HC Deb 24 January 1940 vol 356 cc625-7

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

4.29 P.m.

Mr. Edmund Harvey

I wish on this Clause, which deals with the application of the balance of the gift accounts, to make a plea to the right hon. Gentleman, following upon the remarks I made yesterday, that he would in the near future issue a statement explaining what has been done already by the trustees of this gift and indicate the broad lines on which it is proposed to spend the remainder of the money. It is a large sum of money, amounting to some £3,500,000, and although the Bill provides in the following Clause for accounts to be submitted by the Treasury to the Auditor-General, there is no provision for any explanation of the way in which the gift is expended for the benefit of the refugees. This is public money and it is surely right that we should ask for a fuller explanation—without in any way casting any reflection upon the public-spirited and highly-competent gentlemen who are acting as trustees, or upon their advisory council. It is right that Parliament should know how this money is to be spent, and that through such a statement the wider public should also get that information. I would again beg that advantage should be taken of the opportunity of such a statement to enlarge as far as possible the scope of the work of this refugees trust for the benefit of refugees from Czecho-Slovakia. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury referred me yesterday to the White Paper issued on 21st July. That contains the directions given by the Home Office to the trustees. Those directions were given in circumstances very different from those which unhappily prevail to-day. All kinds of difficulties have arisen since then.

The Deputy-Chairman

I am afraid that I must interrupt the hon. Member. It seems to me that a circular from the Home Office giving directions about administration does not come under the scope of this Clause or of this Bill.

Mr. Harvey

I do not want to dispute your Ruling, Colonel Clifton Brown. I am dealing with a Clause which is concerned with the application of the balance of gifts, and it does seem to me that the application must be subject to directions of one kind or another. I will not go further into the matter, but will content myself with asking that the application of the balance may be subject to further directions which will take into account the altered situation and, if possible, make provision for other methods of helping the refugees which are not available under the existing directions. I do not want to cast any reflection upon anyone concerned; I am only asking that the fullest opportunity should be taken to review the situation and issue a statement which will make the position clear.

4.32 p.m.

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

I do not want to overstep the bounds of order and I do not think that this is either the time or place to go into a detailed explanation of the scope of the Czech Refugees Trust Fund. I would only say, in reply to the hon. Gentleman, that there is no desire on the part of the trustees to conceal in any way any of their operations. The trustees have recently appointed an advisory council, upon which parties in this House are represented, and I will convey to the trustees the desirability of making some public statement of their future policy in disposing of the surplus which will be placed in their hands as a result of the operations of this Bill.

4.33 P.m.

Mr. Woods

I should like to know whether it would be in order for the trustees to make grants towards the maintenance of refugees who are in a fighting unit. It seems to me that such a purpose would be useful, but I do not know whether it would be within the scope of their work.

Mr. Peake

The scope of the work of the trustees clearly covers the cost of maintaining refugees in this country. Some of the refugees have in fact, joined the armed forces, and I should think it would be for the trustees to exercise their discretion about giving anything in addition to the service pay which those refugees receive.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.