§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Captain Margesson.]
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I want to call the attention of the Government and of the House of Commons to the problem of the political, religious and racial refugees, which exists at the present time. It is now five months since we discussed this question and in the meantime Governments and private organisations have been able to settle a few thousands of these people overseas, and a few more, tens of thousands, have been brought to safety where temporary hospitality has been found; but against that meagre quota we have seen the addition of perhaps 250,000 Spanish refugees, many of whom cannot return to Spain while the present regime endures, and perhaps tens of thousands of Slovaks, Czechs and Sudeten Germans, and many other refugees as well. In addition, Italy, Hungary, Bohemia, Slovakia and Moravia have introduced anti-Semite legislation on the German model. There are even rumours, which I hope the Noble Lord will say are without foundation, that in return for our military guarantee the Polish Government propose to make a 3044 great annual addition to the stream of involuntary refugees.
It is not in numbers only that matters have been growing worse. As each month passes the resources of the Jews in Germany and elsewhere grow less. The destruction by the German Government of the earning power of the Jews is growing more complete and the moment when they must leave Germany or die comes nearer. I was told only this morning by someone with an intimate knowledge of the facts that the 20,000 Jews in Vienna are literally at their last gasp and that they are living on the meagre ration of thin soup and a tiny piece of bread which they are able to get by standing in long queues in the streets, throughout the night hours. As each week passes the resources of the charitable societies and their funds are being used up, not in productive schemes of final settlement but simply in keeping the refugees alive. I want to submit to the Noble Lord and to the House that we have reached the point with this refugee problem which the Governments found they had reached with the post-War refugee problem in 1921, when they appointed Dr. Nansen High Commissioner of the League to deal with this matter—the point where it is vital that the whole question should be treated no longer as a humanitarian matter but as one of urgent, political and economic importance to Europe as a whole, with which the Governments in their own interest and the interest of their own peoples must now deal.
In what I am going to say this morning I do not want to deal with any special question. There is the old problem of the German Jews and the newer problems of the Spaniards and Czechs, but I do not want to speak upon what I might call the humanitarian interest and the tragic suffering of the refugees. I will leave that to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) and other hon. Members who have an intimate knowledge of the facts. My hon. Friend acquired at first hand an experience and a feeling about this matter which is perhaps more vivid and more intense than my own. I want to review the problem very briefly and in the broadest outline as a political, economic and administrative problem with which the Government should deal, and in so doing I want to make certain practical proposals—at least, I hope the Noble 3045 Lord will think they are practical—which are drawn from a long experience in a humble capacity in the highly successful refugee administration of Dr. Nansen, long years ago.
What are the essential facts in the present situation, from the broad political and economic point of view? They are that there are hundreds of thousands of refugees in the countries neighbouring Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, Austria and Spain who are longing to be settled in new careers in distant lands. We are longing to settle them. There are hundreds of thousands of would-be refugees still in Germany and these other countries, in daily danger of death or of torture which to them is far worse than the quick death for which they hope. They are longing to leave those countries and we are longing to bring them away, but the absorptive capacity of those neighbouring countries and the resources of their charitable societies are very near their end, because, in spite of the long months that have passed, we have not yet found the outlets in new countries for the refugees whom we have already temporarily taken in. We must find those outlets and find them soon. Unless we do, we shall allow a disaster to happen which will leave on our generation a lasting mark of shame.
The Noble Lord is as well aware as I am, and perhaps much better than I, that those outlets can be found by what is called infiltration, a movement of individuals and small groups of refugees, and, secondly, by settlement, a movement of larger groups and bodies co-operating in big development schemes. Both infiltration and settlement are important. Infiltration is much more important than it appears, because if there is adequate administrative machinery and sufficient money, very big results may be obtained by it. A plan of settlement by these two methods is urgently required and every day that goes by without such a plan involves cruelty, suffering, fearful waste of the lives of the refugees and of the contribution which they ought to make to the welfare of the world, and burdens which their maintenance in idleness imposes on those who keep them. That is waste in which every nation and every Government are involved.
I have been forced reluctantly to the conclusion that neither His Majesty's 3046 Government nor other Governments have sufficiently realised the vital importance of speed in this regard. It is now nearly a year since the invitations were first sent out to the conference at Evian and five months since the Jewish pogroms in Germany. I am informed that the British Guiana commission of inquiry is still very far from being able to prepare a positive report; the Rhodesian committee of inquiry left on its journey only two weeks ago; the inquiry into San Domingo has not made much progress; Palestine is still completely or virtually closed; Tanganyika and Madagascar have been discussed but, so far as I know, no systematic inquiry has even been begun. The Noble Lord will no doubt correct me if I have exaggerated. I hope I have, but even if I am only approximately right, surely that lamentable condition of affairs must be quickly improved. How can that be done?
I believe that three things are required, in regard to each of which His Majesty's Government can play a leading part. The first is to propagate at home and abroad, a wholly new conception in the Governments, particularly the Governments of the overseas countries, of this question of the immigration of refugees. Since 1931 the refugee has been the first victim of the economic crisis. He is always the first man to lose his job, and always and everywhere unemployment has become a factor governing the retention of existing, or preventing the admission of new, refugees. It is understandable enough and, as I think, justified in old and thickly populated countries like our own. How can we admit very large numbers of refugees when we have great numbers of unemployed?
But the situation really is radically different for the new and undeveloped countries of the world. I mention no names, but there are many countries where the population could be, with great advantage to all concerned and to the people who now live there themselves, three, four, 10 times what it is to-day, countries where a large-scale entry of new population, with adequate capital to launch it, might start, as indeed it has started in Palestine in recent years, a new wave of prosperity which these countries have not known for many years. To such countries as these the refugees would not be a liability; they would be an asset.
3047 Indeed the history of every forced migration, from the days of the Huguenots onwards, has proved that this is true. Even in this country 11,000 refugees, who have come to stay have given new employment to 15,000 British subjects. You can see it on a far greater scale in Greece, where the coming of 1,500,000 refugees in 1922 was greeted with the most acute apprehension, but Greece to-day is economically a far stronger and more prosperous country than she was then. The refugees brought in the production of tobacco, sultanas, raisins, silk, and a large-scale fishing industry. They drained marshes, irrigated desert land, and developed the country, large parts of which had been allowed to go to waste.
So it might be with these German Jews, Czechs, Spaniards and others to-day in many countries. They are magnificent material, clever, industrious and highly skilled. Indeed from a broad point of view the essential fact in the whole refugee situation is that the finest brains in the world can be bought in the market for almost nothing, and by the large-scale infiltration of doctors, engineers, and other specialists the less developed countries could raise the whole standard of living of their peoples and by large-scale settlement schemes new countries could be opened up by the people who went there and who want only to be allowed to cultivate the ground in order that they and their children may be able to live.
I believe that the Government, the Noble Lord, and the High Commissioner of the League could render a signal service if they would propagate this imaginative constructive view of the problem by all the means in their power. They might start at home with the Colonial Office, which I think could do with a little stimulus in this regard. Both in public and in private, in their speeches in the Evian Committee and in the Council of the Assembly of the League, I believe they could do very much to put this view across, and I believe it is from a vivid, ever-present sense of the wasteful folly of the present situation that the dynamic power of settlement schemes must come, as it came through Dr. Nansen 17 years ago. That dynamic power is important, but it will not avail unless the necessary capital can be found. With such material, with such openings as there are, 3048 the restless enterprising capitalists of the nineteenth century would have put up the money, started these enterprises, settled the refugees and made a handsome profit for themselves. In these degenerate days we must find the capital in other ways, and without any question the Governments will have to help.
I want to suggest two minor measures by which a great deal could be done to find the money. They are both urged on the attention of Governments in the last annual report of the governing body of the Nansen office. The first is the introduction of a surcharged postage stamp in favour of the refugees. This has actually been done in Norway and in France. I expect the Noble Lord has seen the stamps. The Governments print them and they bear an extra charge of 1d. They are sold in the post offices and they are bought by those who voluntarily desire to buy them. The Governments hand the proceeds of the 1d. to the Nansen office. Those countries furnish from this source only an annual revenue of £4,000. If our Government would introduce such a stamp, with the feelings of our people towards the refugees and with the immense postal correspondence that we have, the revenue would be much greater and, if the Government could induce the United States to do the same, as I believe they could, if they could persuade the 32 Governments in the Evian Committee to do the same, they might raise a revenue of tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands a year, and they would do it without the addition of a single penny of taxation on our people here.
