HC Deb 18 November 1919 vol 121 cc827-53

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the-third time."


I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words this House, whilst willing to provide the executive with the fullest powers necessary to deal with dangerous and undesirable aliens, declines to give a Third Reading to a Bill which by its own provisions and the reprisals they may excite checks the growth of our overseas trade; which clogs that free intercourse with foreign nations by which in art, science, literature, and religion this country has greatly gained; which impairs the British tradition of right of asylum; and which forms an obstacle to international goodwill and a hindrance to the work of the League of Nations. I move this in order to take the opportunity of putting before the House the general objections which many of us feel to a measure of this kind, introduced as it is at the conclusion of a great war, and one which we had hoped would see the inauguration of peace in the world and goodwill amongst the nations of the world. The Bill has been reprinted, as amended in Committee and on Report, and we have to remember that, as it now stands, it is not the proposal which the Government considered necessary for dealing with this question. The Government considered the whole question, and came to the conclusion that the case would be met by a Bill of one Clause which was accordingly introduced, and went upstairs to a Standing Committee. As a result of the pressure brought to bear on the Government by some Members of this House, the Bill was very greatly altered, and instead of the one Clause which was the sole constituent of the original Bill, we have a Bill which runs into sixteen or seventeen Clauses, each of which, except the one original Clause, represents a concession made by the Government, more or less reluctantly, in response to pressure from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. I do not know whether hon. Members have read the whole Bill or have read the draft Orders in Council which can be made under Clause 1, because, if they do so, I venture to say that they will find that the Bill contains restrictions, and deals with inspections and irritations of all kinds which seem to be utterly unnecessary and very harmful at this particular moment. Under Clause 13, I observe that all the penalties which were imposed on enemy aliens may be applied by the Home Secretary to any aliens. If I deal with the subject in a general way, I shall not be accused of making more of it than it really deserves, because the Home Secretary has the widest penal powers provided.

The Motion which, in conjunction with my hon. Friend's, I have brought forward, attempts to survey the whole question of the relation of this country to other countries, and the influence of aliens of all countries on our own history, because we hold from the Liberal point of view that we have very greatly benefited, materially, politically and in every other way, from the free association which this country has always fostered with the other countries of the world. First of all, in the Resolution we put the material benefits. We allege that this Bill tends to check the growth of overseas trade. It tends to check it directly by hindering our free intercourse with aliens, and indirectly by exciting on the part of other countries-reprisals of a like nature to these. We really must take a broader view of this question than that which is taken by hon. Members below the Gangway. We must take a broad historical view. We are not legislating for the year 1919 only. We should legislate in the spirit which has been the secret of the success of our country. This very City, which is the metropolis of the Empire, was founded upon its commerce, and that commerce was founded upon a vast alien immigration. Green says of the fall of Antwerp to the Duke of Parma— The commercial supremacy of our own capital was first established by the merchants and manufacturers of the ruined city who were said to have found a refuge on the bank of the Thames. I wonder what the hon. Member for West Ham of that day would have said about a flood of undesirable immigrants competing with British labour, when all these Dutchmen came over—to whom, as we now see, we really owe the predominance of our capital in the trade of the world. [An HON. MEMBER: "When was that?"] That was in the time of Elizabeth. I am taking a broad view. It may be exceedingly-ridiculous in the eyes of some Members to take a historical view: I do not want to refer to the Huguenots or the Flemings. I will come right down to to-day. The trade in modern bedroom furniture was entirely created in this country by an alien—I am not sure he was not an enemy alien—a most enterprising man, Mr. Harris Lebus. His father came here as an immigrant; I suppose some would have said he came as an undesirable immigrant. And that one man, by devising machinery for the manufacture of furniture in large quantities, built up an enormous trade in this country. I think it fair to say that next to cheap houses there is no more desirable thing for the well being of the people in general than cheap furniture. If I started in. history, at any rate, I. will end up with something a little more modern.

4.0 P.M.

I was speaking on Saturday to a cotton-spinner about the numbers of alien shippers who live in Manchester. He pointed out what, of course, is wholly true—that no man of our own race could possibly understand the precise tastes of these foreign markets. A design which may appear to us garish or ridiculous in the extreme may De the very thing that is required; so much so that you cannot send Englishmen to these countries to get orders. You require a man who knows the country and the taste of the country, and you require him to come back and to live in this country in order to guide our manufacturers. That seems to me perfectly obvious. When speaking of reprisals, we have to remember the Near East. I do not know whether Turkey is in a position to retaliate. If we are going to deport all Turks, all Mahomedan Turks, I do not think we could reasonably complain if the Turks did the same to us. If that were done—I am bound to say I do not think they would dare, in their own interest, to do it—it would be absolute ruin and collapse to the whole of our vast trade in the Near East. Representatives of British industry are now flocking back to Turkey by every ship. Speaking on this question of trade, I would remind the House that 120,000 Englishmen leave this country every year to settle in alien lands, so that we have to remember their interests and the treatment that they are likely to receive at the hands of others when we are passing, as I think, such ridiculous legislation in this country. I pass from the trade aspect of the alien problem to what is called the right of asylum, the sentimental interest attaching to the British tradition of the right of asylum. We are very proud to think that in this country in past centuries many political refugees have found a home and. have learned to love our institutions. It has been a very great material benefit to us as well. Let us take a modern case. It was a critical time in the War when the decision of Italy to intervene was taken in the year 1915. There is no doubt that was-one of the crises in that great struggle. Am I employing the language of hyperbole when I say that our free reception and friendship extended during the middle of the nineteenth century to Italian patriots was largely responsible for that warm feeling of love for this country in Italy which caused her people to push their Government into intervention on our side? It seems to me that is absolutely so. A modern case is that of M. Paderewski, who became an apostle of Western civilisation in Europe. Another case is that of Madam Destinn the singer. She was an Austrian subject, and would have been subject to all the penal provisions of this Bill. Madam Destinn or Destinovo as she is now called, is now playing the part of an enthusiastic friend of England. She is not only a singer, but also an author, and a very distinguished Bohemian patriot. It is no exaggeration to say that the British right of aslyum which we have always cherished has brought in its train great material benefits for our country.

