§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
In accordance with the undertaking I gave the House yesterday I ask the indulgence of the House, in order to fulfil that undertaking, to state 1842 the plan which the Government propose to adopt with regard to the treatment of alien enemies in this country. Persons of hostile origin residing in this country will be divided into two classes—those who have been naturalised and have therefore become British subjects, and those who have not. Dealing first with the non-naturalised aliens, there are at this moment 19,000 interned and there are some 40,000 (24,000 men and 16,000 women) at large. We propose that in existing circumstances, prima facie, all adult males of this class should, for their own safety, and that of the community, be segregated and interned, or, if over military age, repatriated. This will not require fresh legislation. We recognise that there will be cases which call for exceptional treatment. The women and children in suitable cases will be repatriated, but there will, no doubt, be many instances in which justice and humanity will require that they should be allowed to remain.
It is proposed to set up an advisory body of a judicial character, somewhat similar to that presided over by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke), by which applications for exemption from the general rule of internment can be considered. The Home Secretary will be responsible for ascertaining who are the persons to whom the policy now announced applies. As soon as the naval and military authorities have provided the necessary accommodation, those who do not secure exemption from the advisory body will be interned.
In the case of the naturalised aliens, who are in law British subjects (numbering about 8,000), we think the prima facie presumption should be the other way; but exceptional cases, established to the satisfaction of the advisory body will be specially dealt with. There must be a power of interning in cases of proved necessity of danger.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I desire to say that I heartily welcome the statement which 1843 the right hon. Gentleman has just made. It is quite evident that the country is thoroughly aroused on this question and is liable to get out of hand. After what has happened, of which we have further evidence in the report which appears to-day, nobody can be surprised. I think I may say further that, however much we deplore, and everyone does deplore, outbreaks such as have been taking place, however strongly we feel that they are contrary to the whole instincts of this country, and however strongly we feel also that the Government and, to whatever extent we have influence in the matter, the House of Commons should prevent such outbreaks, yet I cannot say that it is entirely with regret that I see this evidence of what the feeling of the country is, however deplorable the manifestation of it may be, for it shows that we as a nation are now realising that this is not a war between armies but a war between nations, and every individual, whether civilian or not, has got to throw his weight into the scale. These outbreaks are in every way deplorable. In my opinion the best way, perhaps the only satisfactory way, to end them, is to convince the country that the Government share its sympathies, and are determined, of their own initiative, to do everything in order to make it certain that we shall run no risk from these enemies within our midst. That is, in my opinion, the only satisfactory way to end these disturbances.
In what I am now going to say I hope, indeed I am sure, that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the House will think that I am making any attack on the Government. There have been many discussions on this subject during the War, and I have taken part in every one of them. As it happens, I am one of those who thought that the Government were not taking quite sufficient action in connection with this matter. I may have been quite wrong, for they have evidence which I have not; but, at all events, I am sure that everyone who has been present at those discussions will agree with me in saying that it was evident that the Government were not quite as advanced as the 1844 House of Commons in regard to the matter; and I think we may say, further, that even the House of Commons was not so advanced as the general feeling of the public outside. From the first, throughout this War, I have very much disliked, and I have persistently avoided, taking any share of responsibility for the action of a Government over which I could have no possible control; but I thought the question in regard to these outbreaks so serious, from the point of view of the national credit, if nothing else, that I took the liberty of discussing the matter with the Prime Minister yesterday. After hearing the course which the Government proposed to adopt, and which the right hon. Gentleman has outlined to-day, I said to him—and I think it right to say it publicly—that I could think of no better plan than that which is now proposed to the House of Commons.
The plan, as I understand it, is this: So far as alien enemies who are not naturalised are concerned all of them of military age are to be interned, and the others are to be either interned or repatriated. Everyone, however, will agree with the exceptions which the right hon. Gentleman has made. Nobody wishes to impose unnecessary hardship on innocent people, and the arrangement which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed of a Committee, the names of the members of which are not given, but which I feel sure will command the confidence of the House, will satisfy us that a definite, reliable policy is being carried out. Nobody will desire to see interned anybody who could safely be left at large in this country. But that does not end the subject. There are also Germans who are British citizens. I would be the last to suggest that British citizenship, having been given, should count for nothing. Therefore the presumption which the right hon. Gentleman sets up seems to me the right one. Indeed, I do not think there is anyone in this House who would suggest that everyone of German origin should be interned. I know myself more than one case where men born in Germany have sons fighting for us in our Army. Nothing could be more intolerably unjust than that men of that kind should be interned, 1845 when perhaps their own sons have fallen in the War fighting on our side. We all feel that. On the other hand, at a time like this, there can be no neutrals in Great Britain. Everyone who is not for us is against us.
I believe it is the case that under German law a man may take out British naturalisation papers without losing his German nationality. I actually read a statement in the Reichstag pointing out as a reason for the particular Bill which authorises that, that, for instance, men could not join our Stock Exchange unless they became British subjects. Obviously, that being the case, many men must or may have become British subjects purely for that reason, but who have not changed their feelings and who are as strongly in sympathy with Germany as if they had spent their lives there. They are a danger to this nation; and I say that, in my opinion, the higher the position they occupy and the greater their wealth and influence the more power, if they have the will, they have to injure us. Therefore, if there is any class which should be closely regarded, it is precisely that class of German citizen in our midst. The proposal which the Prime Minister has made for dealing with these seems to me a good one—at least, I cannot think of a better. It seems to me far better than to make a hard and fast rule that everyone who has not been naturalised for five years, for instance, should be interned. It enables cases of this kind to be dealt with upon their merits, and while nobody wishes to act unjustly, we do wish to feel that this danger is being guarded against and that the Government are taking adequate steps to meet it. I have said this always, and for this reason: we are all anxious to stop these discussions, and I think that the best chance of stopping them is that the people outside should realise that adequate measures are now being taken by the Government to deal with this evil. I hope they are. I think they are. I say, further, I hope I should be the last—certainly I should despise any Government that did it—with a view to stopping popular clamour to do something which I 1846 myself thought unjust. That is not, in my opinion, so in this case. It is a real danger, and it is right and proper that the Government should deal with it, and that the country should recognise that it is adequately dealt with by the Government.
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
I am sure the House has heard with satisfaction the announcement of the Prime Minister. So far as I can judge, it covers three different proposals. The first is that all Germans of military age are to be immediately interned. The second is that all Germans over military age are to be deported. The third is that both interned and naturalised German subjects should have an appeal to a judicial tribunal. I am bound to say that the Government have taken a very important step forward in regard to the demands that have been made. I would only offer one or two suggestions in regard to the matter. In the first place, the judicial tribunal is undoubtedly absolutely necessary, not only for those who are to be interned, but for those who are already interned. I am sure that Members of the Committee who have visited the camps are unanimous in agreeing that there are cases which certainly require very careful and impartial consideration. I would further say that I think one tribunal is not sufficient. Taking the naturalised subjects alone—there are 8,000 of them—I think it may readily be assumed that every one will want to state his case, and how long it will take for one tribunal to hear every application I hesitate to contemplate.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that there should be more than one tribunal. I suggest to him, if possible, that there should be a judge of the High Court. I understand that at present judges of the High Court are not overworked, and it might possibly be arranged that the Court could spare one judge, possibly two judges, to deal with this matter in order to give us complete satisfaction that no injustice is done beyond the country's necessity. We might even go further, and have more than two judges, because there are hundreds of men in the camps to-day who would like the right of appeal owing to the slipshod manner—without any concentrated or considered plan at all—by which they were interned. Undoubtedly injustice has been done in this way. It is right, therefore, if possible, that every man now interned and 1847 every man who may in future be interned should, at any rate, have the right to state his case before some impartial tribunal. I am bound to say that the announcement which the Prime Minister has made in regard to the Germans who have become "nationalised"—I prefer the word rather to "naturalised"—in this country will be received with great satisfaction. I understand that unless a nationalised German subject can prove to the satisfaction of the tribunal that is to be set up that he is a person who ought to be at liberty, he also will be interned?
