§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
This is a Bill dealing with a problem of great importance and very considerable difficulty, and it is one which, I think, the House will be of the opinion requires very careful handling. It is a problem which has been before us for many years, and which has become more acute during the period of the War. We have, in approaching this question, to deal with two different sets of aliens. There is, in the first place, the alien already in our midst, and, in the second place, there is the alien who wishes to come into our midst. The two problems are not quite the same. Equally we have to deal with enemy aliens, those who are to-day or have been in the last four or five years, the subjects of enemy States. We have also to deal with aliens who are 2746 the subjects of neutral States or of friendly Allied States. Therefore, it is apparent it is not a matter which can be dealt with by one or two hard and fast, cut and tried rules and regulations. There are so many variations, so many; changing circumstances that it is impossible to deal with a subject of this description by any hard and fast, cut and dried rule. We have to approach this subject as far as it is possible to do so with some sort of general policy in our minds. For my part it seems to me the most important things to consider are first our own safe guards and our own safety, and secondly, in securing that, we as far as possible avoid inflicting unnecessary hardship unjustly. Of course, our own safety and the safeguards for our people and for our nation must be the first consideration, and where it is a choice between our own safety and the safety of our people and the infliction of hardship upon an alien then that hardship becomes necessary and ceases to be unjust. We must approach this from the point of view of the Government responsibility that no-hardship which may be inflicted on any alien shall be unnecessary and, therefore, unjust. Consequently, we must recollect that during the period of War we have-made vast changes in the whole system under which we have dealt with the alien subject and we cannot possibly stereotype for all time, as part of our ordinary-peace system, some of the regulations and some of the practices which were essentially necessary in time of War.
We cannot accept the position that-everything that is necessary in War will be equally necessary when we come to a time of peace. That is a consideration we must bear in mind when we are approaching this subject. Another consideration which we must bear in mind is this: You cannot merely pass a single section Act of Parliament to say that no-alien of any sort or description shall be brought within our gates. That is impossible: you cannot do it, and the moment you admit you cannot have a hard and fast rule excluding every alien of every description then you at once let in the principle of discrimination —the principle of the exercise of discretion—and you also at once open the gates to those many complications and many varying circumstances which make the whole question one of such difficulty. May I just remind the House what are the-number of aliens who are already in this 2747 country with which we have to deal. At the time of the Armistice we had in this country in internment some 24,200 Germans, Austrians and Turks, and we had at liberty nearly 21,000 Germans, Austrians, Turks and Bulgarians—men And women—excluding all British-born wives of enemy alien subjects. We have these numbers either in internment or free in this country. Since the Armistice of those who were interned we have repatriated some 19,000, leaving interned here 5,160 on the 12th April of this year, and, of course, that number is, as ships are becoming available, rapidly decreasing. The number of aliens of all kinds who are at present in this country, including pure Belgian refugees who are in a different category and are as rapidly as possible being returned to their own country, is just about 20,000.
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
Do I understand there were 21,000 aliens in this country at the date of the Armistice—21,000 enemy aliens who were not in internment?
§ Mr. SHORTT
These are the figures which have been supplied to me. They are all-round figures of aliens in this country at that time. We have, therefore, to deal now with 26,000 enemy aliens who are being repatriated—those who are willing to go—as fast as ships can be got, while as to those who are not willing to go they are having their cases considered by the Committee over which Lord Justice Sankey used to preside, and over which Mr. Justice Clavell Salter will in future preside. Any of these enemy aliens who desire not to be repatriated can have their cases heard by that Committee. These, however, are the numbers with which we have to deal. Undoubtedly the number is considerable. May I now remind the House what is the position with regard to the law as it stands to-day and as it was when the War broke out? In August, 1914, when the alien question became not only acute, but one of national urgency, the posit'on was that aliens were dealt with under the Act of 1905. There were no means of deporting an alien at that time, unless he had been convicted in some Court, and the Court had reported "to the proper Department that the alien ought to be sent out of the country. That 2748 was the only power we possessed at that time to get rid of aliens already in this country.
§ Mr. SHORTT
Then they had to go before a Court, and an order had to be obtained there. With regard to those who wished to come in there was no such thing as legislation excluding aliens as we understood the term. There was legislation excluding what were known as immigrants, and an "immigrant" was simply defined as "a steerage passenger." Equally it was only the immigrant who came in an immigrant ship that could be dealt with, and who came in the kind of ship in which there were more than twenty immigrant passengers—that is, alien steerage passengers who wished to land. They were only dealt with at the ports. So that if an undesirable person happened to come in any class except steerage, or if he happened to come in a ship in which there were less than twenty immigrants, or if he came to a port which was not an immigrant port and therefore was not searched, he got in without any trouble at all. There were other difficulties in the same way. An undesirable person—it happened many times in the case of women of ill-fame and others who were deported—went abroad and found some accomplice who happened to be a British subject; she married and came back as a British subject, and the Department were helpless. I do not think anyone would suggest that the law at that time was in a satisfactory state.
Immediately on the outbreak of war an Act was passed dealing with the matter very stringently. No doubt hon. and right hon. Members will have read the Memorandum in front of this Bill, which sets out perfectly clearly what were the powers taken under the Act of 1914. The powers taken were stringent and they were wide. The procedure adopted was this: That powers were taken to issue Orders in Council, by which the various powers possessed should be put in force. That was the procedure adopted and that was done. I think it was about the 6th or 7th August, 1914, when the first Order in Council was published. At that time we had not had experience of war so near our own shores, we had not had experience of the imminent danger of alien invasion, and we had not had experience of the danger of having enemies in our 2749 midst who might take advantage of their presence here to our military disadvantage. All of that was new to us, and largely, therefore, we had to move in an experimental way. When I tell the House that experience and changing circumstances from time to time rendered it necessary to alter the first Order in Council by twenty-seven subsequent Orders in Council, the House will appreciate how experimental was the whole subject, how changing were the circumstances and how necessary it was, therefore, to maintain the power by which any necessary alteration could be made as rapidly and as thoroughly as possible. That was the position during the whole of the War.
What is the position to-day? We have had our war experience. I do not think that anyone will contend that your experience in time of war, although it is helpful, is a complete guide as to what should be your course of conduct in time of peace. A man in time of war can take no risks. We cannot for our country take any risks. It was impossible to give to any enemy alien the benefit of the doubt. We had either to be certain about them or to run no risks by interning them. I do not think anyone would suggest that we ought to adopt such a high standard as that in time of peace. Equally with regard to those who were coming in, dealing with people who wished to come here possibly for perfectly legitimate purposes, in time of war we had necessarily to be stricter than would be necessary in time of peace. The experience of war we have had. We have not had really any experience of properly dealing with aliens in time of peace. I do not think I am overstating it when I say that the experience between 1905 and 1914, when War broke out, could not be called experience at all. We were working with absolutely inadequate machinery and with inadequate tools, and while the public servants, the immigration officers and others, did their best, they could not do what was impossible. Therefore, having regard to all the circumstances, I do not think we can describe that as peace-time experience in any true sense of the expression. We have had experience of war and now we are approaching, I hope, a period of peace, and it is now for us to decide what it is we ought to do. We can proceed in two ways. You can either plunge, you can theorise, you can calculate the difference between war and peace, and you can 2750 put into an Act of Parliament all that you would otherwise put into an Order in Council. It then becomes stereotyped and can only be altered by another Act of Parliament. That is one course that can be pursued. On the other hand, you can do that which, after full consideration, we have considered to be much the wiser and more profitable course—you can continue the power for a period, and only for a period, of making Orders in Council. You will thereby get your experience. You will be able to take every necessary step.
It may be that some hon. Members think that experience is not necessary when you are only dealing with an alien. We think it is only right and fair that we should have experience. It is not only that we have found in the past that an Order was too weak, and wanted strengthening; we have found that they have been too weak, and we have found that they have been too strong. We found that in war-time, and we shall find it in peace-time. In our view, by far the preferable course is to continue by Order in Council for the next two years. That will give time to consider the experiment; it will give time to stiffen and strengthen where stiffening and strengthening are required, and it will give power to give relief where the hardship is unnecessary and unjust. Those are two very material and essential powers to possess, and unless we proceed by Order in Council we really do not possess them. That is, broadly speaking, the principle upon which we have gone in drafting this Bill. We appreciate how important it is that our system which I think we can say with every possible pride has done its work well during the War—should be continued equally efficiently during the period of peace. If hon. Members will turn to the Bill they will see what the proposals are. It is a very short Bill. It first of all provides that the powers which existed in time of war, or in time of national emergency, but not otherwise, should equally exist in time of peace for two years after the passing of the Bill. That does not in any way affect the power already possessed by the country to make any necessary regulations in time of war or national emergency, but it does extend those powers to a period of peace. The Bill further provides that as there is a difference between the urgent necessities of the War and of peace that an Order in 2751 Council made in peace-time should lie upon the Table of the House for thirty days. That is the ordinary procedure.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SHORTT
It may be; I was, perhaps, thinking of Orders in Council in another case. If there is any difficulty we shall consider that, of course, in Committee. That enables us to retain every power we possess at the present and to increase any power which requires increasing or deal with it in any other way that may be necessary. We are considering, and have been very carefully considering, and the officials in my Department are now working upon, a draft Order in Council. There are certain matters which will require a change. For example, the ordinary military area of war-time will be a different thing from the detective area that we shall require in time of peace. Many changes of that kind are being considered. We think this is the wise thing to do, and for several reasons of that character we are satisfied that we must have the power to change by an Order in Council when change becomes necessary.
In addition to that, in Clause 2 of the Bill there are one or two small matters which will become permanent. These are permanent Amendments to the Act of 1914. Frequently it has been very difficult to ascertain what really was the nationality of an alien, and therefore we have taken power to set up machinery by which a decision can be given as to what the nationality is. The second part of that Act deals with what I mentioned before—the case of an alien who is deported from this country who then marries a British subject and insists on coming back again. Sub-section (m) of Clause 2 enables us to keep men who are at present interned for a further period of six months, if necessary. There may be difficulty, as, for instance, lack of shipping, which may make it impossible to get them all back to their own home.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the difference between the Bill and the Memorandum? In the Memorandum the term "prisoners of war" is used, and in the Bill "enemy aliens" The Memorandum and the Bill do not agree.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I had not noticed that, but it deals with all persons who are in- 2752 terned. The term "enemy aliens" would include both. The next Sub-section of Clause 2 is merely put in for the purpose of what the Foreign Office call "economic hostility"—if there was any attempt to treat our British subjects improperly in any country, so that there should be some weapon of reprisals. They are not likely to be used, but the Foreign Office wish to have them in case of necessity.
We come to Clause 3, which also is a permanent provision. It deals with enemy aliens or aliens of any kind who come to this country for the deliberate purpose of stirring up disaffection or unrest. We have really at present no power for dealing with men of that description. If they come into this country and, for example, supposing the Defence of the Realm Regulation Act had been repealed, there would have been no means of dealing with the alien who came here for the simple purpose of trying to stir up trouble in order that something to his advantage or his country's advantage might happen abroad-This Bill proposes to deal with men of that description, and it makes the alien who is guilty of stirring up disaffection liable to penal servitude. This, of course, applies-already in this country. Disaffection is a crime under the Defence of the Realm Regulations: it is continued as a crime, so-far as an alien is concerned, when these-Regulations cease to exist, and the punishment inflicted on an alien can be very much more severe than the punishment that can be inflicted on a British subject. It is hoped in that, way that strangers who come for a wicked, and mischievous purpose can be dealt with thoroughly and punished as they deserve. The next Sub-clause provides that if an enemy alien in any industry in which he is not bonâ fide engaged seeks to stir up unrest he is guilty of a crime. The punishment is a very small one. In the first place three months. No doubt it would carry an order for deportation, so that at the end of the punishment he could be got out of the country. The Bill is so-worded, and I hope it will succeed in its purpose, that no alien who happens to be living in this country and is a member of a trade union bonâ fide engaged in any industry shall suffer in any way by taking, part in a strike. This provision only applies to an alien who is not bonâ fide engaged in an industry and who has come here with a definite purpose, whether a trade or political purpose, to stir up 2753 unrest in that industry, not really for the good of the industry but for some ulterior purpose.
These are the main provisions of this Act. I appreciate from the Notice Paper that there will be opposition to the method of procedure by Orders in Council. I shall listen with the greatest attention to everything that is said on the subject. While I do not like to say I am not open to conviction—I hope I shall never say that—at the same time we have gone into the matter very carefully, and I think most of the arguments for and against have been put before us, and unless I hear new arguments to-day I shall certainly ask the House to adopt the proposal of Orders in Council. Equally I gather from the Order Paper and from what is heard in the Lobbies that there is a feeling that we ought at once to detail what the Regulations are to be and give them the force of statutory law. There again we have considered the matter from all points of view. I think the two questions are for all substantial purposes the same if the House is persuaded that procedure by Order in Council is the proper procedure, because of the change in circumstances and because of the difference in experience—if they are satisfied with that, they will be equally satisfied that we ought not now at once to stereotype or give statutory force to the procedure by Order in Council. In 1917 we had to bring in a special Order in Council to save a number of perfectly loyal British-born women who were unfortunately married the enemy alien husbands from suffering most unjust and unnecessary hardship. That is an example in one direction. There are numberless in the other where we found what we thought were ample safeguards proved insufficient, and at once an Order in Council was brought in in order to defeat the attempt to defeat the Regulations. That had to be done in numberless occasions; I could quote twenty-seven new additional Orders in Council, and I could tell the House of many cases where it was necessary to stiffen the Regulations, and instance one where it was necessary to relax them as the War proceeded and the enemy alien friend became the friendly for neutral alien of to-morrow. We had, as the Turkish Army fell, to make alterations. There was the case of the Czecho-Slovaks and of the other people friendly disposed towards us who had been subjects of 2754 enemy State and who ceased to be so through the changes and vicissitudes of the War.
When you come to peace time, special measures will be necessary. There will be constant changes. At any moment there may be a treaty made here or a peace arrangement there which would render an alteration necessary. During the whole of that time there will be constant changes, and these changes will have to be met. Some of them will make the existing Regulations too large, and some of them would make them too small. Suppose you have a Regulation dealing with a country which has a stable Government ready to enter into all kinds of treaties with this country and the poison enters that country and it becomes Bolshevist; you would then have to make your regulations apply to the changed circumstances. All these things you can do if you have the elastic machinery of Orders in Council. But they would become practically impossible if you had a settled statutory Act of Parliament which could only be altered by an Act of Parliament.
