§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of 22nd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
Sir H. DALZIEL
I intimated at Question Time this afternoon that I would refer to a question which I put to-day in reference to the employment at the India Office of an unnaturalised German. I gave notice to the representative of the India Office that I intended to raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment. I want to enter my protest against any German having the facility of consulting the library at the India Office at the present time, more especially an unnaturalised German, a man who has lived many years in this country, but who has liked his own country so much that he has never thought it worth while to become a British subject, and such a man as Professor Ethé, who was in Germany on the very eve of the War. I think it is a very strong action for the Government to take 1885 to employ a person of this character and to pay him public money for the work he has to perform. Professor Ethé was employed at Aberstwyth and lived there for many years, but so strong was the public? opinion in regard to him that he was compelled to leave. I believe there has been a controversy as to whether he should be paid a pension or not, and I believe he is in the enjoyment of a British pension at the present time.
The Government are departing from the spirit of the legislation which we have passed in employing any German in any Government Department. Further, the Work which this man is doing is work that is by no means necessary during the War. He has already completed one volume of the catalogue. He has access to every book in connection with Persia that is at the India Office. I can quite understand that a German, who was in Germany on the eve of the War, and who, before he was there, had access to the India Office, and had been working for years on important Persian manuscripts, might, if inclined, be able to give very important information to the German Government. That in itself should be enough to prevent the Government from employing this unnaturalised German after he was compelled by public opinion to give up his position in Abersytwith. Further, the work which he is doing is of a secret character. He is getting facilities which ought not to be given to every Englishman. Is there no Britisher who could perform this task? This is not the time to pay British public money to a German in the heart of London, more especially having regard to the manner in which our people have been treated in Germany.
How many Britishers are employed in Government offices in Berlin? Why, within a few hours of the outbreak of the War, all Britishers, naturalised and unnaturalised, were put under control. We know the way they have treated our men in the camps, allowing them to die of disease, while some of the German doctors were such cowards that they would not even attend them, but kept a considerable distance from them. We know how our men have been starved in their prisons, and would have died but for the parcels which we have been able to send them. These are the statements of representatives of neutral countries. Yet at this time, when our men are giving up their lives to fight the Germans, the Government take in this 1886 unnaturalised German, and give him the cushions and easy chairs at the India Office. I do not suggest that he is there all the time, but he is paid public money which ought not to be paid, because the work which he is doing is not pressing at all, and there is no reason for the extreme cordiality which exists between the Government and this German professor. They trust each other so much that they have never discussed terms. He is working there under the India Government, and they are to give him an honorarium after his work is finished. I understand that he has already been paid for his first catalogue of Persian manuscripts in the India Office. I do not know whether my hon. Friend (Mr. C. Boberts), who is going to reply, can say how much he was paid for it, nor whether he can indicate what he is to be paid for the second catalogue. I say that every German in this country is a potential spy.
This man has been here very many years. The Government have repeated that often, so often that they seem to think the longer he is here the more virtuous he ought to be considered. He is a German at this moment, and if he is a man of any worth at all his sympathies will be with Germany. Is there any Britisher in Berlin who is not naturalised in Germany who would not do everything he could to help this country? Of course he would, and it is very base patriotism indeed if that is not the case with this professor. The result of all this—I use a phrase employed by Lord Courtenay last night—supreme human tenderness towards the Germans is that we have, what the people of this country cannot understand in a time of war with Germany, whole Departments honey-combed with German influence. Even after two years we cannot get one single German company wound up to completion. They are all going on. Somebody is drawing salaries, and German influence is still there. It is the same with the banks, and the same with everything else. Nothing is done. It is all talk. In my opinion the Government are driving our people almost to despair. They are beginning to distrust them The questions we have been asking them day after day, and the information which has been given, shows that there is no reality in the determination to kill German influence in this country. Sooner or later the country will make known their opinion.
1887 We are taking too great a risk in having any German employed in a Government Department at the present time. I say it not only with regard to this case, but with regard to others. I say, as a test of sincerity, that what the Prime Minister or anybody else would have done at the beginning of the War, if there was any reality in the desire to kill German influence, would have been to issue an order to every Department that every German, naturalised and unnaturalised, should be taken from that Department. I believe that the Government would never have done anything against German influence in this country but for the protests of public opinion. They were never going to intern Germans at all. A long time passed without anything being done, and it was only when windows were broken in the suburbs of London that they began to take notice. The temper of the people is rising against the Government. I cannot understand men standing by and seeing the youth of the country giving up their lives and the politicians sitting in Downing Street promoting Germans who are spying upon us. It is pure and sheer hypocrisy on the part of the Government to allow cases of this kind. I do not rest my case on this particular matter. There are many others quite as bad. I take this one as a sample, and I ask the Government, if they mean business, at once to dismiss this gentleman from the work on which he is employed at the present time. It is no good for my hon. Friend on behalf of the Government to get up and say that this is a perfectly innocent old gentleman, and therefore we must be kind to him. That will not do. I set my case on this. I object to paying public money to this dismissed professor because he is a German. I say further that the work which he is doing is no use, so far as winning the War is concerned, and that if it was of use there are any number of Britishers who would gladly do it. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friend to give me an assurance that this gentleman's connection with the India Office will be severed at once. If he is unable to do that, I ask him to be good enough to lay the whole facts before the Government with a view to a complete inquiry and prompt action.