Sir H. DALZIEL
I have had the advantage of reading the reply, and I stated that in order to get out what is the exact position? Is it the case that a German subject who has become nationalised over here is not to be dealt with in any way whatever? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman did not do me the justice to follow what I said. I said that in the case of naturalised aliens who are British subjects, and who have a statutory right to continue as British subjects, that the presumption prima facie is they should not be subject to special treatment. That presumption is liable to be rebutted, and will be if evidence is produced to the satisfaction of the Advisory Committee that they should be dealt with.
Sir H. DALZIEL
That is a considerable step forward. I welcome with gratitude the announcement of the Prime Minister, and I hope that this question may be removed from the region of controversy.
§ Colonel LOCKWOOD
May I ask whether each and every case of a naturalised alien will be considered by the tribunal, or only considered at the request of a naturalised subject, or at the demand of some other person?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No, Sir. I think we may leave that very well to the tribunal itself. One case will very often govern another, or a dozen. I think we may leave it to the tribunal to see that justice is done.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I am certainly very grateful to the Government that they should have taken so important a step forward. Generally the proposals, I think, will satisfy the legitimate demand of the people of this country that something effective should be done in this matter. I do feel myself that the events of the last fortnight have made a very great change. I for one was prepared to regard the ordinary presuppositions about men as being applicable to Germans. I think, after poisonous gas, after the "Lusitania," and the terrible Blue Book now published, it is really absurd to suppose that we have any right to think that the Germans are not capable of any crime. We have no right to assume that they will act as ordinary human beings, and we are therefore, bound to take all possible precautions to protect ourselves and the people of this country against the most dastardly, treacherous, and cruel attacks that the mind of man can conceive. As to the particular proposals made by the right hon. Gentleman, I entirely agree with the general scope of them. I am going to put one or two points, if I may in order that the matter may be quite clear. I understand that Germans of military age are to be interned as soon as possible?
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I was not quite sure whether the right hon. Gentleman's words meant that, and I am glad to see that he assents to that—that as soon as ever that can be done they are to be interned. Again, any interned German or any interned enemy is to have the right of appeal to this tribunal that is to be set up so that he can come out if he satisfies the tribunal that it is in the public interest and the public safety that he should be let out. [HON MEMBERS: "No!"] I understand that in the proposals of the Government there is to be the right of appeal to this tribunal for every interned German. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I should have thought that 1849 was common, ordinary justice. Such an appeal already exists, I understand, to the commandant of the camp, and to the War Office, but I think it is infinitely superior that an appeal should be to a judicial tribunal, both in the interests of the Germans and still more in the interests of the community. Let us be clear. I understand with reference to Germans who ace not of military age, and German women, that they are, subject to any appeal that they may put forward, the Prime Minister said repatriated, but I suggest, strictly speaking, that all we can do is to remove them to some neutral country. If that is so, that will be "expatriation." Let us say "deported." I do not know quite what system the right hon. Gentleman contemplates as regards women. There must be some interval granted for appeals; there must be some system. I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman contemplates with regard to that—perhaps some system of bail; someone making themselves responsible for the good behaviour of these people until their case is heard. I understand the broad principle to be that they are to be deported unless they can show a reason to the tribunal entitling them to remain in this country. My hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Bigland) is anxious to know what is the limit of military age.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
That is the German limit. I am a little more in doubt as to what exactly the right hon. Gentleman means with regard to naturalised Germans. A good deal will depend upon the principles laid down for this tribunal to carry out. I hope very great care will be taken as to the exact wording used in reference to them. My own view, for what it is worth, is that wherever there is any ground of suspicion affecting a naturalised German, he then ought to be in the same position as an unnaturalised German; in other words, the moment there is any ground of suspicion at all he should be required to establish that he is a loyal subject of His Majesty the King. I think it rather important that that should be the general principle laid down in regard to naturalised aliens, because we all are conscious of the very strong suspicion in the public mind, and I have no reason to doubt that the most dangerous aliens in our midst are those 1850 who have got their naturalisation. One word in regard to the tribunal. I entirely agree with what fell from the right hon. Gentleman. I think it is very desirable, if possible, that the services of a judge should be secured for this tribunal. And, if more than one branch of the tribunal is necessary, that a judge should preside over each branch. I do hope that this new departure by the Government will mean the abandonment of what, in spite of what the Home Secretary was good enough to say the other day, I must still regard as dual control. It is quite true that I understand that the question of internment and non-internment is to be handed over to the War Office. The question of registration still remains in the hands of the Home Office.
But it is really almost impossible to distinguish and try and draw a line sharply between the two classes of cases. The man who is allowed to remain registered is evidently purely under the control of the Home Office, whereas the moment he is interned he comes under the control of the War Office. The actual point when his transfer from the Home Office to the War Office is involved is what you certainly must regard as dual control. I do hope we shall see an end of that altogether, and that there will be no more dual control. I should also like to add an extra to what the Prime Minister said, and ask if some means could not be found to facilitate discussion of the question of the exchange against English prisoners in Germany. I do think that the present system by which the War Office, the Foreign Office, and in some cases the Home Office also, have to be consulted is unnecessarily cumbrous, and that it would be a far better plan that some Interdepartmental Committee, possibly even of the same type which we are setting up now, should be charged with the whole of this question, and be able to put it through, where it can be put through. I am certain of this, as we all desire that every English prisoner in Germany should, if possible, be brought back to this country.
§ Mr. EUGENE WASON
I have no fault whatever to find with the course that has been adopted by the Government, but I want to put a specific question to the Prime Minister. I have in my mind at the present moment a man born in Schleswig-Holstein before it was annexed by Germany. He has lived in this country more or less the whole of his life, and is married 1851 to a Scottish woman, a highly respectable citizen. He is well over the age of sixty, and I would like to know whether, under these new rules, it will be necessary to deport a man like this who is absolutely harmless? I think a case of that sort would be extremely hard, and I hope that, if this man shows to the tribunal that is to be set up that, so far from being hostile to this country he is entirely in sympathy with it, and that his heart and soul go out to our final victory, he may be permitted to remain in the country.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
I raised this question a few days ago, and I should like to take this opportunity of saying with how much satisfaction I heard the statement of the Prime Minister this afternoon. I hope it will not be regarded in any way as a recrimination, because we do not want to go back on the past, if I say that it has surprised a great many of us that this step was not taken at the very beginning of the War, because this War is not merely unique in the blackguardliness—that is not too strong a word—with which it has been carried on by our enemy, but it is also unique in that, I think, there never has been in European history before, during the waging of a great war, a very large number of citizens of one belligerent remaining resident in the country of the other belligerent. I can myself think of no instance in history. In the present War it has been confined to ourselves. As soon as war broke out Frenchmen left Germany, Germans left France, and Russia and Germany emptied themselves of their enemy population, and we actually see at the present moment that the mere fear of war between the Germanic Empires and Italy has immediately caused a complete exodus of Germans from Italy. Therefore, it is extremely surprising that we should have gone on month after month giving unlimited hospitality to thousands and thousands of our enemies, and that we have only now been driven to take the more drastic and, I think, the more reasonable course outlined by the Prime Minister under stress of the awful behaviour of our enemies in the conduct of the War.
