HC Deb 09 February 1944 vol 396 cc1740-2
2. Mr. Lipson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the decision of President Roosevelt to appoint a War Refugee Board to frame plans and inaugurate measures for the rescue, maintenance and relief of the victims of enemy oppression and the establishment of havens of temporary refuge; and will he consider the advisability of setting up a similar board in this country to co-operate with the one in U.S.A.

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. I am informed that President Roosevelt has established a War Refugee Board, consisting of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of War. The object of the Board, stated in the President's Executive Order, is to take all measures to rescue the victims of enemy oppression who are in imminent danger of death and otherwise afford such victims all possible relief and assistance consistent with the successful prosecution of the war. This is an aid in the pursuit of which, within the same unavoidable limitations, His Majesty's Government have for some considerable time past been closely co-operating with the Government of the United States, and I am happy to take this opportunity of re-affirming His Majesty's Government's earnest desire and practical intention of associating themselves with the United States Government and with the War Refugee Board, in particular in endeavouring to carry out the aims which the President has set before it. In this country the primary responsibility for refugee questions rests with the Foreign Office which acts in close co-operation with the other Departments concerned, particularly the Home Office and the Colonial Office. As the House has already been informed, a Cabinet Committee on Refugees was set up some time ago and comprises the Ministers in charge of the Departments principally concerned. It is not considered necessary to set up any additional organisation, and in so far as international action is concerned, it is to be noted that the President's Executive Order speaks of using existing international organisations, in particular U.N.R.R.A. and the inter-Governmental Refugee Committee. This is also the policy which His Majesty's Government is fully determined to follow.

Mr. Lipson

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the machinery for this purpose, which has been set up by the Government, is, in his opinion, really as effective as that created by the President of the United States, in view of the fact that this American Board has a director with special responsibilities in the matter, who is able to get into touch wth the diplomatic representatives of foreign countries?

Mr. Eden

We think so but, of course, each country has its own particular method.

Miss Rathbone

Can the right hon. Gentleman claim that a strictly private Cabinet Committee is at all equivalent to this American Board, with its carefully defined position, its frequent access to the President and its executive director? Will he not consider appointing somebody analogous to that board?

Mr. Eden

I have considered it. The hon. Lady knows our machinery perhaps better than anyone, and knows that this War Cabinet Committee has a responsibility to the Foreign Office. We think that, on the whole, that is the best way.