HC Deb 08 June 1944 vol 400 cc1494-5
28. Mr. Vernon Bartlett

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will ensure that all Austrian or German refugees now serving in His Majesty's Forces will automatically be granted British nationality if they are drafted for military service overseas.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

If the hon. Member's suggestion is prompted by a belief that the acquirement of British nationality would afford some protection to such a person should he fall into the hands of the enemy, this is a mistake. Such protection as is afforded by the Prisoners of War Convention applies to any member of the Armed Forces whatever may be his nationality. Should the enemy, in spite of the Convention, seek to differentiate against such a prisoner, the fact that he had accepted British nationality, so far from being advantageous to him, would, in the eyes of the enemy, aggravate his offence. There is no ground on which I should be justified in selecting for automatic naturalisation those to whom the Question refers out of the numerous classes of aliens who are assisting the war effort.

Mr. Bartlett

Is it not at least probable that these men would fight still better if the threat were removed from them that, as soon as they were discharged from the Forces, they would have to revert to the status of aliens?

Mr. Morrison

I do not know, but I really cannot see any reasonable ground why there should be automatic naturalisation in these cases; the question of naturalisation must be carefully considered in each case.

Sir H. Williams

Do I understand from the answer that if a British national is serving in the German army and is taken prisoner, he is not guilty of treason?

Mr. Morrison

I think my hon. Friend is on a point there, and it is a point which, no doubt, would be exploited by the enemy in cases of this kind.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman look further into this matter, and find out whether it is not the case that the United States of America grant naturalisation automatically on the entry of an alien into their Forces?

Mr. Morrison

I do not know whether that is so or not. I am the British Home Secretary responsible to the British Parliament; I must act in accordance with what I conceive to be British interests.

Mr. Price

Would it not be better if these men were encouraged to return to Germany after the war to help to civilise their country?