HC Deb 24 April 1941 vol 371 cc243-5
20. Miss Eleanor Rathbone

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that great distress has been caused to interned refugees of enemy extraction by learning that although originally placed in category C or B by tribunals, they have since been reclassified, with or without rehearing by a later tribunal, in category A, a classification generally believed to imply either bad character or established hostility to the cause for which we are fighting; whether he will, therefore, state what interpretation is attached by the Home Office to classification as A, B or C, respectively; and whether he is satisfied that the tribunals and officials engaged on classification have been guided by this interpretation?

Mr. H. Morrison

A German or Austrian in category A is one who is interned, not in pursuance of the policy of general internment adopted last spring, but as a result of examination and consideration of the circumstances of his individual case, either by a tribunal, a committee, or the police, acting under the general instructions of the Secretary of State or by the Secretary of State himself. While in each case it is considered that, having regard to the available information about the alien, he cannot safely be left at liberty, the circumstances of the individual cases vary considerably, and it does not necessarily follow that an alien in category A is of bad character or has been proved to be hostile to our cause. The Germans and Austrians originally placed in categories B and C by the tribunals and Regional Advisory Committees were those whom, before the policy of general internment was adopted, it was not thought necessary to intern, although some of them have subsequently been interned on grounds personal to themselves and transferred to category A. Classification in category B meant that exemption from the special restrictions imposed on enemy aliens by the Aliens Order was not granted; classification in category C that exemption from such restrictions was granted. Generally speaking the grant of exemption depended upon whether or not the available information showed that the alien was a trustworthy and reliable person and either a refugee from Nazi oppression or a person with firm ties of association and sympathy with this country. As regards the last part of the Question I am satisfied that the general principles governing this classification were, and are, well understood by the various tribunals, committees and officials concerned.

Miss Rathbone

Will my right hon. Friend make this reply widely known to the internees? Is not the distinction between categories B and C that he has enunciated out of date, as the conditions which apply to the restriction of the movement of B category aliens also apply to C category aliens? What is the distinction in the present terms?

Mr. Morrison

I think I have stated the distinction, and it is being operated. I will consider the suggestion of the hon. Lady as to the possibility of making this known among the persons concerned.

Mr. Silverman

Are we to understand from what my right hon. Friend has said that a person who is classified as B or C can have that classification altered to A without a hearing?

Mr. Morrison

I think not; there is an opportunity of a hearing.