The second proposal is in the same order of ideas. It is the extension of the system of the Nansen stamp. to the Nansen passport. Refugees who can afford it pay five gold francs a year for the renewal of their Nansen passport. Hundreds of thousands of refugees could afford to pay that small sum. The system is actually in force in France, Norway, Great Britain and a few other countries. If the Noble Lord and the Government could persuade the United States and the 32 Governments in the Evian Committee to adopt this system, again a very big revenue might result. I think that with that revenue, and with what came from the surcharged postage stamps, over a period of years, a large-scale work of infiltration could be carried through. But 3049 there would have to be for large-scale settlement schemes big public loans, backed, at least in part, by the Governments, and backed with a definite Government guarantee that the interest and sinking fund would be repaid. I cannot conceive that the loans needed, in view of the number of refugees, will be less than £10,000,000. I cannot believe that the Government guarantee will have to be less than 50 per cent. Some people may say it is no use asking for the loans till you have the settlement plans. I think the plans might be more speedily produced if the money had already been found. In any case I urge that such loans would not be a total loss. The refugees, when settled, might turn out to be a very good investment. In any case a considerable part of the money would be repaid. I hope the Noble Lord will be able to give us encouragement in this regard to-day.
Thirdly and lastly, there is the question of: administration. You are trying to take hundreds of thousands of helpless, destitute people from one country to other countries and to start them in new careers. It is a great administrative problem; it is an international problem; it cannot be dealt with by one government alone, or by a number of governments acting in groups of two or three—it requires an international administrative machine; and I say from bitter experience that, unless that machine exists, the practical difficulties will be immeasurably increased. Under this heading I want to draw the Noble Lord's attention to several points.
The first is that, by a decision of the Council of the League of Nations or of the Evian Committee—and I hope he can give us an assurance on this matter —all categories of refugees, Czechs, Spaniards, all the past, present and future refugees, will be placed under the authority and protection of Sir Herbert Emerson, either in his capacity as High Commissioner of the League or as Director of the Evian Committee. It is grotesque that certain categories should still be outside his scope; it is grotesque, wasteful and unjust. Secondly, I want to urge on the Noble Lord that the system of the Nansen passport should be extended to every refugee, of whatever category, who wants it. It may seem a little thin—a non-national certificate, a 3050 validity limited in both time and space; but, to the refugee, a Nansen passport is very often the beginning of salvation. I have read a statement made about it by an American student of the subject. He says:It is a fantastic commentary on the inhumanity of our times that for thousands and thousands of people a piece of paper with a stamp on it is the difference between life and death, and that scores of people have blown out their brains because they could not get it; but there is no doubt that, by and large, the Nansen passport is the greatest thing that has happened for the individual refugee; it returns to him his lost identity.I hope the Noble Lord is going to see that every refugee who wants a Nansen passport shall get it. In the next place, I submit that Sir Herbert Emerson ought to have what I do not think he has today, if I am rightly informed, namely, his own offices in all the countries connected with this problem—in all the countries neighbouring on Germany, Czechoslovakia and Spain; in Poland, Rumania, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, France, in all the countries where there may be openings for refugees. In the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Canada, Australia, San Domingo, the Latin-American Republics, Madagascar, if you like, Sir Herbert Emerson should have his own offices, with his own competent representatives, of status sufficient to treat with Government Departments, representing both the League of Nations, as I should hope, and the Evian Committee, closely linked to Sir Herbert and to each other by a full and ready service of mutual information, furnished with proper clerical assistance and with the funds necessary for dealing with current matters as they arise. The function of these offices would be to despatch refugees, to choose the groups that would go, to look for openings, to help refugees on their journey, to get them their visas, to give them the protection and assistance that are needed when they arrive. I say with the utmost confidence, and with, I think, a complete knowledge of the facts, that without such as international administrative machine Dr. Nansen could never have got even a small part of the results which he obtained. I think that, if I could have shown the Noble Lord the Nansen Office in Constantinople, Belgrade or Athens when it was in full work, I could have convinced him that what I say is true.
3051 This international administrative machine cannot be supplied by private charitable organisations, or by the diplomatic machinery of Foreign Offices and trade missions abroad; it means a special service of trained and able men. The men can be found; I could find them. If Sir Herbert Emerson were given £20,000 or £30,000 on his Budget for this purpose, I would guarantee that it would quadruple his hopes of a practical result. These are the suggestions that I want to lay before the Noble Lord, and I hope he will be able to tell us that he and his colleagues will propagate the view that the refugee problem is not a matter of sentiment and charity, but a broad political and economic problem, and that he and the Government will try, here in the Colonial Office, with the Dominions, and in distant countries abroad, to urge that an imaginative and constructive view should be taken of the opportunity which this refugee problem seems to afford. I hope he will tell us that he will strive, in the ways I have suggested and by other means, to find the money without which nothing can be done, and that, through the League of Nations and the Evian Committee, he will build up the international administration that is needed if practical results are to be obtained. Above all, I hope he will tell us that the period of delay is over, and that the Government's action will be swift and bold, both for the sake of the refugees and in the interests, moral and material, of us all.
§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Wise
The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) has stated that this problem of the refugees is one, not of sentiment, but of broad political and economic aspects. Perhaps the House will forgive me if I try to draw attention to some of the difficulties which attend the bold solution that is so warmly advocated by the hon. Member. He himself recognises the practical impossibility of any large-scale infiltration into this country, and on that point I think there will be practically no dissentient voice throughout the country. We have, after all, a population per square mile which is staggering in its density. I will not pretend to accuracy, but I believe it is somewhere about 620 or 630 per square mile. It is practically impossible for us 3052 to absorb any large number of refugees here; such absorption must be confined to a very small body of specialists who really can fit themselves into our body politic.
There is a further problem in dealing with the admission of refugees to other parts of the world. Those parts which are directly under our control are the Colonial possessions of the Crown, and up to date there has been no very violent indication that any large body of refugees want to go there. There has not been any terrific enthusiasm for the opening up of African and other tropical areas which are under our direct control. Probably there is great scope there. We have these areas which, if populated by an industrious race which has the driving force of stern necessity behind it, might be developed where ordinary settlers and colonists could not possibly develop them, but a careful survey is required before any such scheme can be put into force, and a good deal of persuasion of the refugees themselves would be required before they would undertake what is very nearly as hazardous a proceeding as remaining in the countries where they are now. To take people from Central Europe and plant them down to feed themselves or starve in the tropics is undoubtedly a hazardous experiment.
The Paymaster-General (Earl Winter-ton)
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, especially as I am going to speak on this matter, but the point is so important that I must make it clear that it is not accurate to say that either the refugee organisations or individual refugees take a gloomy view of settlement in those countries. On the contrary, almost every day applications are received expressing the hope that it will be possible to have these settlement schemes.
§ Mr. Wise
I am delighted to hear my right hon. Friend's statement. It suggests great hope for the future. I trust that the schemes and the development of those areas will be carried out as soon as possible. It would bring benefit to our Empire as well as to the refugees. There is another problem in regard to the Dominions, which have their own ideas about whom they shall or shall not admit. Although it is possible to do a certain amount by suggestion to these Dominions 3053 —and, indeed, one Dominion has reciprocated in the most friendly way—itis only fair to recognise that these Governments have the most serious apprehensions about the effect on their body politic of the influx of a large number of people of different races from their own. This feeling is not anti-Semitic. The apprehension is not felt because the majority of the refugees would be Jews, but because the majority would be Central Europeans. It is impossible to deny sympathy to those Dominion Governments which are checking the full flood of refugees who would undoubtedly like to enter their various territories.
With the other 32 Governments in the Evian Conference, I think we could probably exercise the same form of persuasion and argument as we have with the Dominion Governments. But they, too, have their serious problems. Their problems, in many cases, are political ones. It is the unfortunate fact that many of these refugees are refugees because they hold Left-wing tendencies. They are refugees from authoritarian Governments, which do not like them. But a large number of these 32Governments are also authoritarian Governments, and they have no desire to admit this influx of people of highly pronounced political views. That is a problem which requires careful thought, and is not overwhelmingly easy of solution. Although we have profound sympathy with the point of view put forward by the hon. Member for Derby, I think it is impossible for any guarantee to be given that things will progress much faster. We know that my right hon. Friend has spared neither time nor labour in his efforts in presiding over this conference, and the results attained are, on the whole, sufficiently encouraging for us not to disturb the lines on which we are proceeding. Our main concern should be with those territories under our own control, where, I believe, great steps can be made, and, I am sure, will be made.
§ 12.39 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I sympathise, at least on one point, with the speech of the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise). I think we might, at least, keep the refugees within the Empire, instead of sending them to Madagascar. After all, they are intelligent people, capable of producing wealth, and useful assets to any country which takes them in. That at least 3054 is recognised that we have benefited in this country in the past from the countless immigrations—the Huguenots; before that the Flemings; and, to go back further still, I suppose we have got some advantage from Norman blood. In any case, the hon. Member does recognise that the refugees are not the curse they are considered to be by most countries and most Governments, including our own. That they have Left views is utterly false. The bulk of the refugees—not 90 per cent., but, I should think, more like 95 per cent. —are Jews, who are not allowed to live anywhere, whatever their views. There is no sort of excuse made in Germany any longer that they do not like these Jews because they are Socialists or Communists. There is no longer any objection here from the point of view of their politics, it is their race.