The next part of the Resolution to which I would like to refer is the general question of the benefits which we have received from free intercourse with all mankind. It is almost a hackneyed subject. The great Italian Renaissance was entirely due to the immigration of undesirable people from Constantinople into Italy. I can imagine the hon. Gentleman's prototypes in Florence and Tuscany in those days speaking of the flood of these Greeks as competing with the Italians and interfering with their trade. It was the free relation which we had with those countries in those far-off days which enabled us to share in all the benefits of the Renaissance. If it is alleged that that is too remote, we have only to remember in the field of art how many distinguished aliens there have been within our own recollection. Sara-sate, Whistler, Halle, Bartolozzi, and Mary Anderson! All aliens. An hon. Gentleman says, "Why do they not become naturalised?" The best sort will riot become naturalised, because they are proud of their country, and we ought to be glad. to receive them here. In literature we have Max Muller and Joseph Conrad, a man who has contributed very largely to the wealth of British literature.


Was he not naturalised?

Captain BENN

No, I think not. Conrad preferred to write in our own tongue. He is an enemy alien, and could not land under this Bill.


Conrad is a Pole.

Captain BENN

No, a German Pole. I speak subject to correction, but he is a man who undoubtedly would come under this Bill.


What about Kuno Meyer?

Captain BENN

Kuno Meyer, after all is said and done, did, I think, more good than harm in this country. He was an enemy of this country, but he contributed very largely to learning in this country. Kuno Meyer would be an undesirable alien under this Bill, and the Home Secretary would have power to deal with him. Of course, in the general way of the building up of the Empire, we need only refer to the origin of Lord Beaconsfield. We have also to remember that the beginning of the better housing of the people of this country was due to George Pea-body, who was an alien amongst us. As to science, the field is so large that it is almost impossible to explore it. There are Von Reuter, famous the world over for his Press telegrams; Sir William Siemens, president of the Royal Society; and Sir Arthur Schuster, who has rendered incalculable service to our country during the War. At this moment the world of scientific medicine is organising a scheme for the interchange of research work between this country and America. Under this Bill all the paraphernalia of passports, photographs, and inspection, with special permits, will have to be undertaken by these scientists whom really we ought to welcome with open arms.


Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman say to what Clause he is referring?

Captain BENN

Clause 1 and the Orders made under Clause 1. All aliens have to land at certain ports. They have to have passports and photographs not more than five years old. They have to report themselves to the police, and to get permits to move in different districts. All that unnecessary irritation and restriction in this concrete case is checking an important work of science. While I am on the field of science, there is an enemy alien called Einstein who has dicovered a new theory of light. I am glad to say that owing to this Bill we shall prevent the dumping of any German science in this country. We shall be able to have an all-British law of gravity, and so long as we can rely upon the right hand of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway we need not have any fear that the election pledges as to an all-red science will be broken I have examined the provisions of this Bill and the Orders that have been drafted under it. I have tried to examine them in the light of history, and to see what would have happened to some of the distinguished aliens who have contributed so much to the national well-being. I take, first, the Orders in Council. Orders in Council No. 1 prevents the entry of any alien who cannot support himself. Under that Order we should have had no Rossetti, no Antony Panizzi, whose work in the British Museum was of such incalculable value in spreading the means of self-education to thousands. I need scarcely mention Benjamin West, but he would have been excluded. The Home Secretary is not able to exclude undesirables by name; you give him power to exclude everybody on the chance that he will get one or two undesirables, and the result is you will exclude the harmless English-loving aliens who like the freedom of this country.

Really, when you deal with the thing in a broad historical way the case for a Bill of this kind becomes so ridiculous that it is almost cruelty to pursue it. Take Section 9 of the draft Order in Council, which states that the Secretary of State may prohibit the use or possession of any machine, apparatus, or article of any description. What would have become of Marconi and his investigations made in this country in a science which rendered us a great service during the War? What would have become of Poulsen? I will not mention Herschel and his telescope. I see that Order No. 12 gives the same wide powers to the Secretary of State to deport anyone if he deems it to be conducive to the public good. I should like to see what would have happened to Garibaldi when a private note was sent round by the Austrian Embassy to the Home Secretary of that day. There is a Clause in the Bill which gives ten years to any alien who stirs up disaffection among the civilian population. Tyndall with his German friends, Martin Luther and St. Augustine, would all have been deported under the first Clause of the Bill, and, as to Tyndall sending his translations of the Bible to Wurtemberg, he would have been dealt with under D.O.R.A. Section 6 forbids any alien to be employed in the public service. That would have excluded Holbein, Van Dyek, Handel, and Sir Peter Lely. Sir Peter Lely would have been caught under two Sections. He would have been excluded from the public service, because I suppose Charles paid him out of public funds, but, worse than that. be changed his name. He was not Peter Lely at all; it was Van der Faes, and no one can pretend that Lely is the English translation as near as may be of Van der Faes. The Bill for the deportation of aliens would have rid us of Rousseau and Froissard, and, worse still, another man who would have suffered would have been Kossuth. It is so all through the ridiculous provisions of this Bill. Perhaps on the whole Section 11 is the most absurd.

