HC Deb 27 February 1936 vol 309 cc749-73

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £131,360, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936, for sundry Colonial and Middle Eastern Services under His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including certain Non-effective Services and Grants in Aid.

8.11 p.m.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. J. H. Thomas)

The main items, in fact almost all the items, included in this Supplementary Estimate are due to the unfortunate dispute between Italy and Abyssinia. The first is a Supplementary Estimate of £23,000 in aid of Somaliland. The Committee will appreciate at the outset the grave difficulties and anxieties with which we were faced in this dispute, having regard to the close proximity of our own people. It was found necessary to spend this sum of money, not only further to protect the frontiers, but in the main to prevent our own people getting into trouble on the other side. This sum of money which has been spent, the Somaliland Government had themselves to bear, but I think the Committee will agree that we are responsible for it.

The next item has to do with something the principle of which I think the House itself has already accepted, because this sum was in connection with finding homes for the Assyrians. Originally it was thought that British Guiana would open possibilities, and the result was that an investigation took place, inquiries were made, and a, commission was appointed. It was ultimately decided that a more suitable place could be found, and here again we feel that it would be hardly fair for another than the British Government to bear the responsibility. The next item affects Kenya, where we have this peculiar situation, that 318 deserters from the Italian native forces crossed the frontier in January and are now being detained and kept by us. Again the Committee will understand that this is hardly a burden which we could ask Kenya to bear, with the result that the sum of £14,000 is necessary for this additional expenditure.


Exclusively for that purpose?


Not exclusively. The same argument that I applied to Somaliland is equally if not more applicable to Malta. The Committee is aware of the difficulties which have necessitated this expenditure in connection with Malta. A total sum of £75,000 is required under this head.


Would the right hon. Gentleman explain in more detail the item in relation to relief of non-Malta born Maltese in Turkey?


I am coming to that. It is a question of distressed Maltese British subjects in Turkey. In this case the Turkish Government passed a measure which gave a practical monopoly of all work in Turkey to their own people with the result that 1,250 Maltese who were there found themselves unable to obtain employment. Although British subjects, they have practically no connection with Malta and they were left almost destitute. We felt a moral responsibility towards them, and part of the Estimate to which I now ask the Committee to agree, represents the provision that we have made for these unfortunate people.


Have they been brought back to Malta?


No, and if my hon. Friend considers the matter I am sure he will appreciate the difficulty of dealing in that way with 1,250 men, women and children who have never seen Malta and have no connection with Malta, and who, because of this action in Turkey, have been practically deprived of their livelihood. To all intents and purposes, they are British subjects and, as I say, we felt a moral responsibility to come to their assistance. The next item is in connection with Boundary Commissions, one relating to the boundaries of Northern Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo, and the other to the boundaries between British Guiana and Brazil. It was not anticipated that this expense would be incurred but it has been found necessary to make this provision, and this item in the Estimate relates exclusively to it. The other item of telegrams on Colonial Service, including over-sea telephone calls, is due to two causes, first the unfortunate dispute between Italy and Abyssinia which has necessitated a great increase in both telephones and telegrams, and also, as I am sure the Committee will appreciate, the number of messages arising out of the death of His late Majesty.

8.18 p.m.


This is a most unusual Supplementary Estimate. In the first place it is for the very large sum of £131,000. Then, at the bottom of page 6, we find this condition attached to it: Any balance of the sum issued which may remain unexpended at 31st March, 1936, will not be liable to surrender to the Exchequer. This is an unusual condition to appear in a Supplementary Estimate, and I do not think it is one that ought to be granted to any Government. When money is voted in this way it ought to be expended on the purposes indicated or else revert to the Exchequer, as I understand to be the case with every other Estimate. There is another exceptional feature about this Estimate. Of the total sum, no less than £100,000 is for war services. In relation to Somaliland, British Guiana, Kenya, Malta and Aden money is being provided which in my view ought not to be on the Colonial Office Vote at all but on the Service Estimates. Because of information which we receive from various Governments, we state from the platform the cost of preparations for war. How can we be correct if we have Estimates from a Department like the Colonial Office which include money that is really money for war preparation and ought to be on the Army, Navy or Air Force Votes? I object to these sums being put down to the Colonial Office. There is a sum of £2,300 in respect of the Assyrian settlement, and expenses incurred by British Guiana. On Tuesday we discussed a Supplementary Estimate, under the head of the League of Nations, of £57,000, part of a total sum of £250,000 which was being granted for the settlement of the Assyrians. I contend that this £2,500 ought to have been added to that Estimate.


I am anxious that there should be no confusion of thought about this matter, and there certainly ought to be no difference of opinion. I observed with interest and satisfaction that in the Debate on Tuesday, agreement was expressed on all sides with the Assyrian settlement, and I ought to explain that had we not taken the course of putting this sum on this Estimate it would have been deducted from the benefit which these unfortunate people will receive. The object of putting it on this Estimate is in order that the poor victims should not suffer by such a deduction.


There was no need for the interjection of the right hon. Gentleman because I was present during that Debate and everybody was agreed in sympathising with the poor Assyrians.


