are matters surely in which their mining experts and inspectors might offer some assistance. Then, again, we have the suggestion in the Report in regard to recruiting. I do not suppose it would be in order to deal with that on this Vote, except that I might say that at the present moment it is the case that many mining districts have been depleted on account of the great public spirit and patriotism shown by the miners, and it is very desirable in future recruiting movements that some limitation should be placed on the numbers recruited from those districts which have already given such a large number of miners. I trust that will be kept in view, and the attention of the War Office directed to it.
879 There is only one other point I desire to raise. It relates to this question of output in the constituency which I represent, and it has recently been the subject of some difficulty and dispute. The Under-Secretary is aware, I understand, of the facts of the case relating to the colliery of Blairmuckhill, where, owing to an ignition of gas which resulted in loss of life, safety lamps have been adopted throughout the whole seam. The point I should like to put to my hon. Friend is that the circumstances under which this explosion took place were of a, very special character. After looking at the whole facts of the case, I venture to submit it is a case in which an exemption may be given under Clause 32, Sub-section (1), paragraph (b), of the Coal Mines Act, 1911. The remainder of the seam, with the exception of the small portion in which the explosion took place, has never been known to generate gas. The gas occurred in a cavity some 6 feet above the level of the roof at a point quite close to the up-take, and in a very special circumstances. The danger is now completely removed owing to the roof having been built up and the cavity filled in. The Under-Secretary is aware, I believe, of what has been done by the owners of the mine to avoid danger in future. He is also aware of the strong desire expressed by the men who, since this explosion occurred, have refused to work with the coal-cutters in the seam, owing to their real belief in the danger which threatens them through falls in the roofs and sides if safety lamps are used, and if the ordinary naked light is not available.
My hon. Friend is aware that this is a real danger. In many of our mines in Scotland, where you have a treacherous roof, the danger from explosion is very much less than that from falls of roofs and sides, and I might quote figures with which he is probably conversant. In 1913 in Scotland we had seven fatal accidents due to explosions of firedamp or coal-dust and ninety-six non-fatal accidents, as against sixty-nine fatal accidents from falls from roofs or sides, and 6,310 non-fatal accidents from the same cause. My hon. Friend is well aware of the feeling among miners themselves of the danger to which they are exposed from these treacherous roofs in the use of safety lamps, which make it more difficult to go about the work. The result of what has taken place in this particular colliery is that there are now 880 only seventy-three men working and only 55 tons of coal being raised daily in this seam and practically the whole colliery is at a standstill. I hope my hon. Friend will keep in mind at this particular juncture that it is of enormous importance that nothing should be done to prevent the working of a productive seam if a satisfactory arrangement can be made to safeguard the interest of the miners and to protect them from possible explosion in the future. This has been done in the seam. I might also remind my hon. Friend that last year we had twenty-four exemptions in Scotland, under Clause 32 (1) (b), where personal injury had taken place owing to explosion. The exemptions were made upon certain conditions, and I would ask my hon. Friend if he would take an opportunity of considering this case very carefully, send down an inspector to report to him as to what has been done by the owners of the mine, and endeavour to come to some arrangement to enable this important seam to be worked satisfactorily and a larger output produced.
With regard to rescue work in Scotland, we have had a considerable advance during the past year in the formation of two new rescue stations, but I hope we may see this part of the work more fully developed in the immediate future. It is of enormous importance. Might I incidentally inform the Committee that at these rescue stations miners are being trained to fight the poisonous gases which are being used against our troops at the front, and many of them have volunteered for service at the front owing to their special knowledge of breathing apparatus and respirators. I hope the War Office will avail itself more of their services in the immediate future. I trust the Home Secretary will be able to give me some assurance with regard to the Blairmuckhill case that further inquiry will be made, and that steps will be taken to develop still further the policy of rescue stations.
