HC Deb 23 May 1938 vol 336 cc834-6
22. Miss Rathbone

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made in carrying out the proposal of the United States for an international conference on the question of political refugees; and whether the place and time of meeting has yet been settled?

Mr. Butler

I would refer the hon. Lady to the replies given on 17th May to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and on 18th May to the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell). since those replies were given His Majesty's Government have informed the United States Government of their readiness to take part in the meeting of the inter-governmental committee at Evian on 6th July.

47. Miss Rathbone

asked the Prime Minister whether he will appoint a committee representing the Government Departments concerned, local authorities, trade unions, and professional organisations, universities, and the principal organisations concerned with the care of refugees, for the purpose of formulating a national policy for dealing with the problem of the conditions of admission and employment of political refugees; and whether he will consider asking for a grant of public money to be used in the solution of this problem?

The Prime Minister

The general policy to be adopted by the Government in dealing with refugees, with particular reference to refugees from Austria, was stated in the House on 22nd March. since that date a Co-ordinating Committee for Refugees has been set up by the voluntary organisations concerned to co-ordinate the measures of assistance for refugees who have come to this country from Germany or Austria or who may wish to emigrate from these countries. The closest contact is being maintained by the Home Office with the Co-ordinating Committee, and, within the limits laid down by the Government, sympathetic consideration will be given to any detailed proposals which the committee may wish to submit when it has had an opportunity of making a comprehensive review of the situation. It is the view of the Government that the formulation of constructive proposals should be left, in the first instance at any rate, to the Co-ordinating Committee, and in these circumstances I do not consider that at the present stage any useful purpose would be served by the appointment of another committee on the lines suggested.

Miss Rathbone

Is it not a fact that this Co-ordinating Committee of voluntary organisations is held up by two things—the difficulty of getting permits to take work in this country, and the lack of any Government assistance in the matter of funds; and is it not time to have a scientific and co-ordinating policy to deal with the whole subject?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Lady's statement of the position is correct, it would not be solved by the appointment of another committee.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

Why should we give away public money on these refugees from other countries?

Colonel Wedģwood

Which Member of the Government should be asked questions on the work of this Co-ordinating Committee? Is it the Home Office, and, if so, is it the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary of State?

The Prime Minister

I think I shall have to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to give notice of that question.

Miss Rathbone

Is it not a fact that the Co-ordinating Committee is a purely voluntary body and that the Government are taking no direct responsibility in the matter?

The Prime Minister

I have said it is a voluntary committee.

Mr. De la Bère

Should not our own unemployed come before these refugees?

48. Miss Rathbone

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider convening a conference of representatives of the Dominions for the purpose of forrnulating an Imperial policy for the treatment of the problem of the conditions of admission and employment of political refugees?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The admission of refugees from any particular country and their subsequent employment are matters for each of His Majesty's Governments to decide in the light of the conditions obtaining in their respective countries at the time. An opportunity for discussing some aspects of the problem will be afforded by the Inter-Governmental Meeting at Evian in July, to which His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions have, I understand, been invited to send representatives, and at which His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will, as the hon. Lady has already been informed in reply to a previous question to-day, also be represented.

Miss Rathbone

But seeing that the British Empire is both the richest unit and that possessing the largest open spaces, is it not about time that it took the initiative by having an Imperial policy oh a really large scale?