HC Deb 07 March 1957 vol 566 cc510-3
12. Mr. A. Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what provision he is making from central funds to reimburse the National Coal Board for expenses incurred by the Board on behalf of Hungarian refugees lodged at miners' hostels.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

I understand that the National Coal Board, at the request of the British Council for Aid to Refugees, accommodated a number of Hungarian refugees in its hostels at an agreed charge. The accounts are being met by the Council, and no question of payment from public funds has arisen.

Mr. Roberts

Does the hon. Lady realise that a very small percentage of these Hungarian refugees will go into the mines? Does she not agree that it is very unfair that the financial burden should fall upon the National Coal Board?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

The hon. Gentleman is confusing two issues. There were refugees taken into hostels at the request of the B.C.A.R. Quite distinctly from that, the National Coal Board sent its own recruiting mission to Austria deliberately to choose people who could be trained for the mines. These persons, who have been recruited in Austria by the National Coal Board and brought to this country under its aegis, are in training and are being paid trainee allowances, from which are being deducted their hostel charges. That is entirely a matter which has been conducted by the National Coal Board.

19. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to ensure that, in future, Hungarian refugees in Austria who wish to come to this country are correctly informed about the prospects of their being able to secure immediate passages to Canada and the United States of America.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

Our immigration officers who are now dealing with the Hungarian refugees in Austria have been instructed to accept for admission to the United Kingdom only those who wish to settle here permanently. Each refugee is being given a brief written statement, in Hungarian, in this sense. These arrangements have been operating since the admission of refugees was resumed in January.

Mr. Fisher

Though at first many refugees were told that they could use this country as a sort of transit camp and go on immediately to Canada, which caused difficulties when they found that they could not, is my hon. Friend aware that her reassurances about the future will be immensely welcomed?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

My hon. Friend will be aware that, in the early and speedy arrangements that had to be made, many of the refugees in Austria were no doubt misled into thinking that in coming to England they would be only in transit for Canada or America. We are now individually interviewing refugees in Austria, and there is no fear of that misunderstanding arising again.

20. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied that the security screening of Hungarian interpreters is adequate and that they correctly interpret the Government's policy for the refugees; and if he will make a statement.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

The recruitment of interpreters for employment in connection with the Hungarian refugees is now carried out by the Ministry of Labour and National Service with the help of the Home Office. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the arrangements are adequate to exclude unsuitable persons. It is no part of the function of the interpreter to explain Government policy to the refugees.

Mr. Fisher

Would not my hon. Friend agree that in the early days, at any rate, there were instances of interpreters with Communist leanings who actually advised refugees not to accept work in the coal mines here because, they said, it would be equivalent to slave labour and like a concentration camp? I have heard of cases. Have these misleading statements now been corrected?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

If my hon. Friend has evidence of any case, we shall be only too ready to look into it. It must be realised that Hungarian is not a very common language for people in this country. In the very early days use had not unnaturally to be made of some of the refugees who spoke English, and there were one or two cases in which, perhaps, the authorities were not altogether satisfied with the translations. We have done our best to find and provide reliable interpreters.

Mr. D. Jones

Is there anyone in the Government who can interpret Government policy?