- (1) After the passing of this Act no alien shall be appointed in any office in the Civil Service of the United Kingdom without the written sanction of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who shall report to Parliament the names of all aliens so appointed, and the special reasons for such appointment.
- (2) No alien shall be permitted without the written sanction of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to sit for any examination conducted by the Civil Service Commissioners.
§ Mr. REID
I beg to move, to leave out Clause 6. I do so for two reasons, one of which is that it suggests giving a power to the Home Secretary which he has not got already. The existing law on the subject is quite clear. By the Act of Settlement the alien is prohibited from holding any office or place of trust. It has been held by the esteemed lawyer who has just resigned the Mastership of the Rolls that that Section was unrepealed, and therefore still in force. I submit it is quite clear under the existing law that the alien is not eligible to be a member of the Civil Service. Further, the Clause gives the Home Secretary power to interfere. I submit the proper way to deal with the matter is to omit the whole Clause. It adds nothing to the existing law. To put in this Clause even with the addition the right hon. Baronet has suggested may create some difficulties of interpretation, for we would have a portion of the law included in the Act of Settlement repeated in different words under the present circumstances.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt)
I hope my hon. Friend will not press this Amendment. Like himself 1 was under the impression that the Clause, as it stood, weakened rather than strengthened the law in regard to aliens. I accepted this Clause as it stands in Committee, and on looking into it I was rather under the same impression: that it gave the Home Secretary power which he does not possess to allow an alien to join the Civil Service. It is not quite so clear that the Act of Settlement goes as far as does this Clause. There can be no harm if the the Clause is amended as is proposed by my hon. and learned Friend. It will then read:After the passing of this Act no alien shall be appointed in any office of the Civil Service of the United Kingdom.I suppose the intention would be to make the words conform to the Act of Settlement. therefore these words can do no possible harm. They make the law perfectly clear, and the point that aliens are not to be employed in our Civil Service. Therefore I would ask the hon. Member not to press this Amendment.
§ Mr. BILLING
Are we to understand that the Home Secretary will himself 1224 accept the Amendment of the hon. Baronet? If that be the case there is nothing further to be said.
§ Captain W. BENN
That is a very remarkable speech which has been made by the Home Secretary. Personally, I think this Clause is absolutely grotesque. It prevents the Government from employing anyone who does not happen to be British-born or naturalised for any purpose.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Captain BENN
Let us take a case in point. I do not know about the existing law; we are speaking about the before the House. Let me say, in the first place. I do not suppose anyone thinks there is a danger of aliens swamping the Civil Service. There is no doubt about the question as to whether or not we should have the power in our public offices to employ people who, for various reasons, may be absolutely essential for a task, and, indeed, quite the best qualified to carry it out. There is the instance of the British Museum, which is one of the offices in the Civil Service. Suppose somebody brings to that establishment valuable antiquities. Are we to be limited to British-born people as employés there, or as professors to interpret those things? Suppose we require the services of some distinguished antiquarian, are we to enforce upon such a person, because he is a foreigner, to take up our nationality? Take the Board of Education, which comes under the Civil Service. Suppose in outlining a great scheme of musical education for the children of this country we require to employ some foreigners, are we to say that we must not have a distinguished Italian or a French man as a servant on the Board of Education for a given time? Supposing the Office of Works puts out a great public building to contract and it accepts as the best designed one that is drawn up by a foreigner, would that foreigner not be entitled to bring over the foreign workmen who might be required to carry out the special artistic part of his work? Under such circumstances, what would have become in the past of all those bright artistic gems of this country?
What is now being proposed is a most extraordinary perversion of the alien question which can only be correctly described as grotesque. Take the case of diseases. The Colonial Office has to investigate tropical diseases, and successful 1225 administration depends upon us being able to master those diseases. As a matter of fact, when I was in Khartoum during the War I was told by Dr. Chalmers that the Germans were making most valuable contributions to the study of this subject before the War. I should imagine the person in charge of this health question at the Colonial Office would wish to have under him an officer who would be able to search the laboratories all over the world, but this Clause would prevent that. Really there are so many examples that it is impossible, without exhausting the patience of the House, to deal with them. Take the investigations in regard to the oil supply of this country. We are all desirous of adding to the reserves of this country and securing an adequate supply of oil, but we should not have been able to do what we have done in this respect without the persistence of aliens. According to this Clause the Ministry of Munitions could not employ any of these aliens in their office. A Clause of this kind cannot stand examination by sane people. As regards Sub-section (2) that is more remarkable still. If the Home Secretary issued a permit to employ these people he could not have an examination to see which would be the better person to employ, because no alien is to be permitted to sit for an examination, and so you get from absurdity to absurdity. The alleged danger that our Civil Service may become submerged by an alien immigration does not exist, but the real thing we desire is to have at the service of this country the best ability the world can offer. That is the principle on which our country has been built up in the past, and we wish to preserve that principle.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken has been trying to make our flesh creep, because with the greatest respect to him anything more ridiculous than his law and his application of it I never heard. He suggests that no one could employ an Italian workman to carry out a particular piece of work if this Clause were passed.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman really argue that to employ a particular workman on a public building is to give him an office in the Civil Service? That only requiries to be stated to show that if is ludicrous. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is trying to frighten the 1226 House by these illustrations, which have no application whatsoever to this Clause. Let us now talk about the real question: Should an alien be allowed into an office or place in the Civil Service? Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman read the Act of Settlement?