This prevents enemy aliens having any interest in a key industry. A key industry is not defined in this Bill, but it is stated that it is going to be defined later on by the Board of Trade. I understand that a key industry is something to enable you to win in the next war. Surely, if we can get any help from enemies or anybody else to get devices which will help us to win the next war we ought to do so. What can be the purpose of preventing that, and what would be the result of a provision of this kind, say, against the Marconi invention Marconi is a native of a country which, at one time, was in alliance with the enemy, and a native of a country which, presumably, would have gone in against us in the War. What would have been the result of harrying a man like that from carrying on his operations and experiments here, and which were of inestimable advantage to us? Perhaps we shall have a better opportunity on the anti-Dumping Bill of finding out what is the idea of preventing the use of enemy talent that we can secure, for I admit, at present, I cannot understand what the purpose is. Is it to save this country from being beaten in the next war? If so, what is the good of showing our venom to people like Austrians, Bulgarians and Turks, who cannot be supposed to be potential enemies of this country? Is it to protect the trade of this country? The curious thing is that the people who want to keep out aliens and their services and goods are the very people who clamour most loudly for making Germans pay the whole cost of the War.

An hon. Gentleman interrupted me just now and asked would I recommend the entry of certain people whom he named and who were obviously of undesirable character? My reply is, of course not. What we think should be done is to endow the Home Secretary with the fullest possible power to deal individually with the people who are a danger to this country. This Bill does nothing of the kind. It is a Bill which leaves enormous loopholes. Take Section 16, which provides that the Bill shall not apply to a man who has been "naturalised in any other foreign State." Would there under that Section be the least difficulty for people to secure Swiss nationality in order to drive a submarine through the whole of the Clauses of this precious Bill? This is a Bill which excludes people who may possibly be of some use or value to this country, and which is absolutely futile and useless against a man who is determined to come here in order to do us an injury. We believe that what the world wants at the present moment is peace and work, and those are precisely the things this Bill interferes with. You have all the paraphernalia of passports and fingerprints, and remember that the Bill gives the Home Secretary the power to have fingerprints taken, not of any individual, but generally. All that sort of thing cherishes suspicion and hatred, and is inimical to the very spirit which we wish to see fostered. If you wish to make this country strong in fight, you do not nerve its arm by hatred. Hatred does not make people fight better any more than fear or shame. Chivalry is a great force, and a. force of great material military value. What we want to see is growing in the world, and a world which will-have an atmosphere in which the League of Nations may have a chance of success. What, we hope is that we shall see a better atmosphere, which I believe is growing in the world. It is perhaps too much to hope that hon. Gentlemen who are supporters of this Bill will are the flash on the Damascus Road, but the good sense of this country will, I think, speedily end this miasma of persecution.


I desire to support the hon. and gallant Member in moving the reasoned objection of this Bill. My principal reason for doing so is that it seems to me to run directly contrary to the whole idea of the League of Nations. I think, generally speaking, we may say that those who are most keen in opposition to this Bill are those who are most keen for a strong and real League of Nations, and that those who are supporting this Bill are at bottom opposed to the idea of the League of Nations. The distinction is quite clear. At the back of the League of Nations idea is the same idea that inspires the Labour party on these benches— that is, international solidarity, rather than the creation and stimulation of national differences. To inspire national differences has always been one of the dopes with which Labour has been kept quiet, because if you hate your next-door neighbour in another country, then Labour will pay less attention to the injustices from which it suffers in the country of its birth. This Bill is not merely directly contrary to the idea of the League of Nations, but it will undoubtedly do harm to the successful carrying out of any such League. I looked in this Bill to see how it would affect our American cousins across the Atlantic. Under this Bill an American who lands in this country has to go through all the trouble and difficulty which he experienced during the War. Americans coming to this country during the War have over and over again said to me, "We are treated as though we were enemies of this country." When they got to the ports they were lined up in queues to have their passports examined and their photographs examined, and I have even known cases of Americans coming here to do Red Cross work and in connection with the nursing profession taken into State cabins and stripped to the skin, under these Rules and Regulations, to see if they were carrying any information. All that stirs up ill-will between us and America. Every American officer who came over here and who was told to produce his passport immediately felt that he had a grievance against this country, and, under this Bill, for two years, at any rate, all those difficulties are being perpetuated and all this friction is being engendered between us and America. So far as America is concerned, we must remember that everything we do to Americans will most surely be retaliated on our shoulders, and we shall, find that the restrictions we put on Americans coming into England will be applied to English people going to America. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are now!"]