Let me turn to my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker). He brings forward these schemes of colonisation and recurrent loans to solve the problem in a way that I have no doubt the Government will adopt, by mass emigration to Kenya, Tanganyika and other places of that sort. In the first place, the Jews do not want to live in the Tropics, and I do not see why they should be made to live in the Tropics.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I never mentioned either Kenya or Tanganyika. I am as much in favour as the right hon. And gallant Member of sending them to Palestine, and I hope the Government will do it.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
It is the only thing to be done. The Jews do not want to be sent to Honduras or to Guiana, which is uncomfortably close to Cayenne. Any schemes to emigrate these people in mass are almost bound to fail. I' have seen something of them. Other Members besides myself have been to Macedonia and seen the Greek settlements there. We advanced the money for that: £10,000,000 from the Nansen scheme. It is not a recurrent debt; it is a total loss.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The Greek Government have paid their interest charges from that day to now with a certain diminution in the rate of interest since 1933. Moreover, the whole Macedonian question has been solved, to the great benefit of Europe as a whole.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
They may be meeting the charges from the taxpayers, but not from the people who are benefiting.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The refugees are making their contribution as taxpayers but they have also made a very considerable direct contribution.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
The Hope-Simpson scheme in Macedonia was for putting people on the land in their own country, where the people spoke the same language and where the refugees wanted to go. But even in that case, with everything in their favour, starting with the fact that it cost only £100 per family, the settlers have not been able to meet the charges. Vast schemes were made after the War, at great expense to us, to plant people in Australia. There, too, as in Macedonia, the charges have not been met. There, too, the money has not been a revolving loan. In the Australian case it is worse than in the Macedonian case. The great majority of the people have not been able to make the land pay. In Palestine, you have got the Jews of the world, at a far greater expense per head than in Macedonia, being planted on the land. I do not think that any of them, certainly not 10 per cent., are paying any interest on the money that was advanced for the land and equipment.
Any scheme of colonisation done by organisations seems inevitably fated to fail as an investment. The colonisation in which we have succeeded has been individual colonisation. The settlement of Australia, North America and New Zealand has been done by individuals who have gone out without assistance and have made a living for themselves. If you look at the whole history of the world you will find that individual emigration done voluntarily, without compulsion and without State feeding, has been by far the most efficient and successful. We shall console our consciences, no doubt, by spending some millions of money upon emigrating people to wherever the hon. Member for Derby wants to send them, but it will not be a success and it will not solve the Jewish problem in the very least. You are not dealing, as you were in the case of the Greeks, with 100,000 people.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
Five hundred thousand in Macedonia itself, but 1,200,000 refugees were dealt with.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
In any case, whether it was 500,000 or 1,200,000, it does not touch the problem of the Jews at the present time. There are 3,000,000 Jews in Poland all without means of livelihood, very nearly 1,000,000 in Rumania, upwards of 1,000,000 in Lithuania and the Baltic States and another 500,000 in Hungary, and there must be at least 1,000,000 still in the Reich, plus a considerable number in Italy. It is a problem that no scheme of compulsory colonisation can possibly meet, and it is no good thinking that we can solve this problem for the Jews, or for our own consciences, or for the world by plantation schemes within the conception of the British Government. As the House has been told so much about the virtues of the Macedonian and the Greek scheme, I would point out to hon. Gentlemen that the people who were planted on the land in Macedonia were agriculturists, and the people who were put into the factories were trained in making carpets. It is not a case there of taking the population and changing its character. In the case of the Jews you are not dealing with people who are agriculturists or trained as mechanics. You have a different problem. You are dealing with people of the middle and trading classes, and it is going to be far more difficult to make a success with people who have no experience whatever of agricultural work. It all comes back to the one point that these Jews want to go to Palestine, and why on earth should they not go to Palestine? There they would be among their friends, speaking a language which is understood, and would be helped by people struggling in the same line of business. Why not look at the one thing which is obvious and drop dreams of colonisation elsewhere?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I never said a word of what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying about Palestine. I would put 500,000 Jews into Palestine within five years, if I could do it. We have to deal with 5,000,000 according to the figures that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is giving himself, and there are many others besides these—the Spaniards, Czechs and many others.
§ Sir A. Salter
The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has really got an impression of the character of the Macedonian scheme which is completely at variance with the facts. I know something of the position, as I was the principal officer at the League of Nations dealing with this scheme. The main facts were that 1,200,000 refugees had to be dealt with, of which a great number coming from Smyrna were not agriculturists and were settled in towns. In Macedonia alone 500,000 people were settled, and while it is true that the refugees themselves did not pay the full interest on the loan, the Greek Government, until the financial crisis paid the rest in full, and it was recouped from the refugees as taxpayers and from the general increase in prosperity resulting from their production. The settlement of refugees in Macedonia and Greece was an enormous economic asset to the country. It was a most encouraging experiment for large-scale schemes being taken in hand by Government authority.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I am very glad to hear the hon. Member speak so well of that scheme, but when I was there it struck me that from the form of the scheme, the only chance of the scheme succeeding was that the vast majority of the people in Macedonia were agriculturists and did know something about the job. It does not alter the point that here you are trying to do the very same thing with people who know nothing about the job whatever. There they were already dumped upon the shores of Greece, and transport was not difficult. Here you have an enormous distance to travel. There you had the land which is essential to any colonisation provided free, having been taken from the Turkish landlord by the Greeks without compensation. There you had the population willing to receive them, and they were in their own country. Here you are dumping alien colonists among people that do not want them; settled at an enormous price for the land in the first place. There is the question of climate. Between Smyrna and Macedonia the climate is practically the same, but between Poland, Germany, Vienna and the sub-tropical colonies that are mentioned, the difference is complete. I do not want us to have any part in sending people to die of 3058 malaria in the tropics; attempting work to which they are not accustomed.
I will give the hon. Member another instance. Take the case of the Assyrians. The Assyrians who supported us in the War were massacred by the Iraq Government, and, more so than in the case of the Jews, we were bound in honour to do something to save the remnants of that people, about 150,000. We made inquiries all over the world. It was suggested that they might go to Transjordan, and somebody objected there. They would not have been far away. It was suggested that they should go to British Guiana, and the place was inspected and was found utterly unsuitable for people from Assyria. In the end nothing was done and they are left in Iraq, because the Government there dare no longer massacre them.
That leads me to the obvious way in which we ought to solve the Jewish problem, and that is, to prevent these Eastern European countries from exterminating the Jewish race. We are now making arrangements with Poland. We are binding ourselves to them in an almost holy pact that we shall defend them and that they will defend us, if need be. I hope that we shall in any circumstances carry out our word. When we are coming to these arrangements whereby the independence of Poland is saved and guaranteed, we might do something to prevent the Polish Government any longer pursuing this vile religious and racial discrimination against the unfortunate people who have lived there for the best part of 700 years. Exactly the same thing applies to Rumania. There are 1,000,000 Jews who have lived there perfectly peacefully, and who during the War took their part with Rumania in the struggle. They have committed no sort of crime against that country, but latterly they have been persecuted, not essentially by the Rumanians but at the instigation of German agents in that country. If we come to any arrangement with Rumania, is it not possible to save some of these people there? This argument applies even more to Lithuania, where one word from us would stop the persecution of the Jews. The argument applies just as strongly to Esthonia and Latvia.
If you want to solve the Jewish problem and take a decent place in history, it will 3059 not be by emigrating 100,000 people to Kenya and Tanganyika, but by stopping the persecution at the source. Let us get back to that decent state of civilisation which we enjoyed before the War. With regard to those poor people who are in Germany, the problem is measurable. First, I would let them go to Palestine and Transjordan. If they must die of starvation, it is far better to die of starvation in their own country, among friends, than to die of starvation among the butchers in Germany. Surely, we in this country might do something to help these people here. America is behaving decently as far as refugees are concerned, compared with us. America is taking 27,000 a year—not many, but it is something. When these 27,000 people get to America, they are allowed to work. In this country we can take only the well-to-do, and even those are refused permission to work. We have a falling birth rate, and we have an urgent need for men, and yet we are doing our best to keep out children and able-bodied men from Germany. The only sort of people that he will admit with any ease are the women who come as domestic servants.
