HC Deb 18 October 1945 vol 414 cc1340-3
7. Miss Rathbone

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications have been received by his Department since the end of the German war on behalf of persons liberated from concentration camps whose relatives in this country desire to receive them into their homes and maintain them; how many of these applications have been granted; how many refused; and how many still await decision; and, in view of the humane considerations involved, will he make a declaration of policy in this matter and expedite decisions on the applications still pending.

31. Mr. Sydney Silverman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications in the last six months have been received in his Department to permit survivors of Nazi horror camps to join their relatives in this country; in how many such applications the relatives in this country are their only relatives left alive; and how many such applications have been granted.

Mr. Ede

Parties of children from concentration camps totalling over 300 have been brought here under a scheme organised by the Central Office for Refugees with my predecessor's approval. It has, however, proved impracticable to keep separate statistics of the large number of individual applications of this type, and I regret, therefore, that the figures asked for are not available. Owing to transport difficulties there is of course no guarantee that a person who is promised a visa will in fact be able to travel to this country. I hope to be in a position to make a statement of policy at an early date.

Miss Rathbone

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these unhappy people are the sole survivors, except for their relatives in this country, of large families, the others having died in concentration camps, and that their relatives have been waiting for a long time to be re-united with their spouses, parents, children or whoever they may be? In view of the cruel anxiety they are undergoing, would the right hon. Gentleman not do more about it, as the numbers involved are not very great?

Mr. Ede

I could not accept the last sentence which the hon. Lady uttered. Every one's heart must be affected by the kind of stories that I receive. I can assure her that I have tried to carry out the policy that was initiated by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council of giving as much sympathetic consideration to these cases as possible, but even when consent is given, the problem of transport seems to be almost insuperable.

Mr. Silverman

Does my right hon. Friend realise that his original answer has not very much relevance to the Question? Is it not the case that the children who were received here, and to whom he has referred, have nothing to do with the case which was put to him of that small number of individuals who have surviving relatives living in comfort in this country and anxious to take them into their homes? Is my right hon. Friend not aware that no such applications have been granted, although the Lord President of the Council when he was Home Secretary promised that sympathetic consideration would be given to every one of them, and that no rule against the admission of aliens would be allowed to operate against applications of that kind?

Mr. Ede

My hon. Friend is not accurate. There havė been a few, and I regret that the number is few. The transport difficulty is very great indeed, but I am giving this matter my very closest attention. I hope to be able to make a statement of policy which will be rather more reassuring to the House than anything I am able to say to-day.

Mr. Piratin

While appreciating that my right hon. Friend has the utmost sympathy with these people, may I ask him whether it is not the fact that I have brought a number of cases to his notice, that I have been promised for six weeks that the matter will be given immediate attention, and that once, in answer to a question put by an hon. Lady Member he gave the same kind of answer? Could we not have some more urgency in this most urgent matter?

Mr. Maxton

With reference to the transport problem, is it not the case that when military operations were under consideration, large numbers of men and munitions were transferred to Germany in a week? How was the transport difficulty solved so easily then if it is now insuperable when it applies to only a few children and civilians?

Mr. Silverman

When my right hon. Friend is answering that question, will he at the same time answer this further question: If the difficulty is transport, why is it that the letters of refusal over his signature which we are all getting, make no reference to transport, and say that the reason these people are not admitted is because, as there are so many heart-breaking cases, it is impossible to discriminate among them, and therefore we keep them all out?

Mr. Ede

I do not think that is a fair paraphrase of the letters which my hon. Friend and others have received. After all, one has to face the fact that the general transport system in Germany and in some other countries between here and Germany, has broken down very considerably. I do want to assure the House that I am giving this matter my most earnest consideration, and I hope to be able to make a statement of policy at a very early date.

35. Major Symonds

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will grant permission to enter this country to those. children and aged persons, released from German concentration camps, whose only surviving relatives are in this country and where the latter are prepared to accommodate them and provide for them at no expense to the State.

Mr. Ede

I hope to be in a position to make a general statement at an early date on the whole question of the admission of distressed relatives, but I can assure my hon. Friend that I view the cases of the very young and the very old with especial sympathy.

Mr. Janner

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the mental and physical strain upon these people, he will deal with this matter speedily?

Mr. Ede

I am well aware of the strain to which the hon. Gentleman alludes and I will do my very utmost to end it as soon as possible.