Surely now, when we are getting on with the idea of uniting all the peoples in a League of Nations, this Bill is the queerest satire upon, the spirit which is supposed to inspire this new movement? It is not merely that this Bill is directly contrary to the spirit, of internationalism and inspired with the desire to engender international hate, but this Bill is also a cruel Bill, and it is to that side of it that I would like to direct the attention of the House. The War has been cruel enough to the English wives of enemy aliens who have been separated from their husbands for five years, and their husbands in many cases have been sent back to Germany, and the wife and children left behind. Their homes have been broken up, and they have been unable to get work, and they are known by their foreign German names by their neighbours, and they have been unwelcome in shops where they went to buy their food. All that has gone on during the War, and now by a special fiendish device, the whole of those wartime cruelties are to be continued, and they are cruelties not to Germans, not to Austrians, not to Turks, but to English-born women who have committed the frightful crime of marrying a foreigner. I have got a letter from one here typical of many hundreds which I have received during the War, and in which she says: I am the wife of a German who was interned and then repatriated, leaving me here with two sons, the eldest one being consumptive and the other one still in the Army and in France. I want my dear husband to be allowed to come back and help to support myself and my sick son. I have been married twenty-three years, and I have never been out of England. That is only one sample of many of those letters which are all the same. Those unfortunate wives and families have had their breadwinners taken away and sent back to Germany, and under this Bill they may not come back for three years. It is the same with those who wore interned in this country and who have been passed by Mr. Justice Younger's Committee as being fit to return. They are to be deported and their wives and families left behind, unless, indeed, they can make out a case good enough for the Home Secretary or a Committee to leave them in this country. There is no question of danger to this country. It is merely a question of vengeance and spite against these un- fortunate people who happen to belong to an enemy country by reason of their marriage. The whole thing would be pathetic were it not that you have at the back of this movement a desire to exact vengeance upon the German people for their cruelties during the War. I for one do not wish to exact vengeance. It seems to me that vengeance has been worked on Germany by other Powers, and it might be left in other hands to carry on this horrible work. I do not want to have vengeance for the loss of my relations; I do not want to see England adopt an attitude which is not only unchivalrous but also unchristian. What we have got to do is to try and heal the wounds that have been created by this War, and not to perpetuate them for ever by adding salt to the wounds that have been made. I am no longer a member of the Liberal party, but I believe there are many members of that party sitting on the Coalition side who would attach weight to the opinions of Liberals in the past. We have had Bills like this brought forward over and over again, but never such a bad Bill as this. Sir Evans Gordon, in the old days, Claude Hay, all these people brought forward anti-alien Bills, the last two such Bills being brought forward in 1904 and 1905. Those Bills were strenuously opposed by the whole of the Liberal and Labour parties. The Bill of 1904, which was not so bad as this, was withdrawn, and when it was introduced in 1905 it was modified in many respects in a Liberal direction. Mr. Asquith, dealing with that Bill, makes three points which seem to me to be as good Liberal points to-day as they were then. Ho says of the second Bill, that of 1905, as compared with the 1904 Bill, that it vested in the Home Secretary executive power, by his own act, without the protection of any preliminary judicial investigation, without any regard to any law of evidence, which is the safeguard of our liberties, to refuse admission to alien immigrants and to expel them from this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1905, col. 742, Vol. 145.] He went on to say how glad he was that that had been altered in the 1905 Bill, but we have gone back to it in 1919, Mr. Asquith deals again with the question of the right of asylum. He says: The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) has called attention to the importance of preserving the right or privilege of asylum in this country, not only for the victims of political but of religious persecutions also." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1905, col. 743, Vol. 145.] That right of asylum has gone, too, and the idea that people might now fly from Russia to this country and take asylum here for political purposes, or that, driven by religious persecutions, they might come here from Russia, has entirely vanished. The right of asylum has gone under this Bill, and, instead, all poor people are to be excluded. The last point he made is as applicable to-day as it was to the first Bill of 1904. Mr. Asquith said that provision had been put in which enabled an appeal from the immigration office to what is called the immigration board. That has also gone under this Bill. We have gone back to the worst provisions of the Bill of 1904, and we have gone back under the directions of a so-called Liberal Home Secretary. I can only regret that the Home Secretary is a Liberal; we should have been much better off if this question had come to be discussed under his immediate predecessor. Unfortunately, he is a nominal Liberal, but he is not a politician. His whole career has been on legal lines; he has no political ambitions, no political ideals to maintain, and I do ask him to remember in the future, if he has not remembered in the past, that he is not merely responsible for the safety of this country, but that he has also in his hands the honour of this country, and it is that which has been dragged in the mud by the passage of this Bill.


The last two speakers have taken up the position that this Bill goes, if anything, too far, but I am afraid, possibly because I represent a constituency that is overrun with hordes of undesirable aliens, that if anything the Bill does not go far enough, certainty not as regards the undesirable aliens. Those of us who have endeavoured, not I think without success, to strengthen this Bill, have had many hard things said of us, and Member after Member has accused us of anti-Semitism and Jew-baiting. Speaking for myself, and I feel I can speak for most of the hon. Members whom I joined in the Lobby on the occasion when we defeated the Government, none of us have any feeling against the Jews. In my own Constituency I can say that if only all the aliens there were as hard working, as industrious, as thrifty, and took as much care of their children as do most of the Jews, I for one would have no cause for complaint against them, but I am up against, first, the enemy aliens, and, secondly, the undesirable aliens. Listening to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill, you would think we wore up against ail aliens, but that is not the truth. We are up against the enemy aliens and the undesirable aliens. Although under the 1905 Act no undesirable alien is allowed to enter the country, in practice undesirable aliens have been coming in in great numbers, and if the Home Secretary has any doubt at all whether there are any undesirable aliens in this country, if he went down to the East End of London and asked the aliens themselves what they think about it all, the better class would tell him that there are many undesirables who ought never to have been allowed here, men who lower the whole social status of the street in which they live, men who live on the gains of women. These are the kind of people that the aliens themselves say are undesirable, and surely our standard of morality and decency is at least as high as that of the aliens themselves. There are two points in connection with the undesirables to which I wish to call attention. During the Report stage, the Home Secretary, in reply to a request of the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) that he would allow Russians to return to this country, took up a very firm stand. May I read to the House a portion of what he said— These men deliberately left this country. They came back here and pretend that they have fought. Whenever we have had a chance of testing their statement it has been untrue. It is suggested that they are hardly treated, innocent persons. They are nothing of the sort. They chose their own beds; they chose to leave this country of their own accord. They would not fight for this country. Any Russian, any alien who has fought for this country—I am signing dozens a day of such orders—is entitled to become naturalised and to become a citizen of this country. We gave that pledge, and we are carrying it out. But a man who deliberately says 'I will not fight for you, I am going back to Russia,' well, let him stop there."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd October, 1919, cols. 148 and 149, Vol. 120.] I cheered that statement when it was made, but I was foolish enough to repeat it a day or so afterwards in my own Constituency. Immediately the statement was challenged, and three or four names were given me at that meeting of Russians who had refused to fight for us, who had left this country, and who had come back in spite of the Home Secretary's statement. These men are coming back in considerable numbers, and, upon inquiries, I find some of them allege that they are coming back under what they call Home Office permits, but I cannot get a sight of any of these permits. Many of them are undoubtedly smuggling themselves across as stowaways on ships coming here from the Continent, and when they land in this country the police, if they can find them, arrest them. They are taken before a magistrate, who fines them, but he does not send them back again. He does not deport them, and these Russians, whom the Home Secretary assures us are not coming back to this country, are coming back here, and after they have paid their fine are allowed to stay here. So much fur the Home Secretary's words. The hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Mr. Hopkins) was very anxious to include in this Bill a Clause defining the undesirable aliens and prohibiting them entering this country, but the Home Secretary assured us it was quite unnecessary to have that Clause in the Bill, as he already had sufficient powers under the Orders in Council. What does the Order in Council say? "An alien shall not land in the United Kingdom unless (a) he is in a position to support himself and his dependants." There are many other reasons why an alien may not come to this country, but that is the first reason. I have the name and address of a Russian who arrived in this country in September, and before he was allowed to land presumably the Home Office officials satisfied themselves and will vouch for the fact that he was "in a position to support himself and his dependants." Less than six weeks after he landed his wife comes to the Mile End Board of Guardians and asks for relief because her husband is out of work. During the War we had many alien-born wives of these Russians whom this country has been keeping. Our board of guardians has disbursed thousands of pounds in keeping these women, and it is a monstrous thing if these Russians who would not fight for us are allowed to come back again, and we have to keep them, as well as having had to keep their wives during the War. We cannot possibly afford it, and surely we have enough poor of our own. I respectfully submit that, in view of those facts, we are entitled to ask the Home Secretary either that in another place he will insert in this Bill a Clause which defines these undesirable aliens and prohibits them coming into this country, or else that he should get hold of his officials at the Home Office and see that they carry out; more strictly the Orders in Council with reference to these people.


