§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 21 to 24.
We are now dealing with the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, which is an annual proposal. The Committee is very highly honoured just now by the presence of the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council, and we welcome their presence on this very small Bill. I notice that the Postmaster-General is also in his place, although the telephones are still calling at a shilling a time. The Amendment may not appear very important, but we on these Benches thought we ought to raise this issue. The Amendment proposes to exclude Section 1 of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, which is continued by this Bill. This Act was passed in 1919 soon after the close of the War, when the hatred of the alien and the foreigner still lurked in the minds of our people. The Section of the Act which is continued carries forward provisions of the Aliens Act, 1914, which were passed just after the beginning of the War, when passions were high and when aliens from any country were anathema. When these provisions were enacted there was a different state of affairs from anything that had existed in this country for a decade or so before, and it was obvious to everybody that the Government of the day would have to keep their eyes especially on undesirable aliens.
It is now 16 years since the War ended, and our country has followed the activities of every Government in the world in keeping out the foreigner as far as they can. Indeed, the movements of people from one country to another are safeguarded and restricted, and in some cases prohibited. The Amendment raises two specific points, and I am moving it in 480 order to find out the mind of the Government on the administration of the aliens law and especially of this Section. It is known, of course, that an alien cannot of his own right come into this country. He may be prohibited from landing here, and when he has landed his movements are watched, and he must report to the police authorities. Indeed, the power of the Home Office since these Orders were established is very important. The Home Office may naturalise an alien after so many years' residence in this country or it may decline to naturalise him. The Home Office may, in consultation with the Ministry of Labour, admit an alien workman to be employed in this country under a sort of licence, and a large number of such workmen are admitted every year. This is a very delicate task to handle at the Home Office and I am not going to dwell unduly upon it, except to say that I have never been able to understand how alien workmen from Germany, France, Belgium or elsewhere may not come here without certain conditions being laid down, the conditions on the whole being such that the foreign workman does not degrade the conditions of work of our people, while something altogether different happens when the foreign employer comes here.
This is a point to which I want to direct the attention of the Government. Although this may not appear to be a very large issue, I trust the Prime Minister will take note of one thing that is happening in this connection. I have raised this issue in the House more than once, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour knows what I am talking about. The Government have, rightly or wrongly, induced foreign employers to come to our shores to establish factories to manufacture commodities that were usually manufactured by our own people. I am not going to argue 110W as to the rights and wrongs of admitting these foreign manufacturers. The Government have been delighted on more than one occasion to declare that hundreds of factories have been opened in this country by foreign employers. What I am about to say can be vouched for and substantiated. Some of these alien employers, who have come here with permits of the Home Office, without probably a consultation with the Ministry of Labour, have, in establishing factories and employing our own 481 workpeople, brought the psychology of the foreign employer with them. They have in more than one instance degraded the conditions of employment in the district where the factories have been established.
Take the town of Mossley, in Lancashire, where the depression has been very terrible indeed. In that comparatively small town there is a French firm carrying on a textile trade, employing 200 or 300 workpeople, and the wages and conditions in that factory are lower than anything which the textile industry in Lancashire has experienced for a decade or so. Married women are working 52 hours a week for 15s. 3d. If conditions are to be laid down dealing with foreign workmen engaged by British employers in this country, there ought to be conditions for foreign capitalists who come within our shores, so that they shall not degrade the standard of life of our own workpeople. That is really the one point I wished to raise, but I would like to mention one other matter. As I have said, the task of the Home Office in dealing with aliens is a very delicate one —I have always thought that ought to be acknowledged—but there is a feeling that it is easier for a foreign monarch to come here than a political refugee, say a Socialist from Austria or Germany. I am not going to say that our Governments have not, on the whole, behaved fairly towards these people who have been persecuted abroad, but I put forward the plea that the Home Office shall not make it more difficult for a man who has been persecuted in some dictatorial country abroad to enter this country than it is for a monarch who has been sent away by his own people. I wish to add that it will depend upon the reply of the hon. and gallant Member whether we press this Amendment to a Division.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Major NATHAN
I am glad to have the opportunity of supplementing the inquiries made by my hon. Friend as to the administration by the Home Office of these provisions of the Aliens Order. During the past 18 months or so I have come into contact to a considerable extent with those who have sought refuge from Germany in this country, and I desire at once to pay my tribute to the Home Office for the way in which, speaking broadly, they have received those unfortunate refugees, most of whom are 482 my co-religionists, for I am myself a Jew. I may say, and I believe that the Secretary of State will remember the occasion, that I, with a number of my friends who are members of the British Jewish community, gave an undertaking to the right hon. Gentleman, as representing the Government, that no German Jew admitted to this country should fall as a charge upon public funds. That formidable obligation which we undertook has, as far as my knowledge goes, been fully implemented, and I beg leave to say it will continue to be implemented. Those who have sought refuge here from Germany have come from the class of employers and also from the class of employés. It is right that I should say, for my experience has not been small in dealing with these matters, that as regards the Home Office, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour applications have been dealt with with courtesy, with promptitude and with the spirit of good will traditionally associated with this country in the case of refugees. Less than that I could not say; more than that the representatives of the Government will not wish me to say on this occasion.