On a point of Order. What have the Assyrians to do with this Vote? Is it not on another Vote that their case arises?


The hon. Member cannot have read through the Estimate or he would see that this item occurs under the heading British Guiana.


It is part of this Estimate and I am not objecting to it and the right hon. Gentleman need not think that I am objecting to it. I am putting the point that we have had an Estimate already in connection with settling these people, and that ought to have comprised all the items. That is my only point with regard to it. I am not objecting to the £2,300, but I say that it should not have been in the Colonial Office Estimate. Items are included here with regard to boundary commissions. I have raised this matter before. There is the delimitation of the boundary between Northern Rhodesia and the Congo, and we ought to know whether this £1,000 is the final amount we shall be called upon to pay. Then a commission has been opened for the delimitation of the boundary between British Guiana and Brazil. The right hon. Gentleman might tell us how long the discussions are likely to go on and whether we shall have some more Estimates in future. I am not objecting to the money required in these Estimates being spent in the way described, but I object to so much of it being on the Colonial Office Vote and not on the Votes of the Service Departments so that we could know what we are paying towards war preparations and the continuation of any war, whether we are part of it or not.

8.27 p.m.


I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman can give us some details of the measures we are taking in connection with the ItaloAbyssinian dispute in Somaliland. It amounts to £23,000. I should also like some information on the next item, "Grant in Aid of Expenses incurred by British Guiana in investigating the possibilities of Assyrian settlement." I would like to know what that £2,360 has been spent on, because these Assyrians have been before the House practically since the War. Then there is a grant of £14,000 to Kenya. Kenya is well represented in this House and on the Government Benches. Great wealth is represented in Kenya and here we find a grant in aid to that country Again it is in connection with the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. I should like to know what it has been spent on and if it bas been spent in safeguarding the interests of Kenya against the encroachment of the Italians. What contribution has been made by the Kenyans or by the white population? The next item is in reference to Malta, and I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman can explain the grant in aid of £12,000 towards the cost of relief of non-Malta born Maltese destitute in Turkey. There is a great difference in geographical situation between Malta and Turkey, and how does it happen that we are to provide this sum for those individuals? Why are we so sympathetic in this case? Here at home are two villages which I have in mind, Leadhills and Wanlochhead, that have been left destitute without any means of support other than what can be obtained from the Employment Exchange. The lead mines have been stopped for eight years and nothing is done to relieve the people.

I believe that charity begins at home, but it ought not to end there. I am not objecting to extending the right hand of friendship to everyone beyond the sea, but why are we making this expenditure on individuals abroad? I do not understand their nationality; they are non-Malta born, which means they are not born in Malta, but they are Maltese destitute in Turkey. It is stretching things rather far to assist Maltese in Turkey to the tune of £12,000 when, if we appeal for assistance for our own folk, it is impossible to get it. With regard to the boundary commission for Northern Rhodesia and the Congo one-half of the expenditure will be recovered from the Government of Northern Rhodesia. In the case of the boundary commission for British Guiana and Brazil, however, there is no information whether we shall get any return from British Guiana. Is this commission looking after the interests of the folk in British Guiana, or after British investors and British capital? The statement appears: The question whether this expenditure will be recovered, in whole or in part, from the Government of British Guiana will be considered later. Is it not rather a slipshod proceeding for a Minister with sage experience to come to the House of Commons with the statement that it will be considered later? That is not the way this Government deals with us. There is no "considered later" for us. We have to be ready with the facts every time we go to any Minister of the Crown with any case which we wish to be investigated. Here, away abroad, the Government are prepared to stand good for £11,000 without any guarantee that that sum will be recovered, because nobody knows better than the Minister that Brazil is a country which has let us down as Russia was accused of doing, that is by never meeting its creditors. Brazil owes not only tens of thousands but millions to this country, and instead of supplying us with information this Minister, of all Ministers, calmly comes to the House and submits a statement like that. We should not pass this Estimate until we have had a statement clearing the air about this £11,000.

Under the heading of "Middle Eastern Services" I find an item in respect of Aden. I recall that I stood against the Labour Government in this House when they transferred Aden to the Indian Government. To-day we here are no longer responsible for Aden, and yet we find an item of expenditure of £750 on Protectorate chiefs. I want to know who those chiefs are, and why, after we have handed over Aden to the Indian Government, we should be asked to pay this money. Evidently it is a very big job to pay over this £750 to these chiefs. Evidently they are away in the desert or somewhere else, because I see the next item is £250 for "miscellaneous expenses," and I take that to be the cost incurred in going to pay those chiefs in their inaccessible paying places.

It makes £1,000 in all. Of course, it is nothing—nothing when we are giving it, away. A few years ago I was appealing foil some consideration for Scotsmen who were up against it and I could get nothing, and yet the first time the present Chancellor of the Exchequer had any surplus in his Budget he gave £2,000,000 to the Arabs in Palestine. When it is a question of assisting those in this country who are up against it through no fault of their own, but through the fault of the system under which we live, move and have our being, they are put under a means test. I want to know what means test has been applied to these chiefs. I want some information about this, and the Minister can take it from me that he will not get away so easily as he imagines unless he has a satisfactory reply. [Laughter.] There are a number of Members in the House who are taking this as a joke. I wish their constituents were here. They would not regard it as a joke to see thousands and tens of thousands of pounds being distributed all round the Mediterranean while we here at home can get absolutely nothing. We shall see whether there is any cause for hilarity when the Minister has replied.

