HC Deb 01 June 1916 vol 82 cc2895-6
75. Major HUNT

asked the Home Secretary if he is aware of the feeling of our working men as to the number of Belgians and men of other Allied nations of military age now in this country; and can he say what steps he proposes to take to compel them to go back and serve in their own countries and to prevent them from taking the employment of our own men after the War?


The Government regard the enlistment of aliens of allied nationality in the forces of one or other of Allied Armies as a matter of great importance. They have given active co-operation to such of the Allied Governments as have asked for help in reclaiming their nationals for military service; and I understand that arrangements are now being considered by the War Office for giving facilities in proper cases for the enlistment of foreigners in the British Army. So far as any uneasiness in this matter is based on statements that have appeared in the Press to the effect that there are 200,000 foreigners of military age in this country, I would take this opportunity of saying that those statements are grossly exaggerated. The figure given covers roughly all foreigners of all ages—men, women, and children—in England and Wales.

Major HUNT

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware my information did not come from the Press at all. Is he also aware that the feeling about this matter is very bitter in some parts of the country where aliens may come and take the places of men who go to the Army?


Can the right hon. Gentleman see his way to issue a statement through the Press giving the real facts of the case which have been so grossly exaggerated or misrepresented in the Press?


I hope my answer may receive publicity, and thus serve the purpose the hon. Member has in view. I am aware there is some feeling in the matter in various parts of the country. I have for some time past drawn the attention of the War Office to the subject, and pointed out the advisability of giving these men, many of whom are anxious to serve in the British Army the opportunity of doing so.


Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that, although a good deal may be exaggerated still there may be numbers in particular localities; for instance, as in the East End of London, and the presence of them may give rise to feeling?


That is why the Government attach importance to the matter and have it in hand.


Is he not aware—


We really must get on. We cannot have a debate on every question, or we shall never reach the main topics of the day.