No one would suggest that at this time of day the House should consider for a moment the lightning emergency legislation to which we grew accustomed when we were in the height of the War crisis. Therefore I ask the House to say that the course we have proposed is really by far the preferable. No doubt it has its disadvantages, but in this human cosmos of ours, what is there that has not its disadvantages? Most of our life is spent in choosing the lesser of two evils, and in the view of the Government, procedure by Order in Council is, we think, the best. At the same time, if any hon. Member can suggest to us any particular direction in which our experience is sufficient to justify a provision being made permanent as we propose to make permanent the provisions dealing with enemy aliens, who come to stir up unrest, it will be considered with the greatest care, and, if found feasible, will be adopted. We have not absolutely excluded from this Bill all measures of a permanent character. We have only retained an existing power to proceed by Order in Council. If amendments can be brought forward to show a direction in which the permanent provisions of the Act can be increased and extended, they will be carefully and sympathetically considered. Equally, any provision which would strengthen the measure, or in the 2755 opinion of the House would give more complete control by the-House of Commons over aliens in future, would be considered. It is a difficult and complicated subject. We have done our best to meet it, and we think, according to the best of our advice and consideration, that we are meeting it in the wisest way. We think we are meeting it in the way which is most likely to be really thorough and efficient, and to protect us, and while seeing that no injustice is done to ourselves and securing to ourselves the fullest measure of security and justice, we, at any rate, will see that no unnecessary injustice is inflicted upon other people.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
I tender my sympathy to the House for having to listen to me once again. I am sure the Easter vacation will be a welcome relief to hon. Members. But on this matter, at any rate, I have some practical experience because I was one of the original members of the Committee which was set up in March, 1915, and which sat right up to the Armistice. One had many other occupations, but it is no exaggeration to say I attended the majority of its meetings and personally dealt with thousands of cases. I should like to say a few words on the general aspect of the question as it relates to enemy aliens in this country, which is, of course, exciting by far the greater portion of the interest of this House and the country. What rather alarmed some hon. Members was the figure which my right hon. Friend gave of 21,000 enemy aliens at large in this country. It is quite germane to ascertain how that figure is made up. They may be classed under six or seven heads. The first will be what we call the technical enemy alien—those aliens who are technically enemies by reason of the geographical fact of their having been born in a particular part of Europe, but as far as their sympathy with the enemy was concerned, they were as anti-German and anti-Austrian as any Britisher could be. Every one of those aliens, and they amounted to thousands, was personally vouched for by a committee which was carefully chosen, and which reported to us, and when the occasion arose we had personal investigation of any suspicious cases, and every one of those cases was also vouched for by the police and the military. The House may at once relieve its mind of any anxiety with regard to that description of alien. Then 2756 there was a very large number of enemy aliens, Germans and Austrians, and a few Bulgarians and Turks, who were over seventy years of age or were suffering from some really serious illness or infirmity. Numbers of them were in hospital and many were quite incurable cases. Then there was another class as to which one uses the general term of ministers of religion, including members of religious orders. That was not a very large class, but we had to leave them alone, under very careful supervision, because otherwise we should have got into extreme difficulties with regard to our ministers of religion in enemy countries. Then you come to the class of enemy aliens who came here under ten years of age. It was impossible to assume that a boy or girl coming here under ten years of age could really have assimilated the virus of the German or the Austrian, at any rate, on an intelligent consideration of the facts that led up to the War. Then there was another class of enemy aliens who had sons serving in the Army. That represented a very large class, and there was a large number of Germans and Austrians who had two or three sons serving—mostly volunteers. Very few of them came under the Military Service Act. There is another class, consisting of those who have lived here for thirty-five years and married British wives, or those who have lived here for forty years and upwards and married aliens of enemy origin or not. Every single case was most carefully investigated, not only by the police but by the Army, and specifically and definitely vouched for. That, perhaps, will dissipate some of the alarm which might be present in the mind of hon. Members with regard to that seemingly large number of enemy aliens now at large in this country.
I joined that Committee with the idea that a very large proportion of the enemy aliens in this country were not unmindful of the hospitality and justice which had been shown to them during their residence here. I came with that very clean-cut idea in my mind. I frankly admit that the experience of the Committee led me very largely to modify that, and there is not the remotest doubt that in this country there were, in the first year of the War at any rate, a large number of Germans and Austrians who were hostile in a very marked sense to this country. I became gradually stiffened up, so to speak, with regard to the administration of our proce- 2757 dure. Our experience on the Committee made us really work quite together. We had Lord Lambourne, better known as Sir Mark Lockwood. We had two judges, Justices Sankey and Younger, and we had the advantage of other Members of the House. The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Butcher) joined us at a later stage. Everyone there was desirous of being fair, but in case of doubt we gave the benefit of the doubt to the country. Those were pretty generally the lines upon which we worked. That was the way it operated on my mind. I tame quite clearly to the conclusion that, although there may be exceptions, in a wide general sense the enemy aliens now at large in this country are not a danger. The evidence to my mind was quite overwhelming on that point. The work of our "Secret Service, both of the Army and Navy, was certainly one of the most wonderful things which any country has ever known. It was done in that sort of casual, efficient British fashion which so often goes straight to the root of the matter. We have in this House now two hon. and gallant Gentlemen who have had exceptional experience in that way, and one of them on several occasions came and gave evidence before our Committee. I desire to render a most heartfelt tribute of gratitude and admiration to those branches of both the Army and Navy for the perfectly splendid work they did in conjunction with our police in the protection of the country. That is shown by the fact that there was not a single outrage, with all these aliens in the country, and many of them dangerous ones. No bridge was blown up, and no railway was attacked. We often heard very great alarm expressed about the numbers of aliens in the East End of London. The real danger did not come from those people at all. I do not say that many of them were not quite willing in that respect, but the real danger came from people much more highly placed than waiters and barbers and people of that class. The way in which the matter was handled reflects the greatest possible credit upon the officials concerned.
What does Parliament really propose to do? Are we going to send these aliens back to Germany or Austria? Just think what it means. Their roots are deep in this country, and their children are here going to our primary schools. A very large number of them have married British-born wives, and there was 2758 evidence before us that the domestic relations between the technical enemy alien and his British-born wives and children were of quite a happy description, and those wives and children will follow the fathers if you repatriate them. We want to keep all these young British citizens here.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Is it suggested that it is at all in our interest to export this kind of national asset? We want to keep them here. These people are safe and they ought to be kept here. [HON. MEMBEES: "No!"] Is this what it all comes to? Is it seriously suggested that for the sake of what I hope is a passing passion these people are to be shipped away like rats or vermin when they are British citizens and British assets? Their children are anyhow. Surely we are going to approach this thing with some balance of mind now anyhow, whatever we did during the War. I hope that the better judgment of this House will be asserted, or else I think the glory of it will be largely departed from, and I trust that we may have a balanced judgment on this matter. As for the people outside and those who are to be repatriated, the proper thing to do in that case is to give them a fair chance of being heard. Let me just give an instance which Lord Lambourne gave in the House of Lords the other day, and which was repeated almost identically in another case in my correspondence this morning. He gave an instance of a German who had been in this country for thirty-eight years, and was married to an English wife. He had four sons, all of whom volunteered in 1914. One of them became a sergeant and two of them corporals, and one remained a private. The sergeant and the corporals were wounded, the sergeant being wounded three times. On the last occasion on which the sergeant was wounded he was brought home, and his German father was summoned to the hospital, as the son was supposed to be dying. He went there and saw his son, and on his way back he was arrested and sent to the Isle of Man internment camp. A little while ago there was suddenly an order for his deportation and to be sent back to Germany, but fortunately the advisory committee was available, and they sat and heard the case. They had previously exempted him on the facts. 2759 Having heard the case the advisory committee made an order, which I am sure would meet with the approval of even my hon. Friends who sit below the Gangway. That kind of case—I do not mean so complete a case as that—would, I am certain, meet with the fair judgment of any Committee set up of which Mr. Justice Younger was chairman. That is the kind of case that ought to come before a Committee and have a fair judgment passed upon it.
I wish to say a word in conclusion upon the question of the general aliens as distinguished from enemy aliens. I hope that the Committee will examine with very great care Clause 3 as explained to us by the Home Secretary. Certainly one of the greatest claims for moral leadership which this country has made and sustained is the fact that, as far as we are concerned, we have never refused asylum to all those poor and distressed subjects of oppressed races who have sought asylum here. I dare say that in the past Regulations were made of which, so far as I am concerned, I have approved, and I think they go far to meet the case, but I do hope that this House will not, owing to panic and popular prejudice which is being exercised to-day from honest, but I am sure mistaken, motives, allow this great tradition to be lowered and degraded. As the Home Secretary put it, let us have two years at any rate of these restrictions sympathetically, humanely, justly administered. I quite agree. You cannot suddenly revert to the pre-war conditions. I quite agree with that. It must be done gradually, but the idea that we should give up those great and noble traditions of the past, which have, I venture to think, raised us in the estimation of mankind, and have contributed to a great deal of our material prosperity. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] There are a great many industries in this country which have been founded by political refugees. Art, science, literature, have all been enriched by men and women who have sought sanctuary in these islands. Are we, as one of the results of the War to wreck that noble tradition? I hope not. I do beg of the House to have a steady and long look at this matter before it allows itself to be swept away from its ancient traditions by any gust of popular passion.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
Before I put down this Amendment I waited and waited anxiously in the hope that the Labour leaders in the House would see the sinister danger to the whole cause of the workers in this country which lies concealed in this measure. As they did not do so, I waited in the hope, and I can well understand now why I was disappointed, that the Leader of the other half of the Opposition might have stepped, into the breach and put down an Amendment. I confess if I were in any doubt when the right hon. Gentleman opposite finished his speech as to the justification for that step it has been entirely removed by the speech to which we have just' listened. So far as the Labour Members interest in this matter is concerned I have no atom of doubt that if this particular measure is passed, and if the principle it embodies is endorsed by this House, they will find indeed a very strong element of opposition to all their pleas for a better standard of living and for higher wages, more so than they have ever had in the past. There are three grounds which seem to me to entitle a Member to move the rejection of the Bill-Either the Member disapproves of the principle or, approving of it, he thinks the introduction of the Bill untimely and inopportune, or, approving of the principle, he thinks it is so clumsily constructed or so bureaucratic in its character and so utterly inadequate for the purpose at which it is supposed to aim, that no-Amendment introduced can possibly make it a workable and satisfactory measure. It is on that ground I am moving the rejection of this Bill. I was staggered by one of the arguments put forward by the Home Secretary. He said, quite correctly, that precedents taken from a time of war might not be a safe guide for policy in time of peace. Then he seriously said, "We have had no peace experience of the working of alien legislation." Why, Sir, it was in August, 1905, that the main Act dealing with this matter was passed, and for nine years before the War that Act, with all its complicated machinery, was in full operation. I will show the House, with its permission, how it operated, and I will also show how the Orders in Council operated. Then we were told by the right, hon. Gentleman the Leader of half the Opposition, that, so far as a large number 2761 of enemy aliens who were in this country at the outbreak of war were concerned that they had been personally vouched for "by various committees. But Laszlo was personally vouched for by men of high position, and Caroline Hanneman, who lived for six months at 10, Downing Street—
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
Laszlo was personally vouched for when he was naturalised by eminent people, and Caroline Hanneman, who lived at 10, Downing Street for a long time and who was naturalised after the War began and recently denaturalised, was also personally vouched for. Therefore I dismiss the theory that personal vouching by people whose names are never published and who are not called upon to give the reasons for their guarantees, counts for much with practical men. There is one observation of the Home Secretary with which I entirely agree and one with which I wholly disagree and they are both contained in the same sentence. He said this is an important subject, and no one can doubt that, and he added that it is a subject which requires delicate handling. The handling by this Bill is so delicate that no enemy alien will ever feel it. I say that this is one of the problems which requires rough and ready handling with no oversensitive regard for the feelings of those with whom we have to deal. I gather that this is part of the great problem of reconstruction in which we are now engaged, whilst others elsewhere are discussing the terms of peace. We have had land and housing and health and now we have the Aliens Bill. I venture to say that we are getting almost to a stage of reconstruction running amok, while Ministers seem to be engaged in a somewhat indecent competition with each other in order to go down to posterity as great social reformers in connection with this War. This Bill is to my mind an instance of the scamping of the whole of this job, and having said that I would point out that it aims entirely at perpetuating a purely war emergency measure by continuing the absolutely objectionable system of Orders in Council when they are not necessary. After all, everything the right hon. Gentleman said could be secured by a standing aliens' authority, which could review the question whenever it was necessary. As it is, Orders in Council depend on the whim of whoever may happen to be Home Secre- 2762 tary for the moment. One Home Secretary takes a different view from another. The other day I asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would give the names of the sponsors of a certain woman who was denaturalised. He said it was not the custom of his Department to do so, but in the case of Laszlo his predecessor gave the names. Thus you have lack of continuity of policy, and I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman instances in the working of these Orders in Council.
I could not help feeling as I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that we were going back to the old days when this vital question was made more or less an obsolete party shibboleth. I took the trouble of looking up this morning the Debates on the 1905 Act, and I was rather struck to find that when the Unionist Government of that day introduced that measure this is the kind of thing which very eminent occupants of these benches opposite said in opposition to it. The present Secretary for War (Mr. Churchill), for whom there is no greater admirer than myself, said:He admitted that this might be an acute question m certain places which had been mentioned, but it was in no sense a national, racial, or economic question. Except for these particular places, it was a mere party question which had been raised into a position of fictitious importance because it was believed to have in it the makings of a party cry in an election which was looked forward to with much apprehension.Like the right hon. Gentleman here to-day, he could not resist, in passing, expressing his contempt at thespectacle of a great party trying to exploit the weakness and miseries of some of the poorest and weakest of mankind.That it the sort of sentiment which underlies the utterance of the Opposition. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman, with all his experience, has not learned from the experience of the War that the existence of an enormous alien colony in this country, ever increasing and mainly in percentage German or Austrian, was one of the contributory causes of the War. We do not want in these days, when clearing up a great world tragedy which has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy and ruin, to indulge in copy-book maxims about the rights of refugees. We have been the dumping ground for the refugees of the world for too long.
Coming to the actual operation of the existing law, let us see what it is the right hon. Gentleman is endeavouring to deal with. The alien law, for all practical pur- 2763 poses, began in 1905. The very wording of the Act shows how far we were from the real issue, because it was to deal with "undesirable aliens." It is my theory that, except in very few cases and with very strong proof to the contrary, every alien at this moment is prima facie an undesirable alien. The Act of 1905 is going to be repealed by this Bill. Unlike this Bill, it was mandatory. There is nothing in this Bill compelling anybody to do anything. It is purely permissive. Aliens may come in by the million, and there is no obligation on the Home Secretary or any State Department to take any step whatever. Under the existing Act an alien could not come into the country unless he could show that he had a certain amount of money. We all know that that provision was evaded, because quite a big trade was started on the Continent, lending £5 notes to aliens at 5s. each, which were duly returned, but which succeeded in getting them into the country. Then an alien could not come in if he were a lunatic, but there are not many lunatics among the aliens who come here. Then he could not come if he were suffering from disease. That provision has gone under this Bill. He could not come if he were an ex-criminal. All these provisions are swept away by this Bill. The Home Secretary need not put them into operation unless he chooses. Of course, they could come in if they were fleeing from religious or political persecution, but that was very much abused.