I think I understand the principle upon which the Government proceed in admitting the particular class of refugees to which alone I will confine myself in my observations this evening, but there are one or two classes of case upon which I should like to have a little further information. In the case of those who come to this country prepared and anxious to invest capital, in starting new enterprises no difficulty arises, though I am glad to think that—in those cases, at least, with which I have come into contact with the Home Office—the condition has been imposed, and readily accepted, that trade union conditions shall apply to those taken into employment, whether British subjects or aliens. The number of alien workmen admitted to this country is, of course, relatively small, arid mostly confined to those with special technical knowledge who are in a position to instruct British workmen in new industries or in new methods adapted to old industries. The amount of employment given in this country to British people by refugees from Germany is not inconsiderable. I have not the precise figures in front of me, though I hope shortly to have collected them, as far as 483 a private person can do so. I do not think that even the Minister has accurate figures, because it is very difficult to obtain a record. I give him the assurance that as soon as figures are available, so far as I have facilities for obtaining them—and I have some facilities—I will furnish them to the Home Office.
New industries have been started in this country—industries which hitherto had not been operated here at all. I know of a case where a factory has been started to make toys of a, class which had never been manufactured in this country, and in that particular factory there are some 180 or 200 British employees. I think it is satisfactory to learn that the action of the Department in admitting these refugees from Germany has had, is having and will have the effect of causing a considerable accretion of labour in this country, and make its contribution, in some small measure, to the solution of the problem of unemployment.
But, as I indicated a moment ago, there is a special class of case about which I feel some difficulty, and that is the class of professional men. I am thinking of a case—I believe my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will recognise it—of a medical man, of world wide reputation, a man who is acknowledged by the profession in this country to be the leading man in Europe in his particular line and to have been the pioneer in it. Yet I know not for what reason the Home Office has found itself so far unable to grant him the permission which he has sought to practise in this country upon the same terms and conditions as would be applicable to any other person not holding a British medical degree. The position of those who come from Germany to this country qualified as medical practitioners or surgeons is one of extreme difficulty, and I should like to know what principle the Home Office 'is laying down for dealing with cases of that kind. The case of the lawyer, which I understand fully, presents far greater difficulties. Medical knowledge is universal, but legal knowledge is highly technical and confined to a knowledge of the law of this country. So much on the question of the admission to this country of aliens.
I wish to ask a question with regard to deportation. I am not going to raise any general question as to deportation, 484 but I desire to direct the attention of the spokesman representing the Government to a question of procedure. Under the Aliens Order the Secretary of State has the right to make an order for the deportation of an alien for any reason which may seem fit to him or which is conducive, I think the phrase is, to the public welfare. I am not quarrelling with, or laying any stress upon that phrase. There was a good deal of feeling some time ago with regard to the manner in which in certain cases that right had been exercised. On the 11th February, 1932, my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who was then Home Secretary, made the following announcement in the House in answer to a question. He said:It is thought desirable that in certain types of case special provision should be made to enable representations against such an order"—that is the deportation order—to be considered, and to allow evidence to be heard. I propose, therefore, to set up an advisory committee."—IOFFIciAL REPORT, 11th February, 1932, col. 1008, Vol. 261.]The Advisory Committee was set up, and it has functioned. I think that no one will refuse the tribute which I should wish to pay to the eminent public service rendered, I believe in a purely honorary capacity, by the learned Chairman of the committee and his colleagues upon it. They are performing a useful and valuable public service, and I am anxious to safeguard myself against any suggestion that in what I say I am making any attack upon, or criticism of, the committee as regards either its personnel or anything else. I have a great regard for the services which the members of the committee are rendering and for the public spirit which inspires them. What I am troubled about is the procedure and the conditions under which the committee operates. When the announcement was made in the House of Commons by the former Home Secretary, it was considered that the committee would act, so to speak, in a judicial capacity. I do not mean that they were to be judges. It was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen that they were to be an advisory committee, a committee to advise the Home Secretary. When it was stated that the committee was to be set up in order to enable representations to be considered and evidence to be heard, it was generally 485 understood that the committee would act, broadly speaking, in a judicial capacity and spirit.
What is the actual procedure? It is something about which I do not think that there will be any dispute between the Under-Secretary and myself. The Advisory Committee does not profess to act in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity. When an applicant comes before the Deportation Advisory Committee on the invitation of the Home Office it is the duty of that committee to hear the representations which the alien wishes to place before it. The alien is not informed beforehand of the grounds upon which it is proposed to make the deportation. He presents himself, by his counsel, it may be, to the Deportation Advisory Committee, without any prior information of the charges to be made against him. He is therefore from the beginning in a position of some difficulty. He does not know the charges which he has to meet. The evidence which is heard by the committee is not on oath. It is not even first-hand evidence; it is very often mere hearsay evidence. The committee—and this is the point to which I attach particular importance—in the conduct of its proceedings is not even limited to a consideration of the evidence which is presented to it.
I am loath to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I do not think that any of the statements which he is now making are in order. The effect of this Section which we are seeking to maintain in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill is the origin of the authority of the Secretary of State for administering the Aliens Act, but I think that what the hon. and gallant Gentleman is now raising is an actual instance of the administration of the Act as apart from whether or not the Secretary of State should be granted the power to administer it. I submit that the point is one to be raised on the Home Office Vote in due course and not to-night. If the hon. and gallant Member is allowed to continue, I hope that I may be allowed similar indulgence to reply.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The particular point is one which I was trying to solve when it was raised. Unfortunately I have not before me at the moment the Act in question, but it will be coming shortly. If what the hon. and gallant Gentleman 486 has said is correct, which I have every reason to believe is the case, then the particular administration, i.e., the administration to which the hon. and gallant Member is now addressing himself, does go beyond the scope of the Bill.