There is one thing I wish to say about the tribunal which the right hon. gentleman has foreshadowed. I agree with my Noble Friend behind me that the best form of tribunal would be one presided over by a judge of the High Court; but I do hope 1852 very much that in that tribunal the judge will not be too much under the dominion of what is, at ordinary times and under ordinary circumstances, a most cherished and magnificent tradition of our country—namely, that every person is presumed to be innocent until proved to be guilty. If we go upon that supposition in this case, the tribunal will be absolutely useless, and we may as well recognise that from the first. These are cases where the War Office or the Home Office, who have had to decide cases of internment upon suspicion up to the present, must have discovered long ago that it is perfectly idle to expect that you will obtain the sort of evidence which would rightly be required in an English Court of Justice before conviction could be obtained. After all, under the circumstances of grave national danger, we must go mainly upon the supposition that if a man is entirely innocent of hostile intent against this country, in spite of his hostile origin or nationality, he is the person to prove it, and this country ought not to be called upon to prove the contrary. A Member of the Government—I think it was the Under-Secretary of State for War—on a former occasion admitted, and, I think, quite rightly admitted, that the mere existence of enemy nationality was itself a ground of suspicion; and I do not think, after what the Prime Minister has said, there can be any disagreement with the proposition that, not only enemy nationality in the technical sense, but that a man should be a German by blood and origin, is in itself a ground of suspicion—of very natural suspicion—that, under the circumstances of to-day, his sympathies will not be with us, but with the enemy, and that his action, so far as possible, will be in support of his sympathies.
We have had in the administration of the powers the Government already possess a good many examples of what I cannot help describing as absolutely farcical administration. We have had quite recently an addition to the powers put into the hands of various authorities in the country in the form of an Order in Council requiring hotel-keepers to keep a register of the nationality of persons who come to their hotels. It is common knowledge that it is farcical administration. I have had letters from gentlemen who tell me they have gone to hotels and had pieces of paper put into their hands, which they have been requested to fill up, and have never been asked even so much 1853 as to give their name and address in order that their accent might be detected. They had simply to fill in a form calling themselves English citizens, and no questions were asked. That is farcical. If we are going to carry out such a provision, then in the name of common sense let it be carried out in an efficient and effective way, which will really give the police and authorities some guide to the movements of the hostile people in the country.
Another point, which I hope will be made clear, is that for the future when, under the action of this judicial tribunal, aliens have been interned, whether suspicious naturalised aliens or the unnaturalised aliens who are to be interned as a matter of course, they will not be for trifling reasons released from their internment. Nothing has been more striking than the way in which time after time we have had reports of men who have been interned, presumably for good reasons, and, after a short period, have been released for no reason whatsoever. I brought to the notice of the House the other day the case of a German officer who had been interned at Dorchester and who was released under circumstances certainly not creditable to this country. He was allowed to leave the country altogether, The Under-Secretary for War was not even able to inform the House whether he had been searched. He went back to Germany, published a pamphlet in that country extremely insulting, to say nothing more, to this country, and containing photographs he had taken of the place of his internment. The Government did not know, and do not know now, whether he had other photographs which might have much more military significance. Why was that man released at all? The representative of the War Office told the House that this gentleman was released because he was unwell, and because he had a disease of the ear which required him to undergo an operation. As individuals we may give him our sympathy, but, if it were necessary for him to undergo an operation, that could have been provided for him by the best surgery in the world in London. There was no reason why he should be allowed to go back to his own country perfectly free, carrying photographs, and free to publish photographs of proceedings in this country. I do hope that sort of trifling with this great question will have taken its departure with the new steps the Prime Minister has announced to-day.
1854 Another thing is the great importance, to my mind, of being most drastic in what are known as prohibited areas. I understand from the Prime Minister's statement, and it is not, I think, unreasonable, that some time must elapse before accommodation is provided for all who will have to be interned, and, of course, a considerable number will have to remain under supervision, but still with liberty for some little to come. I do hope the prohibited areas will be those parts upon which a start will be made. We have been told by the Home Secretary quite recently that there are a large number of enemy aliens still in the prohibited areas round the coasts of this country. Nothing has shocked the opinion of the country or been more amazing to the country than that in those prohibited areas, within a short distance of our Eastern and Southern Coasts, any man of German origin should be tolerated. I do hope these new measures to be undertaken will be adopted in the prohibited areas first. The Prime Minister has told us, and I think we will all agree, that men who have become British citizens by naturalisation should not be treated in exactly the same way as those who remain Germans technically as well as naturally. I think we are all agreed with that, and I know from my own knowledge, as every Member of this House probably knows from his, of gentlemen of German blood and descent whom we believe to be absolutely loyal to this, their adopted country, and whom we should be extremely sorry to see put to any unnecessary pain and trouble at the present time. There are such persons we are all agreed, but I feel very strongly that that is not only, though it is mainly, a question of safety. I do think at the present time, considering what the country is going through, that there is an element of decency to be considered in our treatment of people of German blood and name in this country. While, therefore, I would not like to see the House or the Government insist upon the internment or the expulsion of every German, whether naturalised or not, I do think that they ought to be at the present time excluded from high places. I think that, as a matter of good taste, they themselves should refuse to appear in high places. I do not think there is anything improper in referring to the most patriotic and excellent example which was shown by Prince Louis of Battenberg. Every one in this House, and I think the vast majority of people outside, knew he was as loyal and as staunch an Englishman as we could 1855 find anywhere, and yet he felt, and rightly felt, that owing to his name and his family connections it would be better for him at the present time not to appear in very prominent places. That is an example, I think, that might be very well followed.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Adjournment was moved in order that we might discuss the proposals of the Prime Minister, and not wander over the whole field. Surely would it not be better, considering the urgency of the matter, to confine our attention to that?