The next item "Expenditure on special measures taken in connection with the Italo-Abyssinian dispute." This Abyssinian dispute is evidently to be a great cloak for covering up a whole lot of business, for allowing the Government to pay out money to a great many organisations and institutions. They would not get the sanction of the House under normal circumstances, and are proceeding under the guise of taking action to protect British interests. Half the expenditure will be recovered from the Government of India. That is £4,000 that we are standing in for. I want to know what that money is for.

The next item is: Appropriations in Aid: Contribution by Government in respect of special measures at Aden, £4.000. These items added together amount to about £176,000, in round figures. That is really nothing. I want the Minister to tell us what is happening to justify this Supplementary Estimate, and why it appears to be in respect of parts of the Empire for which this House is not responsible. I can never forget that I protested when the Labour Government transferred to India the government and everything else connected with the rock of Aden. I wanted it retained here, but that is beside the question. Now that it, is with India, and money is wanted for its extra protection, they still come here. Our men are there, and I have letters from them saying that the rock of Aden is one of the worst spots in the universe and the worst place in the British Empire for airmen or soldiers. It is a perfect hell on earth. That is their language to me.

I want an explanation for that expenditure, in addition to an explanation of all the other items to which I have referred. All these are- in the Supplementary Estimate under the guise of measures made necessary because Italy is at war with Abyssinia. I want you to clear the air of my suspicions. A number of items of expenditure are being covered up because of this war in Abyssinia. I hope the Minister will try to explain the matters which I have brought forward.

8.48 p.m.


I wish to refer to two items in the Supplementary Estimate because they involve a question of principle. If I understood my right hon. Friend aright when he dealt with the two items, A.3, Somaliland, £23,000 and A.12, Kenya, £14,000, he told us that some portion of the money was to be voted to those Colonies because of the expense to which they had been put to maintain deserters from the Italian or Abyssinian forces. I do not know what the international law on this point may be, but if we are to accept the financial responsibility of maintaining these deserters in what might well be the early stages of the campaign, without making any adequate request either through the League of Nations or direct to the Italian or Abyssinian Government for a refund from these charges, we might easily involve ourselves in an expenditure which is not justified. At a time when the national finances have to be watched with t he utmost care, we have no right to ask the taxpayers of this country to maintain the deserters or prisoners of war of one or the other nations involved in this unfortunate dispute.

The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) referred to the fact that under J heading it is estimated that a certain amount of money is to be reclaimed from India in relation to an expenditure of £8,000 associated with the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. I should have thought that my right hon. Friend would have included a paragraph in the Supplementary Estimate saying that it was expected or hoped that a claim would be made against Italy for a refund of this money. We have a precedent in the case of Holland, where, during the War, a vast number of our troops, and Royal Marines in particular, were imprisoned for four years. If I remember correctly, Supplementary Estimates were submitted to the House to maintain our Forces under the protection of the Dutch Government. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will be good enough to inform me what is the position in international law, and whether the Government have taken, or contemplate taking, steps to get a re- fund of the expenses, either from the Italian Government or from the Abyssinian authorities.

8.52 p.m.


I do not wish to do more than refer to something which was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans). I want to know where the ultimate expense for the maintenance of these deserters will lie. Wherever the ultimate expense is to be borne, I am concerned that these men, who are living on British territories, shall be treated with the utmost humane consideration, that they shall not be kept under prison conditions and that they shall be adequately housed and fed and given the maximum of freedom that is compatible with the international laws that govern the situation.

8.53 p.m.


May I answer the last question first? My hon. Friend would not expect me to give an answer as to what is the international law on the subject. [interruption.] It is no good asking, "What is the law?" Do not get into that strain of merely chipping. I will endeavour to give the Committee a fair statement of all my information. Nobody, and least of all my hon. Friend who interrupted me, would expect me, when a war is taking place, to give an answer to a technical question as to what is the international law on the subject. Is there any Member, certainly on that side of the Committee, who would dare say that we were doing wrong, while this unfortunate war is taking place and we find ourselves, because of our geographical position, in charge of a number of people who have deserted? It is not for us to ascertain the reason, but it is for us to do.

My hon. Friend said in effect, "Treat them as human beings and give them the best possible conditions." We are in full agreement about that. I am not at this stage going into the merits of how, when or against whom a particular claim will ultimately be made. I am content to say that these poor unfortunate people find themselves in our territory, and that we would be less than human, and I would be less than human, not to come down to the House and say that they are costing us money and to ask the House to realise that we could not anticipate this expenditure 12 months ago. That is why it is part of a Supplementary Estimate, I hope that both my hon. Friends will accept that as a fair statement of the position. It would not only not be competent for me to give a legal opinion, but I put it to the Committee that the legal aspect does not arise at this stage. We are all much more concerned with the human side, and I assure my hon. Friend that we shall have due regard to the points which have been made in that connection.