§ Major NATHAN
Naturally, I bow to your Ruling, Sir Dennis, but may I ask you for your guidance in this matter? I am asking questions quite frankly as to the administration of the board, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that I have put my case quite fairly. I am not making attacks upon him or anything of that kind. In fact, I wish to pay a certain tribute to his Department. I am frankly dealing with the question of the administration. If I am out of order, I should hope to put myself in order by suggesting that if the answer to the point which I have put to the hon. and gallant Gentleman should be unsatisfactory, then there would be every reason to press upon the House the withdrawal from the right hon. Gentleman of those powers given to him by Section 1 of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. I will not pursue the matter, Sir Dennis, until I have received your Ruling. It is a point not without difficulty.
§ 9.26 p.m.
The position as I understand it is this. Under Section 1 of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, my right hon. Friend has power to deal with the question of aliens, but the effective authority is an Order in Council issued as a result of those powers. How the powers under the Order in Council are administered is quite a different question from whether he should or should not have the powers themselves. We are discussing now the grant of the powers. If the Amendment were carried, and there were no powers, the whole structure of aliens administration would disappear. That is quite a different thing from raising various points on the administration. I am not trying to get out of answering any of the questions put to me, but I only wish to keep the Debate in such a form that I may be allowed to answer it.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman and to the other hon. Gentlemen for the way in which they have put the matter. The 487 hon. Gentleman was quite right in saying that the administration of a particular piece of legislation which it is proposed to continue is a proper matter to discuss in discussing the item in the Schedule. But what I rather gathered was the case and from what the Under-Secretary has said is the case, is that this particular matter which the hon. Gentleman was discussing was not a matter of administration under this particular Measure which it is proposed to continue. It is administration under an Order in Council which may derive its authority from this particular Act, but the administration of which is of a kind not affected by whether this particular item in the Schedule is continued in force or not.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Is it not almost impossible to say whether the Government should still have power to issue these orders unless we find out whether the use of these powers by the Government is a proper use of their powers?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member is capable of alleging a reason for discussing almost any matter in any Debate; and it is the difficult task of the Chair to decide when to stop a discussion. I think I must ask the hon. Member to take that as my answer and to take the broad lines of the ruling I have given—that while it is in order on an item in this Schedule to discuss the administration of the particular piece of legislation referred to, it is not in order to discuss the administration of, as in this case, Orders in Council, which would not be affected by whether this particular piece of legislation was or was not kept alive by the Expiring Laws Bill.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Major NATHAN
You have the advantage of me, Sir Dennis, in having the Statute before you. I was under the impression that the order is one made by the Secretary of State—a statutory Order and not an Order in Council. I speak subject to correction, as I have not the Statute before me, but I believe the Order is an Order made under this Section 1, and not an Order in Council. If you have the Statute before you, might I ask you to tell me whether I am right or not?
The Aliens Order, 1920, which is the actual administration Order under which the Secretary of State administers is headed "Alien; the Aliens Order, 1920, being an Order in Council made. …"
§ Major NATHAN
Then I will not pursue that. On that point you, Sir Dennis, have been good enough to rule and I readily submit to your ruling. If it is out of order I will leave the matter of administration and the conduct of the Deportation Advisory Committee to another and more suitable occasion. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will realise that I do not willingly introduce into this Debate a matter which ought properly to belong to a Debate on some other subject, but I hope he will take this as notice that on the appropriate occasion I shall examine this matter more fully and hope to receive from him a reply.
§ 9.32 p.m.
I am sorry that I had to intervene, but there was a danger if we developed this subject too far that we should get into questions which were obviously outside the scope of this particular Section of the Expirring Laws Continuance Bill. In fact I am not quite sure that the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) was not in some of the questions he raised also sailing a little near the wind. The hon. Gentleman opposite started by telling us that the origin of the Section of the Act of 1919 dated back to the passions engendered in the War, when foreigners were anathema. That is not quite a correct reading of the matter. When the original Act came into force it had not anything to do with the passions of the War, but all the alien restrictions during the period of the War were imposed for the military security of the realm. It was not a question of passions but a question of security. It is true, as the hon. Member said, that we are now 16 years from the War and that the motives which then actuated us are not necessarily suitable motives to-day. Yet there is a very strong case for the continuance of aliens administration, not for the military but for the economic safety of the realm.
The hon. Gentleman has only to reflect for one moment, and I am sure that he 489 and the Committee will agree. Suppose that there was no Aliens Order. Suppose that we removed this Section which gives my right hon. Friend power to administer the whole question of aliens in this country—not only their admission but their registration when here and their possible deportation—and that he was deprived of that power altogether. Surely the hon. Gentleman and everybody else must realise what the result of that would be. When they compare the state of this country with the rest of Europe, when they consider the political and economic disturbances elsewhere, when they compare with our situation the level of unemployment in other countries, do they not see that the automatic result would be an enormous flood of foreign work-people into this country? That is a situation which, though he may move to delete this Section from the Schedule, the hon. Member would never consider as desirable for one moment. That is the justification for asking the House to continue this Section in the Schedule.
