HC Deb 11 March 1918 vol 104 cc29-30

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if his attention has been called to a speech delivered at Newport last week by Commander Sir Edward Nicholl, Royal Naval Reserve, President of the Seamen's League, in which he stated that he was prepared to say that the German submarine which sank the "Glenart Castle" knew she had left Newport, and that there were spies in every port in the Bristol Channel; whether, in view of the fact that this officer declared that he spoke as examination officer for the Bristol Channel, through whose hands many thousands of vessels had passed, his demand that aliens should not be allowed to enter the docks would be complied with; and what steps he proposes to take to remove the danger referred to?

50. Major HUNT

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the loss of the "Calgarian" and of the warning publicly given by Commander Sir Edward Nicholl, he will take immediate steps, in order to save more lives being lost, to proclaim all ports in the Bristol Channel and Irish Channel as areas to be administered under martial law?


My attention has been called to the utterances referred to. Sir Edward Nicholl is being asked for an explanation of his statements. If the statement be true that there are spies in every port of the Bristol Channel, it was certainly Sir Edward Nicholl's duty to report the fact to his superior officer with all the information in his possession. The circumstances of the docks at Cardiff are well known, and are constantly engaging attention on the part of the local naval and military authorities and the Home Office, and are at the present time receiving consideration. My hon. Friends may rest assured that every practicable procedure is being adopted for reducing the danger from the presence of aliens in the port.

Major HUNT

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the attitude of the Government in allowing these aliens to infest our ports is greatly resented by officers and men of our Navy and our Mercantile Marine? Is he aware that they are very much upset at seeing so many aliens at large all over the country? Is he also aware that naval officers say that if they were allowed a free hand they could catch most of these spies?


As to aliens being all over the country obviously that is not a matter of which the Admiralty have charge. As regards the crews of ships arriving from neutral ports none of these men are allowed to land except the captain and steward. As I have already said the matter is receiving the closest consideration?


Having regard to the fact that there are aliens all over the Country, will the Lords of the Admiralty make representations to the Government?

Major HUNT

Is it not quite true that there are lots of aliens in the docks, and cannot the Government do something to get rid of them? Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that these aliens go by the name of Government chinks, because they are afforded Government protection?


As my hon. and gallant Friend will see, if he reads my answer, the matter is receiving the closest attention, and I may say with regard to this very port that I took occasion myself when I was in that part of the country last year to appoint a man fully seized of the facts to do what he could.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether at the end of three and a half years his Department could not go further than giving the matter serious consideration?


It was not in our hands until recently. It was in War Office hands.