§ Sir R. COOPER
After what the right hon. Member has said with regard to this particular case, I do not think that there 1888 is any need for me to enlarge upon it. I merely want to support him wholeheartedly and to express my firm conviction in reference to the manner in which the Government are dealing in the various Departments with the Germans and people of German sympathy who are here for the express purpose of helping the enemy and that if the Government will not change their policy at once the people of this country are not going to stand this sort of thing much longer. We are passing Acts through this House, and actions are taking place throughout the country, to punish people for trading with the enemy, and yet the Government are daily trading with the enemy in every one of their Departments. On many occasions I have expressed the conviction before the public that there are too many of these spies and enemies in Government Departments, and very often I have been ridiculed for making that statement. The public of this country for a very long time have felt inclined to retain confidence in the Coalition Government, and believed that it was utterly impossible for any Department of the State, and for any Minister responsible to any Department, to allow any shadow of doubt as to the character of the officials paid by that Department. But there has been already so many exposures that that is passing away. For my part—and I know that others are in the same position—I have got many more cases, and we are going to bring them out. We have got to bombard the Government with these cases until they take action. Meantime, I have great pleasure in supporting my right hon. Friend in the excellent service which he is rendering to the country at the present time, and in expressing the fervent hope that the Government will take this matter into consideration at once, and will take steps to find out who is and who is not in these Departments, and I trust that they will not strain the patience of the public for long so as to cause the necessity for serious action to be taken outside.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS (Comptroller of the Household)
I must explain to the House that I only reply in the absence of the Secretary of State for India. He is engaged in very important work, and is unable to be here this evening, and he has asked me to give his explanation in regard to this particular set of circumstances. The House knows 1889 well that, although I occasionally assist his convenience by taking questions for him, I have no connection with the India Office now and no responsibility for its policy, and I can only therefore be the channel of communication on this occasion between the Secretary of State for India and the House. The Secretary of State regrets very sincerely that he cannot be here. He is engaged on very important work, and he asks me to express his apology. I need not say that I will represent to him, and he will no doubt read in the OFFICIAL REPORT, the statements which have been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir H. Dalziel) and the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir R. Cooper), but I have very little indeed to add to the facts which he gave in answer to a question this afternoon. It has been said that this case is not merely an individual case, but is a sample of the Government treatment of the Germans in this country. There again I am not responsible. That is a matter for which the Home Office ought to speak, and I am only, therefore, limited to giving, on behalf of the Secretary of State for India, the facts of this particular case. Personally, I am with the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member that the Government are bound to do everything which will prevent any danger to the State from the presence of alien enemies in our midst. The whole question with which we have got to deal is whether this particular Gentleman is such a danger to the State that the existing transaction with the India Office should be at once cut, destroyed, and on that point I am quite ready to give the explanation which the India Office has to offer. This is the case of an old scholar who is over seventy years of age; I am not certain, but I think he is nearly seventy-five years of age. Since the year 1872 he has been engaged in compiling a catalogue of these Persian manuscripts, which are in the library of the India Office. Of course, it has not been full-time work.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
Very likely he was of an age when he had no option in the 1890 matter. He has been engaged in this work on the catalogues for a number of years, and he completed the first volume in 1901, and for that he has received payment. Since 1901 he has been engaged at intervals in completing the second volume. My right hon. Friend is under a misconception as to this work. It is not done at the India Office.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I am informed that he does not work in the India Office library; these manuscrips are sent to him at his home to deal with. Therefore, if it be alleged that by the study of Persian manuscripts he could in some way gather information, which he would be in a position to communicate to the enemy, on the modern politics of Persia, I think it will be seen there must be some misconception on the matter.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
The Secretary of State instructs me to say that, of course, if this had been a new piece of work, he would not think of employing a German at this moment. But here is a piece of work which has been going on since the year 1901, and this old scholar has the threads of the catalogue in his hands.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