The hon. Gentleman, of course, realised that, because he dealt with the question of the alien worker. He pointed out that a man or woman coming to work in this country requires to receive a Ministry of Labour permit. My right hon. Friend works in close co-operation with his colleague the Minister of Labour, and comparatively few foreign workpeople come: into this country at all. Before they are allowed to come, they have to prove a good many things. They have to prove that they are not going to jeopardise the employment of British workpeople; they have to show to the satisfaction of the Minister of Labour—who, of course, is primarily responsible in connection with that aspect of the question—that, if they do come over here, they are coming in order to train British workmen in some job which is perhaps a new one, or has been brought over as the result of new processes which are going to be worked in this country; or they have to show that their mere presence in that particular job means—and I may tell the hon. Gentleman that very great care is taken on this point—that suitable British persons cannot be found to do the job. Surely the Labour party are not prepared to see all that swept aside by excluding this item from the Schedule to the Bill.
That situation would be an impossible one from their point of view, not to men- 490 tion that of anybody else. It would be an impossible situation from the point of view of organised labour if you had a tremendous flood of workpeople from, not to specify more particularly, the East of Europe, coming over here and competing in our market, in view of the lower personal standard of a great many people in other parts of Europe. I put it to the hon. Gentleman that there is really no case for the deletion of this provision. It is not a question of foreigners being anathema, or of war passions, but we have to look at this question from the point of view of employment and the possible reactions of the admission of a very large number of foreign workpeople. It is quite a different question if you talk about the tourist traffic, or about people coming into this country in order to make themselves acquainted with our system of government and culture, or coming here as students and the like; but from the point of view of employment, with which the hon. Member was dealing particularly, it would be outrageous, to put it mildly, to consider relaxing entirely the administration of the Aliens Act. There is also the question of the foreign employer of labour. I am afraid that, on the particular question which he raised in that connection, he will have to refer to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour—
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
That is exactly the point that I wanted to raise. When the Home Office gives a final permit for a foreign workman to land, it is understood that nothing at all that he does in this country will degrade the conditions of employment of the workpeople around him. I want to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether it is not possible to lay down the same sort of conditions in the case of capitalists from abroad who come here to establish factories, when it is known that, after they have come here, they have degraded the conditions of employment of our own people in this country?
I think the short answer would be that they have not. There is the question how foreign manufacturers who come here to set up factories in this country are to be dealt with. Surely, again from the point of view of the employment of our people, they should be dealt with as sympathetically as possible, because their goods are 491 going to be produced by people receiving wages here, and, therefore, on the broader grounds, it is desirable to attract as many as possible of them here. That, of course, has occurred during the last two or three years, partly through the setting up of the tariffs and partly owing to the antagonism in Germany to the Jewish employer, who has found it possible and profitable to come to this country and make his goods here instead of there. There is, of course, the very remarkable fact that during the last year or two the centre of the fur trade of the world has been, practically speaking, transferred from Leipzig to London, to the very great advantage, not only of the business community, but also of the workpeople in that trade. To-day London is the centre of the fur trade. All these people have been attracted here through our making it possible for the foreign employer of labour to come here. But, again, it is not exactly and entirely the province of my right hon. Friend to deal with that; he actually acts in consultation with the President of the Board of Trade as to the desirability of that practice being carried on and extended.
As regards the question whether any conditions as to wages could be laid upon a prospective employer of labour coming into this country to set up a factory, my answer would be that such conditions as regards wages are not laid upon a British manufacturer setting up a new factory, and I do not see how any system could be devised under which that could reasonably be done. After all, when factories are opened here, the workpeople employed have a certain number of ways of making their grievances known, whether in this House, or through their own organisations, or to their own employers, and I would not like to carry the matter any further than that, but I will say this to the hon. Gentleman, though I do not think it is exactly what he had in mind. We do, as a matter of ordinary administrative duty, take very great care, in the case of domestic servants coining to this country, to see that the wages offered to them are on a reasonable basis, and not to allow foreign servants to come in otherwise; but that is quite a different question from the one which the hon. Gentleman raised. I hope that I have cleared up the point. If there are any specific cases with regard to any specific fac- 492 tories, I shall be very glad to talk the matter with him at any time, but I do not see any possibility of being able to lay down the type of conditions which he mentioned.