Then there was a provision as to the grounds on which they could be expelled. An alien could be expelled if convicted of certain offences or, subject to a very simple procedure, if he became chargeable to the rates. Let us see how that worked. The right hon. Gentleman has said that we have had no experience of peace legislation with regard to aliens. During the War the Act was suspended, but, in the year 1912, 614,149 aliens landed in this country. Probably I shall be told that they did not stay here, and that, perhaps, they only came for a day or two or were simply passing through. But the actual landing of such a large number of aliens in this country, with a mandatory Act like this in operation, contains at least the possibilities of mischief being done by emissaries of countries like Germany and Austria; which sent the great proportion of these aliens. The figures were always, going up from 1905 to 1914. In 1913 they 2764 were 691,000. If with such an Act as that in operation you could have such an immigration of aliens, what is going to happen when you have no mandatory powers at all? When the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps in the mutations of time, finds himself Home Secretary on the bench opposite, I do not think that he will be very stringent in his administration of the Act. He would say that prima facie an alien is as good as anyone else.
Now, with regard to expulsions. In. 1912 the total number of expulsions was. 300 odd. In 1913 they were just about 300, and when the War broke out we discovered about sixty who had been expelled who were still walking freely about this country. We had power to send them back if they were convicted of offences, but in 1913 there were 2,202 aliens in prison in the United Kingdom being supported by the British taxpayer, and every one of them was liable to deportation. Aliens were also liable to be sent back if they were upon the rates, and in 1913 there were 8,117 aliens on the rates, being kept by the Poor Law system of this country, and there was an enormous number of children as well. Then came the War and, in the emergency of the moment, a Bill was rushed through, I believe in about twenty minutes or a half-hour. Under that Act we have power to make' Orders in Council. No sooner did it corns into operation than the Orders were evaded in every conceivable way. There was one provision that an alien seaman could not be landed unless he was in possession of a passport issued two years previously in his own country, but the Order in Council said that where an alien is under the provisions of this Act prohibited from landing at a port, an aliens officer at that port may nevertheless grant him temporary permission to land. That power was exercised very freely, and an enormous number of these men were allowed to roam about at large. This is an illustration to show how under a system of Orders in Council without any notification to the public at all, the whole of the Act can be abrogated.
Under this Act of 1914 an enormous number of Orders in Council was issued. These were brought together in a volume which came down to 4th March, 1918. Then, before another volume is published, if anyone likes to go to the printers and see the index, and insists on getting hold on the subsequent literature, he will find scores and scores of, I will not call them 2765 handbills, such as I have here. They are handbills with this distinction, that they are not distributed, but they are additional Orders in Council. Under Article 22c, which you will find on page 20 of this volume of Aliens Restriction Orders, nobody at the date of the Armistice could employ an alien without the permission of the Home Office, and he had to make a periodical return of every alien employed by him. We should all agree that this was a necessary enactment. The Armistice was scarcely signed before by another Order in Council, which I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman ever heard of,Article 22 c and the 5th and 6th Schedules to the Aliens Registration Order are hereby revoked.That established this alarming fact, that under this system of Orders in Council, which the right hon. Gentleman praises so much, we have actually, since the Armistice, legalised the employment of aliens to any extent by any firm, without any obligation on their part to give the names or to seek permission.
It is almost incredible that when we are setting about reconstruction, rebuilding our lost industries, and recovering our lost markets, the very first thing an Order in Council did was to say to the alien, "Welcome back little stranger! We have missed you. Come and take the jobs of the workmen of Britain." So one could go on illustrating the working of this system of Orders in Council. Throughout the whole of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he never seemed to me to get hold of the real soul of the problem. I will tell him where he will find it. He will find it in No. 4 of the six points of the Prime Minister for the guidance of Coalition candidates. This is what it says, "Britain for the British, socially and industrially." I should be interested to know from the Prime Minister to-morrow whether he has authorised any departure from that declaration.
We are faced with this new measure which is permissive in its character. What is its provision? That for two years you are going to continue the system of Orders in Council. You repeal the Act of 1905, and any Orders you make, provided a war is not on and there is no immediate danger, are to lay on the Table twenty-one days. Then the House 2766 of Commons may petition for their annulment. I have set some years in this. House, but I have never know a case; where leave has been given to petition, for annulment of Orders on that Table, except by the consent of the Government, who have to give the necessary facilities. I am certain that if I were to ask leave to petition to annul any Order, the Leader of the House would deeply regret that he could not spare the time. If it is done what happens? If this House petitions against an Order His Majesty may annul it. There is not one word "shall" from the beginning to the end of this Bill. There is no security there, even if the House petitions. What is the general constructive answer to this Bill? We all agree, except the Leader of the Opposition (Sir D. Maclean), that it is a vital and pressing national problem. We agree that it is part of the great scheme of reconstruction which was to follow the making of peace. Why could not the Government have brought into the Bill one comprehensive scheme for dealing with the whole alien problem? Why cannot we incorporate our naturalisation laws in the Bill? Why cannot we say that aliens should be restricted from being so easily naturalised? Why cannot we say that aliens shall not be eligible to sit on British juries—one of the most idiotic anomalies of our constitution? Why should aliens be allowed to sit on the magisterial bench, the judicial bench, or the Treasury Bench? Why should they be allowed to change their name? Why should they be allowed to hold land in this country? In other words, why on earth will not the Home Secretary rise to the occasion and grapple with this problem in the same comprehensive manner as some of his colleagues are endeavouring to do with the other question in the Bills to which I have referred?
I am sorry to move the rejection of the Bill, and I do not do it because I want aliens to be unrestricted. I move it because this Bill is unworkable and stupid. When the two years have elapsed in which these Orders in Council may be made—and two years soon pass in a Parliamentary life—the whole of the alien laws may have gone. You will have no 1905 Act, no 1914 Act, and no 1919 Act, so that, unless we keep a very watchful eye on the Treasury Bench, and a very careful diary is kept, we may arrive at a time when there is not even permissive legislation dealing with this problem. I want 2767 the right hon. Gentleman to say to us that there is no great emergency to-day for continuing these Orders in Council. The hon. and learned Gentleman who sits on this bench (Sir J. Butcher) has shown interest in the Bill by putting on the Paper a reasoned Amendment. I cannot speak for him, but I can say for myself, in the way of compromise, that if the Home Secretary says he is too busy with his manifold duties, and he is too busy learning the duties of his new office—I do not say this offensively, because changes are quite wonderful, and it is remarkable how these supermen really grapple with their new duties—and if he says that he is so full up with other things at the moment that he cannot bring in a more comprehensive measure of alien restriction, and he asks us to continue these emergency powers for a few months until a new measure can be introduced, that would be a reasonable suggestion which I should be very happy to commend to the hon. and learned Gentleman sitting beside me. But if the right hon. Gentleman says that he is going on with this Bill for two years and that he is going to continue this system of Orders in Council, and making these orders without anyone being the wiser, then, with great regret but with every desire to see every alien, except in the most special cases, kept out of our country, I do not see any alternative but to press my Amendment to a Division.
§ Sir JOHN BUTCHER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I confess that I should have preferred, if I had been in order, to move the reasoned Amendment which stands in my name. But as that cannot be done and as the object of the hon. Member (Mr. Bottomley) is exactly the same as my own, namely, to get a real live Bill dealing with this matter, and not a shadow and a simulation of a Bill, and inasmuch as our objects are the same in that we desire to bring pressure upon the Government to do their duty, I have pleasure in seconding the Motion. I listened with disappointment to the speech of the Home Secretary. He told us that he could not produce a comprehensive Bill at the present time. He said that we must have more experience and must wait a little longer. That is a reversion to the old and discredited policy of almost criminal dilatoriness which nearly lost us the War, and which I 2768 thought had disappeared from our legislation. This is an urgent matter. It does not brook delay and we call upon the Home Secretary to deal with it promptly. What we are contending for in this matter is a question of principle—a big principle. Our contention is that in this large question of policy it is the duty of the Legislature to legislate and it is the duty of the Minister to obey the directions of the Legislature. It is not the duty or the right of the Minister to legislate.
What does this Bill do? The vice of the Bill is that it throws the whole duty and right of legislation by Order in Council upon the Minister, and Parliament stands by and hands over its duties to the Minister and leaves entirely to the discretion of the Minister whether or not he should carry out these duties. Legislation by Orders in Council in war-time is absolutely essential. In war-time urgent and numerous questions arise which cannot be dealt with by legislation, and it is absolutely essential for the safety of the country to leave a wide discretion to Ministers as to what Regulations they should make and leave them to carry them into execution. But when we come to peace-time—and this Bill deals with peace, because it deals with a period of two years after the passing of the Act—I suggest that it is a vicious and unconstitutional principle that the Legislature is asked to abnegate its duties of legislation and to hand them over to a Minister. That is unconstitutional. Why are we here? I presume we are here, and I think we admit, that we are here to pass legislation. We are the trustees for the nation, and to pass through the House legislation which is necessary for the nation, and if we as trustees chose to delegate our duties to any Minister, however much we may trust him in his private capacity, we are guilty of a serious breach of our duty to the nation, and we ought not to accept the advice of a Minister who encourages us to commit that breach of our trust. This is no stigma upon the Minister of the day. It is not the right hon. Gentleman that I object to. It is the system I object to. The right hon. Gentleman may be here to-day and we may trust him, but has he any guarantee that he will be here to-morrow or in six months or a year, or the day after to-morrow? Have we any absolute guarantee that his successor will have sound opinions on this subject? I 2769 can mention many hon. Members in this House—I do not see many of them here at the moment—whom I should be very sorry to see in the position of Home Secretary and whom I should be exceedingly sorry to see vested with absolute discretion as to whether they should do their duty in protecting us against these alien dangers. Therefore, when we come to deal with this question of aliens, it is not relevant for us to consider the holder of the office at the moment; our business is to see whether we are legislating upon a sound system or not.
Let me suggest what this Bill ought to be, and then point out what it is. I think this Bill ought to include legislative proposals upon such large questions of policy? as repatriation, emigration, registration of aliens, and the holding of land by enemy aliens. I grant—and probably the Home Secretary will agree with me—that in connection with this legislation you could issue Orders in Council on matters of detail, and for the purpose of carrying out the general principles laid down in the House, but on the question of policy we must perform our duty and say what must be done. We have been told that we have 26,000 enemy aliens in this country, and that that does not include the British wives of Germans and others. The right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) gave us a recital of the sort of persons who are included in these 26,000 aliens, but he did not tell us that amongst these 26,000 uninterned enemy aliens are a very considerable number of young Germans of military age, capable young men, who were not interned because it was thought they would be more usefully employed upon national work, such as mending roads and in the national factories.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
That was a purely war measure. The only reason that weighed with the Committee in not interning them was that they were of more use as a purely war measure in doing the work they were doing than in putting them in an internment camp.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
That is so, hut that as not the point. The point is, what are you going to do with these young men now? Are we going to be foolish enough to abnegate the right of saying what is to be done with these young interned Germans and to leave it to someone on the Treasury Bench to say what shall or shall not be done? I think even my right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean), whose merciful heart I 2770 admire and to a small extent sympathise with, would be disposed to send them home to Germany, where they would be less likely to do harm than they would be here. Those are the figures that we are given— 26,000 uninterned enemy aliens.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
That makes 26,000 in all to be dealt with. I suggest that the only way of dealing with these enemy aliens in our midst is for this House to lay down as a general principle that all enemy aliens in this country should be repatriated, subject to exemptions in proper cases to be decided by an Advisory Committee. My right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean) gave some interesting accounts of the Advisory Committee, on which I had the honour of sitting as one of his colleagues. We had a very admirable and experienced chairman in Mr. Justice Sankey, but I do say, from my experience on that Committee, and knowing as I do the great difficulties we had in dealing with many of these cases, and if I may add the certain differences of opinion that did exist from time to time, I think it would be right for this House to lay down some general principles for that Advisory Committee to act upon in regard to exemptions.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I am glad to recognise that he helped me very much, but I thought I saw a tendency in his speech of a certain departure from righteousness and a lapse from grace; but may I be allowed to correct any wrong impression, because I quite agree that in many cases he helped me against certain others in doing what was quite right. My right hon. Friend said he would like to see all German ministers of religion left in this country. He, at any rate, was in favour of their exemption from internment. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are none of them religious."] Well, that is their courtesy title, and knowing what German ministers of religion, so-called, did in their own country during the War, how they advised their own followers during the War, knowing what they did in China and 2771 India to stir up intrigue and to stab us in the back, I should be very sorry to leave any German ministers of religion in this country now or hereafter. [An HON. MEMBER: "They ought to be in Heaven."] That is a pious aspiration which they probably share with my hon. Friend, but whether it will ever be realised it is not for me to say. If my memory serves me right, there was a certain colony of young German priests between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five, or a little more, whom we did order to be interned, and I hope to goodness they are interned. But when my right hon. Friend says they ought to be left here, I think he perhaps forgot that order for their internment. I confess that when I was asked automatically to exempt from internment Germans who had come here perhaps at eighteen years of age, to evade military service and for no other purpose, who had lived here it may be for twenty-five years, many of them wealthy men, and to exempt them because they have lived here for a long time, I confess I had very grave doubts as to whether we ought to do it or not. They had never taken the trouble to be naturalised, they had never identified themselves with the public life of this country, and yet some thought we must not intern these men because they had been successful in getting some foolish British woman to marry them, and because so far they had evaded the investigations of the police to detect them. So much for repatriation, and I say that this is an urgent matter. The time when this becomes urgent is after the Declaration of Peace. We shall have to act then and act at once, and if we show slackness, or cowardice, or indifference in dealing with this matter in the first year after peace has been declared, we shall go back into the old rut, and we shall be harassed, and hampered, and intrigued against and undermined by these Germans as we were in the years before the War, and we may live to regret it.
Then I turn to another matter which, I think, ought to be dealt with by the Bill, and that is the question of immigration of enemy aliens. We are told that to-day there are a million of people in this country out of employment. It has cost us £16,000,000 in order to pay out-of-work donation to these people in the last three or four months. Knowing these facts, are we going to leave it to the sole discretion of the Home Secretary to say whether we 2772 are to have hordes of German aliens dumped into this country, to interfere with our own people, to set up the same system of intrigue in our midst, the same system of interference with British labour, the same system of undermining British business that we had before the War? Personally, I should be glad to see very stringent methods adopted by this House and embodied in the Bill in order to prevent such a disaster as that. This is all the more important because we are asked by this Bill to repeal the sole shred of legislation we have in order to restrain this tide of immigration, and if we are going to repeal the Aliens Act of 1905, for Heaven's sake let us put something better in its place! On not one of those important questions of policy to which I have referred is there any shred of legislation at all in the Bill. Everything is left to the Home Secretary. I call that a complete abnegation of our authority. It is reverting to the "Dora" system, which is not beloved in this country, which is necessary in time of war, but which many hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House desire to see abolished. Yet now, on the first opportunity, when there is no reason for continuing the "Dora" system, but every reason for reversing it, the Home Secretary asks us, and puts it in his Bill, that we shall continue the "Dora" system for two years. The Government have had time enough to deal with this. The Home Secretary made a certain apology for having brought in the Bill in this form, and, as I understood him, his excuse was that this is only a temporary measure calculated to tide us over a difficulty. There is great uncertainty lest we should do right, but there would be no uncertainty at all if the right hon. Gentleman left it to the House. We should know pretty well how to do right! He asked for time for experiment, but at whose expense are we to experiment? Are we going to experiment at the expense of the Germans? No! The Home Secretary says, "Let us experiment at an expense which will be our own." I should have thought the Home Secretary had had ample experience. He has had four and a half years' experience of war, and I should have thought he would have learned something in that time. He said, "War experience is valuable, but it is not complete." He has had five months of peace to help him along, and he has had a good many years before the War, which I think might have given him experience, 2773 although, unfortunately, it did not. But the War has taught us a good deal, and not merely as to the actual conduct of enemy aliens in this country during the War. The War was a revelation of German character and methods which disillusioned many kindly-intentioned people, and which opened our eyes, and ought to have opened the eyes of the Home Secretary and stimulated him into vigorous action.