§ Mr. J. A. PEASE
I know it is sometimes thought that one Government Department is very anxious to grab the work of another Government Department. I candidly admit that when I was at the Board of Education I did think it was to the interest of the children that they should be placed under one Government Department rather than under the care of a large number of different Government Departments. As regards children of 881 school age, not only is the Education Department responsible, but for the inspection of children the Home Office is also responsible, while the Local Government Board is responsible for pauper children, the Admiralty is responsible for young children of school age in connection with work in training ships, and the Board of Trade is partially responsible for some work in connection with the children's lives. This afternoon I want to call the attention of the new Home Secretary to a matter which has engaged his attention in the past and which I know has secured his warm sympathy. It is the question of the children of school age who are employed in the streets and towns of this country to their great detriment. They are employed in many of our towns out of school hours early and late in selling newspapers and in carrying on trade one way or another. The information which reached us at the Board of Education through the schoolmasters and school mistresses, through the inspectors and inspectresses who visit these schools, is that this kind of work is very detrimental to the young children of this country. It has reached in many of our towns a disgraceful extent. A short time ago I alluded to the conditions which exist in Salford and Manchester, and I could have given to the House many other instances where children are employed for an enormous number of hours every week, and at the same time they are expected to be able to attend school, to be in a healthy condition, to be physically strong, and to derive benefit from the course of education now given them in the elementary schools of this country. All I have risen to ask is that, now that we have a new Home Secretary, he will look into this matter and will do his utmost to see that local authorities have reasonable and up-to-date by-laws in connection with the employment of children, and that he will do his utmost to see that those regulations are satisfactorily carried out. I think it is an important point, and that its importance cannot be overrated.
§ Mr. BRACE
I feel like apologising to the House for having to speak on behalf of the Home Office after an association of about two weeks. In listening to the Debate it has been brought upon me very clearly what a very cosmopolitan Department the Home Office is. I am sure my right hon. Friend will take into consideration the suggestion of the late President of the Board of Education. The special interest that the right 882 hon. Gentleman took in the welfare of the children, apart from anything else, would warrant the Home Secretary giving strict attention to the recommendation made by the right hon. Gentleman. With that very clearly in my mind it will not be too much for me to ask that if they will give my right hon. Friend and myself and the officials of the Department a reasonable opportunity to survey the problem, we shall be prepared to give it sympathetic consideration. With regard to the question raised about the inspectors, I may say that the chief inspector or the general divisional inspector has not been removed from Cumberland at all. He was appointed to meet the demand for a higher standard of inspector, and the Home Department did make an arrangement to advance the position of this inspector. He is one of the chief inspectors of His Majesty. He is now living in the Cumberland area, and there is no intention to remove him.
§ Mr. BRACE
There are a number of vacancies caused because some of the mining inspectors have decided to risk their lives for their country in this War. My hon. Friend very properly said that a quarter of a million miners had gone to the War, and I think it would not be either fair or proper for us to attempt to restaff the inspectorate when all these men are away at the War, because that would prevent them from entering into competition for inspectors' positions. I associate myself very fully with that view, but I must not be taken to declare the Home Office will be content with anything less than a full and competent staff of inspectors to do the work properly and correctly in the absence of the regular inspectors, and in the interval which must naturally elapse before the Department will be in a position to appoint inspectors permanently. With regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Wing) I am not so sure that they are matters for the Home Department. If they are, all I can say is that it is almost unnecessary to ask me to do all I can to protect the women whose husbands are fighting the battle of the nation. I should be very sorry indeed to come to the conclusion that colliery owners were so forgetful of their obligations in these matters as to penalise the women. If, however, there are cases such as the hon. Member has forecasted and 883 he will bring them to the notice of my right hon. Friend or myself, I have the Home Secretary's assurance that the Home Department will do all they can in the matter.
Another question which has been raised is that of the men who have lost their reason in consequence of the hardships of this War, and the Government were criticised because the War Office has been selected as the authority for looking after these afflicted people. It is thought both by the Home Office and by the War Office that that is by far the better arrangement. If the soldiers who lost their reason in consequence of the hardships of the War were put in the ordinary asylums of the country, in the judgment of those who have a right to speak on this matter it would be one of those experiences which the soldiers, after their recovery, would not thank this nation for. The Army authorities have much greater latitude in regard to this question, for they can send the men to hospitals, and when cured they will come out without any of the stigma which might attach to them if they had been confined in the asylums of the land. On the whole, the weight of argument is distinctly in favour of allowing the War Department to deal with these unhappy cases, and we ask hon. Members to agree with us that that is the best way of dealing with them.