The second and entirely different point which the hon. Gentleman made—he did not develop it at length, because I think he realised that perhaps he was on somewhat difficult ground—was as to the alleged differentiation in the class of refugees. I do not want to be offensive to anybody in any way, and I will try to pick my words. The hon. Gentleman spoke of monarchs on the one side and Socialists on the other, and perhaps I might just answer what I am pretty sure he had in mind by explaining to him what our system of administration involves. It involves the whole question of the right of asylum, and the right of asylum was defined in a classic instance by Mr. Clynes when this very question was raised during the Labour Government's period of office. The problem was whether Mr. Trotsky should be allowed to come into this country or not, and I cannot hope to put in better language the answer to the problem. It states so clearly the practice, not only of my right hon. Friend but of every Home Secretary since the Orders were first promulgated and the Act was passed, that at the present moment it is worth while reminding the Committee of what Mr. Clynes said. Dealing with the right of asylum, Mr. Clynes said this:In regard to what is called the right of asylum,' this country has the right to grant asylum to any person whom it thinks fit to admit as a political refugee.I would say in passing that that, of course, is part of the Sovereign rights of any country, not of this country more than any other. It is for any country to decide for itself whether it shall grant the right of asylum to political refugees. Mr. Clynes went on to say:On the other hand, no alien has the right to claim admission to this country.The right of asylum is the right of a Sovereign State to accept from other countries political refugees, but the right of asylum is not a right of any individual person to demand admission into a particular country. Mr. Clynes continued:On the other hand, no alien has the right to claim admission to this country if it would be contrary to the interests of this country to receive him. There are no 493 special regulations on the subject."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1929; col. 603, Vol. 230.]I do not know that I need bother the Committee with the reasons why Mr. Clynes thought it undesirable for that individual to come here, though they will find it stated in column 603. That is what is meant by the right of asylum. Obviously, the Secretary of State has a good many considerations to keep in mind. He is ultimately responsible to this House and the country for the maintenance of order, but, when it comes to individual refugees, he is not concerned with their political views any more than with their religious views. What he is concerned with is whether the admission of a particular refugee might have one of two effects, one, that by his presence, Or his activities after he arrives, he might cause trouble to the internal administration of the country or, equally important, after being admitted here he would use this country as a basis for carrying on undesirable activities with regard possibly to his native land or possibly to some other country. The Secretary of State, therefore, has to consider very carefully each case when it is a question of political views which are known to be extremist, but the paramount consideration is the interests of this country. They override any claims which any individual refugee, however hard pressed, might like to make. We have a great many refugees. An hon. Member opposite has paid a tribute to the fact that a large number of German refugees have been admitted in the last few years. I should like to say, in passing, how much we welcome the co-operation of the hon. Gentleman and his committee in assisting us with this very difficult question. Plenty of them come here, but the right of admitting or refusing any particular refugee does not turn on whether he is a Socialist or a monarch. The whole question that my right hon. Friend has to solve is whether his presence here would or would not be in the interests of this country.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ The CHAIRMAN
May I make clear my opinion on the point of Order that was discussed a few minutes ago? The rule, as I understand it, in its main principle is clear. It is that, in so far as any legislation is proposed to be continued, the administration of that legislation is a 494 proper subject of discussion as influencing the Committee or the House as to whether that particular piece of Statute law should be continued or not. But the application of it is the point which really arises now, and I think I am right in my reading of this Statute that the particular matters of administration to which the Under-Secretary referred are matters of administration under a particular Order-in-Council which would not cease to have effect if this particular legislation were not continued. I have not seen the Order-in-Council, but it appears to me that Orders-in-Council can be made under the Act of 1914—the operation of which is continued by the Act of 1919—and that such Orders-in-Council can 'be so made that they would not necessarily come to an end if this particular Section were not continued by this particular Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. If, on the other hand, the continued validity of that Order-in-Council depends upon the continuance in force of this particular item in the Schedule, it is a proper subject for discussion.
§ Mr. JANNER
May I ask you, Sir, whether, in view of the fact that the Expiring Laws Continuance Act is continuing the only Act which enables these particular Orders-in-Council to be made, the point raised with regard to administration would not be in order? The point that was raised is an important one and the matter of inquiry is one which, I am sure, the Under-Secretary will be willing to answer, and many of us would like to know the answer. If it can be dealt with, I should like your Ruling on the point so that we may deal with it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have not the Order before me, but, according to the last information that I have received, it would come to an end if this particular Section of the Act of 1919 were not continued. According to the view that I have already expressed, if that be the case the administration of that Order is a proper subject for discussion now, but, if anyone wishes to discuss it, he must satisfy me that that test applies to it, or at least I should stop him if I found that objections were raised on good grounds on the lines of the Ruling that I have just given.
§ Major NATHAN
I am in a little difficulty, because I brought my observations 495 to a conclusion on the footing of the Ruling which, without having an opportunity of considering all the data, you had given. I now understand that, having had an opportunity of considering the position more fully, a position of great difficulty, you are of opinion that I should have been in order had I continued to address the Committee upon that subject. I wish to ask you whether I should now be in order or whether the Committee would extend its indulgence and permit me, if I am not in order, co resume the remarks that I was making.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Being in Committee, there is no restriction on any Member speaking more than once. In the particular circumstances of the case, I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman may realise that I should most undoubtedly allow him to continue the observations which he refrained from making as the result of the opinion that I expressed.
§ Major NATHAN
I shall be careful not to presume upon the goodwill of the Committee. I was on the question of the procedure of the Deportation Advisory Committee. I made it clear—
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going back to the Advisory Committee, that is a pure act of administration. There are certain people who advise my right hon. Friend. They have nothing to do with the Aliens Order, but give him advice on questions with regard to certain persons whose deportation he might himself be considering. There is nothing in the Aliens Order at all about the Aliens Committee. It is purely an administrative function of my right hon. Friend, and he asks certain gentlemen to be an advisory committee to assist him in the matter. The point is really entirely outside the scope of the discussion and is relevant to the Home Office Vote.
