HC Deb 13 December 1938 vol 342 cc1793-5
45. Mr. David Adams

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement as to the present position of the absorption of Jewish refugees; whether as, with the exception of Australia, the Dominions have undertaken little, it is his intention again to make an appeal to them; and whether he is aware that the area suggested in British Guiana is totally unsuitable climatically for such immigration?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

It is not possible to give any accurate figures for the absorption of Jewish refugees in countries of refuge and settlement. In August last it was estimated by the High Commissioner of the League of Nations for Refugees that roughly 120,000 refugees from Germany of all categories had reached countries of permanent settlement. It may be assumed that several thousand more have done so in the last few months. As regards the second part of the question, the answer is in the negative, since the admission of refugees into any Dominion is a matter for the Dominion Government concerned, but recent statements by Dominion Ministers indicate that they are fully alive to the importance and urgency of the question. With regard to the third part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to a question by the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach) on 28th November.

Mr. Adams

Does the Prime Minister not think it desirable to approach the Dominions again in view of the fact that we have already done so?

The Prime Minister

I think the fact that we have already done so makes it unnecessary to do so again.

Sir Arthur Salter

Will the Prime Minister consider the possibility of making a practical reality of the offer of British Guiana by appointing a suitable person to make a definite and detailed scheme for refugee emigrants into that Colony, including financial provision?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member knows that an offer has been made that someone on behalf of the refugees should go to British Guiana to see whether the country is suitable. That, surely, will be the first thing to do, and then migration of refugees might come afterwards.

Sir A. Salter

If I send the Prime Minister certain considerations showing how greatly the chances would be facilitated if someone appointed by the British Government were really made responsible for drawing out a definite scheme, will he consider the matter?

The Prime Minister

I should be much obliged to the hon. Member if he would send me the scheme he has in mind.

Viscountess Astor

Has anyone asked whether Russia would help with this question of refugees? Is it true that no offer has come from them to help in any way?

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is the Prime Minister aware that the organisations dealing with refugees in Great Britain are very anxious that His Majesty's Government should at an early date make a declaration of policy, as their work is being greatly hampered by the absence of such a statement?

The Prime Minister

I do not know what the hon. Member means. A full statement has been made.

47. Mr. Lathan

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the creation of a new Department forrefugees, combining the duties now imposed on the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the Ministry of Labour in this connection?

The Prime Minister

I see no need for the creation of the new Department suggested by the hon. Member.

Mr. Lathan

Does not the Prime Minister realise the magnitude of the problems which confront us in regard to refugees, and does he not also realise that, despite the utmost efforts of the particular Departments concerned, there is inevitable waste and overlapping, and that from the point of view of efficiency and economy it would be desirable to have co-ordination?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, I do not think so.

Mr. Buchanan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Department which is tackling this problem was not created for the purpose, and that the present staff is completely overworked? Will he not, therefore, consider some method to eliminate the waste of time which is now taking place?

The Prime Minister

I am not clear as to that, but I will make inquiries.

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

Will the Prime Minister consider the possibility of setting aside some part of England as a national home for the English?