This Bill has been promised a long time. It has been delayed too long. The Home Office has had it under consideration for many, many months. Mountains have been in labour, and we hoped that we should not have had the traditional mouse. We expected and we hoped that we should have seen the product of this long labour in the form of a real live child worthy of the Home Secretary. [An HON. MEMBER: "Call it Dora!"] We think of the peace, and what do we find? We find that the Home Secretary produces an abortion of a war baby. We want something better than that, and, what is more, I believe the Members of this House insist upon getting something better than that. If there is any matter of legislation which we are not justified in dealing with by Orders in Council, it is this question of aliens. My hon. Friend spoke to-day of the declaration of the Prime Minister. We all know that at this last election almost every hon. Member of this House, I do not say gave pledges, but made voluntary declarations, as to the necessity for drastic legislation on the subject of aliens, and are we to go back to our constituents and say, "We are too indifferent, or too lazy, or too cowardly, or too false, to insist that the Government shall make good the declarations of themselves and of the party that supports them"? What would our constituents say if we went to them, and said, "We think this matter does not require very serious treatment. Let us trust the Home Secretary and give him a blank cheque, and with the blessing of goodness or of good luck all will go right? I say that if this House treated their constituents to such a gross breach of faith, I think we should receive, and we should richly deserve, their condemnation. Let me make a final appeal to the Government. If they can amend this Bill by introducing into it proper provisions which the House can consider, which the House can if necessary amend, then let them give that undertaking, and let them carry out that 2774 undertaking, and the House will help them in carrying through a proper Bill. These Orders in Council are useless. They can only be rejected or accepted; they cannot be amended. If the right hon. Gentleman says that the scope of the Bill is such that he cannot introduce the necessary provision into it, then let him take his courage in both hands, let him withdraw this Bill and let him introduce a real Bill which would be satisfactory to this House, and which would be satisfactory to the vast majority of the electors of the country.
§ Sir ERNEST WILD
I crave the courtesy of the House for a new Member, particularly because I did not come into this House to make speeches, but in order to try to do my best to support the Coalition Government in redeeming its election pledges. An event has happened in the course of the last few days which has given great jubilation to my hon. and right hon. Friends on the benches opposite, and that is the Hull election. Referring to the "Daily News," to which one always goes to find the opinion of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I find that that paper said the reason was obvious—It is a natural explosion of indignation at the impudent breach of almost every pledge given by the Government at the election four months ago.Therefore, I ventured to hope that we should have had a very different speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), because he has been very busy in blaming the Government for refusing to fulfil their election pledges. This Bill endeavours, at all events, to some extent, to fulfil one of the election pledges, not only of the Prime Minister, but of every one of his supporters on the Coalition side. The pledge was perfectly distinct with regard to the Germans for whom my right hon. Friend had so many kindly things to say. The pledge was given at Bristol three nights before the election, and the Prime Minister saidI am glad the programme is accepted. We mean to go through with it. [A Voice: 'What about the Germans in the country?'] Oh, they will not be long in this country; they are going, to be fired out. [Cheers.] You cannot go to men who have been spying, plotting, and intriguing against the country which has entertained them, and say, 'Come back', gentlemen, we are glad to see you; make yourselves at home,'That was a pledge with regard to the-Germans. I, in my Constituency, and I 2775 think I can speak on behalf of practically every Member of the Coalition majority, told the people that we were going to support the Government in getting rid of aliens from this country. That being so, one would have hoped for the support of every Member of this House in this most Beneficent policy. The stages of the aliens' question have already been gone through by speakers who preceded me. We started in the days before 1905—in those halcyon days when the policy was, "Let them all come." The policy then was for these parasites to come to prey upon the body politic, the complaisant people of this country, and we, being that asylum about which we have heard such eloquent language from the right hon. Gentleman, said, "We will stick to our great traditions and we will be the asylum of the world." Then, in the year 1905, the Aliens Act was passed. It was passed, as the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) has reminded us, after a great party fight in the House, and, according to the impeccable authority of the "Daily News" at that time,The measure is one of the most offensive and dangerous ever introduced into the House of Commons.The only thing I have to say about that measure, which we are asked to repeal by this Bill, is that it was rather in the nature of class legislation. It dealt with alien immigrants, and described them as the alien steerage passengers. There was too much about the steerage passenger and not enough about the first-class passenger. We want a measure which will embrace the whole of the alien question. That Act was administered in not a very satisfactory way. Before a magistrate or judge could recommend an expulsion order, he had to be satisfied the man was an alien. That was not too easy, because he had to depend largely on the man's own answers to certain questions put to him. Then, upon recommendation being made, the Home Secretary had to be satisfied that the man ought to be expelled, and we may describe the period from 1905 to 1914 as a period of weak administration by a series of weak Home Secretaries.
That was the case when the War broke out. What happened? The day after the War broke out, this House did what this country has been accustomed to do for generations—it shut the stable door after the steed was stolen, and it passed emer- 2776 gency legislation and passed the Aliens Restriction Act, giving the Home Secretary power, or rather His Majesty in Council power, to make Orders. A number of Orders were made, and everybody body remembers the great public dissatisfaction with the way in which the enemy alien question was dealt with during the earlier period of the War. It was nothing more or less than a gross public scandal. The Home Secretary says that during that period it was only experimental. All I venture to say is, I do not congratulate my right hon. Friend's predecessors upon the success of that experiment. But you did eventually get a series of Orders which, if they had been carried out in their entirety, would very largely have delivered us from this alien peril during the period of the War. Now the House is asked to consider what is to be done now, and I was astonished by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles—if anything he said could possibly astonish me. Speaking with tenderness, and admitting, almost as if the words were dragged out of him, that during the first year of the War there really were Germans in this country who were hostile to this country, he talked about the poor little children of Fritz, who married an unfortunate English woman, who ought to have known better than to marry him. They attended our schools, were public assets, and we did not want to get rid of them. He spoke about the movement in this country as a passing passion, as panic and prejudice. Let me tell my right hon. Friend and his followers —and I congratulate him upon being in the position of a domestic advertisement that followers are at last allowed—that it is not a passing prejudice or a panic, but that it is the settled determination of the electors of this country to adopt the policy of "Never again." He finished up by saying that you cannot suddenly revert to pre-war conditions; it must be done gradually. What must be done gradually? What has got to be done gradually is to allow these Orders in Council for two years, and then, according to the idea of my right hon. Friend, we shall have forgotten it all, there will be a perfectly clean slate, he will be upon the Treasury Bench, and then they may all come back, and we shall have to learn the lesson all over again. That is what Free Liberalism means. It means that the Free Liberals are incapable of learning anything— though one rose from the dead
2777 Now, what about the necessities of this Bill? I will briefly summarise why I want this Bill. I will give a reason which, if I were not a very new Member, I would not give, and that is that it is an election pledge. I am not a sufficiently old Member of the House to be able to look upon my election pledges as so much wasted breath in order to capture votes. I said to my Constituents, "I will do everything I can to turn these people out. I am going to support this Government in any measure they bring forward for the purpose of redeeming our pledges." Our industries— tailoring, carpentry, cabinet-making, boot-making—all these industries are penetrated by aliens who undersell our own people. Walk along Whitechapel Road and Mile End Road, and you see names, not one of them an English name, and advertisements, very few of which are in the English language. Then there is the question of the breach of hospitality. These alien enemies—I do not care whether highly-placed or lowly-placed— have forfeited the right to remain upon our soil, or ever to come back to our soil. Another Free Liberal in the House of Lords, in a speech to which my right hon. Friend has alluded—a Free Liberal who once used to occupy, happily, for a short time, the Woolsack—said this only the other day on Lord Lambourne's Motion:According to the view enunciated on the other side, we should be doing our duty if we turned every German out of this country to-morrow. Such a view was one of which this country ought to be profoundly ashamed.I am glad to know that that is the point of view of my political opponents. I am not glad because I want them to hold that point of view, because I hoped the War, at all events, would have taught us that that point of view is absurd; but, now that we know their point of view, all we can say is that we cannot argue with them. If it is their view that they want Germans back in this country, and want to bury the hatchet, and—in the words of their great Leader at the Runciman revels the other night—they want to leave no open wounds, that is not arguable. It is not the view of this House, and my hon. and gallant Friend, whom I congratulate on his election, certainly did not win Hull on any such view as that.
Just let me say one word upon a subject with which I am, more or less, qualified to deal. Speaking of these alien enemies from the point of view of crime and vice, it is part of my duty to spend a good deal 2778 of my time in the criminal Courts. Yow cannot be in the criminal Courts without realising what an enormous amount of the work of our Courts is caused by the aliens and by their crimes. I ask the House to draw no distinction between the crimes for which they are directly and indirectly responsible. It is very difficult to get figures. But figures were given in the Royal Commission of 1902, which were quoted in the Debate when the Aliens Bill was passed. Figures were given that between 1899 and 1903, there were 1,731 offences against the person, 3,189 against property, 62 of forgery and coining, and 8,132 of other offences, including indecency, disorderly houses, and matters of that kind, all committed by aliens. That is a total of 13,114 offences committed by aliens in the period of this four or five-years. I do not know whether the Home Office has statistics for the intervening period, but it is very difficult to get them. You can, however, say this: you cannot go-into the Central Criminal Court, or into the London or the Middlesex Sessions, or into any Police Court, you cannot speak to any magistrate or alderman of experience, who will not tell you that a very great portion of the difficulties with which he has to deal is in dealing with aliens and crimes promoted by aliens.
Vice! why they are at the bottom of one-half, at least, of the vice of this Metropolis and of this country. The white slave traffic, unnatural vice, the exploitation of English girls whom they marry, and then live upon the proceeds of their prostitution; the brothel keepers who are too clever to be caught, because they keep in the background; the people with gambling hells who lead young men to destruction, and who bring in such horrible practices as doping and unnatural offences—that is the sort of atmosphere that has been introduced into this country by these people. Of course the House will acquit me of any selfish motive in this matter. My professional interests are all in keeping them here. But I am trying to think more of the country than I am of my profession. We have heard a good deal lately that the aliens who keep just within the law are the dangerous people. What I want to do, or to see done, whether by Order in Council or by constructive legislation—which I think the better—is for the police of this country to be in a position, if they suspect an alien of being an undesirable person, to go to him and turn him out; to give our own country, for once in a way, 2779 the benefit of the doubt. The enemy alien has been spoken about a good deal. I am not sure the neutral alien is not as dangerous as the enemy alien. The House may say, "Holding those views, why are you going to support this Bill?" I am going to support it because I will support anything I can get which deals with the question.
§ Sir E. WILD
My view is this—with great respect to the House—that this Bill is an attempt to deal with the question, and that under the ægis of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary the Order in Council that he will propose will be an Order that will deal with this matter. I do not profess to like it. I regard the whole principle of Orders in Council as Star Chamber proceedings, as archaic proceedings, entirely undemocratic and entirely robbing the House of the right that Members should have of expressing their views upon these various matters. No better illustration could be given than the one given by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), an illustration which I myself intended to quote. That is that by some little obscure Order, of which I have no knowledge—because to try and qualify myself for what the House understands is a very, very difficult task, that of addressing it for the first time—I tried to get all the Orders. These leaflets were collected, but my Friends forgot to give me the leaflet as my hon. Friend has called it, of 19th December of last year. I am astonished to find, to my regret, that under this very Home Office, that the whole of paragraph 22 c of this Aliens Restriction Order, which is one which enables, as my hon. Friend has said, some restriction to be put upon the employment of aliens—just in one little paragraph, in the Order which I only knew by accident, and which you could not understand unless you had before you the volume I hold in my hand—I went into the library to get it—I looked at it, and if I had not had this in my pocket I would not have known. That is not the way to legislate.
§ Sir E. WILD
I am not backing up the Home Office. I am trying to get something. I am not going to vote against 2780 the Government, because I regard this purely as an empirical measure. Somebody has spoken of it with a mixture of metaphor. I think it was the hon. and learned Member for York, who was talking now about the Home Secretary's baby and now about an abortion, and who rather forgot himself in the stress of his peroration when he said, "This cannot be the fulfilment of the pledges that we gave; I cannot go back to my Constituents and say, 'This is what we have done.'"
§ Sir E. WILD
My hon. Friend says it is all we shall get. We will try to get something more. I rejoice in Clause 3, which gives power to deal with aliens who excite trouble in industry, although I shall vote for the elimination of some of the words. The words of the present time are:(2) If any alien promotes or attempts to promote industrial unrest in any industry in which he is not bonâ fide engaged….Surely those words are to be deleted! We should say that if we allow any alien—I do not think we should—to be engaged in any industry, if he attempts to promote industrial unrest that alien should be subject to the penalties specified. It would be a very great help to members on the Labour Benches. We rejoice that the Labour Benches are now entirely free from the Bolshevists. Let me, in conclusion, after thanking the House for having given me so patient a hearing, say that this is a measure by which the Government may be judged. We know perfectly well the sort of political capital that is made by the party of Free Liberals, who always put party before country. We know the capital they have made out of the difficulties of the Paris Conference, difficulties in regard to matters in which our Prime Minister and our representative have not got a free hand. Of course they made party capital. They may call it legitimate. But there may be two opinions on that. I hope this Bill will be read a second time. I hope it will be strongly amended in Committee. I hope that when my hon. and gallant Friend (General Croft), who has had great experience in this House, tells me we shall not get any more, that it will prove not to be so. I trust that such pressure will be brought to bear from all quarters of the House upon the Government that they will bring in a strong Aliens Bill which 2781 shall not only deal with butchers, bakers, and cobblers, but shall deal with highly-placed and privileged aliens in Park Lane and Belgravia as with Whitechapel and Mile End. I hope that we shall be able, in spite of these benedictions of my right hon. Friend, to have learnt from the War. If this Government can do anything more I hope that it will pass an Aliens Bill which shall deal with the denaturalisation of the people who have been naturalised for several years past, and shall deal altogether with the real alien question. If that Bill is proposed, and that pressure comes, even a strong Government must yield to such pressure. I am perfectly certain if a Bill like that is proposed it will be a better measure than the present, and one more worthy of support.