I find myself in cordial agreement with the remarks of the last speaker in so far as they relate to the desirability of preventing undesirable criminal aliens landing or remaining in this country, and, so far as that is concerned, the Home Secretary may rest assured that support will come not only from hon. Members behind him, but from almost every section of this House. In regard to the statement of the hon. Member who has just sat down, that in the East End of London there are crowds of these criminal and undesirable aliens, if that is known to him and his Meads, why he does not go immediately to the police and give them that information is certainly beyond my comprehension, and I think there must be something lacking on the part of his friends if they give him so much information and have not taken the one step further and advised the police at once. In my judgment, the police in this matter are a little bit too drastic. They are sending out of the country almost weekly—it may interest the hon. Member to know—batches of these men, and I have had occasion more, than once to go to the Home Office to protest against the severity with which they are dealing with some of these men. I had a case on Saturday, and I think it will interest the House to know how drastic the Home Office is in these matters. A man was charged at the end of last year with having in his house two Russian aliens who were supposed to be endeavouring to evade military service. He was found guilty and sentenced to three months' imprisonment with hard labour, and to be deported. He served his sentence and was released in February, but he was told they could not deport him, and that he must report to the police every Friday. Since February he has so reported to the police. Last Friday, when ho reported, he was kept in the prison, arid on Sunday he was thrown out of the country. So far as that man broke the law of the land, he deserved to be punished. But there is another point of view. This man has got a wife and six children unprovided for. One of the children, a boy of thirteen, came to me on Saturday afternoon to relate the story. He told me that at school he had been taught the violin, and he said he could go out and earn enough to keep his mother and the children if he could get a permit to leave school, as he was only thirteen years of age. 1, naturally, could not do anything of the kind. His father had been snipped out of the country, as many other fathers have been, for what I regard not as criminal offences, but technical offences, under the Aliens Restriction. Act, under which they have nearly all been punished with hard labour, have served their sentences, have been kept in suspense for many months, and now have been shipped out of the country. There may be various degrees of offences which these people have committed, and undoubtedly many of them should be so shipped, and whenever a man shows that he is a criminal the Home Secretary can count upon the support of practically every Member of this House.

During the Debates, I think, a very wrong impression has arisen in the country that England is one vast horde of aliens. I think it would be interesting for Members to know what is the extent of this great evil. I find, in looking up official figures, that the highest point aliens have ever reached in this country is a total of 280,000 odd, out of which a very large proportion are children, many of them born in this country, and, of the total, Russian Jews form by far the largest proportion. That was in 1901. Since then the alien population of this country has been steadily decreasing. It is also of interest to find what is the percentage of aliens to our total population, and how it compares with other countries. I have taken the trouble to look up the figures. In America the proportion of aliens to its population is something over 13 per cent., whereas Great Britain is O.G5, or practically ½ per cent of the total population, which is the smallest proportion of any of the great countries in the world. In Germany it is 1½ per cent., France 2½per cent., Denmark 3½ per cent., and Switzerland 4 per cent. This is the awful problem with which we are confronted, and which has been the cause of so much misunderstanding throughout the country. Are the aliens who are here such an undesirable crowd as is alleged? If so, what do our Poor Law Returns show in the district in which they congregate? Take the East End of London. There are practically none on our Pool Law, nor have there ever been in the East End of London; and, after all, that ought to be a test. Then take the test of crime. The Police records show that something like 2 per cent, of the total convictions are due to aliens. I have referred already to the valuable influence aliens have in promoting trade in this country. There is one other test I might also apply. Are these aliens, from an educational point of view, good material? I do not think I can do better than recall the fact that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) came down to one of these alien schools to deliver prizes and certificates.