I have had a letter from a girl appealing for assistance. The Home Office, on the whole, have been pretty good within their limits, in doing their best to help individual cases. They have always done their best for me when I have brought cases to their notice. I obtained permission for two refugees from Czechoslovakia, husband and wife, to come here. The Home Office were good enough to cable out to Prague, at my expense, to get the visa authorised. These two people are on the transport coming here now, but they have had to leave behind a sister, whose husband is imprisoned in Germany, and her four-year-old child. This young woman writes thanking me for getting out her brother-in-law and sister, and says, in German:Unfortunately, the consul said for me there is no visa, and I cannot come by the next transport. If a telegraphic visa could be sent from London for me and my child to come the consul would let us go. I am absolutely without money or food, and the Jewish community have no money left for food, either. I cannot get anything from them. I cannot expect anything but death for myself and child. I am getting weaker.Of course, nothing can be done. It is no good my asking them to telegraph a 3060 visa, because I cannot give a guarantee. I have given quite enough guarantees, and I do not see how I can be expected to do more. Here is this poor woman in this plight, and she is only one of thousands who are huddling in door-ways, waiting for the hope of coming to England. Yet the only people we allow in are those who have friends here rich enough to guarantee them, or those who have money of their own outside and can manage to get out of the country. All the money has been taken away from the unfortunate people who are left. I have been trying to get people out, but one cannot manage it because it costs too much money. What can we expect these millions of poor people to do, and what can we expect the people of England to do in the circumstances?
I will endeavour to take the House through the different categories of people affected. There is the great class of domestic servants. English people can apply for a domestic servant and so get somebody out from Vienna, but they have to be between the ages of 18 and 45. Anyone who wants a servant of that sort has, first, to prove that the servant will not be displacing British labour. That is easy enough, because most people are taking them in extra to give them food and shelter. Next, a guarantee has to be given that they will not be a burden on the country. That is comparatively easy; but they must be between the ages of 18 and 45 and, by a curious irony, the only women who can come in are those who are single, widows, or divorced. The married woman is not allowed to come here as a domestic servant, even if she is between the ages of 18 and 45, if her husband is in Germany in a concentration camp, or free.
We want domestic servants, and I can assure the House that the sort of people we are getting as domestics are not the people who create anti-Semitism in this country. Anti-Semitism in this country is created by the rich and ostentatious Jew and not by these wretched refugees; it is the ostentation of a certain class of Jew, largely employers of labour, and not the poor people. I think we might press on the Government the desirability of extending the age at which people can enter domestic service in this country. Let them come in at 15 instead of 18, and up to 50, so that we can get some 3061 of the older women in as well. There was a scheme for getting children into this country up to the age of 18, but that has been knocked on the head entirely as far as children between 16 and 18 years of age are concerned, and now generally by demanding these deposits in cash. Children between 15 and 18 need saving just as much as any man and just as much as the younger children. If they get posts as domestic servants it may be that many of them may be exploited, but it is much better to be exploited in England than to starve in Germany.
I hope the Noble Lord who is going to reply—I wish it was the Home Office —will consider making it a little easier to save women who are willing to come in as domestic servants. It is perfectly well known that they are not really domestic servants; they are being saved by charitable people and really there ought not to be this artificial restriction preventing girls between 15 and 18 coming in, preventing married women coming in, and preventing women between 45 and 50 coming in as well. As far as domestics are concerned there is a much more important matter. Nearly all the women who have come over are earning 15s. or £1 per week and are desperately trying to keep their parents or husbands or brothers alive in other parts of the world. Some of them are sending money to Shanghai and some of them, I know, have been sending money to Finland. Some of these wretched relations or friends have nothing on earth to live on. A great many of these women are sending then-money, changing it into reichsmarks, in order to keep their parents or relations alive. They have come over here solely in order to keep their people alive. It is good English money which is being sent away to support these starving people in Vienna, yet when these people try to get their relations over here and offer a guarantee that they shall not come on the Poor Law the guarantee which they give on their wages is not accepted.
I will not say that is so in every case, but it is extremely difficult to persuade the Jewish Aid Refugee Committee to take the guarantee of anyone in domestic service. I have failed over and over again. They will not look at the guarantee of anybody in domestic service. I think they might be induced to accept such a guarantee if the employer is willing 3062 to countersign it. It would give the Jewish Aid Refugee Committee a certain security, and in this way, where the employers are entirely in sympathy with the refugee and are playing the part of a Christian rather than of an employer, you would be able to get countersignatures. Nearly all these people come over here in order to earn money to keep their people, and finally to get their people over here. A mother will come over here in order to keep her husband and family, particularly widows who are striving to earn money enough for their children who are left behind to carry on. One cannot conceive of the sufferings of well-to-do people who have been deprived of everything, even of their bank balance. They have to start from the bottom. I do not say that they make good domestic servants; they have not been accustomed to it. But do let them have the advantages of their sacrifice. Let them give the necessary guarantee and be allowed to get their nearest and dearest into this country, where they are safe.
I must touch on the question of the children. A great splash was made three months ago when we decided that we would get over as many children as we could. The Government were extremely generous and said that 4,000 and 5,000 under the age of 18 might be brought over. We proceeded, and in due time got over 3,400 under the scheme; but suddenly the scheme dried up. We are not allowed to get in any more. Before the scheme was in operation I got three children into houses where the people were prepared to adopt the child. They could not really adopt an alien child, but the families into which they entered were prepared to feed, clothe and educate them until they reached the age of 18. That was before the Government or Baldwin scheme of child migration came along. Now you cannot get children in the old way, and you cannot get any more children in under the authorised scheme. The Government put Lord Gorell in charge of that scheme. He has only just taken over, but I hope the Noble Lord who is going to reply will make some inquiries into the working of that scheme and find out why no more children are being allowed to come in. The difficulty in the way is this: You can get a child in only if you guarantee, as before, to support it, and also only if for that child arrangements 3063 are being made to re-emigrate it elsewhere, so that the people who want really to adopt the children lose all pleasure in doing so. They are only to educate the children until the age of 18, and then the children are to be sent off to America, Australia, or some other country. That is not what these people want. They want somebody who will be with them in their old age, when ties of affection have grown up.
Why should these children be compelled to re-emigrate? A great deal of the personal interest is destroyed by that. Why should the further step have been taken, within the last month, of demanding from people who are good enough to take these children a deposit of £50 before they may have the children? In the case of children between 16 and 18 years of age, the sum has been increased from £50 to £100, and it is not a guarantee but a deposit in cash. Most of the people who take the children are retired people, such as school teachers, pensioners, who live on a definitely fixed income, and they have not the capital to be able to put down £50, and even if they had, they would not do so; they would throw it in the face of the Government, and say, "I am doing my best to play a decent part as an Englishwoman, as a Christian, in giving shelter to these homeless children, and yet you demand from me £50 for the right to behave as a Christian." In justice to the Noble Lord, let me say that it is not he who demands it; it is the German-Jewish Aid Committee, the body presided over by Lord Gorell at the present time.
§ Earl Winterton
I ought to remind the right hon. Gentleman that during the last quarter of an hour his remarks have been directed to a matter for which no one on this bench has Ministerial responsibility. I am afraid I cannot undertake to answer those remarks.
Why is not the Home Secretary here, since we are dealing with refugees? I am told that there is a representative of the Home Office under the Gallery.
§ Earl Winterton
I think the right hon. Gentleman does not understand my point. He is criticising one of the voluntary organisations, and while I do not want to prevent him doing so, I would point out 3064 that there is no Ministerial responsibility in regard to the criticisms which he is making of the administration of the voluntary organisation.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
The Noble Lord will pardon me, I hope, but he knows perfectly well that the voluntary organisation has had imposed upon it, by the Government, the need for guaranteeing the refugees who come to this country. The Government hold the Jewish organisations responsible for seeing that these people do not become a burden on the public and do re-emigrate. This is a Government responsibility. It is true that the voluntary organisations may carry out the Government's orders and demand guarantees or deposits, but unless the Government accept the abolition of re-emigration and confer with Lord Gorell's Committee, nothing can be done. Unless the Government will permit these people to come in, nothing is done. The blame cannot be put on the voluntary organisations. There is too much of this desperate attempt by the Government to put the blame on somebody else. They are responsible for the visas and for the conditions under which these people come to this country.
I come, now, to the next question for which the Government are more directly responsible than any voluntary organization—the muddle over the Czech refugees. In Prague we had an admirable British liaison officer who in the few days, or the week or two, given to him, did his duty and attempted to get "white paper" refugees out of Czecho-Slovakia. The difficulty with which he was faced at once was that the refugees could not go to England, and there was nowhere else they could go. The delay went on. These people were refugees within the meaning of the White Paper, and they were entitled, as refugees, to £200 per family if they could get out. These people, who were passed as genuine refugees, were entitled to their share of the £10,000,000 gift; but they could not get their visas, and when the crash came, and Hitler walked in, they became fugitives. They were held up until it was too late for them to get out.
§ Earl Winterton
The right hon. Gentleman's remarks is incorrect. A very large number of them had visas.
§ Earl Winterton
I will give the figures later. It is quite untrue to say that they had not visas, and a very large number was able to get out.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I do not understand what the Noble Lord means. Does he mean that they were given visas, or that they got out without visas?
