HC Deb 28 January 1937 vol 319 cc1057-9
42. Mr. Hicks

asked the Home Secretary what number of German workmen are employed in the repairs and renewals at the German Embassy; how many permits have been issued to import alien workers into this country on this job; what are the trades in which these men are employed; whether inquiries were made of the trades concerned in this country as to the available supply of labour necessary to do the work in question; and whether it is the practice of the Department to inquire of the trade unions concerned before granting permits for foreign workers to be allowed entry to work at their respective trades?

Sir J. Simon

I have made some inquiries into this matter and am informed that extensive structural alterations have been taking place at the German Embassy involving the use and incorporation of special German material and furniture. For this purpose the Embassy requested that certain German technicians in various trades should be given temporary permission to come here and, while we naturally prefer that British workmen should be employed on such work in this country, it was thought that in the special circumstances permission should be given. Some of these workmen have already returned, and the German Embassy have informed the Foreign Office that the rest will be going back in batches very shortly. I understand that the number of German workmen being employed at the Embassy is about 120 and I am informed that about 130 British workmen have also been employed.

Mr. Hicks

Is there any limitation to the numbers which it would be decided to impose so far as any building alterations were concerned; and would it apply to other Embassies such as, for instance, the Russian Embassy, if they were to desire to build a big place here? As the whole thing is very unsatisfactory, would the right hon. Gentleman indicate what the special class of work is, and whether plastering and whitewashing now become part of the German Diplomatic Service?

Sir J. Simon

I take the view that the position is anomalous, and I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that a general permit for unlimited numbers would be quite out of the question. I understand that special numbers have been asked for, and that from time to time they are under consideration, but the Foreign Office is in communication with the German Embassy about the matter.

Sir J. Nail

Does the British Government adopt the same policy in repairing our buildings abroad?

Sir J. Simon

I do not know what the position is, but we must remember that it is a diplomatic house, and we should expect the same consideration in corresponding circumstances.

Mr. Hicks

Do we understand from the answer of the Home Secretary now that building alterations are part of the Diplomatic Service and do territorial rights extend to that sort of thing?

Sir J. Simon

I think that the hon. Gentleman will not have misunderstood me. I made the obvious remark that the Embassy, by which I mean the house, is, from some points of view, diplomatic premises.

Mr. Sandys

Is this not merely the ordinary diplomatic courtesy which we are glad to extend to any foreign country?

Sir John Haslam

Is it the fact that the German Government pay for these 250 workpeople?

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