Captain A. EVANS

After all, this is a matter of some importance, and, if I may say so with great respect, the right bon. Gentleman has made an attempt to answer a case which no one has raised. No one disputes for a moment the arguments he has used, but the point I want to make is that, while we admit, and it is obvious, that we have to take care of these men, we want to know whether a claim is going to be made subsequently against the nations concerned similar to that which we had to meet in respect of our prisoners of war during the Great War.


I am sure the Committee will realise that it would not be proper for me to make such a statement on a Supplementary Estimate, and least of all on an Estimate which merely deals with the cost of maintaining these unfortunate prisoners. I do not think my hon. Friend can ask for an authoritative statement on that side of the question now. I know perfectly well what happened in the late War, but I do not want to say anything, and no Member of the House would expect me to say anything, that would aggravate the situation or cause difficulty. I content myself with stating the bald fact that this Estimate is made necessary by the unfortunate circumstances of the situation that we are endeavouring to meet, and all that the Committee is asked to do is to realise that this is a cost that Kenya could not be expected to bear.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) asked a number of questions to which he said he wanted answers, but I rather thought that on each of the items he mentioned I had endeavoured to give an explanation in advance. I explained with regard to Somaliland, with regard to Kenya, and with regard to the position of the Assyrians. I told the Committee quite frankly that the close proximity both of Kenya and Somaliland to the war that is now taking place necessitated certain measures, but these are not warlike preparations. To describe them so is a travesty of the facts. These are not warlike preparations by our people, but measures to protect our own people against the war that is taking place and the consequences that may follow. That is the difference between warlike preparations and giving the ordinary protection that we are entitled to give.

My hon. Friend also asked what was the reason for our responsibility for Aden. He pointed out that he took a certain stand with regard to Aden when the Government of India Bill was before the House, and that is true; but he has forgotten that, while it was ultimately decided to transfer certain territories in Aden to the United Kingdom, that transfer will not lake place until 1937. Therefore, we are responsible, and hence the expenditure. With regard to the other question, the answer is precisely the same as that which I gave with regard to Somaliland and Kenya. Aden, by its geographical position, is rendered subject to all the difficulties that I have explained in connection with Somaliland and Kenya.

With regard to the question of boundaries, it is not for me to enter into the merits, but in each of these cases the boundary commission is a commission that will define the boundaries of certain territories which ultimately become our property, and, if a boundary is to be defined, we must have a competent person who will ax least see that our interest is adequately protected. That is the real object of the boundary commission. As my hon. Friend pointed out, he has raised several times, and quite rightly, the question of the delay that has occurred in the case of several boundary commissions. There is an item in connection with the boundary of British Guiana that has been brought about by the most unfortunate illness and death of two of the original commission. It was then found that the territory with which they were dealing was more difficult than anyone ever antici- pated. We had to appoint substitutes in place of those who had died, and that is the reason for the additional Estimate. My hon. Friend's protest as regards Northern Rhodesia was quite legitimate. We have ourselves telegraphed out, and we hope that this will not only be a final Estimate, but that the task will speedily be completed. I agree with my hon. Friend that the overwhelming amount of this money is due, not quite to the Colonial Office, but it comes on to the Colonial Office Vote because the Colonial Office is responsible for giving the instructions. I would ask the Committee not to treat these items as warlike expenditure—


That is what they are.


Let us be quite fair, because that suggestion will be misunderstood in the country. Take the case of Malta. Without saying anything that would complicate the foreign situation, I would ask whether any hon. Member, knowing the position of Malta, would deny that the Government were right and justified in taking, and would have been wanting in their duty, knowing the situation at Malta, if they had not taken, the elementary precautions that have been taken, not for guns, not for soldiers, but for the protection of the civil population against something that may arise—I put it no higher. I put it to the Committee that there would have been strong condemnation from the benches opposite, and from all quarters of the House, if we had not taken the elementary precautions that are indicated here. No solitary pound of this Estimate is for guns or anything of that kind; it is for protection to the civil population. In the case of Somaliland, again, will anyone say that those precautions ought not to have been taken, knowing our responsibility for dealing with the natives, and knowing perfectly well that they may be tempted, with possibly disastrous results to them, to cross the border into territory where a war is taking place? It was our duty to protect them against that danger and it was adequate protection in their own interests. That is the main item of this expenditure and I ask the Committee to accept it.

9.5 p.m.


I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has taken this matter on the wrong lines. There was no need to get so excited, because we were only querying the expenditure. We are the Opposition and we have a right to find out where the money is going. The right hon. Gentleman has no right to assume that we do not want to look after the prisoners carefully and well. There is no desire that they should be sent back to Italy. The question is whether there will be any attempt to get some of this money back from some other source. I assume that, when the debt comes to be reckoned up, the League of Nations will be responsible for some of the expense, and we have a right to ask if we shall get something back. It is not right that we should bear the greater part of the expense. Someone else ought to share it. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot tell us at the moment whether we shall get any back, all right, but do not assume that we doubt him or that we do not want protection for these men. It is simply curiosity to find out where the money is going.

9.7 p.m.


