HC Deb 16 October 1941 vol 374 cc1480-2
31. Miss Eleanor Rathbone

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the fact that misapprehension still exists in Australia as to the quality of the aliens sent there for internment, the Australian public apparently believing them to be dangerous characters, he will make a statement calculated to remove this misapprehension and to explain the real facts?

Mr. H. Morrison

Some 2,500 internees were sent to Australia, of whom about 400 were persons detained on security-grounds, while the remaining 2,100 were Germans and Austrians who had been classified in categories "B" and "C" and were interned as a precautionary measure, in pursuance of the general policy of internment which was adopted in the summer of 1940. I have frequently explained in this House that the fact that a person was interned in pursuance of this general policy and not on security grounds personal to himself was not intended to make, and does not in fact make, any reflection on his reliability or reputation. The circumstances in which His Majesty's Government sent to Australia internees who could not be regarded as dangerous from the security point of view were explained to the Government in that Dominion more than a year ago, but if amongst members of the general public in Australia there is still misapprehension as to the character of the internees, I hope that this answer may help to remove it.

Mr. Mander

Have not the Australian Government expressed willingness for these internees to join the Australian Army?

Mr. Morrison

I was not aware of that, but it may be so.

Mr. Mander

If that is so, why is permission still being refused?

32. Miss Rathbone

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the small proportion of aliens interned in Australia on behalf of His Majesty's Government, who have been authorised for release, as compared with the much greater proportion of men of similar quality who have been released from internment within the United Kingdom and are now usefully employed, he will take steps to speed up the release of reliable Australian internees and their return to this country, unless the Australian Government is willing to find a use for them out there?

Mr. Morrison

I fully sympathise with the object which my hon. Friend has in view, and I realise that many of the aliens who were included in the party sent to Australia are at a disadvantage as compared with aliens who were interned in this country and have subsequently been released. It is not possible—owing to practical difficulties—to arrange releases from Australia so freely as releases from the Isle of Man, and the proportion of applications for release is naturally smaller owing to the prospect of the long sea voyage. There is, however, no delay on the part of my Department in dealing with applications from Australia, and every- thing which I can properly do to mitigate the difficulties will be done.

Miss Rathbone

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a large number of these men are of high quality in every way, and that it is a waste that they should be kept in internment? Possibly the Australian Government might go a little further, if they could be used there.

Mr. Morrison

That would be a proper question for the Parliament of Australia. I would not like to give an answer to it.

Mr. Wedgwood

Is it not possible that if the Australian Government were approached by the right hon. Gentleman, they would be willing to accept these people for liberation in Australia, where they could be used?

Mr. Morrison

Naturally, there was a clear understanding that the immigration policy of the Australian Government was their business, and I do not feel it is possible for me to intervene in the way suggested.

Mr. Sorensen

Had the internees who were released certain facilities in Australia before they departed for this country?

Mr. Mander

May we take it that no objection is raised from this side?

Mr. Morrison

I do not think that I ought to add to the answer which I have given.

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