HC Deb 10 June 1947 vol 438 cc875-82
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

On Thursday last my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council undertook that the Government would consider whether a full statement could usefully be made on the removal to the British zone of Germany of some members of the Polish Armed Forces who are unwilling either to return to Poland or to join the Resettlement Corps. As the responsibility for deportation orders rests on the Home Secretary, and as it appeared that there were various misapprehensions about the Home Secretary's powers, it is appropriate that T should make this statement.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) stated that a deportation order to send a man to a particular country cannot be made without the man's consent unless it is his own country "[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th June, 1947; Vol. 438, c. 387.] The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) suggested that a deportation order could not be made without the authority of a court. Both these suggestions are mistaken. As regards aliens who are convicted of offences, the Aliens Order, 1920, made tinder the Aliens Restriction Acts, 1914, and 1919, provides that the court may recommend deportation, but the decision whether -or not to give effect to such recommendation has to be taken by the Home Secretary. Moreover, deportation is not limited to cases where aliens are convicted of offences. The Aliens Order places on the Home Secretary a general responsibility to make a deportation order against an alien in any case where he "deems it to be conducive to the public good." Therefore, the responsibility for making a deportation order is fairly and squarely that of the Home Secretary alone. He need not accept the recommendation of the court and he is empowered to make an order when no court makes a recommendation if he "deems it to be conducive to the public good."

The effect of a deportation order is expulsion from the United Kingdom, and before an alien can be expelled from the United Kingdom, there is a practical necessity of ascertaining that some other country is prepared to admit him. If some country is prepared to admit him, the alien can be placed on a ship sailing to that country, and whether the alien is or is not a national of that country there is no requirement in law that his prior consent must be obtained. The Poles in question have been given the option of returning to Poland. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has repeatedly indicated, His Majesty's Government are anxious to give the fullest facilities for Poles to return to their own country and to aid in the reconstruction of that country, but it is not the policy of the Government to force them to return to Poland against their will.

It would, however, be entirely wrong to allow members of the Polish Forces to think that because they are unwilling to return to Poland they can continue indefinitely to be paid and maintained in this country as members of those Forces. The process of demobilising the Polish Forces cannot be held up, and the alternative offered to those members who are unwilling to return to Poland is that they should join the Resettlement Corps, with a view either to being found suitable employments in this country or to emigrating if they prefer and can find, or be found, opportunities for settlement overseas. If a man will not accept either of these offers, His Majesty's Government cannot be expected to retain any responsibility for him or to allow him to remain in this country, and, as I pointed out in the discussion on the Polish Resettlement Bill, the only possible course is to send such a man elsewhere and to make it clear to him that he can no longer look to us for help.

Accordingly, by arrangements made with the Control authorities in Germany the 105 men to whom the Secretary of State for War referred were taken to a demobilisation camp in the British zone, demobilised from the Polish Armed Forces, provided with civilian clothes, given a small sum of money, and told that they can expect no further help from the British authorities.

Out of some 136,000 men who have so far been offered the alternatives of return to Poland or enrolment in the Resettlement Corps, about 5,000, or 3.7 per cent. of the total, have so far failed to accept one or other of the alternatives. As regards many of the 5,000, it may be that their failure is still due to misapprehensions which every effort is being made to remove, and it is expected that if it is brought home to them that there can be no further delay, the great majority of them will make their choice. The recent announcement of the Polish Government to the effect that those who enlist in the Corps may still return to Poland, should remove the last excuse for reluctance to rejoin the Corps on the part of those who are still not sure whether they will wish at a later date to go back to their own country. No greater disservice can be done to those men who are still hesitating than to encourage them to think that there is still room for further procrastination.

Professor Savory

Would it not be possible to send to these camps to talk to these men, the Under-Secretary, with his engaging smile and charming manners, to put the case before them with all simplicity, because there is misundertanding, as I see from the innumerable letters I receive every day?

Mr. Ede

Various people have gone from time to time to these camps The problem is that a great many of the men cannot understand English, and that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary cannot speak Polish.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

May I ask my right hon. Friend three Questions? First, whether he is aware that I am interested chiefly in the application of these powers not to members of the Polish Armed Forces, but to stateless and other persons of long residence in this country? Secondly, whether he claims as Home Secretary that he has the right to deport aliens to a particular country without their consent, that country not being their own? Thirdly, whether he claims that the British Control Commission controlling the British zone in Germany, which, after all, is under the control of, and responsible to, the Foreign Secretary of this country, is really a foreign Government in the sense of this deportation Order?

Mr. Ede

So far as the first question is concerned, I am well aware that my hon. Friend takes a very close interest in this subject over a very wide field, and he has on occasion been of assistance to me in representations which he has made with regard to particular individuals. As regards the second question, I claim that I have the right to deport an alien if I am acting within the terms of the Aliens Order, 1920, whether that alien consents or not, to any country which is willing to accept him.

Mr. S. Silverman

A particular country?

Mr. Ede

I think that I have answered the question which the hon. Member put to me. As regards the third question, the British Control Commission is the body which has the right to say who shall and who shall not enter Germany at the present time. When I get their consent to the admission of these aliens, I consider that I am within the powers granted to me by Parliament in sending the aliens there.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will the Home Secretary clear up one matter which the Secretary of State for War would not deal with last week, in reference to the 105 men who have already been sent to Germany? Are these men entitled now to proceed to any other country which will take them, or must they stay in Germany for the rest of their natural lives?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. They are at liberty, so far as we are concerned, to proceed to any other country into which they can gain entry,

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Has the Home Secretary fully considered the unwisdom of letting loose in Germany in present conditions these obviously disgruntled men?

