HC Deb 08 October 1940 vol 365 cc235-9
27. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Minister of Labour whether persons insured under the Unemployment Insurance Scheme now interned as aliens are entitled to unemployment benefit in respect of any period of their internment; and what steps should be taken to secure these benefits, especially any benefits which may be due to their dependants who may otherwise fall on public assistance?

Mr. Assheton

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the negative. The second part, therefore, does not arise.

Mr. Davies

Is not there a similar case to be made out for those aliens who are interned as against aliens who come under unemployment insurance?

Mr. Assheton

If the wives and children of interned aliens are in need they can receive payments under the scheme for the prevention of relief and distress.

29. Sir J. Lucas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now give an assurance that information about internees will not be conveyed to enemy Governments against the wish of the person concerned?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. H. Morrison)

Yes, Sir. The object of the international arrangements for exchanging information is the humanitarian one of enabling people to get news of their relatives and friends, and it would be quite contrary to the purpose of this scheme to give information about persons who do not wish such information to become available to their oppressors. Notices are being displayed in internment camps stating that information about an internee will not be conveyed to enemy Governments unless he has previously stated in writing that it is his wish that such information should be given; and forms are being provided for the convenience of those internees who wish their Government or the International Red Cross to be notified. Those internees who do not wish any information to be given about themselves need feel no apprehension that their wishes will not be respected.

Major Milner

May we take it that no such information has hitherto been supplied?

Mr. Morrison

I should require notice of that question.

Mr. Silverman

Would not the simplest way of dealing with this difficulty be to ensure that enemy aliens shall not be interned in the same camp as friendly aliens?

Mr. Morrison

I will give that point consideration.

31. Mr. Stokes

asked the Home Secretary in how many cases of persons detained under Section 18B of the Defence Regulations he has declined to follow the recommendations of the Advisory Committee; and how many of such persons are now detained in military rather than civil prisons or detention camps?

Mr. Morrison

Hitherto no case has occurred in which the Secretary of State has declined to follow the recommendations of the Advisory Committee as regards the detention of persons under Defence Regulation 18B. No such persons are detained in military prisons. They are all detained in establishments under the control of the Home Office, but, in accordance with the arrangement made at the time when the responsibility for internment camps was transferred from the War Office to the Home Office, the War Office provide the guards and commandants at such camps.

34. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that nine men from the Cheatham area of Manchester are interned, all born in the Ukraine, which was under Austrian rule at the time they left for this country; that that part of Europe has since changed to Polish and Russian in turn and that they are still regarded as Austrian subjects by his Department; and whether he will speed up their release?

Mr. Morrison

The fact that the birthplace of these men has, since they left it, become successively Polish and Russian would not necessarily result in their acquiring Polish or Russian nationality while resident in this country; but if my hon. Friend will send me particulars of the cases which he has in mind, I will certainly look into them.

37. Mr. Keeling

asked the Home Secretary whether he will arrange for the British Broadcasting Corporation's broadcasts in German and Italian to be heard by Germans and Italians who are interned?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir. I propose to arrange for this to be done, so far as practicable.

44. Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Gaetano Antonio Pacitto, a naturalised British subject, was seized by the police at his home in Hull on the night of 10th June, since when, nothing has been heard of him; that the Home Office authorities are now of the opinion, but have no documentary proof, that he was forced on board the "Arandora Star" and drowned; and under these circumstances what steps does the Government intend to take to compensate the widow and family for the loss of their breadwinner and for the agony of mind which they have suffered; and also, to rehabilitate the character of the man who is now known to have been a legal and law-abiding British citizen?

Mr. Morrison

I very much regret that by an unfortunate series of mistakes Mr. Pacitto, who was a naturalised British subject of Italian origin, was interned, on the outbreak of war with Italy, at the time when a large number of persons of Italian nationality or origin were interned. Immediately afterwards, it was decided to send to Canada a number of internees, and Mr. Pacitto was amongst those placed on board the "Arandora Star". He was not among the known survivors, and it must therefore be presumed that he lost his life when the ship was torpedoed by the enemy. The Government fully realise that no expression of regret or sympathy, and no offer of compensation, can repair the loss which the relatives have suffered. The Government deeply regret this tragic error and are prepared to pay proper compensation.

75. Mr. Glenvil Hall

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the fact that friendly aliens, refugees from Nazi oppression, evacuated to Canada, have been given the status of prisoners of war and have to correspond on paper so headed; and whether, as this is an undeserved slur on many persons loyal to the democratic cause, he will use his influence to have this practice discontinued?

Mr. Morrison

Full information has been given to the Canadian authorities about the position of these internees, and I am satisfied that the Canadian Govern- ment is fully aware of the distinction to be drawn between civilian internees and prisoners of war.

Mr. Hall

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that the Canadian Government do not draw distinctions, although they have been told the differences? Cannot he, through the proper channels, bring some pressure to bear on the Canadian Government?

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend will realise that the responsibility on the spot must be that of the Canadian Government; but I will try to find some means of drawing their attention to the point that my hon. Friend has put, and of getting it put right.

Earl Winterton

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the Canadian Government is an agent of His Majesty's Government in this matter? He is under a misapprehension when he says that the Dominion Government is the responsible authority in this matter.

Mr. Morrison

Yes, I quite appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman says, but it is the Dominion Government that must be responsible on the spot.

Mr. Silverman

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that when the Canadian Government were asked to accept these people it was on the express understanding that they were to receive only prisoners of war and dangerous enemy aliens, and that the difficulty has arisen because that undertaking was not kept?

Mr. Morrison

I appreciate that; and, as I told the hon. Member, I will see what I can do to get the matter put right.

78. Mr. Glenvil Hall

asked the Home Secretary why Mr. Paul Gottschalk, who has frequently broadcast in German for the British Broadcasting Corporation in favour of the democratic cause, has not yet been released from internment?

Mr. Morrison

This case has been referred to the tribunal appointed to consider applications for release from internment made by Germans and Austrians who claim to come within Category 19 of the White Paper.

Mr. Sorensen

How long does it take for any applicant in that category to receive an examination, and, possibly, secure release?

Mr. Morrison

I could not say without notice.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this case has been outstanding for some considerable time, and that it is time that a decision was reached?

85. Mr. Radford

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Mr. Clement Fiorini, of 18, Deyne Avenue, Rusholme, Manchester, an Italian, who had been resident in England for over 40 years, was arrested at his home, on 11th June last, and interned, first in Scotland and next at the Warth Mill, Bury, Lancashire, and that thereafter all trace of him appears to have been lost; what is the explanation of this; and what further steps he proposes to take in the matter?

Mr. Morrison

Inquiries have been made in a number of quarters, and while the information obtained is of a negative character, the presumption is that Mr. Fiorini was embarked on the "Arandora Star" and lost with that vessel. Inquiries are still being pursued, and I will let my hon. Friend know the result as soon as possible.

Mr. Radford

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, is it the fact that these men were embarked on the "Arandora Star" without any details of their names and identities, and, if so, is not this a perfectly monstrous admission?

Mr. Morrison

In reply to an earlier Question I have already expressed my regret about this matter, and I do not think that I can add to that expression in answer to this Question.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Does not my right Friend think it is time that a public inquiry, or at any rate some inquiry, was held into this shocking affair?

Mr. Radford

I beg to give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.