§ Mr. McNEILL
I am very sorry if I went outside the proper limits of discussion. I had no intention to do so, and the only reason I mentioned that case was because I thought it might be followed in other cases, and it is relevant to the proposition of the Prime Minister, because I do think that on this occasion we might take the opportunity of pressing upon the Government the propriety of naturalised Germans not being retained in the Privy Council and other places of that sort, which at the present time ought to be reserved for men of English birth and English descent. I will not say anything more about that point, and I apologise if the House thinks that I have made anything in the nature of an attack upon anybody. During this War, I think, it is only right that we should keep ourselves to ourselves in accordance with the very proper opinion which is now manifesting itself throughout the country in such a deplorable fashion in regard to Germans who at other times have been given all the rights which we enjoy ourselves. I think all aliens whom we decide should not be taken out of the country should have the decency, at any rate, to keep themselves in the background during the War.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I wish to put a question to the Prime Minister with regard to English women who are married to Germans. There are a great number in the humbler walks of life of these cases, and my attention has been drawn to one case in my own Constituency. In this particular instance the German arrived in this country about 1882 or 1883; he has lost all touch with Germany and he is well known 1856 to be a perfectly responsible citizen of this country, and he has been married to an English woman for twenty or thirty years. He cannot speak a word of German, and has no ties whatever with Germany. The first idea of hon. Members would no doubt be that he should have been naturalised; but there are people in the humbler walks of life who have been deterred from taking this course owing to the expense and want of knowledge. I say nothing whatever about the men, and they must take their chance; but I want to say a word or two about those British women who have married Germans. No doubt in many other constituencies there are cases of the same kind I have mentioned. In case very old people might be deported, this poor English woman would be sent to a country where she would not be known. I ask if this hard case of British women who have been married for many years to Germans, and who technically would be liable to all the restrictions placed upon Germans, has been considered by the Government?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I said that in regard to these women repatriation would only take place in suitable cases, and the very function of the Advisory Committee would be to decide that.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I understand that naturalised Germans will remain as they are now, unless proceedings are taken against them in the Courts to be set up.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I mean the Commission which is to be set up. I would like to know who is going to undertake these proceedings, because this will be a very invidious thing for any individual to undertake. Is there to be a public official who will investigate, and if he thinks it necessary, take proceedings against any person, or is this to be left to private individuals?
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I think we are all agreed in thanking the Government for the action they have taken in a grave situation. I thank the Government particularly for adopting the method of an Advisory Committee which is judicial in character, because I think every hon. Member of this House must know of certain cases which require individual investigation, if hardship is to be avoided. 1857 Naturalised aliens are surely of two kinds (1) those who are no longer the subjects of an alien enemy, and (2) those who according to the law of the country are still the subjects of an alien enemy. While I welcome the power of the judicial Committee to alleviate the harshness of internment or deportation, I also welcome the announcement that it will be extended to people now interned in camps. At the same time, may I express the hope that where a naturalised alien is still the subject of an alien enemy, that may in itself be sufficient to bring the case to the notice of the Advisory Committee. No doubt there are many such cases. It is not only the case where the individual is a subject of our own King, but if that individual is the subject of an alien enemy, the earlier loyalty and citizenship may surely make it a proper instance for being inquired into by the Committee.
§ Mr. NIELD
During the first week of the War, not being able myself to help in military matters. I wrote to the Home Secretary, making this very suggestion as to the internment of every German of military age. I suggested that these very tribunals should be set up in order to give an opportunity for hearing applications for exemption. The Home Secretary then told me that he was not prepared to set up such tribunals. A little later I wrote again, repeating my suggestion, and offering to help the Government in dealing with this question, having regard to the necessity for the assistance of someone with a legal training in these matters, but my offer was not accepted. I even applied a third time. Therefore I have every reason to congratulate the Government upon the fact that they have now adopted a proposal which I foreshadowed as being necessary so long ago, and in regard to which I offered my services. I suggest that two judges should be withdrawn from the High Courts in order to draw up rules to govern our procedure in this matter, and to sit as a final court of appeal, so that there will be no possible excuse for saying that any person engaged on these tribunals in the first instance might have been influenced by rancour or any preconceived opinions. It seems to me that neutral countries, and even enemies, will have the satisfaction of knowing that their subjects will be able to appeal to two high judicial officers who will be judges of our High Court, to reverse in the last resort any decision which they may feel unjust. I submit that this 1858 is the wisest step that the Government has taken in relation to this particular subject. I went yesterday to attend one of those conferences which are now being held in different parts of the country dealing with the distributing trade. I was told in regard to one of the forms to be filled up that if you are a British subject you only need to write "British" and no more need be said. I consider that is a most perfunctory business, and if you think you are going to get a record of aliens by means of a form like that, the Government will very soon be undeceived.
§ Mr. HOLT
I most sincerely deplore the outrages which have taken place against Germans in this country, but I am quite certain that anyone who lives in the same town where the majority of the crew of the "Lusitania" lived, as I do, and has heard of the case of a wife with six small children who were exterminated in that ship, will not in the least wonder at the outrages which have taken place. Seeing that these outrages have taken place, and seeing what public feeling is at the present moment, I think the course the Government have taken is the best under the circumstances. There are, however, some grave disadvantages which I should like to point out. If we are going to intern a large number of aliens, we shall be put to a considerable expense in keeping those people. If there are 30,000 interned it will entail an expenditure of from £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 a year to keep them. You will probably have to erect camps, and in this way you will divert labour and material from other works which are urgently required in order to provide proper and decent accommodation for these interned persons. I hope we shall not repeat what I think was the colossal folly of employing a lot of ships for this purpose, which are valuable as transports. May I point out that every man you intern is going to be a positive cash loss to this country? On the other hand, you have a further disadvantage. At this moment you are very short of labour in every kind of useful work, and a large number of these aliens are men who have been working honestly and well for many years past in this country. We want their work. It is all very well to talk about them enjoying our hospitality for so long, but may I point out that they have repaid us by giving us good work in return. Every German who is now doing an honest day's work here is helping the country, and that should be borne in mind. 1859 I say quite plainly that every person you intern unnecessarily is injuring this country and helping Germany, because he is an economic loss to the people of this country, and in that way you are weakening us. I realise that for the present state of the public mind some people are to blame, and although the state of feeling in the country is very natural, it is unreasonable, because you are letting ourselves be injured in our determination to get the better of the Germans. I hope the Government will make up their minds not to intern one single person who can safely be left at large. I say that, not because I am in sympathy with Germany, but because I want to get the better of them, and to achieve that purpose you ought to enlist the services of every honest and capable workman on whom you can lay your hands.
§ Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
It is very difficult to understand the purpose of the speech to which we have just listened, and I would rather lose the economic value of a thousand Germans than allow one German who is a danger to this country to continue at large. I rise to emphasise the plea put forward to press upon the right hon. Gentleman the expediency of distinguishing at once between those naturalised aliens who have divested themselves of loyalty to the foreign and enemy sovereign and those who have not so divested themselves. I feel that of the 8,000 alien enemies to whom the Prime Minister has referred, who have taken out papers of naturalisation, there are a very large number who have at the same time renounced their allegiance to the Government under which they were born, and it does seem to me, when you divide aliens in this country into two great classes, those upon whom the onus will rest of proving their innocence—that is those who are not naturalised—and those where the onus of proving that they ought to be interned will rest upon the Government, that you might quite properly and wisely divide the classes of naturalised aliens definitely and intern, in the first instance, those who have not divested themselves of allegiance to an enemy Government. There surely must be in the very nature of the case an enormous difference between the attitude of mind of two alien persons, one of whom remains equally responsible as a subject, say, of the German Emperor, and the other of whom does not, but both of whom have 1860 taken out naturalisation papers in this country. The point that has been put by the hon. Member opposite is, therefore, in my humble judgment, one which deserves the very earnest attention of the Government in settling the course which they will take in detail. I desire, speaking for myself, to express my very high appreciation of the step which the Government have taken, a step which, I am sure, will be welcomed by the country at large, and which will make very much for the safety of our people in this time of enormous danger.
