HC Deb 13 December 1956 vol 562 cc610-4
28. Mr. Remnant

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps are being taken to ensure that Communist agents do not enter this country under the guise of Hungarian refugees.

Major Lloyd-George

When the decision was taken, on 23rd November, to dispense with individual interviews with Hungarian refugees before admitting them to this country, it was realised that this involved certain risks, but these risks were deliberately accepted in order to give help as quickly as possible to the refugees and to the Austrian Government. It would not be in the public interest to give details of security arrangements but I can assure my hon. Friend that the point he makes has not been overlooked.

Mr. Remnant

Whilst thanking my right hon. and gallant Friend for that Answer, and whilst it is highly desirable that the genuine refugees should get through as quickly as possible, may I ask if he is aware that it is equally highly desirable that the others should not come in?

Major Lloyd-George

It is also important, in view of the condition of many of these people, that nothing should be said which would tend to exaggerate their fears and suspicions, and that they should realise that they have at last got into a free country.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Would the Home Secretary not agree that it is very difficult to define Communists in relation to Hungary? Would he not agree that some of the strongest opponents of the Kadar Government are Communists, that there are Tito Communists, Gomulka Communists and Hungarian Communists, and that it would be grossly unfair to regard these as enemy agents?

33. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will withdraw his ban on the admission of Hungarian refugees and ask the local authorities' Civil Defence services and the Women's Voluntary Services to give their full support to caring for the Hungarian refugees, so that the billeting and resettlement of these refugees may be speeded up.

Major Lloyd-George

I have described the suspension as temporary but I regret that it is not possible for me today to make any definite statement as to the future. At the moment it is necessary to concentrate on settling in employment and private accommodation the refugees who are now in hostels.

The Women's Voluntary Services are already dealing, on behalf of the British Council for Aid to Refugees, with the many generous offers of accommodation in private households which have been received, and as a result of discussions which my officers have had with the representatives of the local authorities' associations arrangements are being worked out to facilitate co-operation between the local authorities, the voluntary bodies and the Ministry of Labour, which is helping to place the refugees in employment. I have been assured of the full support of the local authorities in this work.

Mr. de Freitas

I am sure that the House is very glad to hear that, but will the Home Secretary do everything he can to ascertain when he can lift the ban? Although we as a country have done very well in receiving refugees, surely we could speed up the work if we brought in the Civil Defence service? Is it not a fact that many of the refugees who have come here are in transit for overseas?

Major Lloyd-George

One of the difficulties—it was a peculiar one at the time—was that some of the barracks which wore being used were wanted for the Services, and that created something of a bottleneck. That matter is now being looked at.

Sir J. Hutchison

In view of the generous undertaking by this country to receive these refugees without limit, an undertaking which has now had to be reviewed, and in view of the great financial burden which is falling upon Austria in that she is receiving almost unlimited numbers of these individuals, will my right hon. and gallant Friend consult his right hon. Friends as to whether financial aid can be given to Austria in lieu of our taking the refugees who would otherwise have been received in this country?

Major Lloyd-George

I will certainly look at that point. I would remind my hon. Friend that we first decided to limit to 2,500 the number of refugees that we would take, and it was because of a request which came from Austria that we removed the ceiling.

Mr. Younger

I appreciate what the Home Secretary has done and is doing in the matter, but does it not put the matter into fair perspective to point out that a few days ago Austria, which is a much smaller country than ours, was housing about ten times the number of refugees that we have so far? Does not the tremendous urgency of the situation in Austria have a bearing on the sort of sacrifice that we should try to make?

Major Lloyd-George

As the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, we are only too anxious to do what we can in the matter. I do not think that the country need be ashamed of what we have done up to date. This trouble is a purely mechanical one, and I cannot go any further until it has been cleared out of the way. I shall give the House further information as soon as I can.

Mr. Holt

Am I right in thinking that the Home Secretary's reference to local authorities is an advance on the statement which he made in a Written Answer to a Question last Thursday? If so, will he give wide publicity to it and encourage people who wish to help to send their offers to the local authorities and so prevent some of the bottlenecks which are occurring because they are sending their offers of help to the Refugee Council in London?

Major Lloyd-George

Yes, Sir. The hon. Gentleman kindly came to see me some time last week, and one or two suggestions that he made were followed up immediately. I think he will realise from my Answer that we are in very close touch with the local authorities. I believe the situation there will be satisfactory.

35. Major Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Hungarian refugees have now arrived in this country since the recent Hungarian rising; what facilities exist to enable all who do not wish to become residents in this country to emigrate to the country of their choice provided it is willing to receive them; and if he is satisfied with these arrangements.

Major Lloyd-George

The Answer to the first part of the Question is about 11,000. As regards the remainder, I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that urgent consideration is being given to the question of facilitating the emigration from this country of those refugees who want to go to countries which are willing to receive them. I will make a further statement as soon as I am in a position to do so.

Major Beamish

Does not my right hon. and gallant Friend's reply show that no other country has acted so generously Or so promptly? [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Austria?"]At the same time, is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that the fact that this country does not belong to the Inter-Governmental Committee on European Migration creates considerable difficulties as regards refugees who want to go to countries other than the British Dominions? Is there not a very strong case indeed for this country to join the main international agency handling this problem?

Major Lloyd-George

I will certainly look at the point. While we all appreciate that this country has done very well, we must always remember that the Commonwealth has been extremely generous in making offers to any of the refugees who want to go to Commonwealth countries.

Mr. Paget

Does our effort to accept Hungarian refugees cover desertions from the Russian Army, which are said to have been on a large scale? If so, what proportion of the refugees are deserters from the Russian Army who took the side of the Hungarian people against their Government?

Major Lloyd-George

I cannot answer that question. As the hon. and learned Gentleman would have realised if he had listened to my Answer to Question No. 28, we suspended the questioning which normally takes place of immigrants into this country. Therefore, the 11,000 refugees who came in simply came in. I dare say that in time the answer to that question will become known.

Mr. de Freitas

In view of the Answers given by the Home Secretary to the Oues- tions relating to Hungarian refugees, I beg to give notice that I shall try to raise the matter on the Adjournment.