§ Major NATHAN
The right hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Hacking) informed the House that it was desirable in certain types of cases that provision should be made to enable representations against an order of deportation to be considered and to allow evidence to be heard. If it were not for this Order, the Home Secretary would have no power of deportation thereunder. There would never be any necessity to appoint a Com- 496 mittee to advise him. That Committee arises merely by reason of the Order. It is part of the machinery which the Home Office brings into existence for the purpose of deciding whether or not to exercise the right to deport under the Aliens Order. It is part of the machinery which the Home Secretary himself creates for his own guidance.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That, I think, is a little too remote to be in order. The hon. Member may discuss the action of the Home Secretary in this matter, but I do not think he can discuss those steps which the Home Secretary, not in virtue of any legislation at all, but of his own motive, takes to acquire information in order to assist him in carrying it out. If he appoints a committee to advise him, he does not appoint the committee under this Order at all, and therefore while it may be permissible to discuss what the Home Secretary does as a result of the advice of the Advisory Committee, that is certainly not what the hon. Member is discussing now.
§ Major NATHAN
I will not attempt to pursue the matter further. The Committee has already extended indulgence for which I am grateful, but I am filled with a little apprehension as to the apparent reluctance of the Home Secretary—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Member must not attempt to make that use of a point of Order decided by the Chair.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I should not be so impertinent as to intervene in the discussion between the hon. Gentleman behind me and the hon. Gentleman opposite on this question. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, speaking on behalf of the Government, referred in his concluding sentence to the initial argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). It was with regard to the question of the right of asylum. I frankly admit that the question of the preservation of the right of asylum has several difficulties particularly when there is so much depression in our land and when, quite obviously, the Government of the day has to have regard to the rights of our own people in the matter of employment. But the hon. Gentleman, to my great admira- 497 tion, quoted the dictum of my right hon. Friend Mr. Clynes, and the only point with which we are here concerned, as a matter of dispute between him and us, is the third condition which Mr. Clynes laid down. I think the third point was the right of the country to reject applicants for admission to the country if such admission would be contrary to the country's interest. That as a proposition is quite sound. I do not controvert it at all.
But the point the hon. Gentleman did not answer was how comes it that it is deemed to be not contrary to the interest of the country to admit certain people of a certain social standing, whereas the country's interest immediately jumps into the foreground when people of more advanced political opinions are in question? I admit it is easy for us on either side to generate suspicion that may be unjustified in this matter, but one cannot help but notice it if one reads, say, the gossip columns in the newspapers. Even this evening I have seen a paragraph in an evening paper—I do not mention names because it is not material—referring to a certain foreign gentleman who has been out of this country in his own country undergoing military service for 18 months. Suddenly he comes back to this country. How does he come back? How was it so easy for him to come back? He happens to be a person of the Fascist persuasion.
We have to be quite clear that in the application of these rules, in granting the right of asylum or reserving it, we are holding the balance evenly between these various points of view. That is all one wants to be sure of. I will not make an allegation at all, because I have no ground for doing so. Many of our people with whom we are politically associated entertain the fear—perhaps it is nothing more than a fear and is unjustified, but undoubtedly it is widely entertained—that it is much easier for people of a certain political complexion to come into the country than it is for others. If the hon. Gentleman assures us that such is not the case, we are to that degree very much relieved. We are very anxious on general grounds—the general grounds of liberty—to preserve, as we have always struggled to preserve in this country, the right of asylum. It is something of which our people have been rightly proud, and we should hesitate indeed very long before we give up this right of asylum to people who feel that they can secure within the 498 borders of our own country that liberty which they are denied elsewhere.
The second point is again on the question of aliens. Leaving now on one side the political refugee, I wish to refer to the alien who is allowed to enter this country for the purpose of engaging in some form of labour. I have been trying to look up figures bearing on this point. According to the statistics given for last year, in Table 2, page 8, I see that a total of something like 12,000 aliens holding Ministry of Labour permits were allowed to enter this country last year. Coming to this year, I find in the three months ending March, 1931, in the footnote at the bottom of the page, that there were 3,098 admitted in connection with Ministry of Labour permits for the first three months of the year. In the succeeding three months I find 6,749 were admitted in connection with Ministry of Labour permits. Looking at those figures, they may strike a person as indicating a very substantial number.
Of course, I admit we must remember on the other side that similarly people from our country are allowed to go by a mutual arrangement to other countries for some sort of occupation there, but the point which my hon. Friend raises still remains one of substance. I gathered from him that domestic servants from abroad are not allowed to come here unless they are paid the appropriate wage that prevails for people of that type in this country. I do not see any justification for bringing all these domestic servants from abroad when there are so many of our own people who would be very glad to have employment, always supposing that these foreign servants have not some extra qualifications in regard to language and so on. That is an extra qualification which weighs in the balance very frequently. When an employer comes here to open a factory haw is it that he is not subject to the same sort of conditions in regard to the wages paid by him to people in this country as is expected of the home employer in respect of a foreign employé who comes here?