§ Colonel YATE
May I join in the appeal put forward by the hon. Member for Middleton (Sir W. Ryland Adkins) to the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision, with regard to the treatment of naturalised aliens? May I ask him to distinguish between those who are still subjects of Germany by German law and those who are not? May I ask that the onus of proving whether they ought to be interned or not should not be left to the common informer, or to the Government official, whoever he may be, but that the onus of proving that he should not be interned should rest with the naturalised alien himself, who is still a subject of the German Emperor? I do ask that this question should be taken into consideration, and that a difference should be made between those naturalised aliens who are purely subjects of Great Britain, and those who are still subjects of Germany.
§ Sir W. BYLES
My hon. Friend put the case of the English wife of a German. I want to ask what would be the position of a German wife of an Englishman?
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am sorry that I am unable to join in the paean of praise of the Prime Minister. The Government has yielded to clamour and outrage what they refused to yield to argument from this and the other side of the House during the last few months. We warned them that what has taken place during the last two or three days would take place. We warned them that the feeling of the country was that every alien enemy in our midst should be interned. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues took the 1861 responsibility of declining to listen to our warnings and of declining to intern any of these alien enemies. The result is now apparent. The populace have taken into their own hands the question of dealing with some of these alien enemies—a course which I reprobate as strongly as anybody. I entirely disagree with the action that has taken place recently, but the responsibility for that action has got to be placed upon the right shoulders. The responsibility is on the shoulders of those who refused to take warnings uttered not once or twice but over and over again, both inside and outside this House, as to the determination of the people that the Government should go further than they were willing to go at that time with regard to the internment of aliens. I am not one of those who desire to say smooth things time after time with regard to the Government. No man could have supported them more fully than I have, but I reserve my right, inside or outside this House, to criticise the Government when I do not agree with their actions.
I have one further criticism to make with regard to the announcement of the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman informed us that alien enemies were to be interned as soon as possible, and those above military age were to be repatriated as soon as possible. Then he told us, not merely that the dual or the triple control of the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Home Office which we have had during the past nine months of the War was to continue, but that a fourth control was going to be introduced in the tribunal or body which was going to be set up. I want to ask one or two questions with regard to the working of that fourfold control. We are told that there are 40,000 alien enemies in our midst. What has become of the other 30,000? It is not so very long since that we were told, in answer to a question in this House, that there were 70,000 registered aliens in this country. It is quite clear that they have not been interned. There are only 19,000 interned to-day, and I think I am right in saying that there were something between 15,000 and 20,000 interned at the time the answer was given that there were 70,000 registered aliens. We must either have been given a wrong figure then, or we are given a wrong figure now, or 30,000 must have been allowed to have been repatriated. I do think that we are entitled to have that information, and, if it appertains to his 1862 Department, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. McKenna) will give us it.
I will take the Government's figure of 40,000 as the number of those who are left. How soon are they going to be interned? I understand that the War Office is to look after part of them, and the Admiralty to look after part of them, but would it not be possible, when the Government is inaugurating a new policy of this kind, to put it in the hands of one Minister, I do not care whether it is the Home Office or the War Office. When we find that week after week goes by and these aliens are still uninterned, who will be the responsible Minister of whom we can ask questions? Are we to ask the Home Office and to be told that it rests with the War Office? Are we to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War and to be told that it rests with the Admiralty? Are we to ask each one in turn and be told that a tribunal is sitting and considering each case? I want it to be clear that in the first everyone will be interned without having to go to the tribunal, and that it will only be the exceptional case which is let out. We all know the case of the man who to all appearances is honest, and who we should say is a perfectly respectable German. Those are the kind of men with whom Belgium and the North of France were filled nine months ago. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, the more respectable they are the more dangerous they may be.
I want it made perfectly clear that mere respectability, mere open-handedness with regard to their English friends, is not to be a reason for allowing them to remain uninterned. In Germany not merely all Englishmen, but all naturalised Englishmen, are interned as a matter of course. I do not ask that all naturalised Germans should be interned. I think that the proposal made by the Prime Minister with regard to naturalised Germans is fair. I recognise that we have given a scrap of paper to those men who have done us the honour to ask for our nationality. I am speaking now of the 40,000 who have not thought it worth while to go through that formality, and who have retained their German nationality, their German birthright, and their German feelings. I mean the type of man who, as we saw in the paper yesterday, said: "To hell with England." I put it perfectly frankly to the House. They have come here for their own purposes, and not as the hon. Member for the Hexham Division (Mr. Holt) 1863 would have us believe—for our purposes. They are here to carry on their own trade as a benefit to themselves and their own country, and I want it made perfectly clear that this country is really in arms, spiritually as well as morally, on the subject of this War. This country will not be desirous of being harsh to any individual German, but it is not going to take any more risks and allow the Government to dally with this matter as they have done in the last nine months. I should be glad if the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General is going to answer—I notice that the Prime Minister left the House as soon as the paean of praise stopped—if he would say what arrangements the Government have made for the internment of these people, where they are going to be interned, how they are going to be interned, and how long it is before they will be intended?
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
The administration of the law affecting aliens in Scotland has been in the hands of the Scottish Office, and I am glad to say that it has been very efficiently administered. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is intended that we in Scotland should have a separate tribunal to deal with the cases which may arise there, and whether we can rest assured that the matter, which is already in the hands of the Scottish Office, will remain in their hands and be dealt with upon the same lines as hitherto. I am sure that the statement which the Prime Minister has made will meet with universal satisfaction. I rather regret the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Joynson-Hicks), I should have thought that at a time like this that he, at least, might have been prepared to view this question from the point of view of what is the best policy for the nation, and to have accepted with the greatest satisfaction any proposal that the Government made for securing greater efficiency for meeting the special circumstances which have now arisen. I feel sure that the proposal will work satisfactorily, and I trust that we in Scotland may have our own separate tribunal.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
I only rise to emphasise one point dealt with by two other speakers. There will be a great deal of misunderstanding in the Resolution submitted as to whether a naturalised German shall be subject to some kind of trial. I would suggest to the Home Secretary and the 1864 Attorney-General whether it would not be in their power to add some form of words to this Resolution which, if submitted to the naturalised alien would, as it were, remove his case from the books—some strongly emphasised sentence which he can be asked to sign with regard to his own position towards the British Empire. I know of my own knowledge men born in Germany whose sympathies are entirely British to-day, and if we could get in writing from them some such declaration we should be absolved from the possibility of such people being brought before this body on the ground that they are objects of suspicion, although naturalised. I honestly believe if the Attorney-General and the Home Secretary would draft a carefully-worded declaration which could be submitted to such alien enemies, it would help to secure that there shall be differential treatment between these people and those who have simply taken up their citizenship in Great Britain for business purposes, without having any real emotion or affection for the country of their adoption.