§ Mr. TILLETT
I want the silent sanctuary that this country has afforded some of the greatest intellectuals who have ever lived here still to be maintained. I do not want to see any spirit of panic or vindictiveness. I do ask that the traditions that this House has built up shall run on. I want our country to be a really free country, open to honest men of all nationalities. I am hoping that in connection with the League of Nations, in embryo stage now, that nothing will be done in this House to cripple the efforts of the enthusiasts for bringing together the ends of the earth, bringing about international comity and good will, and giving the same free interchange between all the countries. Because of the dignity, the grandeur, and the nobility of asylum, I want us to realise that, having offered it to the world, we have only done it in the interest of humanity. On the other hand, there are countries and persons outside our own who availed themselves of our generosity and then took advantage of it. I think, surely, we have the right to ask the Home Secretary and the Government to say to-day that we shall not forget our past experiences, and that in any new measure no possible loophole shall be given to the enemy of this country if we give him private sanctuary from another. It may be that the criminal ousted from his own country and seeking an asylum here, and finding it, may be utilised by the very country that sent him away as a refugee. Germany did that. Austria did that. Some of the worst criminals coming from Germany and Austria have been the best and greatest of German spies in this country. When you remember how stringent the Germans have been in pre- 2782 venting the asylum, occupation, and habitation in Germany of our own countrymen and women, that when the War broke out, including traders, tourists, sick, and students, there were less than 5,000 Britishers in Germany—if you were to get out all the Jones's and Davis's and such like names—I do not know why the aliens adopt Welsh names—
§ Mr. TILLETT
It may be because the names are difficult to pronounce. When you compare the number of aliens in this country and those that would be aliens in Germany, then you can see, I think, a very forcible argument why the Home Office should be very careful not to allow the introduction of outsiders. I want to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles, when he speaks of a lovable disposition. I have been a sailor. I have been associated with the maritime marine for a number of years. Remember that the British Seamen's Union gave asylum and privilege to the members of their own profession who were Germans, and gave it in a spirit of generosity and freedom. Think of that terrible tragedy the wreck of the "Lusitania." Instead of having sympathy with their shipmates, the men who had braved the perils of the sea with them, the whole of the camp of interned Germans, interned under the happiest possible conditions and circumstances, turned the camp into a condition of hysterical saturnalia rejoicing that their one-time fellow sailors had been sunk—that the "Lusitania" was at the bottom of the sea.
Some of these men have been in the British service for twenty, thirty, and even forty years. I want us to remember that after all we are British. I have always done my level best to bring about a good feeling between the German democracy and our own, and I have found that, after all, the German is a better German than the Britisher is a Britisher, and that he is much more loyal and intelligently conservative and anxious for his own country, and he is better trained in the knowledge of other countries than our own people. I hope the Press of this country will realise what that means. In these matters I do not say that Liberals are any worse than Conservatives, and in my opinion they are equally good. I know that in Bradford I was met by a Liberal who said that the 2783 young men of Germany were quite willing and capable. They could speak French and English and typewrite, and they were shorthand-note takers, and they worked for 14s. a week. I know that they worked in the offices of the Bradford merchants, where they took down every possible item and every possible order, and they gave every detail of manufacture, and the result is that the richest men in Bradford at the present moment are Germans. That is one way of promoting the interests of your country. But when it comes to men like myself realising what it means, I say there have been introduced into this country men who practically blacklegged the country, men who have been sold in Petticoat Lane like sheep to take the place of others as cheap labourers in our tailoring and boot-making shops. I have worked myself as a bootmaker, and our trade was taken from us by a number of gentlemen from foreign parts, who often had no bed to lie on, and they used to lie head-to-toe on the floor of the house.
I want the Home Office to support every measure that maintains a standard of living, and make this Bill so definite that no industrial chaos will arise out of it. If the Home Secretary had attended the great meeting in the Coliseum in Leeds he would have seen over 600 young aliens, none of them over twenty-six, and if he would go to the Albert Hall he would find 6,000 more of the same type. I sympathise with the Home Secretary in his task because it is very difficult to keep out the Park Lane alien. I deny the capacity of the Home Office to accept the responsibility, and if such a responsibility is put upon any one man, whether it is the present Home Secretary or any that may succeed him, it is far too onerous for one man to carry out these duties. He is not really concerned with the destinies of this particular country, for, after all, the world is in a cauldron and we do not know where we are. The world is in such a conflict and tumult that, while I want to see every measure allowing for the citizens of every country to be leagued together in a mighty league of union, I do not want our country to revert back to the old conditions, where spies were in every officers' club and every barbers' shop, every machine shop, and all over the country. At least I want honest British labour protected, and I want the interests of this country to stand amongst all the nations.
§ Mr. PEMBERTON BILLING
The hon. Member who has just spoken is anxious to-see a League of Nations, and he has just told us that in Germany there is more patriotism than in England. But surely a League of Nations can never go hand-in-hand with patriotism. It may be possible for a man from a desert to join with a man from the seas to overcome a common enemy, but once that enemy has been subdued I suggest that the men from the desert and the sea will most probably fight, each other for a division of the spoil. I am deeply and sincerely anxious that the country should be reserved for our own countrymen and women. I have for many years, both in this House and outside of it, done all in my power by public speech and writing to call the attention of the public to the fact that our Government were unfortunately too lenient in dealing not only with aliens but more particularly with alien enemies. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, who made such an excellent maiden speech, need not have told us that he was a member of the legal profession. He told us that he had been in this House not long enough to forget election pledges, and that he was still prepared to vote against a bad Bill sooner than fight it. The compliment which he paid to the right hon. Gentleman belonging to his own profession, who is piloting this Bill, shows that he is learning to keep to the weather of the Treasury Bench.
It is most unfortunate that the Home Secretary should be called upon to pilot this Bill through the House at all. I do not want to make any statements which any hon. Members would think rash or violent, but I can say without fear of contradiction, and I think with pretty general approval, that the Home Office is suspect. I remember that Mr. McKenna during the first two months of the War stated here that it was not his intention to intern any enemies or any Germans or Austrians unless there was an absolute fear of invasion. How, then, can we trust the Home Office when one of its late occupants commits himself to such a policy as that? I suggest to the Home Secretary that we are now in even greater danger of invasion than we were in 1914. The late-Lord Chancellor quite recently stated that there were 20,000 aliens waiting in Holland ready to swarm into England directly I the opportunity presented itself, and not only to swarm but to spawn in this country and produce all those little alien 2785 children whom the Leader of one-tenth part of the Opposition tells us we must protect and give an asylum. The Leader of the Opposition has two important duties to fulfil. The first is that because he is in opposition he has to oppose. He did this in a very unfortunate speech, and had that speech of his been made before the recent Hull election the seat would have been lost. Had that speech been placed before the electors of Hull, no personality, however dominating, could have snatched that seat from the Government.
There has just been introduced a Housing Bill and we are asking the Government to provide us millions of money— and quite rightly—in order that people who cannot find homes to live in and who live under conditions so well described by the Labour Members may have satisfactory housing accommodation, and all this while there are. 200,000 aliens in this country. Where do they sleep? Where are their houses? [An HON. MEMBER: "In Park Lane!"] If we could get rid of those 200,000 aliens probably we might relieve very considerably the housing difficulty in this country. I may be narrow-minded and hold views not generally held by those people who wish to make this country an asylum for all the ne'er-do-wells and parasites of the world. Nevertheless, I hold that view, and nothing will cause me to alter it. I have a very healthy regard for my countrymen, and I feel that if Labour were to take more that view and try to preserve British industries for British labour, they would not be running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. They should say point-blank that they intend to preserve British industry for British labour, and not say that they are anxious to share it with all the scum of the earth who come into this country. The Home Office is the last of our Government Departments to which I would give one inch more power or discretion. Whole-heartedly I mistrust it, and there is nothing in their recent action to change my view. Consider the record of the Home Office during the War, and how they protected through thick and thin all those highly-placed German aliens, how denounced every hon. Member here who dared to get up and criticise their administration or call attention to their grave errors. I should like to know whether the Leader of the Liberal party outside this House was one of the guarantors of Caroline Hanneman, of 10, Downing Street. That is something which the Home Secre- 2786 tary might enlighten himself upon. Election pledges are so numerous that one might almost be justified in hanging the sign of a pledge outside this House, but whether they will be redeemed as rapidly as some other pledges I do not know. There is, however, this about it, that as long as we have Prime Ministers of this country harbouring German spies, not only in their own family, but at their official residence, when this country is at war, we cannot expect the Home Office to deal very severely with the general question of the "harmless" German.
It is not only the German; it is the whole alien problem, and I submit, with respect, that there are many things that this Bill might well include. Why not have badges? If I were going to America or to Germany to-morrow, I would not be ashamed to wear the Union Jack, with the word "Britain" or "England" upon it. We badge every soldier who has served in the War, and proud enough he is of his silver badge. We badge him on his right arm every time that he is wounded, and we badge him on his left arm for every year of service. We badge him on the chest whenever he does anything brave. Why not badge these aliens, so that at least people may say, "This fellow is a German; I will have nothing to do with him." "This fellow is a Frenchman; I will employ him." If we imposed a severe penalty we should be able to judge to some extent the type of people in this country who were encouraging and employing the alien. It would be a very healthy thing for the nation if His Majesty imposed a tax on all employers of foreign labour and devoted it to helping to build homes fit for heroes to live in. This Bill is dishonest in the extreme. It is a bad Bill; it is a dishonest Bill; it keeps bad faith with the electors, and this is an attempt to slip it through the House just before the Adjournment because the Government know full well that the majority of Members, having had a very heavy time, are drifting away for the Easter Recess. It is not an honest Bill in any sense, and it is not a Bill for which any decent Englishman could vote. I have surprised many of my friends both inside and outside this House by supporting some Government measures that have been introduced in this new Parliament, but I am here to support all that is good in them and to attack to the utmost of my strength all that is bad in them. Here is a Bill which gives evidence of bad faith or 2787 great and grave ignorance of the true position. The Government have so many highly-placed German friends that they cannot be ignorant of the true position, and therefore I suggest that it is bad faith with the electors and bad faith with the Members of this House. I hope the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) will take us into the Lobby so that we may at least put on record our opinion of this Bill, and the fact that we are whole-heartedly in support of the most active—
§ Mr. BILLING
My hon. and gallant Friend calls it persecution. It is just the sort of thing that I should call British justice, but anything in the nature of putting the British foot down in this country always seems to be regarded by the hon. and gallant Member as persecution. I am not forgetful of the circumstance which led to my leaving the last Parliament. It was the fight that I had with the Home Secretary on the enemy and alien problem that caused my suspension from this House. I feel no less keenly to-day. My methods are not quite as strenuous as they were. It may be owing to the fact that the Government have met us at least with a Bill and that we have something to criticise. At that time we were not allowed to discuss the matter. To-day we are given the opportunity of criticising a Bill. Finally, I suggest to the Home Secretary that the Bill should provide that no land or property in this country should be owned by aliens. We can make this country an asylum, but the day may come when the inmates will take charge of the authorities, and that is just about what is likely to happen. Wherever we go we find almost a new feeling in the country, and unless we are very careful all that is best in our national character will gradually depart from us. I am not over-painting the picture or exaggerating in the least when I say that all that is clean in the British character has been debased by the type of alien that has invaded us. They have debased our morals in the lower standard, and they have debased our morals in the higher standard, and I make bold to say that they have debased that Treasury Bench.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel W. GREENE
My hon. and learned Friend who sits beside me (Sir E. Wild), and who made such an 2788 excellent speech this afternoon, prefaced it with the usual plea for indulgence which is made by Members who address this House for the first time. I am unable to urge that plea, but I think I can make this claim, that no Member has sat so many years in this House and at the same time has made such modest claims upon the time and indulgence of it. That confession or boast—you can have it which way you like—will probably be looked upon with pity, if not with contempt, by those lion. Members who week after week take part in that competition to score the highest number of paragraphs of spoken words in the OFFICIAL REPORT. With due deference to them, I think that there is still something to be said in this House in favour of economy of speech. I have been goaded into breaking silence this afternoon, not because I have any personal or bitter feeling against the alien or the stranger as some Members seem to have, but because I have some personal knowledge of the very intense and great evils which have been the result of unrestricted alien immigration in the past. I represent a part of a borough where this question is a very acute problem indeed. In that borough there are no less than 11,000 aliens registered—11,000 is a large number in one borough—and I think the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) will bear me out when I say that there we could show some practical results of the evils of the congregation of large numbers of aliens who have different standards of life, different standards of health, and different standards of decency from those which exist and which we want to exist among our own people.
We have got to face facts, and perhaps some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway opposite will not agree with me when I say that we cannot really advocate a hard and fast and unyielding law that no aliens or foreigners of any kind shall be admitted within our shores. There is, however, one test which ought to be applied to all aliens who are at present within this country and to all those who wish to come and reside here in the future. That test is whether or not they are likely in every respect to make really satisfactory citizens of the United Kingdom. I know that it is difficult, perhaps, to draw up regulations which ensure that, but that is the idea which the Home Secretary should keep in his mind when he is proceeding to make regulations under 2789 this Bill. I hope that he will do that in a very stringent manner, and, if he errs, that it will be on the side of strictness rather than on the side of leniency. If you examine this Bill from beginning to end and study it very carefully, it is impossible to make any estimate of the value of it. It may be a good Bill or it may not be worth a single moment of the time and attention of this House. The whole thing depends on the spirit in which it is going to be administered. Under this Bill, the Home Secretary may make the most admirable scheme which will deal with all the difficulties in regard to this alien question. On the other hand, under this Bill he may perfectly well welcome with open arms all the undesirable riff-raff of every country in the world.
I remember quite well the introduction of the Aliens Act of 1895. It was a very modest effort; too modest an effort to deal with the subject. It met with violent opposition from a certain party in this House. Most of the value of it was whittled away in Committee, and what little value remained was entirely destroyed by the manner in which it was administered by the Home Secretary of the day. I do not wish to occupy another moment of the time of the House, except to make the plea that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, or whoever is going to speak on his behalf, should give us some more definite information as to the policy which they are going to adopt under it. We should like to know exactly what is to be their attitude with regard to any enemy aliens now in this country, and what regard to enemy aliens who wish to come into this country in the future. We should also like to know what test they are going to apply to aliens who are not enemy aliens, and who wish to come into this country, and what regulations they have in mind with regard to preventing those who are undesirable from coming here. If the right hon. Gentleman can see his way to do that, I think he will go very far to allay the very great anxiety which exists evidently inside the House, from the speeches we have heard this afternoon, and also outside this House, with regard to the vital question of the unrestricted immigration of undesirable people into this country.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I think the House is generally seen at a disadvantage when it is discussing this question of enemy alien immigration. There seem to 2790 be a number of Members who are always anxious to voice the principle that we should keep to ourselves and destroy any taint of foreign blood. There are also those with a passion for persecuting a minority and for inflicting the most conservative reactionary views upon this House. I have never been so ashamed of this House of Commons as I have been to-day. I have some regard for the traditions of my country. We have never seen such a unanimous spirit of persecution in this House since the time of the Popish Plot in 1678. It is a case of people who are strong coming together to persecute the weak. That was the point of view expressed by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) to-day, and it was the point of view he also expressed in the last Parliament on the occasion of a similar Debate. "As long as the majority can get the minority on the ground, let us trample on them." That is the spirit of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and of nearly everyone who has addressed the House this afternoon. I would observe that nearly everyone who has spoken has not fought in this War, but have been anxious to show their patriotism by denouncing the enemy alien.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Many hon. Members who have spoken on these benches are younger than myself, and had an opportunity of fighting in the War.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The real reason why no people who did fight have got up to persecute these aliens is that fighting men bear no malice. They feel that, having won the War, we should treat the people whom we have got down with decency and like gentlemen. Let me say a word for the unfortunate aliens who are to be urged on by this Bill to destruction. Who are they? In many cases those who have suffered most are the British wives of German subjects. Their husbands have been put into internment camps. They themselves and their children, bearing unfortunately German names, have been known to all their neighbours; they have 2791 been persecuted, they have been deprived of the opportunity of getting work, they have been sneered at, they have found it difficult even to purchase things in shops on account of their names, and now we are to go further and drive them out of the country. That is the cry of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. I knew the wife of a German who was connected with the hotel trade in this country. He was interned. She and her children, all English-born, have been sent back to Germany. They were glad enough to go, because their lives here had been made intolerable. In Germany they were well treated.
