HC Deb 17 August 1916 vol 85 cc2032-4

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Mr. Albert George Hol-zapfel has been appointed British Consul at Rotterdam; if so, will he say what is this gentleman's nationality; whether Mr. Holzapfel's uncle was German Consul in Newcastle-on-Tyne prior to and up to the outbreak of war; and if it is not possible to find men of British name and birth to-fill Consular positions in neutral countries?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if a Mr. G. Holzapfel, a nephew of the late German Consul, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, has been appointed to any position in connection with cur Consular service; and, if so, will he state where and the nature of the appointment and its duties?


Mr. A. G. Holzapfel is a British-born subject. He has been given an honorary appointment as British Vice-Consul at Rotterdam, in order to enable him better to discharge certain special duties in Holland connected with commercial questions of which he has expert knowledge. He will, of course, in no way displace or interfere with His Majesty's Consul - General at Rotterdam, who approves of his appointment. His Majesty's Government have no precise information as to the relationship between Mr. A. G. Holzapfel and the Mr. Max Holzapfel, who was German Consul in Newcastle-on-Tyne before the outbreak of war, and who was a naturalised British subject. His Majesty's Government are not prepared to lay it down as an inflexible rule that no British-born subject with a foreign name should receive any appointment under the British Crown. The guarantee of the fitness of an individual for a post is not knowledge of his name, but of his personal character, qualities, and record.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the name of the late German Consul at Newcastle-on-Tyne was Mr. Max Holzapfel, who was an uncle of the gentleman in question; and that this German Consul, Max Holzapfel, left this country shortly after the outbreak of war and has not returned?


Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that this gentleman's father, who was naturalised, is stated to have left England at the outbreak of the War; that this gentleman has near relations living at Charlottenburg; and, if this gentleman is true to his race, is it not possible for him to communicate with his relatives from Charlottenburg?


All I can say is that this gentleman is a British-born subject. If there is anything against him personally, of course, the Government will be prepared to consider it. I must repeat respectfully that the mere fact that a man has a German name or is of ultimate German extraction would not of itself be: sufficient to debar him from becoming a Consul.


Without disputing the general principle laid down by the Noble Lord, may I ask does he not think it would tend to general satisfaction in a time of war if as few appointments as possible were given to people who are closely associated with alien enemies?


I should not disagree with the hon. Gentleman in the general principle he has laid down. At the same time he will also agree with me that the first consideration is the proper discharge of the public service.


Will the Noble Lord consider that there has been a number of appointments within the last few months to which attention has been called in this House, all filled by gentlemen with foreign names and hostile associations?


I was not aware of that.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that in a case like this it is extremely dangerous to appoint a gentleman belonging to this particular family, considering that the firm of Holzapfel, Limited, is at present being considered by the Board of Trade under the Trading With the Enemy Act, on the ground that there is suspicion attaching to the members of that family?


Of course, in this matter, as in all matters of a similar kind, the Government are bound to act upon the advice which they receive from those who are best acquainted with the gentleman concerned. We have acted in accordance with that advice. If my hon. Friend has any observations to make about this appointment which tends to show that he is not satisfactory for the appointment which he holds, I need not say that the Government will be very glad indeed to-consider what he has to say. The mere fact that there is some prejudice against the family is not sufficient.

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