§ Mr. NEVILLE
The question of naturalising fresh aliens—a process which is going on at the present time—is an extremely important one, and I would suggest to the House that, if we are going to have a tribunal to deal with those who have been naturalised, applications for naturalisation in the future ought to come before that tribunal before they are granted. Up to the present time this has been more or less a matter of form, but it seems to me that in a period of great danger all applications for naturalisation should come before this tribunal which is to be specially appointed to deal with this important question. I understand the Prime Minister has told us that for the new tribunal which is to be set up there will be a vast number of rules. This, however, is a matter of urgency, and if we are going to wait the usual number of days or weeks for the formulation of rules, we shall find that the tribunal will be more or less inefficacious for dealing with a matter which is urgent and should be dealt with at once.
Then there is the question of expense. At the present time the machinery for dealing with such questions as these is that of the common informer. We all know what the position of the common informer is, and we also know what an enormous amount of expense the common informer may have to incur in many cases. I would 1865 suggest that if rules are going to be made they should be laid before this House so that we may have an opportunity of seeing that this new procedure shall be brought into operation quickly and easily, and without much expense. If it is going to be left to the common informer that end will not be attained. The House will have it in its recollection the case of Mr. Bradlaugh, who was sued in respect of a vote he gave in this House. It took four years to decide that case. The machinery then invoked was that of the common informer. I suggest that the Government should tell us when they propose to bring in these rules, and whether we shall have an opportunity of discussing them and of dealing with them in the sense which has been put forward by many speakers this afternoon.
I understand from the Government there are 40,000 of these aliens who are not naturalised. That is an enormous number. There are 8,000 who are naturalised, and if one-half of the total, 24,000, are to come before this tribunal, which probably could not deal with more than 25 per diem, it would take a very long time to deal with them. Two judges certainly are not at all adequate for the purpose. May I make one suggestion? I do not know whether I am voicing the view of the country, but it does seem to me that we want a quick tribunal and we ought to set up some form of preliminary inquiry, the same as is in operation in ordinary criminal cases—some preliminary inquiry to ascertain whether or not there is a prima facie case There are an enormous number of gentlemen in this country perfectly able to conduct such a preliminary investigation. Inquiries of this nature could be held simultaneously all over the country. They could at once report what cases ought to be referred to the tribunal which could get to work at once, instead of our having to wait weeks or months for a decision of this matter. Whenever a case is reported, a Commissioner should be sent down, and upon his report it should be decided whether or not it should go to the superior Court.
Another important point arises from the fact that a great many people have been naturalised since the War began. The mere fact that they have, for their own benefit, got from our authorities a bit of paper to say that they are naturalised Englishmen is of very small value indeed at a crisis such as this. A distinction ought to be drawn between those men 1866 who have become naturalised since the War began and those who secured naturalisation many years previously, when there was no question of war at all. When you are considering questions of safety, there is no reasonable distinction that can be drawn between a man who is not naturalised and one who has only become naturalised since the beginning of the War. They should both be treated on precisely the same terms. I quite agree with the view that the adoption of these measures will give great relief to the country, but unless they are going to be operative, effective and speedy we shall be passing legislation which, while it may be grateful to the ear, is not going to do any good in dealing with an enormously urgent problem.
§ Mr. KING
I wish to say a few words on the question of the age limit for military service. I understand that the Prime Minister fixes fifty-five as the limit, and I want to appeal for a reconsideration of that. Both Russia and Germany have fixed forty-five. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, that was admitted yesterday in an answer given by the Under-Secretary of State for War, which was to the following effect:—I understand that the legal limit for compulsory service in Germany is still forty-five and that this age has been accepted by Russia as the basis of reciprocal exchange between the two countries. The Army Council are not, however, prepared to accept forty-five as the maximum limit of military usefulness."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1915, col. 1592.]It is perfectly obvious, therefore, the War Office admits that in Germany and Russia forty-five is the age limit for military service. It has to my knowledge been the subject of adverse comment against this country that we in this matter have taken fifty-five as the limit, when, as a matter of fact, we do not allow men of that age to enlist in our own Army, and it has been urged that we have adopted that course out of sheer cruelty. The matter, although a small one, might very well be considered by the Government in order to remove a ground of complaint and in order that such criticisms should not be urged, as they certainly would be, against us in neutral and other countries. This is a really serious point. When Russia and Germany mutually agree on an age limit of forty-five, and are at this very moment exchanging citizens one against the other above that age, it surely is worth the while of the Government to reconsider a figure which they have quite arbitrarily 1867 fixed upon. There is another point I may advance in support of the view I am putting forward. I am given to understand that the number of aliens between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five in this country who are in good health is very small. I have asked the Home Secretary to give me the figures, but he has found himself unable to do so. If they are only a small number, I think the age limit might very well be reduced.
Another point which requires some consideration is what is going to be done with the property or the people who are repatriated? Are we going to send them home penniless? Are we going to send people who have had all the comforts of affluence here home to Germany in an absolutely penniless condition? [An HON. MEMBER: "What are they doing to our people?"] What Germany is doing is not the point I am discussing now. I say it is a matter on which we are entitled to receive some explanation from the Government. I want to know what is going to be done with the women and children, in themselves offenceless, who are to be turned out of this country. Are they to be put back into beggary in their native land? I also want some information as to the method, route, and circumstances connected with the process of repatriation. Have foreign Governments already been approached? Will there be any difficulty in sending these thousands of alien enemies through neutral countries to their own land? I can conceive there may be very considerable difficulties and delay, and very great expense as well. If we send them away penniless, we must, I think, expect not only to pay their fares, but also provide them with their keep and lodging until they reach their own country. There may arise very great delays. Can we say even that we shall be able to get them into their own country? Many of these people do not speak the German language. Many for years, and possibly some have never, within their own recollection, been in Germany, and if what we have heard during the last few months is true, that there is an increasing food shortage in Germany, is it likely the German Government will allow thirty thousand or forty thousand penniless people to come among them, many of whom do not speak their own language? Will they allow them to enter their country? How is the repatriation going to be carried out? I hope we shall have some explanation 1868 on this point from the right hon. Gentleman. Then I want to know about the cost of this scheme. Has any estimate been drawn out? One hon. Member has put it down at two or three million pounds per annum. To my mind that is a very small figure. I should not be surprised if the Government estimate amounted to five or six million pounds, and, at any rate, I do not think a big scheme involving the expenditure of many millions of money should be thrown at the head of hon. Members with not a single word as to the cost of the undertaking. I can only hope that these matters will receive attention, and that I shall get some reply from Ministers on the subject.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I had not the privilege enjoyed by the light hon. Gentleman the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) of being supplied in advance with a copy of the Prime Minister's statement, although I had a question down to the Home Secretary on this very subject and was requested by the right hon. Gentleman to wait until the Prime Minister had made his statement. I do not know on what ground copies of the statement were issued to favoured Members.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The hon. Gentleman is labouring under a mistake which I am sure he would wish to have corrected. Nobody except Members of the Government and, I think, also the Leader of the Opposition, saw the Prime Minister's statement until it was made in this House, and after it was made my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy, while the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, asked if there was any objection to his seeing the document.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I am extremely sorry I made the suggestion, and I withdraw it entirely. I was under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy had been supplied with a copy. I was under a misapprehension, and at once express my regret that I made the statement. In connection with the proposals of the Prime Minister, I should like to ask questions on one or two points. Like every other Member of the House, I feel grateful that the Government should have shown this afternoon their determination to take some steps to meet what we know is public opinion on the matter, and to meet those conditions which ought to be dealt with in the opinion of the majority of the hon. Members of this 1869 House. As to whether those proposals will go sufficiently far in actual practice, I have considerable doubt. When the Government do show a bit of backbone in the matter I do not want to throw cold water upon them, but we are all talking about a tribunal. If there is a tribunal, are alien enemies in the Shetland Islands, or Cork, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Glasgow to meet this tribunal? If so, how long will it take the Government or the tribunal to deal with the registered alien enemies throughout the length and breadth of the land? I agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Neville) that it is imperative, if the Government want to do the right thing, that their proposals should be carried through as quickly as possible. There is another point on which I would ask for information, if anyone is going to reply for the Government. We all realise that the real danger which surrounds the population of this country is that in the case of a Zeppelin raid this City may be set on fire, and there may be poisoning on a wholesale scale. We have reason to believe that there is organised spying carried out with that extraordinary system which Germany has shown in everything she has done in this War. If that is so, it is of no use our tinkering with the problem. We all recognise that one of the first steps to be taken by an agent of the German Government in this City, or in any other part of the country, who is here for the express purpose at a given signal of taking action, would be to become a naturalised subject of this country. We cannot be adequately protecting ourselves in this matter if alien enemies who have become naturalised British subjects are to be left untouched, and unless, by some process not yet explained, this tribunal can be brought to consider their particular case.