The hon. Member said that, generally speaking, these foreign employers who are establishing new factories observe the conditions prevailing in the local industry. I have to-day been in communication with the Trades Union Congress on this point and they say: 499Only a few days ago we received a complaint from Yeovil, Somerset, that glove makers were being brought over from France to the detriment of local labour in the district.To meet the point that these people are coming here to train our own people, this observation is made locally:The trades council concerned inform us that there is no shortage of skilled labour for the type of work required in the area.In the absence of some specific provision imposed upon foreign employers, foreign employés are being used to do certain work which people in our own country could perform. If that be so, then clearly it is a case for suggesting that there is an abuse of the alien immigration laws in that respect. I have another case, not quite parallel, but indicating the same sort of tendency. They say:We are informed that the Long Eaton Cable Company employé works for 7s. to 12s. below the rates for the cable industry.That is a German-controlled firm. We welcome with everybody else the foundations of new industries in this country, but do not let the foundation of those new industries be carried out by the introduction of alien workers performing tasks which our own people would be able to perform. Secondly, tasks, assuming that our own people cannot perform them for the time being, are being paid for at a rate which is a menace to the standard of wages in the locality. Naturally in times like these, our people look upon the coming of foreign workers with some little resentment, and we cannot blame them.
Hon. Members may argue that a good deal of this is due to the incursion of German workers. It is astonishing what a great proportion of these alien workers are from Switzerland. I do not know what particular demand there is for Swiss workers, unless they happen to be restaurant employés in the catering trade. If that be so, we are entitled to raise a point not of quarrel but of principle. People from my own country of South Wales, young miners, have been brought up to London and have gone to a training establishment in Horseferry Road and, according to information I have had from heads of catering departments, they have equipped themselves in a short period for work as waiters. There are thousands of these young men. Why, then, should we have this incursion of 500 foreign waiters? It is merely a fashion. This incursion of foreign waiters is on the same lines as the incursion of foreign singers. If a singer is a foreigner named Joneski he is a great man, but if he is just Billy Jones he is simply nobody. This sort of thing tends to create apprehension and resentment.
What we desire from the hon. Member is an assurance that the alien restrictions so long as they remain shall be interpreted so far as political refugees are concerned with equal generosity for all schools of thought. In regard to alien workers, we ask that they should not be brought in here in such a way as to operate to the detriment of the standards of living in our own country. We had intended that our actions should be determined very largely by the reply which the hon. Gentleman gave. I cannot pretend that his answer was fully satisfactory, but judging from the controversy which took place regarding the Rules of Order, it has been rather difficult to discuss as fully as we would have liked these various points in all their bearings. Having regard to the somewhat limited discussion that we have had we do not propose to carry our Motion to a Division.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
I will not detain the the Committee long, but there are one or two points which were raised by the hon. Member opposite that I should like to try and clear up. I am very glad that he has raised this question because, although this particular Order is one of the most difficult that we have to administer, I hope to be able to show that on the whole his apprehensions are unfounded. He made a legitimate distinction between the alien who comes here in order to be an employé and the alien who comes here to start a factory. As regards the alien who comes to start a factory I can only say that we have no power to prevent a factory being set up. It would be in practice impossible to distinguish between a factory set up with British capital and a factory set up with foreign capital. There are in this country a considerable number of factories owned by foreigners and run entirely by Englishmen. There are factories owned by Englishmen and managed by foreigners. 501 Between these extremes there is every gradation. It would be impossible to make a distinction between the various types of factories so long as they carry out the law.
In practice we endeavour to secure that foreign factories run by foreigners in this country carry out the fair wage clause. I have in mind a particular factory which was recently set up, where as a result of representations which were made we secured a promise from that factory, a very important factory, that they would pay the general trade union rate applicable to that particular industry, although the factory was set up in an area where the men were wholly unorganised. From inquiries which I made to-day I find that this foreign concern has carried out its obligations and is actually paying higher than the trade union rates. On the whole, foreign factories which have been set up in this country have played the game. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) quoted the single instance of the factory at Mossley. I have made inquiries into that matter and the situation is that Mossley is in a cotton textile area, and at this particular moment the foreign company have set up a woollen factory. The local textile operators were unacquainted with the process of manufacture and, therefore, a certain number of foreigners were introduced in order to teach them the process. In regard to the wages, there are obviously no agreed rates for woollen textile operatives in Mossley. The woollen rates apply to Huddersfield, and, therefore, it is impossible to say whether or no this firm is paying the agreed rates in Mossley because no proper rate is fixed there as this is the only example of its kind.
§ Mr. HUDSON
In this particular factory there was a, considerable amount of disquiet which ended in a strike in September, and as a result of that strike increased rates of wages were paid to the operatives. The hon. Member says that the firm will not allow them to join a trade union. The latest information I had is that the trade union has 300 members who have signed application forms.
§ Mr. HUDSON
In September, and as a result of the strike. I hope that the hon. Member is satisfied. I admit frankly that the Mossley case is a difficult one. We have done what is possible but it is an isolated case as far as I know. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) quoted a case in Yeovil. He did not give me notice of it and, therefore, I cannot give a reply, but if he will send me particulars I shall be glad to look into it. The only other point was about the number of aliens who were being admitted. The position is that in 1927 the total number of permits issued by the Ministry of Labour was 6,934, which was increased to 8,466 in 1928 and under the hon. Member's Government to 9,910 in 1929, 11,699 in 1930 and 11,744 in 1931. The number was reduced by the present Government to 8,957 in 1932, to 8,584 in 1933 and to 7,867 this year. The hon. Member also raised the question of waiters, and particularly the number of aliens who were admitted from Switzerland.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I am not conscious of having misled the Committee. I quoted figures from the official document, Command Paper 4593, page 8; and I have underlined the figures.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The difference is that the figures given by the hon. Member were those of the number who landed in a particular year, whereas the figures I have given are the number of actual permits issued by the Department during the year. The hon. Member dealt with the question of aliens from Switzerland. The explanation is that we have admitted a certain number of Swiss watch-makers in the course of the last year or two. The hon. Member also dealt with waiters. They are admitted on an exchange basis. For every waiter admitted here an English waiter is sent abroad in order to learn the language and the trade. Therefore, the more foreign waiters come here to learn English the more Englishmen go abroad to learn the language and the trade abroad. With these explanations I hope the hon. Member will feel satisfied that the administration is not slack.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
In view of the trend of the Debate, and in spite of the fact that the answer is not quite as satisfactory as we expected it to be, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.503
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move, in page 4, to leave out lines 7 to 11.