§ Earl Winterton
Prior to the unfortunate events, a very large number of the people to whom the right hon. Gentleman is referring had been given visas by the British Government. The reasons they did not get out had nothing to do with the British Government.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
What does the Noble Lord mean when he says that a very large number of them were given visas? What was the proportion? Of the many thousands of refugees, how many got visas? I doubt whether 400 did. None of those I know got them, although some have got them since. The appalling delay—I do not know whether it was the fault of the Home Office or the Foreign Office—in issuing visas is responsible for a great many of the suicides of people in Prague during the last month. As long as there are elaborate red-tape arrangements, whereby people have to prove that they are transmigrants or prove that they are within the right ages, or, as in one case, receive a letter from an organisation demanding to know whether my bank will stand my guarantee for their financial security—as long as there are delays of that sort, and as long as visas are delayed—in spite of the best liaison work, and in spite of the refugees proving their case as refugees, some of them are in flight, some in prison, and some dead.
English money is given for the refugees and the refugees are promised money if they get out, and at the same time, they are not given visas to allow them to get out. It is the whole attitude of the Government towards these refugees that needs altering. I do not think I am doing the Noble Lord any injustice when I say that in the past he has not been celebrated for his affection for Jews. He is in charge of this business. How far do the Government take their views from him? I have always found the Home Office to be pretty good in individual cases, but it is of no use being charitable in individual cases. The Government must 3066 realise that the people in this country who are helping the refugees are not criminals, but benefactors. The Government seem to look upon those of us who are doing something for the refugees as though we were nuisances and as though we were asking for something for ourselves. Every refugee committee in the country, and there are over 200 of them to-day, has been spending days and nights and writing endless letters trying to get refugees to this country placed where they will be looked after, and all the time we have had this desperate attitude of permanent hostility on the part of organisations backed by the Government. The attitude is reflected by the voluntary organisations, because they take their orders from the Government. How long is this to continue? How long is the good name of this country to be smirched, because the Government adopt an attitude of bitter hostility towards those who believe that we should behave like a great nation and give help where it is most needed?
§ 1.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
When I hear a speech from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), I am impressed by the nobility of his character, the sincerity of his idealism, and the goodness of his heart, but also I regret to say by the incorrectness of his statements and the fallacy of almost every one of his opinions.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I have been closely connected with refugee work for the past four-and-a-half months. I have the honour of being chairman of the Executive Committee of the Baldwin Fund and chairman of the Board of Management of the Christian Council for Refugees and I beg the House not to accept the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's figures or his information. I do not mean to be offensive to him. I know his extreme goodness and the wonderful work he has done in individual cases and I say so in all sincerity, but his figures are wrong. Take, 3067 for instance, the question of children. He said that 1,400 had been brought over, but in fact the number brought over is over 3,000.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I leave it to the House to judge between the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and myself, and I make that statement for what it is worth. I am limited as to time, and there are certain things which I wish to put before the House. It is impossible to exaggerate either the vastness or the tragedy of the problem which we are facing. It is nothing less than the intended extermination of a whole section of human culture and I do not think we are facing that problem as it ought to be faced. We are appalled by the size of the problem. We must realise that it will take a considerable amount of hard clear thinking to do any appreciable good at all and if I may say so with all respect, His Majesty's Government are failing to face the fact that it will mean the provision of some finance—it may be a lot or it may be a little. We are failing to face the problem properly I think, because we are allowing the human tragedy involved in it to influence us. We are facing it in an emotional way, but what we have to do is to deal with it in a calm, cool, scientific manner.
We are not faced with the duty, and we cannot assume the duty, of solving the whole problem of the future of the Jewish race. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in one thing, that the only real solution of the refugee problem as far as Germany is concerned is to stop the persecution. You cannot get away from the fact that, in law, any country has the right to expel any section of its population as it chooses, but I think we have to take our stand on this matter by saying to Germany that she has not the right, suddenly to shovel off her problems on to other people and to expel a whole section of a population all at once without a penny in their pockets. The first thing 3068 to be established is that the obvious solution, can only be achieved by political pressure on Germany to force her to deal with this problem in the right and civilised way. Let us, then, avoid the mistake of allowing it to be thought that we even contemplate shouldering the whole burden. If we do that, every bit of human suffering that we relieve will immediately be replaced by more human suffering, and we shall create further problems as we go along pari passu with the measures of solution which we offer.
Apart from that consideration there is the psychological effect. If any one of us is faced with an immense, a Herculean, an astronomical problem, our minds instinctively turn away from it and we burke the issue. Let us face the difficulties. They are very severe difficulties. We are faced with the existence of nearly2,000,000 unemployed of our own. I want to make it clear, however, that the cry "Help our own unemployed first"has not come from the unemployed or from the trade union movement. It is a cry that originally was artifically started by—
§ Mr. Nicholson
It has not come from the unemployed themselves, and I want to thank working-class bodies, including unemployed organisations, for the noble way in which they have helped the refugee funds. But do not let us forget that there is not an exact parallel between the Huguenots and people of that sort, and the refugees with whom we are now concerned. We are faced with the actual existence of anti-Semitism and the potential existence of much more anti-Semitism. I am stressing the difficulties because I think we have, so far, failed to face the facts of the situation. Many remedies have been suggested, but one way not to deal with the problem successfully is to allow in every Jew who applies. One way to avoid creating anti-Semitism is to have at the other end a proper system of selection of the sort of Jews to admit. An influx of Jews from Eastern Europe would naturally arouse anti-Semitism in this country, but the finest type of German Jew or, to accept Herr Hitler's terminology, of "non-Aryan" German, will not cause anti-Semitism. Therefore, there should be a careful system of selection at the other end.
3069 I particularly beg all who try to deal with this problem to avoid being either pro-Jew or anti-Jew. The way in which we have to face this refugee problem is to do so from the point of view of our duty as Christians and as Englishmen and, at the same time to remember that Jews in large numbers are very difficult to assimilate into our civilisation all at once. Let us reduce the problem to managable proportions. The first thing we have to do is to map out what we can do and then to do it efficiently and economically. Other countries must, of course, help and I think we ought to pay a tribute to the great work of France, Belgium and Holland who have taken many more than we have and whose work is not sufficiently recognised in this country.
From my experience in the last four months I express the definite opinion that the Government are working on the right lines. I have found the Home Office exceedingly helpful. When we bear in mind the difficulties to which I have just alluded, namely, the existence of our own unemployment problem and the possibility of a large anti-Semitic movement in this country, I think the Home Office has been working with courage and efficiency along the right lines. I venture humbly to express the opinion that my Noble Friend the Paymaster-General is working on the right lines. I have a feeling that, apart from the Home Secretary, he is playing rather a lone hand in the Government in connection with this matter. I wish all power to his elbow and I assure him of my fervent support. But there is a large measure of urgency and a need for hurry in connection with these matters, not only because the refugee problem will very soon solve itself by the death of the potential refugees, but because we have to face this serious fact. Private charity will, one day, have shot its bolt. Private charity, whether it is from the Christian community or from non-Christian communities, will have come to an end—and in that connection I say with shame that we have contributed far far less to refugee funds than the Jewish community.
In spite of all that Jewry has done and of all that the Churches have done, private charity will certainly come to an end sooner or later, and at the present rate of expenditure I am afraid that it will be sooner rather than later. Then, another 3070 matter, we are not availing ourselves sufficiently of the intellectual and technical wealth at our disposal, particularly in the medical line. We find very little help indeed from anybody in this country in placing men with amazing technical qualifications, the finest scientific research students in the world. Sometimes we could have them en bloc,the whole staff of a laboratory. The whole machine is offered us, and we cannot accept them in this country. As for ordinary doctors, I ask this House to think of the conditions in British Colonies and in India, and I feel that it is nothing short of madness on our part to fail to avail ourselves of qualified medical men, apart entirely from the industrial technicians, when one thinks of the hygiene and health conditions in those parts of the world. It is not only a question of philanthropy; it is not only a question of humanity, for we have the chance of doing a lot of good to ourselves by getting the best brains in the German Jewish community.
I want to say something about the work of the voluntary organisations in this connection. I have already paid my tribute to the work of the Jewish community in this country, who have, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, accepted the ultimate contingent liability for most of the refugees brought into this country. The Friends' organisation, which has done much valuable work on a smaller scale, also accepts the ultimate liability. The fund of which, through fortuitous circumstances which I need not recount to the House, I am myself chairman—the Baldwin Fund—together with one or two ancillary appeals, such as the special appeal of the Church of England, has raised well over half-a-million pounds in a comparatively short time, and at a time when there were innumerable other worthy causes for which demands were being made. Lord Baldwin, in his speech —as a matter of fact, it was at my special request—said that he hoped that his appeal would not prejudice any existing English charitable institutions or appeals, and I think that has been carried out. I do not think it can be charged that the Baldwin Fund has damaged any other charitable institution.