The hon. Member for North-East Lanarkshire (Mr. Millar) called the attention of the House to the important Report which the Departmental Committee, presided over by the chief inspector of mines, has produced, which was published last week. It is a very valuable and very remarkable Report. What is more, it is a unanimous Report receiving the endorsement of the representatives of the Government, the employers, and the representatives of the workmen. The Home Office has been, and is still, in communication with the employers and workmen with a view to arranging ways and means for carrying out the whole of those recommendations. The basis of the Report is one which I am sure this House will agree with. It is a declaration on behalf of the great mining industry that the best way to deal with these great problems is upon a basis of mutual co-operation between employers and employed. My right hon. Friend has been in communication with the coal owners and the workmen, and later on he will be able to report to the 884 House what has been accomplished, and I feel sure that something of a definite character will be the result. When the hon. Member for North-East Lanarkshire asks that we should allow naked lights to be introduced into the Blairmuckhill colliery, he is asking for something of a rather serious character. The short facts are that there was an explosion at this colliery. The manager went in and he himself lighted the gas, and two men were killed. As a result of that the provisions of the Coal Mines Regulations Act were brought into operation and safety lamps were introduced instead of naked lights. I assume that no one will contend that that was not a proper course for the Home Department to take; in fact, had the Home Office, through its inspectorate, not insisted upon safety lamps it would have been impeached by some hon. Members for a dereliction of duty. I know the hon. Gentleman now says that the gas has disappeared, that the colliery has reached a normal condition, and safety lamps may be dispensed with.
§ Mr. BRACE
There is no guarantee that gas will not be found in some other cavity, and therefore it does seem to me that where life has been lost in consequence of an explosion, be it large or small, the Home Office is bound to have regard to that fact and should be very jealous indeed before it agrees to the withdrawal of safety lamps. There may be substance in the point that a safety lamp gives less light than a naked light, but there is no reason why electric lamps should not be introduced, for they give a better light without the danger of an exposed light. An electric lamp could be used in a colliery such as that where there is not much gas about without any of the dangers to life and limb that a naked light would cause. My hon. Friend asks that an inspector should be allowed to go down this mine and make an inspection. I see no reason why he should not be asked to go down and make a Report to the Home Office, but I would ask my hon. Friend not to build too much upon that, because I should take a great deal of convincing before I could be persuaded that naked lights ought to be allowed in a colliery where lives have been lost.
§ Mr. MILLAR
What I am asking is that there should be an inquiry into the whole 885 circumstances through an inspector or otherwise. I am not asking for anything further at the present stage.
§ Mr. BRACE
The Home Secretary says the inspector will go down, conduct an inquiry, and make a Report, but my hon. Friend must not be disappointed if safety lamps have still to be used in that colliery. With regard to the question of rescue appliances in Scotland, they are making substantial progress. It is rather difficult to go on with these rescue stations during the War, but a new station has just been erected which will largely serve Lanarkshire. This will form a great centre for Lanarkshire, and I am sure my hon. Friend will be glad to know that the Home Office are very anxious indeed that not only in Lanarkshire, but in the rest of Scotland and all over the Kingdom there shall be no unavoidable delay in establishing rescue stations which are so necessary to protect men's lives. The hon. Member for Oldham has asked that the special constables shall be given a complete uniform which will distinguish them as being public officers on duty. I understand, and I am advised, that it has been arranged that the special constables are to have a distinct headgear of their own. To provide them with a complete uniform would necessitate legislation because the police rate is now at its maximum. The House would have no power without legislation to provide anything of that kind. The Home Office at the present time do not see their way to completely equip the special constables with uniform, and for the present we must ask them to be content with the headgear which has been arranged.