I notice that the Solicitor-General has come in. He might be able to elucidate the matter. We are asking what is the international law on this subject. If a nation is called upon to maintain prisoners or deserters from an army, shall we later on be able to make any claim against the Government concerned, or is there any other method by which we can be recouped? If the numbers increase, it might be a very considerable sum of money. In the late War there were methods by which the cost was recovered. There is no question as to the rightness of taking care either of Abyssinians or Italians or any other of the various tribes that may desert. We only ask if the Solicitor-General can help us to understand whether in future some part of the cost may be recovered.

9.9 p.m.


We know how astute the Colonial Secretary is in debate. He rather suggested that we were objecting to the expenditure of this money. He knows perfectly well that we were not. When I interrupted him, I put a perfectly legitimate point. It is the duty of a Committee of Ways and Means to examine the objects for which the Government is asking money. If we allowed anything to go by without criticism or an interro- gation, six months hence the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to say that we had not raised it when the Supplementary Estimate was before the House. In the right hon. Gentleman's Department there is information and there are men who know the law on the point. The right hon. Gentleman must not forget that he was guilty of the same practice on Tuesday of not giving the information that we had a right to expect. The Solicitor-General should be asked either to state exactly what is the position or promise to give it consideration and let the House know later.


I am the last person in the world to be discourteous. I endeavoured to give an explanation to the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and he accepted it. If any one wants to know what will ultimately be the legal responsibility for these prisoners and puts a question down on the Paper, I would see, if the question was addressed to me, that a proper answer was given. My only point was that neither I nor my Department would be competent to give an answer to a question which is essentially one for the Law Officers.


This is a question of law. A Law Officer is on the bench and it would be discourteous of him not to reply to us. The Colonial Secretary said we could put down a question, but we are not expected to give notice of questions in connection with the Estimates. This is a time when Ministers ought to be on the alert to answer any question that may be raised. I think the Solicitor-General should give us the answer that we have been waiting for.

9.14 p.m.

The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Donald Somervell)

I came into the Chamber and sat at the end of the bench and my presence was detected by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who raised what is undoubtedly an important and a very difficult point of law. It does not affect these Estimates. I do not think there is any dispute that this expenditure has been properly incurred. The question which is raised—it does not affect anybody's mind as to whether this particular Estimate should or should not be accepted by the Committee—is whether in the future, this expenditure having been properly incurred and passed by this Government, there might or might not be in international law a claim for recoupment. My right hon. Friend has the primary responsibility in this matter, and I am certain that whenever it can reasonably be anticipated that there is any question on which the House or the Committee might desire the opinion of the Law Officers, it is the duty of the Law Officers to be present. The Committee will appreciate that this question —a proper and very important question to be considered at the appropriate time —is really one consequent upon the decision that the Committee will take to-night, and is not really relative to the actual position now before the Committee. I am in the hands of the Committee, but I cannot give a considered opinion as to what might or might not be the right under international law in this country in the future with regard to a claim for recoupment of this sum. I suggest with all deference that it is not really relevant.


It is relevant.


It is not relevant to the decision which the Committee have to take to-night. Does anybody suggest that, assuming that we had no right to recoupment this money ought not to be raised?


No, we do not say so.


The Solicitor-General should not try and put us in an awkward position, Because he is himself in an awkward position, he tries to put somebody else in the same position.


The hon. Member commented upon a decision which I merely ask the, Committee to accept. It is a responsibility to the House that the Attorney-General should be here when a legal point requires to be answered. [An HON. MEMBER: "It does now."] The hon. Gentleman is wrong, it does not. Nobody will say that this Estimate should be or should not be voted accordingly as to whether we have a right in law. That is all I can say. I cannot with this notice give a considered legal opinion to the Committee on this matter, but I can assure every hon. Member that the point put to my right hon. Friend will be considered with the greatest care. As I have suggested to the Committee, it is not really relative to the decision to be taken to-night.

9.19 p.m.


The learned Solicitor-General has not helped us a little. If he had been present at the beginning of the Debate he would have heard the whole question of this liability raised in respect to items in this Estimate. He has not given an answer of any kind which is helpful to the Committee. We do not know at the moment what is the position, but we know what is to be the position. The point I raise is that while I do not disagree with the humanitarian views expressed, I object to Estimates of this kind being used when they ought to be attached to the Service Departments, and not to the Civil Service. If we have to spend money for war purposes of any description, it ought to be known that it is being so spent. We shall have to watch all the Estimates this year very carefully, both main Estimates and Supplementary Estimates, to see to what extent warlike expenditure is to be

