HC Deb 28 November 1938 vol 342 cc18-22
29. Captain W. T. Shaw

asked the Prime Minister how many foreign countries have intimated that they are prepared to co-operate with Great Britain in finding an international solution for the German refugee problem; and whether he can say how many of the refugee children already in Belgium and Holland are to be retained in those countries, or whether it is the intention that homes for the vast majority of them should be found in this country?

Mr. Butler

The 30 Governments who are members of the London Inter-Governmental Committee for Refugees have, by accepting membership, shown that they are prepared to co-operate in finding a solution of the German refugee problem. The number of refugee children brought to the United Kingdom will depend on the capacity of the voluntary organisations to provide for their support. I regret that it is impossible to state at this stage what proportion of those now in Belgium and Holland will eventually be found homes in this country.

Captain Shaw

Has my hon. Friend seen a report in the "Daily Herald" to-day that 300 of these children are being brought to this country, and are described as the advance guard of scores of thousands of children who are leaving Germany? Will he give an assurance that they will not be a charge on the taxpayers or the ratepayers, and will not be in competition with British labour?

48. Mr. Hannah

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government are fully considering the possibilities of the British South Pacific Islands as homes for refugees?

The Prime Minister

Communications are being addressed to the Governors of a number of Colonial Dependencies other than those mentioned by me last Monday, asking whether there are areas in their territories which could be leased or made available to the voluntary organisations concerned with the welfare of refugees, under suitable conditions for such refugees and without detriment to the interests of the existing populations. The officers who are being addressed in this sense include the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific.

Mr. Hannah

Have not the Americans in the Hawaiian Islands shown the enormous possibilities of such islands, and cannot we, with the help of the Jews, do something on the same lines in our islands?

The Prime Minister

I do not know, Sir.

Mr. Gallacher

Is not the Prime Minister prepared to do anything to stop the cause which makes the refugees?

Mr. Benjamin Smith

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to a Minister's statement in the United States of America as to the advantages of Alaska?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

50. Mr. Leach

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that a large proportion of the hinterland of British Guiana is jungle and mountainous, virtually unexplored by whites, and regarded by them as unadaptable for white civilisation; and did he take this into consideration when proposing Jewish settlement in British Guiana?

The Prime Minister

I would invite the attention of the hon. Member to my statement last Monday, in which I made it clear that, owing to lack of communica- tions and other unfavourable conditions, the settlement of refugees on any large scale in the hinterland of British Guiana presented difficulties and could not, therefore, be contemplated until the areas available for this purpose had been carefully surveyed and their possibilities assessed. As stated by me, His Majesty's Government propose to invite the voluntary organisations concerned with the welfare of German refugees to send their own representatives to the Colony to conduct surveys on the spot. They will give these representatives every possible assistance, including the loan of some experienced official to advise and cooperate with them. I am advised that the hon. Member exaggerates the forbidding nature of the territory, and that in some areas considerable settlement may be possible, if the necessary capital is forthcoming.

Mr. Leach

Is it not correct to say that a large proportion of British Guiana can only be reached by aeroplane?

The Prime Minister

That may be so at present, but it does not follow that it will be so in future.

75. Captain Shaw

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education what arrangements have been made to provide educational facilities for the German refugee children who are being brought into this country, and whether the cost is to be borne by the Treasury, local authorities, or by the people making themselves responsible for the children?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)

The duty of a local education authority to enforce the laws of school attendance is equally applicable to British and alien children resident in its area. The arrangements for the admission to this country of German refugee children are, I understand, still at an early stage, and I cannot therefore express any view as to the extent to which they will wish to avail themselves of the public system of education, but in so far as any such children may attend public elementary schools the cost of their education will be borne by the local education authority and the Board in the manner laid down in the Grant Regulations.

Mr. H. G. Williams

May I ask whether the answer also applies to Scotland, as the question comes from a Scottish Member?

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Is it not a fact that the hon. Member has put down this question and supplementaries on several other occasions with the suggestion that these refugee children should be excluded because they might become a charge to the British Treasury; and is it, not time that this disgraceful suggestion should cease to be repeated in the interest of the good name of this House?

Mr. Lipson

Does not the Minister agree that it is likely to be a source of strength to the British Empire to have these children taught in British schools and inculcated with British ideas?

82. Captain Shaw

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the appeal that is being made to the British public to receive German refugee children into their homes, he will publish a White Paper showing the conditions and guarantees to be entered into by those accepting these children?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

The German refugee children will be brought to this country by the Inter-Aid Committee for Children from Germany who will be responsible for their care and maintenance during their stay in the United Kingdom. The conditions and guarantees to he entered into by persons who receive children into their homes are primarily matters within the competence of the committee, which made similar arrangements for the reception into British homes of children from Austria after the War. I do not know what purpose my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind in suggesting the publication of a White Paper, but all matters arising in connection with the admission of the German refugees children will be kept constantly under review, and the Home Office will continue to maintain the closest co-operation with the Inter-Aid Committee.

Captain Shaw

May I ask my hon. Friend whether he does not think it is reasonable that, before the public are asked to take these children, they should know definitely under what conditions and what guarantees they are going to receive them, and will he guarantee the solvency of the committee which will be responsible?

Mr. Lansbury

Are any of the persons who are taking these children under any compulsion to take them, except goodhearted Christian charity?

Mr. Benn

Will the hon. Gentleman consider including in the White Paper for which the hon. and gallant Gentleman asks some extracts from the Twenty-fifth Chapter of the Gospel of Saint Matthew?

Captain Shaw

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the first duty of every Member is to those whom he represents in the House?

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