We found ourselves, to begin with, in the position of a committee charged only with raising money, but it very soon dawned on us that we had a direct responsibility to our contributors to see that 3071 the money which they so generously gave was expended with the maximum efficiency and economy, and for that reason we very soon found ourselves involved in a sphere which was originally outside our contemplation, namely, the sphere of administration. Thanks to the machinery that we found ready and to the machinery that we have ourselves set in motion, most of the refugee relieving work and the case working organisations are housed in a central building. I do not wish to go into too great detail, but we managed to get Lord Hailey to consent to become chairman of the co-ordinating committee, and he has done wonderful work. We have struggled hard to try and secure efficiency in the case working organisations. To some extent we have succeeded, and to some extent we have failed. Where we have failed, it has not been because of any human breakdown, but because of the circumstances involved, circumstances such as the sudden rush of work, with the almost millions, certainly hundreds of thousands, of letters which have poured in. This vast problem has suddenly been thrust upon a few voluntary organisations. I think that the case working organisations, with which I have nothing to do personally, have done the most marvellous work.
At Bloomsbury House there are over 4,000 callers every day to be dealt with, and the numbers of letters which arrive and go out are in tens of thousands. I heard the other day of a refugee who had written to 83 individuals applying for help. The House can imagine what that involves in the way of correspondence at this end. So far as the expenditure of money is concerned, some £220,000 has been earmarked for the children's movement, and I may say that we make efficiency a condition of any grant. I am sorry to weary the House with details, but the money is given from the Baldwin Fund to these constituent bodies, the Council for German Jewry and the Christian Council for Refugees, and the money has to be allocated to these two councils for specific purposes by the apportionment committee, of which Lord Baldwin is chairman. We have also guaranteed all expenditure in connection with Bloomsbury House, and grants have been given to the Council for German Jewry and the Christian Council for Refugees which they have expanded in 3072 their own way. So far from it being the case, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman imagines, that the Baldwin Fund is sitting on its money like a hen on one egg, almost all the eggs have been distributed or earmarked, and we should be very glad indeed if that fact could be made known, so that the fund might once more receive a flow of contributions.
I beg all those who have anything to do with refugee work to be very patient with the inevitable delays and inefficiency in the case working organisations. All those who have anything to do with the organisations are well aware of the maddening nature of the delays that take place and of the inevitable inefficiency that has been forced upon them. I beg them to be patient. Efficiency is being obtained, and if hon. Members knew the vast amount of work that has been and is being done, and done successfully, they would bear with us a little longer. To go back, I believe the Government are on the right lines, but I beg them to hurry, and I beg every Member of this House and the country as a whole to realise that though this is fundamentally a 100 per cent. human problem it demands cold and detached thought. We cannot ourselves in this country solve the whole problem of the future of the Jewish race, and I do not agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that we can place an indefinite number of refugees in Palestine. Let us plan out what we can do, and let us do it well, let us do it efficiently, let us realise that it will take money and that it will take thought. Finally, let us realise that we have a great opportunity of enriching ourselves with some of the finest brains and abilities in the world. Let us not forget that rather selfish aspect of the problem. Since I have been connected with this refugee business, I think I can say with truth that hardly an hour goes by, day or night, when it is out of my mind. It is the most terrible example; of the breakdown of all the plans of civilisation and humanity. Let us face it with clear and scientific thought.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
One might think at first sight that recent events would tend to make the refugee situation in the world very much worse—thesituation which has arisen through the permission for gangsters to do as they will throughout the length and breadth of the globe—but I 3073 cannot help thinking that perhaps on a longer view the recent steps adopted by the British Government in foreign policy will tend to bring to an end the terrible situation that exists and the licence for the bully to treat his citizens as he likes, to rob them and drive them out into other parts of the world. I hope the result of this re-orientation of policy will be that law and order will prevail once more and that citizens of all countries can live ordered and peaceful lives. I want to draw attention to an important statement made on Tuesday by the Secretary of State for War when he said, in reply to a question:I have to inform the House that applications from foreign nationals will in suitable cases be considered, more particularly where the applicant can speak English and has had previous military training."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1939, col. 2606, Vol. 345.]I urge the noble Lord to see that the matter is carried still further and that consideration is given to the cases of the thousands of refugees, as I am informed there are in this country, many of them scientists, doctors and people with high qualifications, who would be only too delighted to rally to the support of Great Britain at this moment of crisis and to offer their services. I urge that they should be assisted in every possible way in connection with our scheme of National Service. I am told that while there is great unrest in Germany at the present time, any movement of that kind in Great Britain by which German and Austrians associated themselves with us in our National Defence might have a profound psychological effect in Germany and do a great deal in that way to assist our cause.
I want to make reference to the question of voluntary organisations. I am certain that the time has come when it is wrong for the Government to rely any more wholly upon the services of voluntary societies. Too great a burden is placed upon them and the Government ought now to come in and take part in the administration. The voluntary workers have worked in the most admirable way, but they have had a task placed upon them which is not really theirs but the responsibility of the British Government. I understand that it has been decided to allocate £100,000 from the Czech loan fund, and possibly there may be something available in due course 3074 from the Czech balances which are left over in this country. When, however, we get a situation, such as happened during the last few weeks, when decisions as to whether visas should be granted and whether certain individuals should be allowed to come to this country was left in the hands of young girls, although they did their part in a most excellent way, it is time that the Government took on the responsibility. It ought not to be passed on to voluntary organisations. The Noble Lord says that he cannot take responsibility for or reply to criticisms of voluntary organisations. That may be true, but the Government ought to accept the responsibility from now onwards and not try to get rid of a duty which is a national one and should be carried out by the Government and the State as a whole.
The other point with which I want to deal is the importance of the Government undertaking responsibility for the working out of the settlement plans in various colonies. They say they will take a sympathetic interest, or lend an official, or something of that kind, but they with all the experience at their command, ought themselves to take the responsibility for working out the plans in detail as they alone can. One has in mind particularly the case of British Guiana, where a commission has gone. Then there is the case of Tanganyika, and no doubt the Government are considering other cases; but I urge that every possible pressure from the side of the Government should be placed behind these schemes from the point of view of speed and technical efficiency. With regard to Palestine, of course large numbers of refugees ought to be sent there. It is our bounden duty and we are under international obligation to do it. I am sorry to think that the Government are still hesitating and cannot make up their mind what policy to pursue instead of sending out a large number, hundreds of thousands, over a period of years to, Palestine. Not even the 10,000 children are permitted to go there. At the same time, I appreciate that when we have done everything possible with Palestine that will not solve the problem. The number of refugees is far greater than can be dealt with there. I think therefore, that it is right to go on with the other schemes that are being considered.
Reference has been made to the case of Poland. It is true that we are 3075 entering into close relations with Poland now, and no doubt it will involve some arrangements for assisting that country to emigrate a certain number of Jews. It may be that if in Poland as a result of recent events there is a greater measure of national unity and association of the people with the Government it might not be necessary to go so far in the way of emigration as was at one time contemplated. I hope that may be so. I trust that the Government will grasp this question with energy and imagination and will put all the drive they can into it. If they do, I am sure they will be rendering a great service to the cause of humanity and peace throughout the world.
§ 1.52 p.m.
§ Mr. David Grenfell
I am sure the House will have benefited from the Debate on this important subject, and I hope the Noble Lord will be able to give such further reassurances as are necessary to those who are interested in this problem. It is a problem of many parts, and if I give a minute to each of them I shall carry out my pledge to finish as near 2 o'clock as possible. Perhaps I will be forgiven if I touch upon the problem of emigration from Czechoslovakia first. References have been made to-day to delay and to the failure to grant visas to people in Czechoslovakia because the organisation on the Prague side and in London was not competent for the purpose we all have in view. I saw the organisation at Prague, and I say at once that a tremendous job of work has been done on both sides by purely voluntary organisation. The House will never know the devotion and sacrifice of the workers both in Prague and in London in dealing with this problem. It would be invidious to mention names. I saw the work at Prague when it was launched, and I saw it being carried on. I have been in communication with Prague almost every day since. There are Members in the House who are familiar with the day-to-day work done there.
I will break my intention not to refer to names, and mention just one. There are English women who ought to be honoured by this House and whose names ought to be more widely known in this country, but at the risk of omitting recognition of one or other of this band of de- 3076 voted workers, I will refer to one who has remained behind, who was there in October, and who has only left Prague for a day or two on hurried visits to this country for consultation. Miss Doreen Warrener is now in Prague, doing work which will be a monument to her capabilities and her devotion, work which I do not think any Member of this House could excel. Splendid work has been done by Miss Warrener and the other ladies associated with her in Prague. It is not an easy thing, with all the passport regulations, to improvise the transfer of a flood of people who wish to leave a country in the stress of existing circumstances. His Majesty's Consul at Prague, to whom I have previously paid a compliment, has done marvellous work, and I give him full praise for the patience and tact which he has exercised. At this end, too, it is not easy to arrange for the departure of crowds of people from Prague.