This is an Amendment to delete the reference in the Schedule to what is termed the Employment of Women and Young Persons Act of 1920. I need hardly say that we have raised this issue on several previous occasions. The only new point that can be put to-night is that our agitation against the continuation of the two shift system in the last few years has produced one thing, and that is that the Government have appointed a Departmental Committee to inquire into the question whether or not this system should continue. I am not going to explain what the two shift system means. When this system was put in operation in 1920 there was plenty of employment in this country, the number of work-people available was short, and employers were allowed to work more than one shift in a factory per day. The Government of the time decided that for an experimental period the two shift system should be allowed to operate, and that women and young persons could be employed between very early hours and late hours during the same day. But there was a provision inserted in the original Act that the experimental period should come to an end within five years. It is now 1924; the Act was passed in 1920, and the five years has extended to 14 years.
We have continued to protest against the continuance of this provision because it seems to us that in view of the great depression in trade there is no longer the same reason for continuing the two shift system in industry and the employment of women and young persons early and late. We are opposing that particular provision to-night so that the Departmental Committee may take it from those of us who are interested in this subject that, although we may not take this Amendment to a Division, that does not mean that our opposition against the practice is not continuing. On this occasion also we shall determine whether we go into the Division Lobby or not by the reply which we receive from the Under-Secretary. The last reply which we received from him satisfied us to the extent of about 73 per cent. which I thought rather an extraordinary achievement on his part and if he does equally well in this case probably we shall not take our army into the Lobby. [HON. 504 MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] They are in reserve. A general going into battle never allows the enemy to see the full strength of his forces.
Speaking seriously, perhaps the Under-Secretary has seen a rather important work on this subject by Professor Vernon in which he brings out clearly a point which ought to receive attention from the Home Office. The vote of the personnel employed in a factory five or 10 years ago in favour of the two shift system does not in my opinion present a true picture of the view of the personnel employed in that factory and operating that order to-day. It may be that of 400 people employed in a factory 10 years ago a majority voted in favour of an order but that not one of the 400 employed in that factory to-day was there to vote for or against that order. I think that point was not foreshadowed by those who drafted the law in this respect. I want to make it clear to those who are studying this problem that we are not losing sight of this issue. We are concerned about it and I am sure that the Home Office will allow this Committee access to all available evidence for the purpose of enabling them to arrive at a proper conclusion. I hope also that the workpeople themselves will be able to give evidence to the Committee in such a way that they will not suffer loss of employment as a result of any testimony which they may give.
§ 10.29 p.m.
The non. Gentleman has been very kind to me to-night, and I shall try to he equally kind to him. As he has said, there is a departmental committee and my right hon. Friend gave a reply at Question Time dealing with that matter. I imagine that they will take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said to-night and probably that would be a sufficient answer to the question which he has put to me though it might seem somewhat discourteous. There was one phrase however which the hon. Gentleman let fall which I do not think ought to pass uncorrected. He said that the two shift system involved the employment of women and young persons early in the morning and late at night and one might imagine that the same person was kept employed from very early until very late. The hon. Gentleman's remark is open to 505 such an interpretation, but the system does not mean anything of the kind. It means that the shift which works early in the morning will not be the shift which works late at night. The hon. Gentleman did raise the question as to whether, if an order was granted to a certain group on the vote of a certain: panther of employés 10 years ago, it was reasonable for that order to be continued in spite of the fact that the whole personnel of the factory might have been altered. As the Committee is sitting, I do not think my right hon. Friend or I ought to be expected to give an answer to questions of that kind. One may observe though that, after all, if it were known that an order was in existence with regard to a particular factory, the people who went to work there would presumably know all about it, and would consider it one of the conditions which they might have to find themselves carrying out.
When the hon. Member asks whether the workpeople will be allowed to give evidence before the Committee, it is, of course, for the Committee to determine its own procedure, but I cannot conceive of a Committee on this subject not seeking advice from any quarters that are possible. As I see one of the Members of the Committee wagging his head in an affirmative manner behind the hon. Member, I take it that that will be so. We have been fortunate in securing a very good Committee so far as its personnel is concerned, and, therefore, I think we can carry on for the ensuing year with the present system in order to Lave time to consider the report of the Committee when it is available, which I hope will be long before another Expiring Laws Continuance Bill is necessary. That being so, I hope the hon. Member will be satisfied with my reply.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Mr RHYS DAVIES
I must repeat what I said before, that the reply is not quite as satisfactory as we hoped, but it is as satisfactory as we can expect from a representative of this Government, and in view of that fact I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Preamble agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.