Why cannot we practice the same sort of policy? "Why cannot we try and turn enemy aliens into friendly aliens? Why cannot we show them that Eng and is now, as she has been in the past, a country which always welcomes foreigners, and turns them into good citizens? There are many Members who have French and Dutch blood in them. There are many such men on the Conservative benches today; there are many of foreign descent, whose ancestors have created glorious names, and added glorious records to English history. Why cannot we do the same as our forefathers? Why cannot we carry on the policy of our ancestors of assimilating this foreign element, and teaching it that England is something worth living for, something worth fighting for, something worth loving, instead of persecuting them and making their lives a hell, as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen insist on doing. I am glad to have had an opportunity of putting in a few words this afternoon in favour of the old British traditions of fair play, justice and liberty. It seemed to me it was necessary that someone should get up and put that point of view. I will conclude by thanking the Home Secretary, and above all the Home Office, for making this Bill—which I should have opposed in any case, just as all my predecessors of Liberal views have in the past opposed alien Bills—I thank them for making it at least as little objectionable as possible, for not being controlled by the Press of the country or by the persecutors of aliens, for not being persuaded by them to move a little further in the direction they want them to go. I hope the Home Secretary will withdraw the Bill in view of the opposition to it. If he does not I hope that, if the Bill goes to a Committee, there will be on that Committee some 2792 Members of his House who will be able to put forward the case of the oppressed and to stand up in this country for the persecuted.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
My hon. and gallant Friend, if I may say so with very great respect, is a chartered libertine in this House. We really value the great work he did in the War, although I think it was a little unkind and unfair that my hon. Friends should have been taunted with not having gone out to fight. Each man decides this question for himself. My hon. and gallant Friend decided it his own way, and we appreciated his decision, and the effort he made in the War. But that does not per se entitle him to lecture the House on patriotism. His views are well known. It is not fair to suggest that hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon are people who would in any case persecute the German alien. What we are in favour of is the preservation of this country for the English people, and of assisting the German enemy aliens by Order in Council if necessary to go back to their own country, where they will find fellow countrymen more inclined to their own views than they can find here. I want the House to realise that we are not asking the Home Secretary to merely increase his powers given under this Bill. Hon. Members who were Members of the last Parliament will remember I spoke very often on this subject. The hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney (Lieutenant-Colonel Greene), whose speech this afternoon convinces me how much the House has lost by not hearing him more frequently, will remember that what we wanted in the last Parliament was that the Home Office should put more strength into their dealings with this-question. We were not actuated by any desire to persecute individual alien enemies, but we wanted to clear the country of the possibility of danger, because we believed the Germans, as was said by our own Prime Minister, are a criminal nation who fought this War by criminal methods. Believing that we did not want to have them in our midst, and I am sure that working people also do not want to see 20,000 or 30,000 German people in their midst, walking, riding, and eating with them. Let them go back to their own country. That is the object of the opposition to this Bill.
Further, we want to force a declaration from the Government of their policy. Has 2793 one ever heard of a Minister coming down to the House and proposing the Second Reading of a measure of this kind without even outlining to the House what he proposes to do if the House supports him in the provisions of this Bill? All he said was that he wanted us to give him plenary powers for two years to make what Orders in Council he likes regarding aliens generally. It is quite true it is provided that the Orders shall be laid on the Table of the House of Commons for twenty-one days, but everybody knows that that is utterly illusive The real power is put in the hands of the Home Secretary to make Any Orders he likes, and I say quite frankly those of us who were in the last House of Commons know that the Home Office is taboo and suspect in this matter. If hon. Members will go through the Debates for the last two years, they will find a long series censuring the Home Office for not administering the law in this regard more strictly. After each Debate there has been a panic in the Home Office, and a certain number of alien enemies have been interned. If it was right they should be interned, surely they ought to have been interned before, and not merely because of the Debate. I do not want that kind of thing to occur again. I want the Home Secretary to come down here and justify the pledges which the Prime Minister and others gave to the country before the General Election of 1918. These pledges were clear. One or two have been referred to, and for the life of me I cannot understand if this Bill is administered as similar Bills have been administered by the Home Office in the past, what reply any hon. Member can give to the question, "Have you fulfilled your pledge with regard to getting rid of the aliens in this country?" He may say that he voted for the Home Office Bill believing and hoping that the necessary Orders in Council would be effective. But he has no possible authority for that hope. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has not told us what he is going to do. I should like to read the pledge which the Prime Minister, as everybody knows, gave. It is a pledge which should be put into an Act of Parliament without waiting for an Order in Council to be issued by the Home Secretary. Let me read a part of it. He said,They (the Germans) have abused our hospitality; they spied and they plotted, they have assisted Germany in the forging of plans for the destruction of the country which has offered them hospitality, and if opportunity had offered 2794 they would have assisted in the execution of those plans to the ruin of the land which had given them shelter. They have, therefore, forfeited any claim to remain.That applies to those who are interned and uninterned. The speech of the Prime Minister in Queen's Hall was interrupted by a lady, who wanted to know what he was going to do with regard to getting rid of these alien enemies. He assured her that the men would see to that, and he went on—I have repeatedly said that in my judgment these people, having abused our hospitality, must not get another opportunity to do so.There is another member of the Government who gave a pledge which the Home Secretary should support this afternoon, and that is the present Lord Chancellor, who said:I tell you here, as a Minister and a Member of the Coalition Government, that it is the declared policy of that Government to send back to Germany every Boche in this country.I am reminded that the present Lord Chancellor was Attorney-General at the moment he used those words. He was a member of the Cabinet, and I am sure, if the pledge is not fulfilled, he will no longer wish to remain a member of that Cabinet. He is a man of great ability and of great courage, and if the pledge is falsified he will, no doubt, at once go to the Cabinet and says, "Unless you are going to fulfil that pledge, and turn every Boche out of the country, I at least will no longer remain a member of the Government." Again, the Leader of the House went nearly as far as that on the 4th December. Speaking for the Government, he said:Did they think the people we had to lock up in our time of trial were good citizens of this country? If the present Government were returned to power they would send them back to their own country at once. So far as the present Government were concerned, if it came to pass, they would not only send back those whom they had interned but they would also not allow others to come in.We have had not a word from the Home Secretary as to the fulfilment of these pledges. It is true as the hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney said, they can be carried out under the provisions of an Order in Council, but it is equally true that none of them may be carried out. The Order may be made, but it maybe administered so badly that Germans may be allowed to remain in this country, as we have allowed 21,000 of them to remain here uninterned during the War. 2795 Those 21,000, as the Leader of the Opposition was forced to admit, were not the wives of British men but were young Germans who were allowed to remain here because they were useful in some of the industries carried on during the War. The War is over. We no longer want these stalwart young Germans to carry on the industries. We want the work to be done by our own men who fought the Germans, and we want these thousands of young Germans to be sent back to their own country.
I want to ask the Government a question with regard to their policy before we give them this blank cheque. Who is going to decide—we have not yet heard—under the Orders in Council, the special reasons which are to enable a German to remain in this country? Is it going to be a Committee of this House, or a judge? The Government set up three Committees just before the Armistice to deal with these very questions, presided over by Mr. Justice Sankey, Mr. Justice Atkin, and Lord Justice Eldon Bankes. The Sankey Committee has allowed a large number of these people to remain in internment. What about the Atkin Committee, which was to deal with denaturalisation of enemy aliens who had been naturalised? I was able to find out by questions quite recently that 187 cases had been dealt with. How many there are remaining to be dealt with we have not yet been able to get from the Government. Out of those 187 cases only fifteen certificates of naturalisation have been revoked. The House will be astonished to hear that there have been fifty-six naturalised Germans interned during the War under special conditions, because they were a danger to this country, yet only fifteen of them have been denaturalised. If a naturalised German was such a danger to the country—remember that he is a British subject, with all the rights of a British subject, and he could only be interned under particular Clauses of the Defence of the Realm Act without trial—if he was such a danger that in the opinion of the Government he ought to be interned, is it reasonable that we should be asked to allow him to remain a naturalised British subject? What about the Bankes Committee? That was appointed specially to deal with men of German extraction in our public offices, the Civil Service, and various other Departments of the country. That Committee has reported. We found that out the other 2796 day, It has not reported to this House. We do not know what the Report is; we cannot get the Report. I have asked the Government whether they have considered the Report, and I have been told: that it is being considered. What are the Government going to do with regard to these men of German birth and German connection who are in our public offices? Why should they remain there at all? Why should these men, even after the War, remain in our Civil Service? Have we not enough Britons born and bred to take their places? What will the people of this country think when they see such names in our Civil Service to-day as [list of names read]. Those are all names of people in our Civil Service to-day. Has the Committee dealt with them? It was appointed over nine months ago to deal with these cases and to report to the Prime Minister. I do not want to deal with any particular case. There are names of many other people besides these.
I would ask the Home Secretary what the Government is going to do with regard to these cases? I ask him for a policy. We do not want to oppose; we want every Act we can secure passed for dealing with these alien enemies. The great difficulty in which I and others stand is to know whether we should support the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) in his Amendment for the rejection of the Bill. If the Home Secretary can outline a policy and say to the House of Commons that that is the policy of the Government, and those are the plans they propose to carry out by Order in Council, that would go a long way to satisfy a good many of us. To ask us to pass this Bill and give a blank cheque to the Home Secretary, without any indication whatever of the kind of policy the Government intend to pursue, is asking too much from the House which, for the last four years, has seen the Home Office very dilatory and slack in regard to this matter.
§ Mr. STANTON
I have listened with very much interest to the varied speeches made this afternoon, and I rejoiced exceedingly to discover that the majority were the speeches of Britishers. I do not in any way share the feelings or enter into the spirit of the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who declared that the supporters of this Bill were villainous in their expres- 2797 sions or wicked, vile, merciless, and pitiless to the poor aliens who happen to have found a harbourage and comfort in this country. I marvel to think that a man who has seen things for himself, and who, I understand, has done gallant deeds in the field, should come back to this House and from time to time, in addition to the great things that have been done by the bleatings of the pacifists, should attack everybody and anybody who was striving to win the War and stand up for this country. I listened with disgust to the hon. and gallant Member standing up against anybody who thinks he is doing anything for his own country. We have heard for the thirteenth or fourteenth time what he has had to say in regard to hon. Members who have not been out fighting. Although my age was just on the mark that I could not go, I was willing, and I volunteered to go. Both my boys went One is buried there; he was killed going over the top. The other has come back with wounds stripes, a credit to his dad and not a "Conchy." His dad has been doing his little bit, believing that the Government were in earnest, and that we were going to have a new England after the War was over. No doubt I derived my inspiration from the paper run by the hon Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), a paper which has done so much during the War, and other papers. I believed that we were out to do great things after the War, without being unjust to those people who discovered that this was a safe place, who were not criminals, who had fled from places where they might have done some little wrong politically and who had found a harbour of refuge in this country. While we should still be prepared to extend freedom to honest people who come to this country, who merely hold political views which diverge from those of the people of their own country, it is quite a different matter to allow all the muck, the rubbish, and the refuse of the Continent and other places to drift into this country. We have heard of Sidney Street. The other day down in Wales we had a glorious Bolshevist, a man who went round playing a violin, and who pretended he could not speak the English-language, who got his Independent Labour party comrades to do the speaking for him, and who wrote out one of the most treacherous and vindictive speeches with a view to getting the miners to down tools. [An HON. MEMBER: "He has been deported!"] That is so, but there are others still remaining in this country. 2798 We can well understand why there have been so many strikes and so much trouble and agitation.
I have played a prominent part in the Labour world, and there were people who would have called me a "Bolshy" years ago but for the fact that we did not use that term then. I admit that I was a rebel; that I used to bring about strikes and to agitate. Things were different then, but on many a platform in those days we pointed out the peril to British industry of aliens being at liberty in this country. We know that in Wales German firms were sending engineers to put up the plant. Tramway lines, refuse destructors, and all up-to-date machinery were always put up by Germans. I am one who believes that nothing they have been able to do for us in times past compares with what we can do for ourselves in future. The Home Office is not offering us anything, and I for one am not satisfied. I have stood up for the Government on every occasion when I thought they were right, but I will only stand up for them while I think they are British. When there is weakness shown, I shall oppose them. There is weakness shown to-day. There is no square and fair mapped-out British policy in regard to aliens, and I shall be ready to go into the Lobby to vote with those who are going to hammer the Government if we discover that the Home Office is not going to play up to the promises and pledges of the Prime Minister. My majority—16,000—was a fairly reasonable one, and it was secured by my telling the electors that we were going to have a new country after the War, that it would be Britain for the British, without our being spiteful or vindictive. Am I to go back and plead guilty of sneaking into the Lobby behind the Government in support of a weak, measly, wretched measure such as this? I will not do that; I prefer to lose my seat. I will go into the Lobby at all times against the Government rather than disgrace myself by being so un-British as to support a sham measure which is going to lead us nowhere and to play into the hands of our enemies. I can understand our pacifist friends who are inclined to sympathise with the poor Germans. The whole bunch of them have neither fought in the War nor done anything to help. They have not put any money into the War Funds. They have not helped, but have sought to retard in 2799 every way they could. Their friends sat in this House. Sometimes you found them in the ranks of our Labour friends. These people have a sneaking regard for the Germans, but when it is brought home to them they know very, well they are wrong.
We must not give way and pander to the pacifists or to those people who are friends of every country but their own, whose great ideals are International Brotherhood, the League of Nations, and so on. Those things are not going to fill our bellies or safeguard the future of our little children in this country. Let us play the game and say that we are not going to take half measures. Our boys have fought and died on the various fronts for us and for the British flag, and we are not going to whittle away what has been won at so heavy a cost. Surely we are not going to allow the aliens to come back or the Germans to make a new start in our midst. They proved before the War Mid demonstrated to the satisfaction of every Briton that a German is always a German. One hon. Member suggested that we should label them. In mercy to them I do not suggest that we should do that. God knows that if I were a German the one thing I would plead against would be being labelled a German. The majority of our people are still British enough to appreciate what we are contending for, namely, Britain for the British, without being vindictive, vicious or spiteful to people who are honest and respectable and who seek a refuge in this country. I suppose some distinction would have to be drawn, perhaps at the age of forty years or at some greater age, and perhaps in the cases of men whose sons have fought in the War on our side. Perhaps, also, in the case" of a British woman who married a Hun in this country, but who, fortunately, has now become a widow, that woman and her English children might be allowed to stay here. But the others should not. It would be a stain upon our British stock. We do not want German blood any more in this country. We have had it in high places, and we want no more. Let England be a new England; let us stand up for what is fair; let us be just. It is not too much to ask Germans to go back to their own Fatherland, and then the woman, if she has become the wife of a German, knows her duty. Her lord is a Hun, and if she likes him let her go with him to hip own country, and there they can 2800 look after themselves. This country is for Britishers and for the glorious British line who stood by it, people who did the right thing at the right time. Therefore, I say that Members of this House will really be traitors to their constituencies, to the pledges which they gave, if they dare to support anything less than what went forth during the election, and particularly the pledge of the Prime Minister, that after the War Britain shall be British, and that we shall have the enemy aliens as far as possible sent out of this country and cast adrift. We owe it to our constituents to do that. We shall have to do it, and I appeal to the Labour party to play the game. Remember that the War is over and the boys will be coming back, and when they are demobilised we want to find them employment at good wages—not sweated wages. We do not want the competition of Germans. We have had it in the tailoring trade, in the textile industry, around the mines, and round the docks. Wherever they have been they have always been traitors to the British workers as well as traitors to the British cause, and therefore I hope that Members of this House will, if necessary, go into the Lobby and vote against the Government unless they can offer us a British measure instead of the shabby thing they have offered us to-day.