Division No. 67.] AYES. [9.21 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Pcthick-Lawrence, F. W.
Adamson, W. M. Hurdle, G. D. Potts, J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lslir.) Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Price, M. P.
Ammon, C. G. Henderson, J. (Ardwlck) Prltt, D. N.
Anderson, F. (Whitchaven) Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Quibell. J. D.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Holland, A. Riley, B.
Banfield, J. W. Hollins, A. Ritson, J.
Barnes, A. J. Hopkin. D. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Batey, J. Jenkins. A. (Pontypool) Rowson, G.
Bevan, A. John, W. Saiter, Dr. A.
Charleton, H. C. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Seely, Sir H. M.
Cluse, W. S. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Sexton, T. M.
Cocks, F. S. Jones, Morgan (Caerphllly) Shinwell, E.
Compton, J. Kelly, W. T. Short, A.
Daggar, G. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Sliverman, S. S.
Davidson. J. J. (Maryhill) Klrby, B. V. Simpson, F. B.
Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd) Klrkwood, D. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lawson. J. J. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Dobbie, W. Leach, W. Sorensen, R. W.
Dunn, E. (Bother Valley) Lee, F. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Ede, J. c. Leonard, W. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Leslie, J. R. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Logan, D. G. Thurtle, E.
Foot, D. M. Lunn, W. Tinker, J. J.
Frankel. D. McEntee, V. La T. Vlant, S. P.
Gallacher, W. McGovern, J. Walkden, A. G.
Gardner, B. W. Maclean, N. Walker. J.
Garro-Jones, G. M. MacNeill, Weir, L. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Malnwaring, W. H. Westwood, J.
Gibbins, J. Markiew, E. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Maxton, J. Wllliams, T. (Don Valley)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Mliner. Major J. Wilson, C. H. (Attercllfle)
Grenfell, D. R. Montague, F. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro. W.) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham. N.) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Griffiths. G. A. (Hemsworth) Naylor, T. E.
Groves. T. E. Oliver, G. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Paling, W. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers,
Albery, I. J. Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Aske, Sir R. W.
Allen, Ll.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'lul) Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Assheton, R.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Apslcy, Lord Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)

increased by reason of expenses in this way.


Move to report Progress.


I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

We are so dissatisfied with the explanation of the learned Solicitor-General that it is necessary that he should be given a few minutes in which to consider the position, so as to be able to tell us what is the international position with regard to prisoners of war or whatever they may be. It is in order to give the hon. and learned Gentleman an opportunity to say more clearly what is the position upon this particular issue, that I now move to report Progress.

Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 111; Noes, 191.

Atholl, Duchess of Findlay, Sir E. Penny, Sir G.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Fleming, E. L. Peters, Dr. S. J.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Fyfe, D. P. M. Petherick, M.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Ganzoni, Sir J. Pllkington, R.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Gluckstein, L. H. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Blindell, Sir J. Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. Porritt, R. W.
Boothby, R. J. G. Goodman, Col. A. W. Procter, Major H. A.
Bostom, A. C. Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Raikcs, H. V. A. M.
Boulton, W. W. Gridley, Sir A. B. Ramsbotham, H.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Grigg, Sir E. W. M. Rankin, R.
Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B. Grimston, R. V. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmln)
Bracken, B. Gritten, W. G. Howard Rayner, Major R. H.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Guest, Ma). Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll.N.W.) Remer, J. R.
Brockiebank, C. E. R. Guinness, T. L. E. B. Rlckards, G. W. (Sklpton)
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Lelth) Guy, J. C. M. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Brown, Brig. -Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Hannah, I. C. Ropner, Colonel L.
Bull, B. B. Harvey, G. Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry)
Burghley, Lord Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Rowlands, G.
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Cartland, J. R. H. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Salmon, Sir I.
Carver, Major W. H. Holmes, J. S. Salt. E. W.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.) Horsbrugh, Florence Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lt'st)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Hunter, T. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Inskip. Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Somerset, T.
Clarke, F. E. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt n) Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Colville, U.-Col. D. J. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Unlvt.) Somerville. D. G. (Willesden, E.)
Cookc. J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Latham, Sir P. Spender-Clay Lt.-CI. Rt. Hn. H. H.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh.W.) Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Storey, S.
Courtauld, Major J. S. Leckle, J. A. Stourton, Hon. J. J.
Craddock, Sir R. H. Leech, Dr. J. W. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Cranborne, Viscount Lewis, O. Strickland. Captain W. F.
Crltchley,. A. Llewellin, Lleut.-Col. J. J. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Crooke, J. S. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Crookshank. Capt. H. F. C. Loftus, P. C. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Groom-Johnson, R. P. Mabane, W. (Huddersfleid) Sutcliffe, H.
Cross, R. H. MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Crossley, A. C. McCorquodaie, M. S. Tate, Mavis C.
Crowder, J. F. E. McEwen, Capt. H. J. F. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Culverwell, C. T. McKIc, J. H. Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Davies. C- (Montgomery) Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Dawson, Sir p. Magnay, T. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Tltchfield. Marquess of
Denville. Alfred Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. O. R. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Dodd, J. S. Maxwell, S. A. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Walker-Smith, Sir J.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Wallace, Captain Euan
Dugdale, Major T. L. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Ward, Lieut. -Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Duggan, H. J. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswlck) Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Duncan, J. A. L. Moreing, A. C. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Dunglass, Lord Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.) Wickham. Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Dunne, P. R. R. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Unlv'e.) Windsor-Clive, Liout. -Colonel G.
Eckersley, P. T. Morrison, W. S. (Clrencester) Wise, A. R.
Emmott, C. E. G. C. Munro, P. M. Womerslty, Sir W. J.
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Nail, Sir J. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Errington, E. O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Erskine Hill, A. G. Orr-Ewing, I. L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES —
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff. S.) Peake, O. Major Ceorge Davies and
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Peat. C. U. Commander Southby.