That is a matter not for the India Office, but for the Foreign Office or the Home Office. It is true that he has been obliged to give up his professorship at the college in this country, and if he had retained that position perhaps hon. Members would have had a case. Here, however, is a piece of work which has been going on since 1901, and he is not being paid for it.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I suppose when his work is completed he will be paid. The Home Office is perfectly aware that this work is being done. Their attention has been called to Professor Ethé more than once, and the only real question I have 1891 got to answer is as to this contract, supposing it is a contract. He will be eventually paid. [An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Gentleman said he had been paid !"] I said he had not been paid yet. His first volume was paid for after thirty years of work. His second catalogue has gone on now for fifteen years, and he has not yet been paid. His case has been before the Home Secretary and the Home Office, and they are perfectly aware of his residence here, and if they thought it was a case which required further precautions, those precautions would be taken. It is for them to take the precautions.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
The India Office sees no reason for altering this contract, and I do not think that I can add anything further at present. That is the explanation I have to give on behalf of the Secretary of State, except this, that the India Office will certainly be sorry to lose the result of this scholar's patient and laborious work for fifteen years. It is, of course, for Members to consider whether the circumstances of this transaction are felt to be such a danger to the State that the Secretary of State for India should be called upon instantly to intervene.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I must confess that I never heard a lamer speech put forward by any Minister on that bench. The hon. Gentleman has really evaded the point at issue. The point is not whether this gentleman, seventy, or seventy-two, or seventy-five years of age, is or is not a danger to the country, but the point is that here is a German, not naturalised— I do not myself attach very much importance to naturalisation—
§ Mr. ROBERTS
It was the right lion. Member for Kirkcaldy who deliberately said that he was a danger, and it was on that basis he put the case to me.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I did not understand that was the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy. What the right hon. Gentleman said was that he would be a poor man being a German if he did not sympathise with Germany, and that in all probability this man's sympathies were with Germany. The right hon. Gentleman went further, and stated the very simple fact that he is a German unnaturalised, and that it is not our duty to employ a German. Why on 1892 earth should we employ a German even if the work were necessary? There is no case of an Englishman in Germany being employed by the Germans, or certainly not by any German government department. Here is a Government Department defending the employment of a German, and giving money to a German at the present moment. I do not wish to be unkind, and I am sure in this country we do not wish to treat the Germans in the way that Germans treat the English in their country. Yet here we have a Minister on the Crown who gets up to say, "Here is a nice old German, we will give him work that has nothing to do with war, but merely to catalogue certain books." It is work which ought to be deferred in the interests of economy, whether it is done by a German or anyone else. In this instance it is a perfect waste of money We are always being told it is wrong to dress ourselves extravagantly, or to do this, that or the other, but here you are-wasting money in preparing a book, and what is more you are paying a German to do it.
I confess that I have taken a line somewhat different from this when people have said to me, "You do not attack the Government upon the question of their consideration for the Germans."—I have always rather taken the line that perhaps the Government were a little hardly used, and that statements were a little exaggerated, as to my mind they were occasionally; but when I hear a statement like this of a German actually being employed in the India Office, and that he is being defended—never mind where he is employed, whether at the library or at his own house—then I say that no German should be employed in any way. This German is not going to be paid until after the work is completed, but I for one say that he ought not to be paid at all, that the work ought not to be given to him, and he ought to be told not to come any more. I am sure the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) does not defend this, and I really hope that this will be a warning to the Government, and that the next time the right hon. Gentleman is asked this question, as I hope he will be asked, whether this gentleman is still employed by the Government, the answer will be "No." If that should not be the answer, then I trust hon. Members behind me and opposite will again get up and say that this man ought no longer to be employed.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I do not defend the employment of a German, and I would rather a German was not employed upon this cataloguing of Persian manuscripts. Notwithstanding, I think the House should realise that this work is not being done in the India Office at all. The records of the India Office are not kept in the Library at the India Office.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
This work is not done in the Library at all. The manuscripts which are catalogued are sent to him. He does not go into the India Office or the Library.
§ Sir J. D. REES
That is a further step in defence of the case, and, while I say that it would have been better if a German had not been employed, the fact is that though he is employed in this way, his work is not, as has been represented, done in the India Office, and he has no access whatever to the India Office records.