I agree with other hon. Members in supporting what the Prime Minister said. We all want, if we can, to protect those naturalised British subjects who are British in heart and who are playing the game with us in this life and death struggle. In doing that we must not run the risk of leaving out several thousands of people, probably the most dangerous section of all alien enemies in this country, without first satisfying ourselves that they can be left at large with safety. I do not understand, and I am sure other Members of the House do not understand, under what circumstances and by what process these naturalised subjects can be dealt with by this tribunal in order to make 1870 sure it is safe to leave them at large. Feeling is so strong in this country to-day and so strong in the heart of this great City, that the moment these proposals are carried into effect we shall see action by common informers on a scale never known before in this country. There are men in the City willing to risk their lives in order to do everything they can to force upon the Government, if possible, the necessity of providing what they regard as adequate protection for the people of this country. When these proposals are put into effect. I believe people will come forward and bring to the notice of this tribunal the names of naturalised subjects who are in very high positions in this country—people who are rich and who have great power, I am sorry to say, over well-known Englishmen. When those names are brought before this tribunal what is going to happen? Are we to understand that if anyone does bring forward such a name that the tribunal will be bound to consider, impartially and honestly, the merits or demerits of that particular naturalised subject and to decide, on the sheer merits of the case, whether such person should or should not be interned or can be safely entrusted to be at large as a subject of this country. If anyone is going to reply for the Government, I hope that point will be made clear to the House and the country, because everyone in the country is burning with anxiety on the subject. They want to know at once whether they are to be in a position under these arrangements to assist the Government and to make sure that no alien enemies and no naturalised subjects of this country are left at large if there is strong reason for believing that they are a source of danger and ought to be dealt with by this tribunal.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I should not have joined in the Debate had it not been for the speech of the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King). When the hon. Member asked the Government to reconsider their policy and to allow men of military age to return to Germany—men between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five—he seemed to forget that some of those men would be used for shooting down the men who are now fighting for this country. The argument seems to be so outrageous that it is only on a par with the suggestion made by the hon. Member last week that because Germany chooses to use the weapon of an assassin, namely, gas, that we should not do likewise.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
That only shows that the hon. Member does not understand that these men who are to be sent back to Germany, when they reached there would, naturally, if they were fit for military service, be used by the German Government for the purpose of engaging in this War.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
We in this country settle what we think is in the best interests of our own country. It is my own opinion, and I am sure it is the opinion of many other Members of this House, that to send back to Germany men who could be used to engage in military service against this country is a step which it is unthinkable that a Government with any sense would take. I therefore hope the Government will adhere to their proposals. With regard to what the hon. Member said about gas, he seems to have forgotten that he suggested in a question that the Government should not retaliate against Germany in this matter.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I would at once tell the hon. Member that the courteous way to interrupt is for him to ask the hon. Baronet to allow him to intervene, and then, if the hon. Baronet gives way, he is entitled to make a personal explanation.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
As to the hon. Member's opinion as to the weapons that may be used against an assassin, my view is that you are justified in using, when you are fighting an assassin, every weapon under such circumstances. The Government in this matter are in a very difficult position. I have been a pacifist. I always wanted to see a good feeling established between this country and Germany, but the pacifist in my case has, perhaps, developed into the opposite extreme view. The feeling I have in this matter is that Germany has shown—as the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) said very well—herself absolutely regardless of taking any step in this War consistent with what we consider either common humanity or common decency. We must not close our eyes to the fact that Germany has spent large sums of money in this country for spying purposes. Is it not reasonable to believe that for this purpose the German Government have had German spies naturalised in this country? If that is so, and I believe it is so, we are going to intern large numbers of men, but we are going to leave still at large probably the ablest spies in the service of the German Government. No doubt it is a very great hardship to intern all naturalised German subjects, but I have been reluctantly forced to the opinion that in this great national danger with which we are faced at the present time the Government ought to go the whole step and intern every single German subject, whether naturalised or not. I want to ask the Prime Minister what he proposes to do in reference to those German subjects who have been naturalised since the outbreak of the War? It is no use putting the German working man in a different position from the rich alien. You may take the working man—he may be a wretched waiter—and collar him by the scruff of the neck and put him in an internment camp. You leave the German in a high place to go about his ordinary course of business while you persecute the poor man. You naturalised Baron Schroëder when the War broke out. Is he not now to be interned? I take it that he is not, because he is a rich man in a high place.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. Member is not entitled to say that as a matter 1873 of fact. It is not a fact that there has been discrimination on the ground of wealth.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Government have definitely refused naturalisation in many cases of German subjects who have lived in this country for many years and who have English wives. I have given the Home Secretary one case.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
If my hon. Friend goes through their names, he will find out that of the Germans who have been naturalised—the number is small—by far the larger proportion consist of poor people—quite poor people.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
That may be, but there are a number of Germans who have lived in this country, who have English wives and English children, and many of them of the highest respectability, vouched for in the one case by a Privy Councillor sitting on the Treasury Bench, by a Lord-Lieutenant sitting in another place, and by myself to the Home Secretary. He was a man with English children who was interned. You interned this man, but you immediately naturalised a German subject who is a millionaire.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
It is no good the Home Secretary shaking his head. That is what actually happened. I have raised it in this House on several occasions, and on every opportunity I have had, because, whatever the Government may say, that is discrimination. Within the first week of the outbreak of war a number of Germans occupying high positions in London were naturalised, and I do not think my right hon. Friend will find that the persons who were naturalised in the first week of the outbreak of war were poor people, but Germans in high places, holding a considerable position in the City of London.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I shall be very happy to show my hon. Friend a complete list, with the history in every case, and the reasons why the persons have been naturalised since the War began, and I will prove to him that grounds of wealth and high position have had nothing to do with naturalisation in any single case.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave me the reason why this gentleman was naturalised. He said it was done for financial reasons.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Quite true; but not for Baron Schroëder's financial reasons. It is quite true that it was done for financial reasons—not for the benefit of Baron Schroëder, but for the benefit of the credit of the City of London, which is quite a different matter.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I do not know that the credit of the City of London has to rest on the naturalisation of a German.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I would say for the benefit of credit in the City of London, not the credit of the City of London.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
That is perhaps better. I am not questioning what the Home Secretary says. I accept his correction. If he says that in giving these naturalisation papers he had no regard whatever to the position of the person, treated the rich German in the same way as the working man with an English wife and English children—if he acted in that manner throughout, I must express my regret for having again referred to the case of Baron Schroeder. But if there is to be this discrimination, and if you are to have a system under which there is complete equality for all, the first step the Prime Minister ought to take is to see that all Members of this House of German parentage should no longer be allowed to sit in this House. The Prime Minister may shake his head, but I am sure that is the general feeling in the country, what-ever it may be in this House. It applies equally to both sides of the House. Nor do I think in the great hour of the nation's danger we ought to be allowed to have Privy Councillors of German extraction. They ought to be interned, and the regulations which allow these gentlemen to remain in the country will not give satisfaction to the country at large. I am sorry to have had to make these observations relating to Germans in high places, but I have felt, as a good many people in the country have felt, that there has been discrimination in favour of well-to-do Germans as against Germans who have settled in this country whose sons are fighting in the Army. The Government have taken this step because public opinion has forced them to do so. It is probably against their own judgment, but I can tell the Prime Minister this, and I am sure he will find that what I am saying is correct, that when he has taken this step he will not satisfy public opinion outside.