Original Question again proposed.

9.30 p.m.


I moved to report Progress in order that we might have a statement of the legal position on this question of the deserters. We have no Law Officer on the Government Front Bench at this moment, so I anticipate that we are not going to get an answer to that question. I admit that it may be a difficult matter; it may be as difficult as, or even more difficult than, the matter of the deserters from the Labour Government in 1931. It is a difficult question, but I think I ought to say that the matter cannot rest where it is. The most I can say and the most perhaps that I can expect is that this matter will be raised again on Report stage, and that we shall expect an answer as to what is the law on this point.


No one has minimised the importance of the question. I have already indicated the complications that arise, and the importance of giving the proper position. I would answer my hon. Friend by saying that certainly between now and the Report stage the opportunity will be taken of considering the matter.


The original Estimate was a sum of £718,401, and now the right hon. Gentleman is asking the House to agree to an Estimate of £131,360. I can understand in a place where there was no business really done people taking Estimates according to the word of a Minister. But what I am surprised about is that any responsible Minister, no matter who he may be, when there has been an increase of 100 per cent. would not be prepared to give information to the House that will relieve the difficulty. I am going to argue that where hospitality has been given to refugees we are justly entitled to know how far this liability is to be incurred by the nation. We are justly entitled to know where we stand. It may be that the Minister, in regard to this Estimate, does not know and that the Solicitor-General does not know, but there must be someone dealing with the finances of the nation who must know how we are going to arrive at our liability.


The hon. Member, if I understand him, is arguing the question which has already been decided by a Division, and he cannot raise a further discussion on that matter.


I believe that in this House we have certain law officials who are regarded as an authority in relation to legal matters, and we are entitled to have that authority expressed in this House. I do not accept the expression of the right hon. Gentleman that he does not know—


I must ask the hon. Member to accept the decision of the Committee and not to discuss a matter which has been decided.


As far as I understand, the decision of the Committee was given in regard to a matter upon which we wanted certain information, and most hon. Members who came in did not know what we were asking when giving their vote. The decision of the Committee has been given without those hon. Members who voted really knowing exactly what they were voting for. We had the Whips standing at both doors saying you must go into this Lobby —


The hon. Member is now entirely out of order.


Am I to assume from your Ruling that a decision has already been taken in regard to the information we sought, that it is not obtainable, that we are not going to get the information, that the Law Officers are not able to say where the liability rests and that we have to accept the position that no information is to be given to the Committee?


The hon. Member must obey my Ruling.


If the question has been answered it has not been satisfactorily answered; and it is no solution of the problem. I take it that I must accept the decision of the Committee as being—


The hon. Member must not ask my Ruling on a purely hypothetical question.


Then if the Law Officers are not able to give information appertaining to the finances of the nation—


The hon. Member is now definitely for the third time transgressing my Ruling.

9.39 p.m.


I want to suggest that this matter on which the Solicitor-General was momentarily and quite excusably unable to give information is very relevant. The Solicitor-General sought to ride off by saying that it was not relevant. I suggest that it is relevant for this reason. This House is the guardian of the public purse and has to sanction all expenditure. The Secretary of State brings before the Committee a Vote for a Supplementary Estimate which includes certain expenditure for entertaining belligerent citizens of a foreign State who have come into His Majesty's territory. The Committee may think that expenditure of that kind is expenditure which Parliament will have to sanction, but before the Committee is asked to sanction the expenditure it should know how it was incurred, whether it was inevitable that it should be incurred, and whether there is any chance of recoupment, although the matter of recoupment is a less important consideration.

The Solicitor-General said that he could not answer. I am a good enough lawyer to know that that is a very honest and frank statement; many lawyers cannot answer too complicated a question offhand. The Solicitor-General cannot answer, not because he has not read his brief, but because he was not given a brief. The question is, why have they incurred this expenditure and was it unavoidable? On a matter of pure law the Solicitor-General fears to tread, but I have no angelic qualities, and I propose to suggest what the law is. The law is that these people need not have been received at all; they could have been driven back. No doubt the dictates of humanity made it reasonable that they should he received, but if the Committee is to be asked to sanction the expenditure we should know why. The somewhat more remote consideration as to whether we can get back the money from the Sovereign State involved is a very simple question, and the answer in the terms of the Hague Convention is:

Division No. 68.] AYES. [9.48 p.m.
Albery, I. J. Dodd, J. S. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd) Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Loftus, P. C.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Duggan, H. J. Mac Andrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Duncan, J. A. L. McCorquodale, M. S.
Aake, Sir R. W. Dunne, P. R. R. McKie, J. H.
Atholl, Duchess of Eckersley, P. T. Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Emmott, C. E. G. C. Magnay, T.
Balfour. Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Errington, E. Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.
Barclay- Harvey, C. M. Erskine Hill, A. G. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Bossom, A. C. Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Maxwell, S. A.
Boulton, W. W. Everard, W. L. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Flndlay, Sir E. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Bralthwaite, Major A. N. Fleming, E. L. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Foot, D. M. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Lelth) Fyfe, D. P. M. Morris, J P. (Salford. N.)
Brown, Brig. -Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Ganzoni, Sir J. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Bull, B. B. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Morrison. W. S. (Cirencester)
Burghley, Lord Gluckstcin, L. H. Munro, P. M.
Burgln, Dr. E. L. Goodman, Col. A. W. Nail, Sir J.
Cartland, J. R. H. Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Carver, Major W. H. Grldley, Sir A. B. Orr-Ewing. I. L.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Griffith, F. Klngsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Peat, C. U.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.) Grimtton, R. V. Penny, Sir G.
Chapman, A, (Rutherglen) Gritten, W. G. Howard Peters, Dr. S. J.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Petherick, M.
Clarke, F. E. Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mti'rw'll, N. W.) Pllkington, R.
Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J. Guy, J. C. M. ponsonby, Col. C. E,
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk. N.) Hannah, I. C. Porritt. R. W.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Harvey, G. Procter, Major H. A.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Haelam, Sir J. (Bolton) Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Courtauld, Major J. S. Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Ramsbotham, H.
Craddock, Sir R. H. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Rankin, R.
Cranborne, Viscount Holmes, J. S. Rathbone. J. R. (Bodniln)
Crltchley, A. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Rayner, Major R. H.
Crooke, J. S. Horsbrugh, Florence Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. O. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Remer, J. R.
Groom-Johnson, R. P. Hunter, T. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Cross. R. H. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Robinson. J. R. (Blackpool)
Crossley, A. C. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Ropner. Colonel L.
Crowder, J. F. E. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) ROES, Major Sir R. D.(L'derry)
Culverwell, C. T. Latham, Sir P. Rowlands, G.
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil) Leckie, J. A. Salmon, Sir I.
Dawson, Sir P. Leech, Dr. J. W. Salt, E. W.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lewis, O. Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)
Denville, Alfred Llewellin, Lieut-Col. J. J. Seely, Sir H. M.

In the absence of a special convention, the neutral Power shall supply the interned with…At the conclusion of peace, the expenses of internment shall he made good"—

that is by the Sovereign State involved.

9.44 p.m.


The hon. and learned Member has told us that according to the terms of the Hague Convention we have a right to a recoupment of this sum of money. The Solicitor-General and the Colonial Secretary have promised that this opinion shall be verified. May I press the right hon. Gentleman to go a little further and say that if it is proved that we have a just claim for a recoupment of the money spent on the maintenance of these men, the Government will press that claim to its utmost extent?

Original question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 173; Noes, 102.

Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F. Ward, Lieut. -Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'H'st), Sutcllffe, H. Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Smith, L. W. (Hallam) Tasker, Sir R. I Waterhouse, Captain C.
Somerset. T. Tate, Mavis C. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Somervell, Sir D B (Crewe) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby) Wise, A. R.
Somerville. D. G. (Willesrien, E.) Thomas, J. P. L. (Herelord) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Storey, S. Thomson, Sir J. D. W. Young, A. S. L. (PartlCK)
Stourton, Hon. J. J. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Straus. H. G. (Norwich) Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C. TELLERS FOR THE AYE—
Strickland, Captain W. F. Walker-Smith, Sir J. Commander Southby and Sir
Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Wallace, Captain Euan James Blindell.
Adams, D. (Consett) Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Potts, J.
Adamson, W. M. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Price, M. P.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Holland, A. Pritt, D. N.
Ammon, C. G. Hoillns, A. Qulbell, J. D.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Hopkln, D. Riley, B.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Rltson, J.
Banficid, J. W. John, W. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Barnes, A. J. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Rowson, G.
Batey, J. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Salter, Dr. A.
Bevan, A. Jones, Morgan (Caerphllly) Sexton, T. M.
Cluse, W. S. Kelly, W. T. Shinwell, E.
Cocks, F. S. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Short. A.
Compton. S. Klrby, B. V. Simpson, F. B.
Daggar, G. Klrkwood, D. Smith, Ben (Rotherhlthe)
Davies, D. L. (Pontyprldd) Lawson, J. J. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Davies, R. J. (Wetthoughton) Leach, W. Smith, T. (Normantcn)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lee, F. Sorensen, R. W,
Dobble, W. Leonard, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Leslie, J. R. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Ede, J. c. Logan, D. G. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Lunn, W. Thurtle, E.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. McEntee. V. La T. Tinker, J. J.
Frankel, D. McGovern, J. Vlant, S. P.
Gallacher, W. Maclean, N. Walkden, A. G.
Gardner, B. W. MacNeill, Weir, L. Walker, J.
Garro, Jones, G. M. Mainwaring, W. H. Westwood, J.
Glbbins, J. Marklew, E, Whlteley, W.
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Maxton, J. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. M liner, Maior J. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Grenfell, D. R. Montague, F, Wilson, C. H. (Attercllffe)
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Naylor, T. E. Woods. G. S. (Flnsbury)
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Oliver, G. H.
Hardle, G. D. Paling, W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES —
Henderson, A. (Kingswlnford) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.
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