§ Mr. BOOTH
As I understand the defence of this case, it is that he is harmless and incapable of anything, and, secondly, that he is doing work that a Britisher could not do. You will not wait until the War is over. You are paying this man, and saying that he is the only man who can do the work. People naturally ask, "Why does the Government employ him?" I warned the late Liberal Government when the question of contracts was under discussion that if they did not take determined action with regard to those contracts, and the loose way in which the business of the country was being conducted, there would be a downfall, and we should have a coalition or a united Government. Several months after I told them that a change came about. Similarly, in regard to this matter, I warn the Government that, unless action is taken, there will be another appeal to them on this question, about which there is a great deal of feeling. Some of us who travel the country know how deep that feeling is. We hear this matter spoken of in railway trains; we hear it spoken of among commercial men, and among working men by the hundreds and thousands. The majority of the people are convinced that there are a number of pro-Germans in the Government. Every day of my life I hear this talked about, and some think that there are sitting on that Bench those who are really traitors to their country. And this is not a view held by ignorant people, but even by intelligent people. 1894 They deal with the Home Office, and with officials by name, and ask my personal assurance that they are not in the pay of Germany. In fact, this feeling is growing, and the Government have only themselves to blame for it.
There is no doubt as to this, that they are far too tender with the Germans in every Government Department. What happens? Directly you try to oust a bit of German influence in this country, and come in touch with the Government Department, that Government Department is against you. Whether it is a private firm, whether it is a question of policy, or whether it is a class of people, directly you seek to rid the country of German influence your adversary is the Government Department. Why should that be? I really pity my hon. Friend having to come here to defend such a ridiculous case as this. What is the use of telling me that Persian manuscripts are sent to this man? If anything, it is a great deal more generous to go to his house privately, because the German spy would like German officials working in their private houses instead of having to go to the Government Department. This is a simple case which concerns one individual, but it is one of those things for which the Government have no excuse. I want to appeal to the Government on this subject. This is no time for such questions as these. Every one of us are affected by this War. I have a relative, I believe left for dead, or whom I may never see again. Nearly all of us have members of our families who are fighting for their country. Is it to be thought that the Government should come forward and say that we are employing one of these hateful Germans? This man is unnaturalised, he is of German nationality, and his sympathies must be with his country. On the ground that he is a man of historical learning, he has been kept at this work before the War and since the War, and up to the present time. What does that mean? The thing is abominable. If the man is a sincere lover of Germany one can respect him, misplaced as he is, more than if he is hypocritical enough to deceive people on the Treasury Bench. Surely we would respect him all the more if he said he was a born German, a German citizen, and that nothing would change him and that he wanted his country to win, and not to have the Government pretending that they were pals of his. The hon. Member was once at the 1895 India Office; I do not know whether he accepted this man. He may have come into touch with him.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I never heard this man's name until this evening, when the Secretary of State for India asked me to convey this information to the House
§ Mr. BOOTH
The whole thing has been so secret that it has actually been kept a secret from the hon. Member. If that is the way Government Departments are conducted, and if those we rely on do not know the Germans who are going in and out, what are we coming to? Possibly the present Under-Secretary for India does not know anything either of this man or his work. I do appeal to the Government to end all this kind of contemptible arid farcical treatment of the alien question. What is there disgraceful in the Government after two years of war, and after all these terrible events on the part of the Germans, in saying that at any rate from this time forward there will be no German employed in any Government Department? Why can they not say it? Take ordinary Members of Parliament, what chance should we have of a re-election if we had to go back and say that two years after the War began we had got Germans, even of seventy-five, coming in and out and looking after our manuscripts and calling in our Library? I venture to say Ave must apply the same rule to the Government that would be applied to us. What is the meaning of it all? I notice in a newspaper to-day, which is supposed to be a faithful, loyal organ of the Government, writing in reference to this question of the treatment of enemy aliens, says surely no Member of the House thinks there is some subtle influence acting on behalf of the Germans !
§ Mr. BOOTH
Let the hon. Gentleman devote some of his great enthusiasm which he applies to the drink question to the question of aliens, and if he does he will find that what I am telling him is 1896 correct, and that there is some secret influence in the Government ranks somewhere which paralyses the Government in dealing with this question. Whether you are abolishing enemy firms, or dealing with internment, or with the employment of Germans, or people under German influence, the Government is not satisfactory and has not got a clean record. I was very glad to hear what the hon. Baronet opposite said. It we want a small measure of reform of any kind it takes two years to move the Government, and then they come down and say, "The thing is really essential; we cannot win the War without it, and we want it passed in a few hours." That is the record of the Government; but I say that they must hurry up in these matters, and particularly in this matter of dealing with the Germans. The public is disgusted on the-question, and the commercial community in the City of London shows much resentment. It will not do to say that a man is aged seventy-five, or that he is very busy upon manuscripts. The demand is made upon them, "Have you cleared out of every Government Department every alien who is belonging to those who are murdering our own kith and kin in this terrible War? Have you got rid of them? If not, we will get rid of you."