1875 The feeling is so strong in the industrial districts that I have Germans working for me who have been naturalised for twenty years and have sons fighting in the British Army, and yet British working men refuse to work alongside them. I think it is very unfortunate. In one case a deputation came to me about a German who had been naturalised for twenty years, with three sons fighting in the Army. I said, "If you choose to strike on account of this man you may strike, but I shall not dismiss him. In my opinion he has now shown by giving his sons to the service of the State that he is a true British subject in the real sense of the word." These are the cases, in my opinion, which show that the country will be perfectly safe in allowing men of that kind, who have given their own flesh and blood to their country, to remain here. Many of these men, the Prime Minister cannot deny, have been sent here by the German Government for the purpose of spying, because he knows perfectly well that immense sums of money have been spent in this way; and does the Government really think the German Government employs waiters and that class of men when they can, by sending men in high positions and getting them naturalised, obtain the very information which we are anxious they should not obtain? That is the only possible view to be taken, and if that be so, they must face the position that this measure they have introduced will not carry out what the country thinks is their duty at present.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am not at all sure that I can conjecture the object of the speech which my hon. Friend has just made. One moment he was suggesting that we ought to deal in a much more severe way with naturalised Germans who are British subjects, who have the guarantee of an Act of Parliament that they shall have all the rights of British subjects—an Act of Parliament that is to be regarded as a scrap of paper—and at the next that we ought to treat these men as though they were prima facie, spies and enemies of our country. I refuse to do anything of the kind. If a man is a British subject, with the legal rights of a British subject, the prima facie presumption is that he is going to perform his duty. In the exceptional circumstances in which we are now placed I also think there ought to be an opportunity, as there will be under the proposals of the Government, that where there is reasonable ground of suspicion 1876 against a man of hostile origin, although through naturalisation he has acquired the status of a British subject, then through the judicial procedure of this advisory body we shall have exactly the same power of detaining and interning him as if he had never been naturalised at all. I was very much shocked at the case cited by my hon. Friend—the case of British working men—I hope there was some exaggeration or misunderstanding about it—who refused to work side by side with a naturalised German, now a British subject, with two or three sons fighting at the front. I believe the working classes of this country would repudiate any such attitude, and would regard it as a stain upon their class, and upon the good faith and honour of this country.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I think the Prime Minister does not quite follow that in this particular case where I received a deputation I told the workmen that they might go on strike, and that I thought it was a most unjust proceeding.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am not suggesting that my hon. Friend sympathises with them at all, but I regret that such an incident should be possible in this country at this moment. That shows the extreme importance when you have an excited state of public opinion—naturally and legitimately excited—of using discretion and tact, and not acting in the spirit either of panic or vindictiveness. I am all in favour of the proposals which the Government have made, which have received the general approval of the House, showing that we are taking every step which is really necessary to secure ourselves from the danger which arises from the presence of a body of persons of alien birth within these shores. But you must remember that the great body of these people, who are not very numerous, are decent, honest, and respectable men, have given hostages to fortune in this country, and are carrying on legitimate trades and businesses, some of them professional men, some of them men employed in our most technical industries where their services can very ill be spared; and to initiate or to countenance anything in the nature of a vendetta against a class of that kind as a class would not only be disgraceful from the moral point of view, but most impolitic from the point of view of the best interests of this country. While you must take, with reluctance, but with a conviction of their necessity, measures of this 1877 kind—segregation, internment, repatriation—you must at the same time be careful to provide—and we think we have provided—in the machinery of this judicial tribunal, elasticity, and the power of relaxation and discrimination, and that you do not do serious injury and irreparable hardship to individuals. From that point of view the Government have framed these proposals, and I think they have met with the general acceptance of the House. It is not necessary to say, but I will say it, that anything more ill-advised and more discreditable than the outrages in the way of booty and plunder in some parts of the country during the last few days it is impossible for any patriotic man to conceive. That is not the spirit and those are not the methods by which a sane, sober, and self-respecting population can deal with a great emergency.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
All the more disgrace to the papers. I hold no brief for them. That is not the way in which the situation should be met, and I am perfectly certain it is not the way it is going to be met. The people of this country, under great provocation—no people have ever been exposed to greater provocation—in the gradual and progressive development and culmination of these barbarous methods, have shown self-respect and patience and have, perhaps, carried those qualities beyond what was necessary, certainly beyond what we expected. If it be an error, it is an error on the right side. I deplore any resort to these discreditable outbursts of vindictiveness, which do very little harm to those against whom they are directed, and which often single out not the guilty but the innocent, and which reflect the greatest possible dishonour upon those responsible for them. That is not the spirit in which we should deal with it. We have submitted to the House, with general approval, a method dictated by an emergency which no one could have foreseen, which is very real and very urgent, by which on the one hand we can protect ourselves against the possibility of danger from the activity of alien enemies within our own gates, and at the same time, what is equally important, prevent the possibility of injustice and hardship to innocent individuals. I hope the House will be content with the discussion we have had, and allow us to proceed with the next business.
§ Mr. NEVILLE
Will the right hon. Gentleman bring his legislation before the House so that we can consider it?
§ Mr. NEVILLE
Will the rules to be made be brought before the House, so that we can consider them? Will they be brought next week?
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.