§ Mr. BRACE
I really could not venture to do that. That is one of the things which I must leave to my right hon. Friend. I am informed that the War Office have already asked that orders for ordinary police uniforms should not be proceeded with because of the difficulty in equipping the Army. Having in a fragmentary manner endeavoured to give the point of view of the Home Office as the Under-Secretary of that Department. I can only ask the House now to give us our Vote.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
Like other hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon on the alien question, I should like to express my gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary for some of 886 the very satisfactory assurances which he has given us. Personally, I propose to show my gratitude in the usual manner by asking for more, because there is one point which has not been touched upon in that connection to-day, and which, in my humble opinion, is very important. It was brought very forcibly to my notice only five days ago. I was at a country village about 50 miles from London through which runs one of our great railway arteries with four main lines. I do not wish, for obvious reasons, to mention the name of the place, though, of course, it is entirely at the service of the right hon. Gentleman. At intervals of minutes there were great trains laden with munitions of war, with troops, with wounded, and with everything necessary for use at this juncture to carry on the War. Fifty feet above this railway where this great war traffic was going on were situated several villas, and two were occupied by able-bodied alien enemies. I submit that is a very grave danger. I do not for a moment say that the Home Office have not investigated cases of that kind. They may have done so. These individuals may in the opinion of the Home Office be quite harmless, but, as the Under-Secretary of State for War said in this House a few days ago with regard to another subject, the psychology of individuals is a very recondite matter, and I do not think any official of the Home Office or of any other office, no matter how capable he may be, can look into the mind and heart of an alien enemy and feel sure that under no condition will that man be tempted at a critical moment to do something that would be of assistance to his country. Therefore, I venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will not give us the further assurance to-night that he will take into prompt and earnest consideration all cases where alien enemies are living in places where they may be, if they are so disposed, unusually dangerous.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Of course, this is a matter which is always most carefully considered, but it is rather difficult to deal with cases of this kind when the hon. Member has not communicated with the Home Office or given me notice that he was going to raise it, and when, as he says himself very naturally, he does not wish to say where it is.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I was not sure that I would speak this afternoon or that I should have the opportunity, but I 887 will certainly supply the right hon. Gentleman with the particulars. I raise the question because I fully sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman in the difficulties which he has to confront, and I fully realise that it may take considerable time—I will not attempt to specify the time, or make any calculation—before all the alien enemies are interned. During the interregnum between now and that ultimate time when all aliens are interned, grave things may happen, and such men may be in a position to do us very serious injuries. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman not only for the assurance that he will take into account the case I am going to supply to him privately, but that he will give instructions that the residence of any alien enemies in places in which they may be particularly and unusually dangerous will be prohibited, and, even if there is no camp at which they can be interned, that they will be ordered to go and reside in other places where they will be less dangerous.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I desire on behalf of an hon. Friend to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman a question connected with a matter which has been dealt with already by the Under-Secretary. At present the Home Office makes grants to special constables for overcoats and so forth, providing that they say they are necessitous. That is an exceedingly objectionable way of doing business. The Home Office, if they take the matter up at all, should say that anybody can have a uniform who chooses to ask for it, or that anybody can have one who chooses to ask for it upon any ground they like to name. The present regulations are exceedingly offensive, as I am sure the House will agree. These regulations are sent out from the Home Office to the commander of the divisions:—The Secretary of State has authorised expenditure for clothing for certain special constables on the following conditions: The expenditure per man shall not exceed £3 ….There is no objection to that.Satisfactory evidence shall be given of the purchase of the articles, and the price paid for them ….There is no objection to that.Adequate measure shall be taken to ensure that the grant is only given to special constables who are really necessitous and intend to act as special constables so long as their services are required.Then the regulations go on:—It is left to the discretion of each divisional commander to decide (a) what garments are required by individual special constables, and (b) which constables are qualified as being necessitous to receive them. It is 888 not expected that the authorised maximum will be paid in all cases, or that every necessitous constable shall need all the garments. If this anticipation is fulfilled, the amount so saved would be available for additional men. Garments are to be purchased locally by the men themselves on an order signed by the divisional commander. A supply of these order forms is sent herewith. The order is to be given to the tradesman, who will attach it to his account, and send both documents to the divisional commander.Then, later on, there is a certificate, the form of which is as follows:—I have satisfied myself that these garments have been supplied only to special constables who are really necessitous and intend to continue to act as special constables so long as their services are required.I am sure, now that I call his attention to it, the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is an objectionable form. The difficulty will be got out of by adopting the suggestion made by my hon. Friend of granting uniforms to all special constables who require them or choose to ask for them. The obligation at present resting on a man who really wants a uniform to keep himself warm these cold nights is certainly objectionable. I am not quite satisfied with the reason which the Under-Secretary gave. He said that the police rate was at its maximum. I am not dealing with rates at the present moment. This request may seem to come oddly from one who is a champion of economy as a rule.
§ Sir J. SIMON
It is quite true that the Home Office is responsible for the Metropolitan Police, but that does not mean that there is no police rate paid by the citizens. The police are paid in part by means of a police rate, of which we all probably have some gloomy recollection. That police rate is at its maximum, and we should require legislation in order to raise the additional money to pay for these uniforms.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
If that is so, where do you get the money you are at present paying to the extent of £12,000?
