HC Deb 19 June 1940 vol 362 cc148-51
26. Colonel Wedgwood

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he can yet make any statement as to the possibility of sending children and mothers to Canada and the United States of America; and whether the names of those who wish to go should be sent to him for registration, together with their ability to make any financial contribution?

25. Captain McEwen

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether, in considering the question of the evacuation of children from the United Kingdom to Canada and Australia, consideration has been given to the possibility of including French children in the scheme?

The Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Shakespeare)

This and other questions relating to the same subject have been considered by the Committee mentioned in my answer yesterday to the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal proposes, with the permission of the House, to make a statement on the whole subject at the end of Questions, and I would ask the right hon. Member to await that statement.

At the end of Questions:

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Attlee)

The Inter-Departmental Committee set up to consider offers from the Dominions, the United States and elsewhere for the reception of British children overseas has presented its Report, and the Government has adopted it as a basis for approach to the Dominion Governments. The Report will be published forthwith, and copies will be available in the Vote Office this evening. An executive body to be called the Children's Overseas Reception Board will immediately be established with the necessary secretarial staff to administer the scheme in this country. The Chairman of this Board will be the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, who will answer all Questions in Parliament in connection with the operation of the scheme. He will be assisted by an Advisory Council composed of persons with experience of the problems involved. Lord Snell has consented to act as Chairman of this Advisory Council, and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions have also agreed to serve on the Advisory Council.

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are deeply grateful for the generous offers received from the Dominions and elsewhere to maintain and educate for the period of war children sent out from Great Britain. The Government consider the establishment of the necessary machinery for the operation of the scheme to be a matter of the utmost urgency. Preliminary discussions have already taken place with representatives of His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions, and I have every confidence that the consent of those Governments and complete co-operation in the scheme will be forthcoming at an early date.

Colonel Wedgwood

May I ask whether, whatever the limitations of the Dominions scheme may be, the American offer will possibly include children under five, mothers and old people, whether the American offer is to take children without any payment, and whether the American Government have now been approached by the Government as have been the Dominion Governments?

Mr. Attlee

Perhaps the right hon. and gallant Member will look at the Report first of all, to see what has been done.

Colonel Wedgwood

But the Report does not deal with America. Cannot my right hon. Friend tell me whether America has been approached?

Mr. Attlee

The Report does cover the United States as well.

Captain Sir William Brass

Will the Minister get into touch with the Fairbridge Farm Schools, which are very experienced in migrating children?

Mr. Attlee

That has already been done.

Sir F. Fremantle

Will some arrangements be made whereby those who wish to migrate their children to America and Canada, and cannot at present do so because of the exchange difficulties, although they are prepared to pay the money themselves, may be able to do so?

Mr. Attlee

That is also dealt with.

Mr. Logan

What experience of children have the people who have been appointed?

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us something about the nature of the Advisory Council? It is very important that this body should be a businesslike body with experience of the migration of children.

Sir Annesley Somerville

As the Advisory Council cannot possibly be an executive body, may I ask in whose hands the executive power will be placed?

Mr. Attlee

The executive power is in the hands of the Government, acting through the Minister. I have not yet set out all the names of the Advisory Council, because not all the appointments have yet been made. I have merely indicated certain of the appointments.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that a woman with experience of children is appointed on the Advisory Council?

Mr. Attlee

I will bring that point before my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Lindsay

I gather that an Advisory Council, of which some names have been mentioned, is to be set up, but is there also to be an overseas reception board which is to be entirely run by the Government with representatives of shipping companies and voluntary organisations and people with knowledge of the subject?

Mr. Attlee

I thought I made it clear. I gave the name of the chairman and certain members, but, of course, the Advisory Council will include people with experience of such problems. That is what I stated.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

As this is far too big a question to be discussed across the Floor of the House by question and answer, will my right hon. Friend give us an opportunity of debating the report when it is produced?

Mr. Attlee

Of course, the hon. and gallant Member can raise this question again at a proper opportunity, and doubtless he will do so when he has received the report.

Mr. Maxton

Under what Supply Vote will this come?

Mr. Attlee

The Dominions Vote.