I should like to give an account of the transport difficulties, because I took part in the work for three weeks in October and at the beginning of November. It is all very well to say, "Why could not the people be got out in a week." It could not be done. It is an enormous problem. On this side it depends entirely on the voluntary services of people, mainly women again, who have done tremendous work—the Bloomsbury House, Mecklenburg Square, organisation, and the Polish Refugee Committee. The problem of accommodating the refugees in this country would never have been dealt with successfully had it not been for the immense volume and the high quality of the voluntary work carried out. But, as the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) said, this voluntary work cannot continue unaided, because it will be inadequate for the purpose. The House should remember that we are not at the end of this refugee work, we are at the beginning of it, and I would support the appeal of the hon. Member that the Government should make provision both for the staffing of the reception committees, so that people shall be paid for their labours, and for a larger sum than£100,000 to be put at the disposal of those who are responsible for the maintenance of the refugees who have come in. This House may pass a Resolution and Members may say in their sympathy, "Let them all come 3077 into this country; we will open our arms widely," but there must be a business organisation to provide for them and for their needs.
Next I should like to deal with the question of emigration. This week-end, this Saturday, the first group of people going to Canada under the auspices of the Czech Emigration Committee will leave. I am connected with that organisation and am happy to say that the prospects of emigration for a large number of the Sudeten Deutsch are very bright indeed. Another group will be leaving in a fortnight's time, and other groups at intervals during May and June. We hope to send a few hundred families to Canada to settle down there, to build up new homes for themselves there, and I am certain they will make splendid settlers. I know the country well, and I know the quality of the people whom we are sending out. It is really the greatest error to assume that these people are a liability to a country. We are sending an asset to Canada. Whether it be Canada or somewhere else—and I have no time to deal with British Guiana —I am sure that under the right auspices and with Government support and guarantees we can easily find room in the world for all the Jews who may be displaced in Europe.
I should like very much to say this to the House, and wish that my words may be heard outside this House in Germany and Czecho-Slovakia. If the Germans now think that they should dispense with members of that race who have served Germany so well, if they think they can afford to part company with the Jewish race in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, they should do the thing decently. They should give them time and opportunity to get away; and if that is the fiat of the Führer, if they have to go, then the rest of the world must make a fitting effort to find them new homes and new opportunities; and I hope that this afternoon the Noble Lord will give us encouragement to hope that the Evian Committee will pursue its labours and play its part, and that its part will be a decisive one, in the solution of this very great problem which concerns us all.
§ 2. p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
I am deeply grateful to the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) for the very sympathetic way in 3078 which he has approached this problem, and for curtailing his speech in order to give me time to make mine. There is a great deal more of interest which he could have said, because we all recognise what a very prominent and useful and, indeed, humanitarian part he has played in this problem. I think he is in the same position as I am, because I could well speak for 40 minutes or longer, but there are other Members who desire to raise other topics, and I must curtail my remarks.
I should like, also, to thank the hon. Member who initiated this Debate. Normally, I do not think it is very helpful for a Government spokesman to praise the moderation of the speech of the Opposition spokesman, because there may be some covert object in view, but here there is no party question involved, because we are all trying to do our best, according to our different points of view, to solve this terrible problem. I do not want to be rhetorical, but I must make these observations at the outset of my remarks: that, superimposed upon all the evils to which flesh is heir, some of which are unavoidable in the present state of medical and other science, we have this terrible man-made evil of the refugee problem, and no one who lives with that problem from day-to-day, as I do, can exaggerate the aggregate of suffering which it causes in mind and body. In this as in so many other respects the world to-day has returned to a scale of human woe which is medieval in its poignancy and scope, almost like the Black Death or some other great scourge of the past.
The Debate has mainly ranged round the work of the Evian Committee, of which I have the honour to be chairman, and on which I represent His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and I think I can best answer the points as to what is being done, and what has been done since the formation of the committee, to assist in the solution of this problem by quoting certain facts and figures. The Evian Committee, wisely, I think, divided countries which can help into two categories, countries of temporary refuge, those countries where there has been infiltration, like most of the Western democracies, and countries of permanent settlement where there is a sparse population and much unoccupied territory, where it was hoped the refugees could go in greater numbers.
3079 Let me deal first of all with the countries of temporary residence. I would pay a tribute to what has been done in Holland and Belgium by private organisations, and I hope that I am giving away no secrets when I say that I understand that certain grants have been made from this country's voluntary funds to assist voluntary organisations in one of those countries in their work. Let me give a few facts. Between March, 1933, and March, 1938, there arrived in this country from Germany, classed as refugees—thefigures have been given before in Debate, but I make no apology for repeating them—4,325 men and 3,310 women. Take the situation to-day. On 28th February, 1939, there were in this country 4,674 German men, 3,663 women, 3,340 Austrian men and 2,446women, 357 Czech men and 169 former Czech women subjects. At that time there was, in addition, a total of 4,404 children in this country.
I should like to disabuse the minds of hon. Members of any misunderstanding in regard to those figures and to show that the charges that have been made or suggested in the course of the Debate, notably by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) as to the extent of the contribution of this country are not accurate and constitute a very great under-statement. The British movement for the care of refugee children brought in about 4,000 children in December and January last. It will be a little time before all those children are settled in individual homes. When this has been accomplished it is expected that yet more children will come in. From October, 1938, to 15th March this year, Sudeten-Deutsch, Austrians, Slovaks, and others were being dealt with as rapidly as possible by the British Committee for Refugees in Czechoslovakia. The German coup interrupted that process, and a number of political refugees were left in Czecho-Slovakia, unable to get out. The High Commissioner for the League, who is also director of the Evian Committee, and I, with the full support of His Majesty's Government, did everything possible to get these people out. We went to exceptional steps. I do not want to comment on the circumstances which caused this deplorable state of affairs, but it was 3080 literally impossible to get those people out of the country. They were not allowed to go. Until 1st April, no visa was required by Czech subjects, and had the Germans not occupied Czech territory, a larger number of refugees would have been able to leave. A large number have come to this country without visas. The difficulty was that, before they could come, the Germans imposed an exit visa. The whole responsibility for the situation lies, not in the action of this country, but in the action of the German authorities. I am just going over the facts to show the extent of what we have done in what I think I may call an emergency.
I want now to deal with the permanent situation, and to say a word about the activities of voluntary organisations, and about Richborough camp. I mention these, because they support my argument that it is unfair to blame His Majesty's Government or the voluntary organisations of this country for certain things that have occurred. There is room, I understand, in Richborough camp, for between 400 and 500 more refugees than are there at the present time. It is hoped that those refugees would be people capable of being trained, but we cannot at present get them there, as they are not allowed out of Germany. I shall say a word in a moment about our discussions with the German Government, but let me go on to say one or two things about the question of infiltration, especially since the first meeting of the Evian Committee. I have already dealt with the facts of immigration into this country. The numbers both here and elsewhere are larger than many people suppose.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Would the noble Lord tell us how many of these people who have come to this country are transmigrants?
§ Earl Winterton
I must ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to let me develop my argument. I am dealing with a most important subject.
§ Earl Winterton
I will tell the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in due course, but he will realise that it is difficult upon a subject like this to make a consecutive speech if one is interrupted upon different points. With regard to the 3081 actual infiltration into various countries since the Evian Committee was held, there has been an infiltration into this country—and this answers the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's point—of a certain number of permanent residents, and into the United States of a number which by July, 1939, will probably be up to the full quota of 27,000 for the year, consisting of Germans and former Austrian refugees. In addition to that, some 13,000 have been given temporary visas which have been extended. The United States immigration may thus be taken as in the neighbourhood of 40,000. There have been similar movements into certain other South American countries. Despite the gloomy view that is held in some quarters, though not in this Debate, I believe that, given time, this problem can be solved. It is a question of time, and I urge the House and the authorities not to charge the British, United States, or other Governments with being responsible for this state of affairs. The responsibility lies elsewhere.