Mr. Ede

I have to consider how I am to maintain discipline in these forces when all other sanctions have vanished. I am glad to say that 23 of these men, when they actually saw the deportation order, said, "Very well, we will now make up our minds." I am hopeful that that example will be followed by a large number of others, now that they know we intend to carry out the pledges which I gave to this House when I asked it to give me the Polish Resettlement Bill.

Major Legge-Bourke

Can the Home Secretary give an assurance to the House that before the 105 men were deported it was made clear to them that, if they refused to become members of the Polish Resettlement Corps or, alternatively, refused to go to Poland, they would be deported?

Mr. Ede

Yes, Sir. It was made quite clear to them, and all these men have had a very long time in which to make up their minds—as long as nine months in some cases—and I hope that it will be in the recollection of the House that the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson), as long ago as February last, read out the form in which this issue is presented to the men.

Mr. Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that each one of them understands that the Resettlement Corps is neither a military nor a quasi-military organisation, because letters coming in dearly show that they do not know? Secondly, with regard to the Home Secretary's right to deport people against their will to a particular country, does he still maintain that he has that right if the person concerned has reasonable cause to believe, though quite unfairly, he or she will be put to death on arrival?

Mr. Ede

With regard to the second part of the question, I have maintained the policy, if representation is made to me that the person I propose to deport will be persecuted for either religious or political reasons, of declining to deport that person, and I am at the present time maintaining in this country some notorious criminals because they suggest that their political or religious views, if any, will not be acceptable in their native country. As regards the first part of the question, every effort has been made to bring home to these men that this is not a military or quasi-military organisation. But I want to be frank with the House. I sometimes fear, as I said in answer to a supplementary question by the hon. Member for Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory), that on occasion our wishes are not accurately conveyed to the Polish speaking members of this Force, and I am considering ways and means whereby I can be sure that they shall be made fully aware of the exact conditions in their own language.

Major Tufton Beamish

Will the Home Secretary say under what considerations he was acting in selecting these 105 men, from the 5,000, for deportation?

Mr. Ede

I did not select them. The Secretary of State for War, who is responsible for the Polish Resettlement Corps, brought to my notice the names of a certain number of people. I carefully examined their records and what they had done, and where I deemed the cases to be suitable I made a deportation order. The effect of that, in some cases, was, as I have said, they then made their election between the two alternatives we proposed to them.

Mr. H. Hynd

In view of the fact that all previous pledges on these matters have been very fairly fulfilled by the generous conditions of the Polish Resettlement Corps, would it not now be desirable give them a clear alternative of joining the Resettlement Corps or going back to Poland; and in view of the feeling that has been aroused in Poland on this matter, would it not also be desirable for the Government to consult with the Polish Government on this matter?

Mr. Ede

That alternative has been very clearly put to these people. I can only hope that what has happened just recently will make these men feel that this country is serious in this matter, after the very generous treatment that has been extended to them.

Captain Crookshank

Can the Home Secretary say at what stage, if any, these men were told that they were likely to be sent to Germany, in view of the obvious repugnance of us all that anyone should be deported to that country against whom they fought?

Mr. Ede

When the deportation orders were read to them they were then told to which country they were going.

Mr. Janner

Is the Home Secretary aware that in some of these cases his colleague the Secretary of State for War has informed individuals that they will be allowed to emigrate to another country, and told that this would take place early this year; and is he prepared in those cases to refrain from taking any further steps to have them deported?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. There may be special cases which may be the subject of some special consideration, but, generally speaking, the way for a member of the Polish forces to emigrate is for him to join the Resettlement Corps, and he will then be given every facility to get into touch with the country to which he desires to go.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in the cases of the men deported, they still retain their old Polish passports, or are they considered stateless persons?

Mr. Ede

I would like notice of that Question.

Mr. S. Silverman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his answer to my second Question about the extent of his powers goes far beyond what has been claimed en his behalf in the courts by the Law Officers of the Crown; and whether he appreciates that, if he abides by that, it is within his power, without the intervention of any court or any power of control, to deport anybody of any nationality of any citizenship or of no citizenship at all to Germany, merely by reason of the fact not that there is an independent Government there ready to take them, but because he can make arrangements with another Department to send them.

Mr. Ede

I prefer not to discuss this matter on the basis of hypothesis, but on the issue of practical cases of individuals whose fate may be concerned.

Mr. Wilson Harris

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the general satisfaction at his clear and common-sense handling of this question?

Mrs. Leah Manning

In view of the fact that many of these difficulties arise through the misrepresentations by officers of this Corps, and particularly highly placed officers, would it not be well to accept the well intentioned suggestion of the hon. Member for Queen's University (Professor Savory)? There are many good reliable interpreters who could be used for this purpose and we desire above everything else that the position should be made abundantly clear to these men.

Mr. Ede

My trouble is that this question is bedevilled by the extremists on both sides, and I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, who has heard the questions and answers on this subject, will realise that it is the desire of the House that effective steps should be taken to make these people acquainted with this problem in their own language by reliable speakers of their own race.

Major Legge-Bourke

I should like to ask one other question, which is about the British Control Commission. Can the Home Secretary give us an assurance that, before these men were deported, it was understood that they would not just be thrown upon the distressed population of Germany, that there would be a job for them, and that they were serving some useful purpose in Germany?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir, I could not say that any negotiations went as far as that.

Sir A. Salter

There is just one question on administrative detail which I should like to ask. When these men knew definitely that they were being deported, did they still know that they had a chance to choose the Polish Resettlement Corps?

Mr. Ede

Yes, Sir. Up to the moment when they are actually placed on the ship any man can say, "I will now choose either A or B of the alternatives which are offered."

Major Beamish

On a point of Order. As there still seem to be some aspects of this matter which are not entirely satisfactory, I beg to give notice that I still hope to raise it on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.