§ Mr. R. CARTER
Speaking for the first time in this House, rather late in the Debate, I think that almost everything that can be said has been said, but I do not think I should be right if I did not voice here the expressions that I gave six months before the election, and long before I ever expected to be among lion. Members in this House. The gist of my speech has already been given by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, but I may mention that I was one of the founders of the movement called "Britain for the British," and worked for it, as we all worked, non-politically. I was present on the platforms at no less than five meetings, three of them large mass meetings, long before this measure was thought of. I am sorry that the Bill now before us is such a weak one. Undoubtedly, in my opinion, it does not carry behind it what I should have liked to see behind it, that is, the will of the people. Feeling in this country is very strong indeed, and when the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who has done his little bit, talks about 2801 all soldiers and sailors, when they have once fought an enemy, having no antagonistic feelings towards him, all I can say is that no soldier or sailor I have ever met since this War has evinced any particular love for the Hun. I hope the Government will strengthen this Bill in such a way that it will please the people of this country. The people expect something very much stronger. The only Clause in it which in any way approaches an attempt to grapple with the question is Clause 3, and even that, to my idea, does not go one half the distance to which it ought to go. It says that if any alien attempts or is likely to cause sedition or disaffection, he shall be liable to penal servitude for a period not exceeding ten years, or he maybe imprisoned on summary conviction for three months. I was very glad to hear the Home Secretary say that that would very probably carry with it deportation. I think it ought to. Any alien who has come here and created unrest in the country, and then is convicted, ought never to be allowed to come into this country again. I hope that the Home Secretary will take that into consideration. He said that he would be glad to hear any suggestions with regard to any particular Clauses in this Bill, and I certainly think that that Clause might very well be added to. My opinion with regard to the enemy alien is, in the first place, that he should certainly hold no office, should own no land, and, above all, that he should have no vote. I believe that an alien never comes to this country for our good, but only for his own. If he comes here to live with us, there is no reason why he should come here to rule us. If we allow him ordinary civil rights, he, at any rate, should not have the power to vote, because he would be able to turn that to the detriment of the country. I have no particular love for the individual alien, but it is the breed that we particularly object to, man, woman, and child. A five-year-old child of a German father is a German in my eyes, and it is just as well that he should go back to his father's country and be brought up under the humane tenets of which we have heard a good deal this afternoon. The unrest that at present is prevailing in this country has a very great deal to do, to my mind, with the alien enemy. You never hear of any disturbance, rioting, or anything of that kind without a fair sprinkling of aliens. Bolshevism, of course, is introduced in England almost entirely by aliens. I 2802 should like to ask the Home Secretary to see if he cannot make this Bill stronger, particularly in the direction of strengthening the rights of the local authorities, and especially the police, who know a great deal more about individual cases than could possibly be known by a Government Department. More drastic authority should be given in cases of this sort. At the present time we have not the authority that we ought to have, or if we have it we have no power to put it into effect. The Act of 1905 has up to the present time done little or no good, and if a new Bill is brought in to replace it, it ought to be very much stronger than the one before us to-day.
I feel that I am able to express the views of my Constituents who returned me to the House of Commons. It is perhaps in my Constituency more than any other that the feeling on this matter is strongest, because we have had a considerable number of ships sunk, and that has been entirely due to enemy aliens who have been living in that part of the country. I welcome this attempt on the part of he Government to deal with this very pressing question, and I am glad to see that they realise the general feeling in the country. But this Bill as it stands is quite inadequate. It is unconstitutional, and it is of a temporary nature. I do not see that any good can come to this country from the giving of power by means of Orders in Council, the exercise of that power depending upon the caprice of the Home Secretary for the time being. How are you going to prevent the decisions given by one Home Secretary being entirely reversed when he vacates his office and is succeeded by someone whose feeling may perhaps be very much more tender to the Boche? I say that does not do for this country, and I do not believe that the electors of this country will stand it. In my opinion, this is nothing more or less than the continuation of the Defence of the Realm Act. Nobody has liked the Defence of the Realm Act. It has been necessary as a war measure, but we want something now of a much more permanent nature. Parliament, in any measure that they bring forward, must lay down definitely the rules and restrictions and must do this by legislative enactment. The conditions must be laid down upon which enemy aliens are permitted to enter and leave this country. I have travelled in most parts of the world, and I think I know the effects of the bane- 2803 ful influence of the Boche wherever he has settled down. We in this country have suffered probably more than any other from the influx of the Boche, and I would ask, Why do they come to this country? They certainly do not come here for the good of this country. Perhaps a small percentage come here entirely on business grounds, but I care not whether it is on business or any other grounds. They are, in the first place, enemy agents, and the whole time they are here they are considering the interests of their own country. I know of Germans having come here ostensibly because they wished to spend the winter in a good climate. I do not think that any Member of this House will imagine for one moment that any foreigner is coming to Great Britain in order to enjoy the salubrious climate in winter.
My hon. Friend mentions Torquay, and I certainly think that anyone would show a very wise judgment in going to the most beautiful constituency in the country. The Kaiser was Colonel-in-Chief of my regiment, and from the nature of the staff appointment I held at the time when he was a frequent visitor to this country, I had the privilege, or shall I say the misfortune, to meet him. When he came to England his one aim and object was to find out what was going on in the military department as well as in the Navy. He came posing as a friend of this country and loving the British, but he always took care to be invited to Portsmouth in order that he might see what was going on in the ship-building line, or the latest type of battleships. No German has ever come to this country for the good of the British, and I am wholly in favour of those who are here being sent back to their own country. I would make special exceptions in the case of men who have sufficient guarantees as shown by their behaviour, and whose sons have fought and fallen for this country in the War. Those men have some right to be considered British subjects, and to be allowed to live here, but every case must be gone into most carefully, and we must have a surety that a man who is allowed to live here means to be a respectable citizen of this country and to behave as a British citizen. We know the sort of enemy alien we have here, and when we know 2804 that men and women of enemy origin are the instigators of crime, and have proved themselves again and again to be some of our greatest criminals, now is the time to get rid of them. Men have been brought up in the Courts in connection with the white slave traffic, and they were nearly always Germans.
Again, why are we in our public offices to have to employ Germans, and why in the War Office, of all the Government Offices, have we allowed two Germans, men of military age, to be employed during the War? A question was asked in the House, and I was told these men were indispensable. I cannot believe there is any office in this country in which a Britisher is not infinitely superior to any German, and it is a scandal that Germans, of military age should be allowed to evade service when our own gallant men were giving their lives for their country. I have recently seen British officers who have come back from the Army of Occupation and I am told by all of them that the attitude of the Germans towards our officers and men is quite orthodox and that they are even subservient. We know exactly why that is done. They want to show that they are poor harmless men and that they would make the best of British citizens. It is commonly being said by German prisoners that they are only waiting for the War to be over in order to come back again to undermine our people to take the employment that our own people ought to have and generally in some way to injure our country and at the-same time to work for their own country, to learn what is going on and to report to their own Government what is being done in Great Britain. I hope the Government will withdraw this Bill. I wish wholeheartedly to support the programme of the Government. I do not want to be forced into the Lobby to vote against them, but I want something better than this milk-and-water Bill. I want to see it replaced by one which will deal drastically and effectively with this burning question and which will not leave discretionary power in the hands of the Home Secretary, but which will lay down in distinct terms the conditions under which enemy aliens are allowed to enter and live in our country.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Colonel Sir H. Greenwood)
As an old member of the Aliens Watch Committee, I have 2805 thoroughly enjoyed hearing again the views of many of my hon. Friends. I have not changed my view one iota, but it is my good fortune to be a very humble member of the Government, and in the Home Office I have had the opportunity of bringing to the test of fact many of the speeches I have myself made in days gone by. The hon. Member (Mr. Bottomley) urged the Home Secretary to grapple with the problem. I shall try to grapple with the problem, and first of all to grapple with some of the statements of the hon. Member himself. He talked about scores of Orders in Council made under the Act of 1914. There have, in fact, been only five such Orders, as was stated in answer to a question the other day. Let me clear up another misconception very widely held and urged again to-day by the hon. Member, namely, that under Article 22 c, and under the Order in Council revoking that Order, encouragement was given to aliens in employment in this country. That is simply not the fact. The facts are, as explained in an answer the other day, that Article 22 c was needed during the critical times of the War when it was necessary to divert to certain industries certain aliens in unessential trades in this country. When the necessity for this diversion to some of our essential trades was over, the Order to which the hon. Member referred was issued, so that aliens were actually withdrawn from essential industries and allowed to go back to industries which were not so essential.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
The answer I have given is the authoritative answer of the office I represent. When the hon. Member suggests that under this Bill there is any danger of a flood of alien labour to interfere with the rightful aspirations of British labour, he is making a suggestion in which there is no substance. For a considerable time past, indeed almost daily since the Armistice, a large number of alien labourers, whom we begged and prayed to come to this country and help us in the critical times of the War, for making munitions and for other war purposes, have been sent back to their respective countries, and to the last man they will be sent back under the powers we now enjoy, which under this Bill and the Orders in Council I hope we shall still 2806 be able to enjoy. Another statement of the hon. Member is that the enemy colony is ever increasing. As far as enemy aliens are concerned, the population of this country in 1914 was 66,000. It is now 26,000, including children, and it is rapidly decreasing. Hon. Members, and especially the hon. Member (Mr. Bottomley), have made great play with the Act of 1905. I am with them in thinking that Act was not a success, but the hon. Member quoted figures which I must correct. He spoke of over 600,000 immigrants landing in this country year by year prior to the War, and as a bald statement of figures that was right, but he must have known that the great majority of these immigrants were transmigrants brought on tickets, which were for the benefit of British shipping companies in the great majority of cases, which conveyed them from European countries to the uttermost parts of the world. Does the hon. Member suggest that that great and remunerative trade, which was part of our great industry of shipping, should be stopped by this or any Bill? These transmigrants are men who must get out of the country on their tickets. The shipping company is held responsible for their conveyance across this country to remote parts of the world.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I distinctly stated that no doubt in many cases their stay here was short, but quite long enough to do mischief.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
Their stay here was according to the schedule of the ships and the trains that carried them across the country. Not only many cases but the overwhelming majority of cases. The hon. Member referred to over 600,000 coming to this country year by year. There are not more than 200,000 aliens of all kinds in the country to-day, and the 600,000 per annum who came in pre-war times came to the great benefit of British shipping and went to different parts of the world.
I want to refer to one other argument of the hon. Gentleman and that was the-"welcome back little stranger" argument. The little stranger is not welcomed back under this Bill. There are no little strangers coming back from enemy countries.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
We do not know that. The Lord Chancellor said that there were 20,000 coming back immediately.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I have made inquiries as to the statement that people are rendezvousing in Holland in order to come back in shoals to this country as soon as peace is signed. The great port of Holland is Rotterdam and the British Consul there says there were some aliens there who wanted to come back to this country, but not a single German had asked for a passport or got a vise. I do not know where the suggestion comes from that there are armies of aliens waiting to flood these shores. If so, it is impossible for them to come back. None can come back, and, under this Bill and the Order in Council that goes with it, none can come back without the specific knowledge and permission of the Home Secretary and the officers that will be established under this Bill to carry out the measure. I am endeavouring to justify the Bill.
Order, order! I must object to the way in which the hon. Member for South Hackney makes interruptions without rising in his seat.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
On a point of Order. Would the hon. Member desist from cross-examining me every moment?
The hon. Member for South Hackney should learn to take thrusts as well as to give them.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I am not endeavouring for a moment to cross-examine my hon. Friend. In the art of cross-examination he is a great master. I was applying the mild corrective of the facts of my Department to his statements. I am endeavouring to get, if I may say so, the proper perspective in this matter, and to assure hon. Members that there is not the slightest laxity in carrying out the law at it now stands in regard to aliens, or that there will be under this Bill and the Orders in Council any deflection from the pledges of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House given before the last General Election. Here I would refer to the maiden speech of the hon. Member for the Upton Division (Sir E. Wild). His speech was characteristic of him, and he will always be welcomed here; but when he talks about gross scandal in the administration of Orders in Council under the Act of 1914, I think he is rather wide of the mark. To give him credit, he said 2808 finally that the administration of the Aliens Restriction Act and the Orders under it was efficient. I want to emphasise that. In the last year of the War the administration of the Aliens Act and the Orders under it were so efficient that no alien could possibly land on these shores and no alien can land now without knowledge of his port of origin, without knowledge of his arrival, without knowledge of every hour of his existence in this country. These aliens are not always checked, for obvious reasons. The number that come are negligible, but not one can come—I repeat myself here because I want there to be no misconception on this point—without the fullest knowledge of his antecedents, of his business, or the dangerous effect which his visit might have. I do not want to go into the argument about the failure of the 1905 Act. I will make the House a present of that fact, if it has been a failure. I think it has been a failure. I am going on the experience of the War. An Act was passed the day after the War broke out, called the Aliens Restriction Act, 1914, and with it was issued an Order in Council which was prepared by the Committee of Imperial Defence. It was hoped that that Order in Council would close every loophole for dangerous aliens within and dangerous aliens without the realm who wished to come in. I wish to draw the attention of the House to this fact, that during the War over twenty subsequent Orders in Council had to be issued, owing to the changing circumstances of the War. If these Orders in Council had not been issued, the aliens would have benefited. It is obviously impossible that we could have come to the House over twenty times for fresh legislation.
