HC Deb 31 July 1941 vol 373 cc1518-20
29. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Home Secretary whether any reports have been received from the Australian Government as to the conditions and amenities in the new camps for internees?

Mr. H. Morrison

No, Sir, but my representative in Australia, Major Layton, is in communication with the Australian authorities in the matter, and I hope to receive a report shortly.

Mr. Strauss

Can my right hon. Friend say why the new camps were set up?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid I could not, but I imagine it was a matter of local administration.

Mr. Leslie Boyce

Are not the Commonwealth Government and Parliament at least as enlightened as the Government and Parliament in this country in the management of internees? Does it not amount to an unwarrantable interference with the affairs of a self-governing Dominion to comment on their action?

Mr. Morrison

As to the first part of that supplementary question, the answer is in the affirmative. As to the second part, it is the case that these people were sent out on the initiative of the British Government, and it is right that the House of Commons should be able to query matters about them.

30. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Home Secretary whether any recent progress has been made in discussions with the Australian Government for the release in Australia of those whose release has been authorised by His Majesty's Government, but for whom no travelling facilities to this country are available?

Mr. Morrison

As I explained in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) on 24th July, this is entirely a matter for the Commonwealth Government, and there have been no discussions between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and that Government.

Mr. Strauss

While appreciating that that is so, in view of the fact that these internees would have been released if they had been in this country and that many of them are young people who could do extremely useful war work, will my right hon. Friend make representations to Australia?

Mr. Morrison

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, and it is quite inappropriate that a British Minister should interfere.

Miss Eleanor Rathbone

While I appreciate that fact, cannot my right hon. Friend represent that if these people cannot be released, they can at least be kept under less humiliating conditions? At present they are behind barbed wire and cannot see their friends unless they are accompanied by an armed guard.

Mr. Morrison

I have no doubt that that is one of the matters in the course of discussion between Major Layton and the Commonwealth Government.

38. Mr. Edmund Harvey

asked the Home Secretary whether any arrangements have been made for the continued education of the boys and youths between 16 and 19 years of age, about 400 in number, who were sent as internees to Australia in June, 1940, on the s.s. "Dunera"; and whether he will request His Majesty's Government in Australia to give favourable consideration to the release in Australia, for the duration of the war, of schoolboys and college students for the purpose of continued education?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir. Information received from the Australian authorities through the High Commissioner in London at the end of May showed that extensive educational projects had been in operation in the camp at Hay, and that action would be taken to ensure provision of the necessary educational facilities in the camps to which the internees have since been transferred. Equipment and books have been provided, partly by the Commonwealth Government and partly by a Welfare Society. As regards the question of release in Australia, I can add nothing to the Answer which I gave to the hon. Member on 24th July.

Mr. Harvey

Will my right hon. Friend consider limited release for the duration of the war as a point to be placed before the Australian Government?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir. That would touch an honourable agreement reached between the two Governments, and it would have a repercussion on the immigration policy of the Australian Government to which that Government have always attached great importance. I am sure we should run the risk of creating harmful friction if we were to seek to back out of the agreement we made with the Australian Government.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Surely, my right hon. Friend will agree that it is possible to vary an agreement. Would there be anything dishonest in that, in view of the changed circumstances?

Mr. Morrison

When the Australian Government consented to receive the refugees or detained persons, they did so on specific conditions, to which we agreed. Having made that agreement, I think we should stick to it

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