§ Sir J. SIMON
If you are going to provide uniforms for 25,000 men—that is the sort of number of special constables which there are in London—obviously, at £2 per head, it would cost £50,000. That is a very large sum and would exhaust any available balance. We are just up to the maximum as things are. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will put himself into communication with me, I shall be very glad to go into the matter with him.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and, even if I do not do so myself, I will communicate what the right hon. Gentleman 889 says to my hon. Friend. May I heartily congratulate the Under-Secretary upon dealing with another point in a way with which I thoroughly agree. It was the question of dealing with soldiers who are for some reason unwell. The hon. Member who brought it forward had evidently not read the Bill. It was an exceedingly bad Bill and was very wisely dropped. I am in agreement with every word which the Under-Secretary uttered in defence of their action, and it is very greatly to their credit that they had the courage to drop the Bill, and I hope that they will not be tempted to introduce another Bill on the same lines.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir HENRY NORMAN
I wish to direct the attention of the Home Secretary to a matter which is possibly not without some importance at this moment. I refer to the question of women taxi-cab drivers. There are a large number of men of military age driving taxi-cabs, and many of them, no doubt, would be glad to join His Majesty's Forces if they were not persuaded from doing so by their employers, who naturally wish to keep their cabs at work. There are many occupations now open to women which were never open to them before. We have women running lifts; we have postwomen; we have women driving motor vans in London; and we have volunteer women chauffeurs, and they are doing their work in a manner which it is no exaggeration to describe as heroic. We know that many women are most skilled and careful drivers of private motor cars, and I cannot see why a woman who passes the same examination and is in every respect as well qualified as a man to drive a taxi-cab should not have a licence issued to her at the present time. I raised this point at Question Time, and the late Home Secretary, in replying, said that there were more men with licences than there were cabs to drive at the present time. I venture to think that he was under a misapprehension. I have made such inquiries as were open to me, and in every case I found that there were cabs in the yard which were not being taken out for want of drivers. The late Home Secretary reminded me also that the Chief Commissioner of Police could not see his way at present to grant these licences. I shall be very glad if my right hon. Friend will explain to me, either now or at some more convenient time, what is the legal position in the matter, whether the decision rests entirely with the Chief 890 Commissioner of Police, or whether it does not rest with the Home Secretary himself.
§ Sir J. SIMON
It does rest with the Home Secretary, but it is one of the things which in practice is really left to the Commissioner. If my hon. Friend will allow me to show him how the matter stands, as a result of consultation, I think that will be the best way. I could not deal with the question at the moment, and without being prepared, in any other than a very prefunctory way.
§ Sir H. NORMAN
If the matter rests entirely with the Chief Commissioner of Police surely the opinion and advice or suggestion of the Home Secretary would weigh very much with that official, and I hope my right hon. Friend will give sympathetic consideration to the matter.
§ Colonel YATE
I wish to say a word about the treatment of soldiers sent home suffering from nerve shock. The Under-Secretary has informed the House that the best possible is done under all the circumstances. I would ask, however, that the matter be reconsidered. We have been told how men come back suffering from nerve shock brought about, probably, by the tremendous bombardments to which they have been subjected; many of them, we hope, are only temporarily affected. But they have been sent to various asylums under the Home Office, taken over by the War Office. It was promised—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That was no doubt done, but the practice has been stopped. It was done in a certain few cases by the War Office and not by the Home Office, and the latter Department is not, therefore, responsible.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I am sorry the Home Secretary has left the House, as I wished to impress upon him that, while he is considering the question of clothing the special police suitably in London, he should not neglect the case of those in the provinces. I represent a part of the country which is really within the war zone—the North-East Coast. We have had Zeppelin raids there, and the police are out night after night. If any expense is going to be incurred in this matter it ought not to fall on the local ratepayers, because these constables are really serving the nation. The money should therefore come from the Exchequer.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
There is a grant from the Exchequer to the local police, a body which is really, more or less, under the jurisdiction of the Home Office.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That has nothing to do with this Vote, and any proposal for an increased contribution to the local police must be raised in connection with the Exchequer Vote, and not the Home Office Vote.
§ Question put, and agreed to.