When I was asked to come down, I understood it was an ancient foundation school dating from the reign of Charles II., not an alien school, or I would not have gone into it.


I very much regret that the hon. and learned Member should take up that position. After all, the majority of those children were born in this country, educated in this country, and, by their skill and ability, obtained prizes and certificates, and I do not think it comes well from a Member of this House, especially when he did fulfil the part, and handed over the prizes and congratulated the children, and I do not think it is right of him, to repudiate the part he played on that occasion. The service which aliens have rendered in forming and establishing trade has been most valuable to this country, and with that I will conclude by again assuring the Home Secretary that when he comes to deal with undesirables he will have no more warm supporter than myself in any efforts he wants in that direction.


The hon. and gallant Member who moved the rejection of this Bill gave us a most interesting historical and biographical essay on the subject of aliens at large. I listened with great interest to his speech, and the only thing that caused me to wonder when I heard the conclusion of it was, why on earth it was delivered on this Bill. If this Bill meant the entire exclusion of all aliens in this country, I could understand its relevance, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Preston) pointed out, the object of this Bill is to exclude by Orders in Council undesirable aliens, and it makes provision for excluding former enemy aliens. My hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Benn) gave us a most interesting, and, in some ways, an alarmingly long list of eminent persons who had come to this country and were not born here. I was glad to hear of their coming. I think he told us of people like Mary Anderson, Whistler, Italian patriots, Max Muller, Marconi, and I know not who else, but does he mean to suggest that there is one syllable in the enacting part of this Bill which would have got any one of those remarkable and distinguished ladies and gentlemen out of this country? Of course he cannot. I ask him, is there a single part of the enacting part of this Bill which would have got one of these people out of this country?

Captain W. BENN

My answer is that a large number of the cases I gave would have been excluded on the score that they could not have supported themselves. Some of them came as quite penniless foreigners. [An HON. MEMBER: "Max Muller!"] I am speaking of the cases I gave. The hon. and learned Gentleman has only mentioned one or two. I gave the case of the British Museum librarian, and of Rossetti as another, who would have been undoubtedly excluded on the ground of not being able to support themselves, and people who have contributed so much to this country would have been put under all the restrictions and interference provided for in these Orders in Council.


I gather that my hon. and gallant Friend does not say the persons I have named would have been kept out of the country, but he complains that they would have been annoyed by the restrictions. In almost the same breath as he mentioned the distinguished persons who ought to come here, he truly alleged that there wore a lot of undesirable aliens who ought to have been kept out. How are they to be kept out unless you have some restrictions? Are you to tell an undesirable alien by his face or the colour of his hair? Of course there must be inquiry, restriction and examination in order to carry out the hon. and gallant Gentleman's own object. He shakes his head, but it is true all the same, and, therefore, if you have these restrictions, the other aliens who come in, just as we do when we emigrate to the United States, have to submit to certain restrictions, and I confidently believe the people he has named would have been able to come into this country undisturbed by the restrictions of which lie complains. I do not suppose he would suggest that the present Home Secretary, if you gave him power to make Orders in Council, would so abuse his power as to prevent Marconi, for instance, coming into this country. If that is so, what is the meaning of all this declamation and historical reminiscence in which he indulged? It was all whitewash, and nothing to do with this Bill.

5.0 P. M.

Let us come back to the subject matter and the nature of this Bill. This Bill came into the House practically as a skeleton. It has emerged through Committee and Report endowed, I am glad to think, with a certain amount of flesh and blood—a living Bill. The truth is that, when the Bill was introduced, it had all the vices of pre-war legislation. There was nothing in the nature of a Bill. There was a very large power conferred on the Home Secretary by Orders in Council. I do not complain of that in wartime, but I do complain of it very much being done now that the War is over. Many—I think the greater number—in this House think that the time has come when Parliament ought to revert to its constitutional method of legislation, and that the time is past for giving to Ministers and Departments an unlimited power of dealing with all kinds of subjects affecting the liberty of the subject, and almost everything in which human activity is engaged, by Orders in Council made by one Minister, undone by another, re-made in another form by the next Minister, and, as my hon. Friend here says, made by one and probably never enforced by another. I venture to think that the vast majority of us in this House desire—and rightly desire—that the House should revert to the old constitutional method of legislating, not through the intervention of a Minister sitting in his Department, but by the method of passing enactments which can be discussed openly in this House, and passed through both Houses of Parliament. And really that is what has been done in this Bill. There have been a number of Clauses introduced in the Bill, and, as I shall show, some very valuable Clauses, which lay down partially a code for dealing with aliens in this country, and, if I may say so, point out certain activities in which it is right and proper that British subjects, and British subjects alone, should be engaged, and restrict aliens from engaging in things which do not properly fall to their lot. Let me illustrate what I mean, I suppose there is no class of the community in this country who have more deeply earned our gratitude and admiration during the War, in concert with our sailors and our soldiers, than the officers and men of the British Mercantile Marine. This Bill does something at last—it has been a long time coming—for the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine. It provides that no master, chief officer, or chief engineer of a British merchant vessel, except those which trade between ports outside this Kingdom, shall be an alien. My hon. and gallant Friend (Captain W. Benn), who moved the rejection of this Bill, wants to destroy that provision. He wants to provide that all aliens may be masters, officers, and engineers of British merchant ships. Would his constituents approve of that? If I understand aright he sits for a Northern port. I hope he will go to his constituents, or somebody for him, and explain to them, "Here was I in the House of Commons laying it down that the decision of the House of Commons that no alien master, officer, or engineer should be on a British vessel should be abrogated; and I did all I could in the House to ensure that aliens should be masters, officers and engineers of British vessels."