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I do not know whether he gives it as his legal opinion that according to that Act an alien is eligible for the Civil Service. If so, he is a very daring man. I think there is considerable doubt as to whether the Act of Settlement does prevent an alien going into the Civil Service, and we want to make the law quite clear, and in accordance with the wishes of the great majority of the House we want to provide that an alien shall not be admitted to the Civil Service, and carry out what is the intention of the Act of Settlement. If this Motion to leave out Clause 6 is defeated, then I propose to move an Amendment to render it certain that an alien shall not enter the Civil Service not even with the sanction of the Home Secretary, and I shall move to leave out that part of the Clause by which he can enter the Civil Service by permission of the Home Secretary. I hope the House will reject this Motion to leave out this Clause, in order to arrive at the result we all desire, that is to make it clear that no alien shall be allowed to enter the Civil Service in the way proposed
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment made: In Sub-section (1) leave out the word "in" and insert instead thereof the word "to."—[Sir J. Butcher.]
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "office," and to insert instead thereof the words "or place."
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I beg to move, in Sub-sections (1) and (2), to leave out the wordswithout the written sanction of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who shall report to Parliament the names of all aliens so appointed, and the special reasons for such appointment.(2) No alien shall be permitted without the written sanction of the Secretary of State for 1227 the Home Department to sit for any examination conducted by the Civil Service Commissioners.My proposal will secure that no alien shall be allowed to enter the Civil Service even with the permission of the Home Secretary.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Before the Home Secretary replies- I want to put before him a few points. In the first place, does the word "alien" include a native of Egypt at the present time or the natives of those areas now under British mandates? Are those aliens or British subjects? I want to be quite certain that we understand that anybody who is born under the British flag, whether it be in a Protectorate or a mandatory territory, is included. If we have this point cleared up, it will prevent difficulties in the future arising owing to the doubtful status of people like the Egyptians. I was informed that an Egyptian was not a British subject, but an alien. I was told this in connection with some Egyptian sailors who had to go back to Egypt, and I was informed they were not British subjects and that the Home Secretary could not do anything for them. I think it is important that we should know who are aliens, seeing that we are taking all this trouble to keep them out.
I should like to know whether a place of profit under the Civil Service includes an ordinary teacher in a board school or secondary school. Are they not included in the Civil Service? I should like a statement that this Clause does not cover anybody who is merely coming into this country to teach French, German, or Italian in any of our State schools. I am not quite clear as to what "place of profit" covers, and I should like to know whether it covers teaching in secondary schools, evening schools, or any other schools. On the general question 1 cannot understand why the hon. Baronet who moved this Amendment should be so anxious to deprive the Home Secretary for all time of the right of allowing an alien to take a job in this country in the Civil Service, because the only occasion on which the Home Secretary would be likely to face unpopularity on this subject would be when he had an extremely good case. Therefore I think it would be better to leave this power in the hands of the Home 1228 Secretary, so that if any emergency came along he would not have his hands tied by the law which would prevent him from giving employment to a man who was nominally an alien. Aliens are in two categories, those who fought with us and those who fought against us; and I view with grave suspicion all this lumping together of these two brands of aliens, lest we should find that we are welding them into one, the alien feeling that, whatever his nationality might be, the British Government and the British people are treating them all alike and as being inferior to the British citizen.
§ Mr. SHORTT
With regard to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said about the people of States mandated to us, they would also be aliens; and, as far as teachers and schoolmasters are concerned, they are paid out of the rates and are not ordinary Civil servants. While it might be well sometimes to have a German or a French teacher, we do want Britishers to teach our children.
§ Captain W. BENN
Do I understand if we pass the excision of these words that the Government will have no power at any time to employ for any purpose whatever any alien, though that person may be some learned, scholastic, musical, or artistic person? Do I understand that the Government are to be absolutely excluded from giving any post in any office to any alien for any purpose? Is that what we are doing now?
§ Sir H. NIELD
The hon. and gallant Gentleman continues to confuse the position. It is not a question of depriving the Home Secretary of any discretion; it is a question of putting an end to any doubt as to what is the law as laid down by the Act of Settlement, and I should have thought that my hon. Friends below the Gangway would have been the last persons in the world to impinge upon the Act of Settlement, because, as my hon. Friends know well, it was passed by their forbears, the Whigs. My hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Wedgwood) has merely tried to pervert history, as he tries to pervert our dealings with the Bolsheviks at the present time. As there never was any option or discretion left to the Home Secretary, there can be no question to be raised by the lovers of freedom and the lovers of the alien, the persons who take to their breasts 1229 those individuals and prefer them to their own countrymen. We are only reaffirming what the uncommonly wise ancestors of the degenerate party, to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman belongs, desired to do in 1689. My hon. and gallant Friend who sits on the Front Bench (Captain W. Benn) and my hon. and gallant Friend above me (Colonel Wedgwood) belong to that coterie of people who wrecked the efficient working of the Aliens Act of 1905. Let us have no nonsense about it. We know the fights that took place in 1904 to compel the withdrawal of the Aliens Bill, and the fights that took place in 1905 which curtailed the usefulness of the measure then passed; and the administrative Order of Lord Gladstone, the then Home Secretary, were conducted by the very same people, and brought about the troubles from which we have been suffering. Let us have no doubt, and let us have an Act upon the Statute Book which shall state in unmistakable terms that no alien shall be employed in the Civil Service.
§ Mr. BILLING
May I appeal to the Home Secretary not to take the opposition to the Amendment too seriously? The hon. and gallant Gentleman who speaks so feelingly is obliged to keep his end up while his leader is dining. He has done his best, and I ask the House to give him credit for what he has done, and to allow the business to go on.
§ Amendment agreed to.