HC Deb 07 August 1941 vol 373 cc2225-8
Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I would like to begin by apologising to the House for making it necessary for hon. Members to stay here until the bitter end of what has already been a long and busy Session, but something occurred this morning about which I wish to raise a question, and if it is to be replied to at all, it can only be replied to now. It would not be possible to drag it over the Recess and begin again next Session. I hope that that course will not be necessary. I gave notice to the Home Secre- tary that I proposed to raise it, and I regret very much to find that he has not been able to be present. I am ready to believe that he has a more important, or probably a prior, engagement which has prevented him from being here. What is in question is not merely the policy of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, but his own answer in this House to-day. I am bound to suggest that the answer which he gave was misleading, and it is difficult to believe that the right hon. Gentleman did not appreciate how misleading it might be. For that reason I regret very much that he is not here to explain exactly what he meant. However, perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will be able to do so for him, and perhaps we may, as a result of this discussion, clear up the position once and for all, so that the House may make up its mind whether the position is right or wrong, on the basis of an accurate knowledge of the facts.

This matter arose from Questions asked by various Members last week about the conditions of internees and deportees in Canada and Australia, whose release had been authorised. It is now clear that whatever the position may have been at the time of their original detention, or when they were deported or during the time they were in the Dominion the cases having been investigated by the appropriate advisory tribunal there is now no doubt that these men ought not to be detained. On the advice of the appropriate tribunal the Home Secretary has certified that these men come within one or other of the recognised caetgories for release. It is common ground that if they were in this country they would be released. It is also common ground that it is not their fault that they are not in this country. The onus is left on the Home Office here to justify the continued detention of these people. Their release has been authorised, yet they remain in detention because of two things. One is that there is not shipping accommodation to enable them to be brought back to this country. That is a thing which may be unfortunate, but for which, I entirely recognise, no one is to blame. No one complains that the lack of shipping accommodation to bring them back is the fault of the Home Office in this country. I entirely acquit them of that. It was then asked why they should not be released where they are, in Australia or Canada, and here are the replies that the Home Secretary gave last week to that question. I am not going to trouble the House with all of them—they cover several columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT —but I will pick out two which are perfectly clear and specific. Asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth North (Mr. G. Strauss) whether he would make representations to the Government of Australia to release them in Australia, the Home Secretary replied: I cannot do that. We made a firm agreement with the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia that this was a matter for them and them alone. It touches the immigration policy of the Commonwealth Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st July, 1941; col. 1519, Vol. 373.]

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present.—

The House was adjourned till the next Sitting Day.