Let me call the attention of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to another provision in this Bill—perhaps he has not read it!—that there should be no pilot coming into a port in the United Kingdom who is an alien. Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman go to his constituents and tell them that he wants to make these aliens eligible as British pilots? It would be interesting to know the result of such a confession before the constituents. That is not all. There is a very important provision in Clause 5 which deals with the crews of British ships, and provides that, so far as possible, British seamen should be employed in preference to alien seamen. I am reminded by an hon. Friend near me that the most important factor in connection with this matter in the Bill is this: A standard of wages is kept up, so that it would not be to the interests of the ship-owner to employ alien seamen at a less wage than British seamen. I suppose the hon. and gallant Gentleman will go to his constituents and say, "Give me a public dinner, or, at any rate, give me a public testimonial; I am the man who wanted to abolish the Clause which gives the preference to British seamen"! I should be interested to know what would happen. At any rate, if he does go with that request, he will probably receive a reception! I am reminding the House, possibly of what those who followed the Bill are well aware; but may I ask what has been introduced into this Bill by Amendments in Committee and on the Report stage? One Amendment was introduced providing that no alien shall be admissible for employment in the Civil Service. It was said at the time of the production that there was some old provision in the Act of Settlement that covered this point. It is doubtful. Be that as it may, this Bill provides in plain language which no one j can misunderstand that no alien shall be employed in our Civil Service in opposition ! to and in competition with a British subject. That Clause, again, my hon. and gallant Friend wishes to remove.

There is another interesting Clause. We all know that since the War there has been a very great rush on the part of the alien to change their German and other names. I dare say it was to their advantage. It certainly was not to ours, nor was it an advantage to the people of this country to have Germans hiding, disguising and camouflaging themselves under some high-sounding British name or title. This Bill provides—and properly I think—that no alien shall be allowed to change his name from that which he used before August, 1914, and if he has been allowed to remain in this country that he should trade as Schmidt or Schumann or whatever his name is, and not deceive the British public by calling himself Plan-taganet or Tudor! So much for these things in general that have been introduced into the Bill. For my part I regret a Clause proposed in Committee was rejected, which was to limit the number of aliens who should be employed in hotels and restaurants, and saying there might be a certain percentage and no more. I confess, for my own part, that when I go into an hotel and am addressed by a person in diabolically German English and asked whether I will have this that or the other, I feel very much inclined to go into a much humbler place and get my dinner for 1s.— if that be possible—rather than do business with these aliens who come over here and are employed in places where British labour could very well be employed. However, that proposed Clause was rejected. I very much regret it. Possibly the Home Secretary may in another place find it possible to introduce such a Clause which, if not applicable to all industries, would be applicable to places such as hotels, restaurants and so on, where at present there is an undue proportion of alien people employed. So much for aliens generally.

Let me say one or two words, very shortly, about enemy aliens. There are three or four Clauses in the Bill directed exclusively at former enemy aliens. Some people in this House think, I believe, that we ought to make no difference whatsoever between the Frenchman and our other Allies who fought gallantly with us, and the Germans who forget against us and used every brutality and atrocity that the human mind was capable of inventing. I do not agree. I think that for some time to come it will be impossible to forget what the Germans have done in this War. The time may come when the Germans may be forgiven. That time is not yet. When they have carried out the provisions of the Peace Treaty—which at present they show very little desire to carry out—when they have replaced the devastated areas of Belgium and France, and carried out their obligations as to reparation to us, and the rest of the Allies under the Peace Treaty; when they have withdrawn their disturbing influences from unhappy and distressed Russia, and when they have shown some signs of repentance and change of mind and character, then may be the time that we may forgot what they have done, and be prepared to treat them on the same basis as other aliens. That time has not yet come. So far as I can see, there is no immediate sign of it. Until it does come, I think the House of Commons were well-advised in introducing into this Bill some Clauses dealing specially with enemy aliens, as opposed to other classes of aliens. I need not recapitulate the whole of these Clauses, but, in the first place, there is a Clause for the deportation of former enemy aliens, subject to certain exemptions. This is exceedingly mild. Some people in Committee thought that these provisions were too much so. There is another Clause that provides that for three years any person, a German or other enemy alien, should not be allowed to return here, except for special reasons, and where the Home Secretary thinks fit to give permission. Does anybody say that is wrong, except the hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Opposition Bench, who are so desirous of having foreign agents, or desirous of having alien pilots, alien masters, and alien engineers? Is there anyone except that hon. and gallant Gentleman, and those who think with him, who desire to have the Germans who betrayed their trust, abused our hospitality, acted as spies, and ill-treated our prisoners of war.

There was another very important Clause introduced into the Bill by the Home Secretary himself, which provided that for a certain period, at any rate— and I hope it will be for a longer rather than a shorter period—no former enemy alien shall hold land, any interest in a key industry, or shares in companies owning British ships in this country. We know, apart from the atrocities of the War, what the Germans did prior to the War in the way of peaceful penetration in this and other countries. We know how in certain foreign countries these people bitterly betrayed the country, and we know the position in this matter in our own Dominions. In Australia, for instance, they practically controlled some of the great industries, and had hold of the speller and so on. We know all this. We know how the Australian Government had to introduce special legislation to deal with the matter, and regain control of these industries. We know something about the peaceful penetration of the Germans in this country. We know that some important industries were carried on not by British labour or British enterprise, but in the interests of German enterprise by German labour. Many of us, even after the atrocities of this War are forgotten, desire that such a state of things shall not arise again here, and, in spite of protests by the hon. and gallant Gentleman and his Friends, I think the great majority of the people have a similar desire and a similar determination. This Bill has emerged from the Committee and Report stages a far better Bill than it went into them. That has proved the fact that Members here are determined to restore Parliament to its old supremacy in the way of carrying out such reforms as it desires. I thank the Government for not having impeded us in this House in carrying out our great duties. I believe that not only the majority, but the vast majority of Members of this House, and the immense majority of the country, will thank Parliament for having carried this Bill through, as I believe it will be carried through, and passed into law before many days are gone.