I hope that this democratic assembly, and every other, will try to get the Reich Government to assist in this matter, be cause without their assistance the matter is impossible of solution. For example, it is essential, if there is to be a permanent solution, that people shall be permitted to take at least some portion of their money out of Germany. I can only say that my committee, through its director, has been discussing the matter with the German Government. As is known, because it has been stated for many weeks past, our representative, then Mr. Rublee, went to Germany and discussed it, first with Herr Schacht and afterwards with Herr Wohlthat. These meetings produced certain suggestions from the German authorities, and it is hoped that the discussions will soon be resumed between Mr. Pell, the American Vice-Director of the Committee, and the German Government. If we can only get the Reich Government to agree to allow these people to come out over a period of five years and, the principal thing, to take out a portion of their wealth with them—the figure mentioned or suggested by the German Government has been 25 per cent. —
§ Earl Winterton
Not necessarily. This is a technical question, but the sugges- 3082 tion is for an equivalent of 25 per cent. of the Jewish wealth. Even when that has been done the main question is, Where are these people to go? I shall devote the remainder of my speech to this point. It is best to be entirely frank and to mention something which is unhappily pervasive and hampers the work of the Committee and of all refugee work. It is the sub-current of anti-Semitism or anti-alienism which exists in many countries. So far as it is based on absurd prejudices and an almost pathological credulity concerning the alleged evils done by the Jews, or is instigated by certain organisations, one of which exists in this country, it is a wholly cruel and evil thing. But some of it proceeds from genuine apprehension. It is thought in more than one country that refugees admitted for permanent settlement will merely enter already crowded professions or swell the existing army of retailers and middlemen. That is why I am so desperately anxious, in order to dispel these fears, to get some of these land settlement schemes actually in operation, for I believe it will be found to be the case, as in Palestine, that these Jewish refugees, if properly trained and selected, will make good primary producers.
I should like to answer one of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, who did not seem to have a single supporter in this regard, by saying that the leading Jews with whom I have discussed this question share my opinion and my keenness on the subject of land settlement generally—not land settlement in one particular country. But we must have the land first in considerable quantities in countries with sparse population and undeveloped resources. It is impossible to generalise about these land settlement schemes, but what my colleagues of the Evian Committee and I have in mind are schemes large enough to give a community feeling without producing alarm in the minds of the people of the countries settled that they are going to be swamped by immigrants. I see the hon. Gentleman assenting. I should like to thank him and others who have put suggestions before me, which shall be carefully considered. These settlements would benefit the countries with which they were effected by increasing the general volume of trade and production and by 3083 causing an inflow of capital. It is obvious that it would be impossible, on both political and economic grounds, to propose that the great bulk of these immigrants should be taken into the national life of the densely populated Western countries, but there is room for them in other parts of the world. May I give a very brief resumé of what has been done? I am saying nothing improper when I say that I have pressed, not only on the Governments of other countries but on His Majesty's Government, the extreme urgency of finding land in order to settle these people, and in this I have had every support from the Colonial Secretary. There is at present an expert mission of investigation to British Guiana, which has just finished its work. It is partly American and I should like to pay a tribute, if it is in order—I think it is— to the personal interest displayed by the President of the United States. I hope that the report of the Mission will be in the hands of the director very shortly. A mission has gone out to Northern Rhodesia, where I have considerable hope that it may be possible to bring about a settlement. The possibilities of settlement in British Nyasaland are also going to be examined by the Commission which has gone to Northern Rhodesia. Suggestions have been made about Dominica and British Honduras. They are under consideration by the Colonial Office.
§ Earl Winterton
The difficulties about Tanganyika are of a character about which I should not like to talk too much. In more than one quarter it is not thought advisable for the Jews to go there.
§ Earl Winterton
He did. The hindrance is not on the part of His Majesty's Government. An offer has been made of settlement in that country, but there is unwillingness on the part of certain Jewish organisations to consider settlement there, for very obvious reasons. It is, however, a small matter compared with the aggregate of the whole numbers. I should particularly like to mention the case of San Domingo, which has made an offer to take 100,000 settlers. I do not know why the right hon. and gallant Gentleman smiles.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
If the Noble Lord asks me why I smile, he must be very ignorant of the recent history of Dominica, where there has been a massacre of 100,000 Dominicans by Haitians.
§ Earl Winterton
Whatever views the right hon. and gallant Gentleman may hold about that, the American organisation and the American Government take a completely opposite view. At the direct request of the United States Government an expert mission has been sent there, and the preliminary reports are satisfactory. In addition to that, investigation is being made into settlement in the Philippines. I can only deplore the calamitous statement that we were inviting these people to go to malaria-ridden countries. At one time there was as much malaria in Palestine, as I know from personal experience, having had it there, as in any country of its size in the world. But that malaria is gradually being extirpated. In no case would the Committee of which I am Chairman encourage a single Jew to go to any country where he ran an undue risk from malaria. I am sure the whole House is with me in believing that these settlement schemes in different parts of the world must be investigated as quickly as possible and, if they are found to be successful, the people must be got there as quickly as possible. There must be no avaidable delay.
Although up till now I have had the assent of the House in what I have said, I am afraid that what I am now about to say will meet with less assent, but I can assure the House that, if I were not the British Government representative, but merely a member of the Evian Committee, I should take exactly the same view. The whole Evian Committee without exception is not prepared to admit the principle that they are either under a moral obligation or that it is practically possible from the point of public support in their respective countries to admit financial liability for the transfer and upkeep in the countries or for the permanent settlement of refugees. Every one of these 32 Governments is faced with unemployment difficulties. Every one of them is frightened of the possible growth of an anti-Semitic and anti-foreign feeling if it is felt that more is being done for foreigners than for their own people. There is no chance of getting an alteration in that principle.
3085 The last thing that would induce the Reich Government to be reasonable about the amount of property taken by Jews out of Germany would be for the Evian Governments to assume liability for the transfer and maintenance of these people. Of course, there has been considerable ex gratia assistance of more than one kind by several Governments, especially by the French and British Governments. That is quite a different thing from departing from the principle but you can make qualifications. A private individual helping a friend out of some financial difficulty does not thereby acknowledge an obligation to board and house him. I would ask the House not to read into what I am about to say more than I have actually said. These settlement schemes are, I submit, a great scheme of policy, for which, if it is not conceited of me to say so, I and some of my colleagues on the Evian Committee have been primarily responsible. If these schemes, which have been so earnestly advocated, are carried out in overseas countries, no doubt the question will arise of furnishing the necessary personnel and services in order to make their administration reasonably successful. Neither His Majesty's Government nor, I imagine, any other Government, would wish to prejudge the question of their participation, or the form it should take, and, therefore, while His Majesty's Government, in common with other Governments, would be prepared to consider and are considering such schemes sympathetically in certain specific individual cases, they cannot accept, as a principle, financial liability for these movements. I desire to thank hon. Members, both opposite and on this side of the House, for the way in which they have supported my committee in its work. We are perfectly ready to listen to criticisms or representations, but we intend that this work shall proceed and succeed, and none of us will spare any efforts to make it do so.
Could the Noble Lord give me an answer to the question to which I was practically promised an answer by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Question Time? It was whether the grant of £4,000,000 given to the late State of Czecho-Slovakia will be made available, not only for the emigration of refugees from Czecho-Slovakia, as originally intended, but for the maintenance of the refugees while they are 3086 in this country, in view of the fact that it is impossible for the existing Czech Refugee Committee to undertake the care of refugees who have obtained emigration unless it can get help for their temporary maintenance while they are in this country? Further, may I ask whether any of that money can also be made available for administration, as the organisation is really breaking down under the stress of overwork?
§ Earl Winterton
I am afraid that, as I have given a pledge as to the time I would take up, I cannot answer that question in extenso, but I may tell the hon. Lady shortly what has happened. It is true that, as has already been stated, it is the intention of the Government that the unexpended balance of £3,250,000 should not be regarded as withdrawn, but that, by one means or another, it should continue to be available for the purpose for which it was originally intended, namely, to provide cost of transport and landing money for Czecho-Slovak refugees when they go to their final place of settlement overseas. I regret that I cannot go any further than that.
§ Earl Winterton
I am sorry that, for reasons of time, it is not possible for me to say anything further, but I understand that the hon. Lady has already had a reply from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Earl Winterton
I am in the difficulty that another Member is now waiting to raise another subject, but if, as the hon. Member said, a promise was given, I will, with the permission of the House, add to what I have already said. The House gave authority to the Government to guarantee a loan of £6,000,000 to the Czecho-Slovak Government. The Czechoslovak State, however, has now disappeared, and, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already said, this sum cannot be regarded as available for refugees. If, therefore, money is taken for the purpose which the hon. Lady has in mind, it must be taken out of the other fund, that is to say, out of the unexpended balance of £3,250,000 which 3087 remains over from the £4,000,000, and that would thereby diminish the amount available for getting people who come out of Czecho-Slovakia settled.
§ Mr. Grenfell
I have had rather tragic letters and telegrams sent to me about the plight of certain Spanish refugees who desire to leave the country, and who, I should have thought, might be regarded as political refugees. In addition, there is an enormous number of refugees in the South of France. Could the Noble Lord promise to confer with the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and send to some of us some word of reply on this subject in the course of the next few days?
§ Earl Winterton
I am sorry that I cannot give a reply now, in view of the fact that other subjects are to be raised, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to send him a reply. I am very grateful to him for realising the situation.