We are living in very similar times now, and, for the next year or two, we shall be living in times similar to the times we have passed through during the War. Circumstances change almost daily. While the Peace Conference is sitting and whilst the terms of peace are unsettled with large numbers of the nations of the world it is impossible to rigidly define how you will treat every subject of foreign countries. It is impossible to say which are enemy alien countries at the moment or which may be enemy alien countries next week or next month or next year. The experience, the successful experience, of the Orders in Council system under the 1914 Act justifies us in applying the same principle to this Act of 1919. The Gov- 2809 ernment prefer this principle, not in the interests of the alien, but in the interests of this country as against the aliens. You never can tell a month in advance who may be your next enemy alien, and to make our laws dealing with aliens rigid in the Statute at the moment when the whole world is, as one hon. Member said, in a cauldron, is not facing the great realities of the moment. The Order in Council which goes with this Bill, and which is a great part of the Bill, is now in draft. My right hon. Friend and myself regret profoundly that this draft Order in Council is not in the hands of Members.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I said that we regret profoundly, because if that draft Order were in the hands of hon. and right hon. Members a good many of the speeches made this afternoon would never have been made.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
As soon as possible. The Order in Council is the best and most effective way of dealing with the alien problem. Until the terms of peace are settled and published many points cannot be definitely stated, and we want the Bill now, without delay. The experience of the War proves the need of the elastic system provided by Orders in Council. The Orders in Council as set up in the Bill are laid on the Table of the House and I do not think it can be seriously said that the House has no control over these Orders in Council. The House has absolute control over the Government of the day and can show it in reference to an Order in Council of which they do not approve as easily as they can in reference to many other questions. An Order in Council enables us to meet difficulties which are constantly arising, and which arose during the War, owing to the decisions on various points. Whilst the Order in Council does give great power to the Home Secretary for the time being it does not, I submit with all respect, take from the House any of its control over the Government.
May I congratulate another hon. Member, the hon. Member for North Hackney (Lieutenant-Colonel Greene) on a speech for which he need not apologise. I wish he would intervene more frequently. He 2810 referred to this Bill, differing from any other hon. Members, as an alien Bill. He is quite right. It is not restricted to enemy aliens; it is an aliens Bill. It is a Bill for the restriction of aliens, and I would like the House to be possessed of the facts in regard to that. The total alien population, excluding Belgian refugees, who are going back as quickly as possible, is now about 200,000. Russians number about 92,000, and I think about half the Russians are in London and no doubt some of them are in the constituency represented by the hon. Member for Hackney. As I have said, the problem is not confined to enemy aliens: it is an alien problem. I would respectfully urge many hon. Members to remember that it is one thing to deal with enemy aliens—we are dealing with them as rapidly as they can possibly be dealt with—but it is a much more difficult problem to deal with the aliens that are left, especially those of doubtful or double nationality. In the Bill and under the Orders in Council we deal with them, if anything, more stringently than they have been dealt with in time of war.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Can the lion. Member tell the House approximately what are the numbers of aliens in this country of our War Allies—the French, the Italians, and the Americans?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
The, Russians number 92,000, the Italians 19,000, the French 16,000, the Americans a little over 11,000, and the Swiss about 9,000. In addition there are 63,000 Scandinavians and Chinese, who for the most part are seamen having no permanent residence in the United Kingdom, but coming here at intervals in pursuance of their calling.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
There are very few Japanese. They are a negligible quantity. The point I want to impress upon the House is that this alien question is now being drastically dealt with, and the alien population of this country—not only enemy aliens, but all aliens—is a decreasing quantity, and not an increasing quantity, and that the immigration of aliens has practically ceased under the present law, and we in this Bill simply continue that law and strengthen it. The alien population cannot increase, if this Bill and the Order 2811 in Council in connection with it are properly carried out. I would ask the House to give us the Second Reading of the Bill for several other reasons. The Bill is urgently required. We want to perfect the peace organisation before the end of the War, and to establish a permanent Department of the Home Office to deal with the alien question. This will include alien officers in many parts, and clerical staffs, and until we can get the Second Reading of this Bill the whole of these preliminary and essential arrangements are held up.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
You cannot start setting up a permanent Department unless you get the principle of the Bill adopted, and you can only have that done by the Second Reading. Once that is done we start establishing a permanent Department with all necessary officers at the ports and with a clerical staff, and we continue in the time of peace the drastic and successful Regulations under the law that have been so effective, especially during the last year.
§ Mr. BILLING
May we take it that the Government undertake that they will do that if this Bill gets Second Reading?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
That is the Government undertaking. When peace is declared an interned enemy alien may be entitled to his immediate release. This Bill enables the Government to retain such person until he is deported, or, if he appeals, until his case has been decided by the tribunal which is set up to hear it. Unless we get this Bill, the worst enemy alien you have got will be entitled to his freedom immediately peace is signed. I would ask hon. Members below the Gangway seriously to consider the responsibility of voting against a Bill with that excellent object in view.
Sir H. DALZIEL
What happens to the many hundreds of enemy aliens who have been released since the Armistice was signed and who are now at liberty?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I am not aware of that. One has to be careful in this House of making statements without authority, but I am not aware that there are hundreds of enemy aliens who have been released since the Armistice. I shall 2812 take the earliest opportunity of informing myself as to the fact, and I hope that I shall be able to let the right hon. Gentleman know later in the day.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
The Bill enables us to deal in a drastic manner with any act calculated to cause sedition or disaffection among our soldiers or sailors or those of our Allies, or among our civilian population. That is a real danger, and it is a danger which will be brought to an end the more quickly we get this Bill. It has been asked, Why does not the Government declare its policy? The policy of the Government is to continue during the troublous years immediately following the signing of peace the drastic and successful Regulations dealing with alien restrictions that have characterised the last year or so of the War. As the law now stands, there is a Regulation against any alien landing on these shores unless there is specific reason for his coming here—a reason in the interests of this country and not primarily in the interest of the alien. I am very glad to be able now to answer the question of my right hon. Friend (Sir H. Dalziel). Since the Armistice was signed there have been about thirty interned aliens released, any every one of them on the ground of ill-health.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
When the doctors say that a man will die if we do not let him go, however we loathe the enemy, we must yield to the advice of the doctors and give him a chance. The power to act quickly contained in this Bill is essential if we are to deal effectively with aliens, and is just as essential in time of, peace as in time of war. I submit that having regard to the fact that the policy of the Government is to be incorporated in Orders in Council, which are always open to the criticism of this House, and as to which questions can be put to the Front Bench, this Bill, and the Order in Council, which I can assure the House is more drastic than the Orders in Council now in existence, ought to satisfy every Member of this House. I hope that the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) will not press his Motion to a Division. If he wants to help to deal properly with the alien question he will support the Government.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
If the European situation will justify incorporation in the Statute of the Orders in Council necessary to carry out this policy of the Government, the Bill will be produced in this House as soon as the European situation justifies it. After all the European situation is the overpowering consideration in this and all matters. It is not quite worthy of this great Imperial House that we should think only of our own country in reference to this matter. Surely the hon. Member for South Hackney who, like myself, is an Imperialist, would think of the Empire, as a whole, and of the most difficult deliberations that are going on in Paris. The European situation governs. As soon as that situation allows, the Government would be glad to incorporate in a Bill the drastic Regulations now under Orders in Council and will submit them to the House as a permanent matter of legislation. With that assurance I hope the House will give us a Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. BILLING
Are we to accept it as an undertaking that whatever Orders in Council have been made will be put in a Bill and submitted to this House when peace is ratified?
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
It would be humiliating to make a statement like that. On the face of it you cannot put into a Bill every Order in Council. My assurance, I think, was fair. This Bill will go to a Committee and can be amended if the Committee so wish, but the principle underlying it should be accepted now by giving us a Second Reading. Speaking with a long experience of the alien question I submit that the Bill before the House and the Order in Council which I have read will be just to every patriotic citizen within the Empire.
Sir F. HALL
Is the Home Secretary going to adopt the same position in the Committee stage of this measure as in the case of the Ways and Communications Bill, or is he going to allow such Amendments to be taken as are not brought in by the Government?
§ Sir R. COOPER
In spite of the speeches to which we have listened I cordially support the rejection of this Bill. As I understand, both the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for rejection feel 2814 like myself that, next to the terms of peace, this alien problem is one of the most serious and important problems with which the Government has got to deal, affecting the future welfare of the people of this country. I was dissatisfied with the speech which we heard this afternoon from the Home Secretary, and for this reason. It is now five months since hostilities were concluded, and we were told this afternoon by the Government that in spite of all their experience during the War and since the Armistice they must ask the House for a further two years in order that the Government may get the experience necessary to determine what policy it would be wise for this country to adopt with regard to the status of aliens in every respect. That is not a view with which I and those with whom I am associated this afternoon in seeking to have this Bill rejected can possibly agree. We hold this country has already had ample experience of what is wrong and what is right, and it is our opinion that, after all, the vast experience that it has had it is profoundly unsatisfactory for the Government to come to the House and say here to-day on the eve of the declaration of peace, "We cannot for two years yet tell you what are to be the broad lines on which we shall settle the future birthright and citizenship of the people of this country." We are opposing this Bill not because we of necessity object to the actual terms of the Bill, which might be required to tide over a few more weeks or months. It is because we feel that it is wrong and dishonest, in view of the pledges given at the last General Election, that we should be asked to give this blank cheque, these powers under Order in Council of which no one in this House has the slightest conception. The House and the country should be told what are the principles on which the Government intend to draw up these Orders in Council.
My hon. Friend has really given the whole Government case away, because he said, "What a pity it is we have got this great and important Order in Council now in the Press. If only it were in the hands of Members of the House, they would not dream of opposing this Bill." That may be perfectly true. My complaint is that it is thoroughly wrong to press this measure through the House of Commons when the Government deliberately deny the very information to which every Member of the House has a right before giving this blank cheque to 2815 the Government. That is a reason for opposition. A vote for this Bill is nothing else than a vote of confidence in the Government. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary spoke of the drastic, and successful alien legislation of His Majesty's Government during the last four years. I personally am, and I know very many other Members of this House are, profoundly dissatisfied with the administration of the alien problem, and I do suggest that practically nothing effective was ever done by the Home Office during the whole course of the War until pressure was put upon it by the majority of Members of this House. This House is asked to-night to say we are satisfied with that drastic and successful legislation of the last four years and we do not want to know what you will base your policy on with regard to aliens, and here is a blank cheque in this Bill. For my part that is a course which I certainly cannot adopt in the light of the experience which I have had during the War of the administration of the alien problem, and I venture to suggest it is one which is going to find infinitely less favour outside this House than apparently amongst Members of the House. The Government is not delivering the goods it promised faithfully at the last General Election. This Bill coming in, at present I honestly cannot describe as anything else but eye-wash for the people, so that when Peace is likely to be declared the public can feel that the Government is trying to do something in this matter as it will be said there was an Alien Bill last week, and they will think they are doing something. In reality, they are not doing anything effective so far as we are allowed to know. That is our complaint. We ought to know what they are going to do with these powers. There is only one feature in this Bill which is in any sense a declaration of policy. It is a new feature, and the principle underlying it is one with which I think every Member of the House must agree—I refer to Clause 3, relating to aliens who are guilty of incitement to sedition or industrial unrest. But Sub-section (2) provides that aliens can only be dealt with by the Home Office when the alien incites to industrial unrest in an industry in which he is not bonâ fide engaged. It seems to me that those words are really nothing else than a Government licence to every alien in an industry in which he is bonâ fide engaged to freely explore all his 2816 powers of sedition and incitement to industrial unrest. That is, of course, a point that can be, and I hope will be, dealt with in Committee, but the principle is one with which we all agree. Our complaint is that there is not one single policy mentioned. We have the right to know in this Bill what are the general lines of policy the Government is going to adopt, and the manner in which it would make use of these Orders in Council under the powers given in the Bill. A moment ago I made a remark to the effect that there was no justification for this Bill being brought forward at this present moment. Last week the Home Secretary was asked a question about the naturalisation and status of aliens, and the reply that was given on the 10th of April was that the urgent questions with regard to naturalisation were dealt with in the Act passed last Session, and that the points which remained are not urgent. If that is so, I cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman can bring in this extraordinary Bill the following week. Several Members have made references and given quotations as to the pledges which the Government gave at the General Election. I have got them here, but I do not propose to repeat them, but I do feel that the majority of the Members of the House were really pledged up to the hilt at the election to take every opportunity of pressing upon the Government for a strong and definite alien policy, and I think tonight, apart from the powers of party, that hon. Members should give a little thought to the pledges made to the constituents on this matter, and which I venture to think might be awkwardly raised against them. I can assure the House that the public are profoundly distrustful of the Home Office and administration by the Home Office during the War up to the present moment. I have had the opportunity of talking to a great many people, and I know what sentiment there is on this question.
At the last election the alien question even more than the indemnity question roused the temper of every audience throughout the length and breadth of the land when practically no other subject did so. It was not until the Prime Minister made his express promise and the Leader of the House made a similar promise at Glasgow that that wave of great patriotic enthusiasm suddenly swept over the country, changing the minds of the majority of the voters from doubt into the 2817 immediate determination, "Now we have got a definite statement about aliens and about the indemnities, and now we must all give our support to the man who alone has carried us satisfactorily through the War." That was the whole sentiment at the last General Election. I should be very interested to hear what some members of the Government will say to their constituents when they have to try and show them that the powers asked for in this Bill are really a full and honest and faithful fulfilment of the promises they made. There are two reasons why those of us who are opposing this Bill feel that at least a declaration of policy on the part of the Government is necessary. That is based on the fact that we hold, rightly or wrongly, that a very much stronger sentiment and purpose has got to underlie the action of the State in the future than it has done in the past in connection with all alien legislation. Your first consideration should be the security of the State itself, and, secondly, the protection of the rights of individual citizens. With regard to the first of those, my hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) reminded the House of the extraordinary case of de Laszlo. I was sorry he did not remind the House also of this peculiar fact, that de Laszlo was caught by the Government, in spite of the backing he had, from a letter which came from Hungary from his brother, in which his brother said he was instructed by the authorities to thank him for his fortieth report on the military situation in Great Britain. [An HON. MEMBER: "And he was not deported?"] No, he was not deported. What I ask is, Why was he not shot? If he had been a Britisher, and if it had been discovered that he had made a fortieth report on the military situation, I venture to think that he would have been shot by the most weak-minded Government that we could conceive. Why, then, was de Laszlo, who got the protection of persons in high places at the outset, when he was found guilty, not shot? There are several other aspects of this matter with which I should have liked to have dealt to-night, but I desire to consult the convenience of the House and the Government. Therefore I will not continue any further, but on the definite understanding that if at a later stage I desire to advance some more arguments on this question I will have the right to do so on the Third Reading if I am fortunate enough to be called upon.
§ Mr. SHORTT
With the permission of the House I would like to make a suggestion. I have listened to the Debate the whole of this afternoon, and to the very keen and at the same time very proper and very moderate criticism which this Bill has received. I have done so with the desire, as far as possible, to meet the desires and the wishes of the House. It occurs to me that probably the House is-not so much adverse to waiting until the European position is clear as it is to giving for a period of two years free scope to my Department. I suggest, therefore, if I undertake to accept in Committee an Amendment reducing the period from two-years to one year, and if the European situation were not clear then, I am sure the House would bear with me, or with any successor, if I had to come to ask for an extension of the period, but I am pre-pared to make that suggestion that we would accept an Amendment reducing the period from two years to one.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
By leave of the House may I say I am personally very reluctant to stand in the way of any proposal which the right hon. Gentleman, with the knowledge which he has, says is necessary having regard to the present European situation? Therefore, after the concession he has made and subject to the leave of the House and with the consent of the Seconder the hon. Member for York, I shall be happy to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I am much obliged to the Home Secretary for his assurance, and with the promise of the Under-Secretary that we shall be at liberty in Committee to introduce Amendments of the kind we want, I entirely concur in the Amendment being withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.