We have had a long discussion, and so far as the Bill has been attacked there is really not a great deal to which to reply. The Amendment speaks for itself. It admits that there must be the fullest powers for dealing with dangerous and undesirable aliens. The Bill satisfies that. The Amendment goes on to suggest that the Bill in some way may check the growth of our overseas trade, clog that free intercourse with foreign nations by which in our art, science, literature, and religion this country has greatly gained, impair the British tradition of right of asylum, form an obstacle to international good will, and imperil in some way, and interfere with, the work of the League of Nations. I am bound to say I followed the speech of ray hon. and gallant Friend with great care, as I have done the other speeches, but I have had no Intimation as to what particular part of the Bill it was which would have the grievous effects suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend, My hon. and gallant Friend gave a long list of aliens who came here whom he said had done most valuable work and had been extremely useful to this country, but if he had shown half the industry he has shown in getting together those names in searching through the files of the criminal records of this country he would have found quite a hundred alien criminals, including murderers and burglars, for every one he has named. The hon. and gallant Member stated that none of those aliens could have come to this country if this Bill had been in force. Why not? There is not a single provision which prevents any alien coming here if he is a decent and respectable person, It is no good taking the Clauses which do not deal with aliens in general but with former enemy aliens. It will not do to take those Clauses and pretend that they apply to everybody. The provisions with regard to aliens as a whole are no more severe than those in other countries. You cannot have restrictions of this kind without some degree of inconvenience. We have to put up with such restrictions in other countries. The hon. and gallant Gentleman talked of reprisals. What reprisals could any other country inflict upon us which they are not already preparing!

Captain W. BENN

What about Turkey?


Turkey has not got a Government, or anything of the kind yet.

Captain BENN

Does the right hon. Gentleman really suggest that the Turkish Government will pass an Act to deport all Englishmen from Turkey?


They will be perfectly entitled to do it, and I have no doubt they may do so, or they May take the same steps we are taking and provide that only those should be deported who ought to be deported. The provisions with regard to the deportation of former enemy aliens are as wide in their discretionary power as they can possibly be. The category of former enemy aliens has only to come within one of those categories, and then it rests upon those who deport them to satisfy the Committee of some good reason why they should be allowed to stay here. There is the widest discretion, and who could blame Turkey if she passes a law of a similar character?

Captain BENN

And ruin our trade!


My hon. and gallant Friend is making the mistake which is often made of taking for granted that the Act will be administered by prize idiots, and then blaming the Act for it. That is a form of argument which is hardly one that ought to be inflicted very often on the House of Commons as a serious argument. We have been told that the right of asylum has gone. Why? If a perfectly respectable alien has a difference with the Bolshevik Government in Russia, will he be kept out of this country under this Bill? Not at all. You must temper the right of asylum by a discretion to keep out those who are undesirable. This Bill has two main objects. It aims at keeping out the undesirable alien for all time, no matter where he comes from, and then there is a very limited provision to keep out former enemy aliens until we can reconsider the question and see how far it is possible to let him come back in the future. This measure is directed for a limited time against the former enemy aliens and for all time against the undesirable alien.

I do not know that there is much more I can say, but I hope the House will carry the Third Reading of this Bill. It has been altered in form, I quite agree, and it restores to Parliament the power of controlling its own legislation instead of trusting to Orders in Council. The spirit of the Bill, however, is practically as it was brought in originally. There is no difference in principle and the only difference is one of method, and that difference has been so adjusted that Parliament has re-established its right over legislation, and Parliament is fully entitled to do that. I ask the House to give this Bill a Third Reading and allow this measure to be passed into law.


Will the right hon. Gentleman state what power is taken to replace the Appeal Tribunal which this Bill destroys?


The Bill provides for an Advisory Committee.


Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to set up an Advisory Committee?


The Bill sets up such a Committee, and I am taking steps to get together the personnel of that Committee.


Having regard to the efforts which some of us made during the Report stage, I think I am entitled to say a few words on the Third Reading. I congratulate the Home Secretary upon his speech, and the desire he has expressed that this Bill should be passed into law as speedily as possible. There are some hon. Members who always seem ready to advocate the cause of every country but their own and to defend the subjects of every country but their own, and they adopt the idea that to treat our own, fellow citizens better than foreigners is a heinous crime. I ask, can they show me any country in Europe which at this moment has not already passed legislation of this sort to protect themselves against those whom they do not desire to enter into their country? I have seen a communication from the Foreign Office which comes from the Embassy at Washington stating that it is the intention of the American Government to introduce to Congress and pass through the House of Representatives a Bill giving them power to deport alien enemies of various categories who have been interned during the War, for whose deportation no power at present exists. The Minister for Brazil has made a communication of a somewhat similar character.

We have substantially every other country passing legislation to protect themselves against persons whom they consider are undesirables, and why should we not have a similar provision upon our Statute Book. With reference to the statistics which have been quoted by the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Kiley) all I can say is that I have seen statistics for the year 1914 which certainly do not support his theory, and I think I can safely say that the criminal statistics with regard to aliens have enormously increased. Those hon. Members who have read the instructive Return which was published by the Committee which dealt with this subject in 1903 will see that they were unanimously of opinion that the alien population in this country was a great danger, not only to our own population, but to the State. They found it was a population that was exclusive, and, as hon. Members know, those districts in which they lived have entirely changed. Surely it is time that this House asserted itself in order to prevent this danger by passing legislation of this kind.

Amendment negatived.

Bill read the third time, and passed.