HC Deb 17 March 1958 vol 584 cc977-81

5.55 p.m.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I desire to raise another matter with the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. It is not that I am out of sympathy at all with the probation service. On the contrary but I am particularly interested in the question of refugees and I want to call attention to the Subhead G.2, which relates to the Anglo-Egyptian Resettlement Board.

Many refugees have come to this country. Refugees came in 1951 and again in 1956, and I would pay tribute to the work of the Resettlement Board, which has done a great deal of work in this connection. In the details which are given in page 55 I read that the additional provision is required to meet increased expenditure of the Anglo-Egyptian Resettlement Board (Registered Trustees) mainly due to the introduction of a scheme for the issue of ex-gratia loans against reckonable assets. I should like to know whether other people who have reckonable assets are being helped by this Supplementary Estimate, and how many refugees are still unsettled among those who came in 1951 and those in 1956. Is this large sum of money likely to be recurring? Shall we need a further supplementation on a large scale in the future? How are the refugees settling down? I understand that quite a large number of the refugees still find the language of this country difficult and I would like to know whether some of this money will go towards their education.

Many of the refugees are aged and may never be able to live a normal life here. I therefore suggest that some of this Supplementary Estimate might go towards providing bungalows for them, on the lines followed by the Sutton Dwellings Trust. They will then be happier if they have to live out the rest of their lives in this country. They may be over 60, 70 or even over 80, and to live a normal life in this country is difficult for them. I shall be very grateful, also, for details about the number employed, the number unemployable and about those who have as yet no idea what will be the final solution of their economic problems.

5.59 p.m.

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

I fully endorse what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers) about the very excellent work that has been done by the Anglo-Egyptian Resettlement Board, and I quite agree that, on the face of it, this does look rather a large Supplementary Estimate, amounting, as it does, to over £3 million. I shall be in order, I think, if, in a few sentences, I explain how it has come about.

There have been three phases in dealing with the expellees. In the first phase, when they started to arrive, emergency arrangements were made under the supervision of the National Assistance Board. Thereafter, various voluntary organisations took over the work to provide accommodation, and to aid their welfare work of this sort was done, in particular, by the Anglo-Egyptian Aid Society. When the problem grew to larger proportions and a considerable number of people was involved—indeed, when there were wider problems with which to deal—the Anglo-Egyptian Resettlement Board was set up, in February, 1957.

The Estimate that was put before the House last year came at the very beginning of the life of the Resettlement Board, when it was very difficult to assess what would be the needs and claims of people still arriving. That original Estimate was for £700,000, but the Board subsequently put in a revised estimate for £2,450,000. Last year, the scheme of ex-gratia claims on reckonable assets was agreed by the Government. That, in the main, is responsible for the very substantial Supplementary Estimate that we have today.

Perhaps I may say at once, in answer to my hon. Friend's inquiry, that the 1951 returnees from Egypt are covered in this Estimate only in so far as they come under the auspices of the Resettlement Board as being in need, or suffering hardship. They do not come under the Board in respect of those assets against which they have made claims, which are not, in the sense of the Estimate, reckon-able assets; and the negotiations in regard to their loss—not being physical assets, in the sense of this Supplementary Estimate—are a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. As they come under the aegis of another Department and are not covered by this Supplementary Estimate, it would be out of order for me to make further comment on that category of returnees from Egypt.

The extent to which—very largely as a result of this large Supplementary Estimate—the 1956 Anglo-Egyptian expellees have been resettled is a matter, I am sure, of very great gratification to the Anglo-Egyptian Resettlement Board, and hon. Members might like to have a few figures illustrative of what has been achieved. Altogether, 1,330 persons have emigrated, their fares to their destinations being found by the Board.

Next. 855 families, approximately 2,565 people, have been resettled in this country, leaving about 2,000 still to be resettled. Some of those are still in the hostels, and some are in other accommodation, receiving maintenance grants and aid from the Board. The number receiving domiciliary allowances to supplement their earnings, is 59, and the number receiving full maintenance allowances outside the hostels is 271. Resident now in the hostels, there remain only 990 people—about 300 families.

The aged persons to whom my hon. Friend referred are very difficult to resettle. Many of them cannot speak the language and find it particularly difficult to learn. Premises for two old people's residential clubs have been found and their purchase and preparation has been agreed, in principle, by the Board. We hope that this will make a very real contribution to their resettlement in this type of accommodation which, we believe, is most suitable to them——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that I heard the hon. Lady say just now that she would be out of order if she spoke about a certain matter, but this Supplementary Estimate is so big as to be of the same order of magnitude as the original Estimate. That being so, I would not rule it out of order to discuss policy, if the hon. Lady wished to do so.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I rather thought that I was explaining where the £3 million of the Estimate had gone to—but if you say that I am out of order——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The point is that if the sum demanded by a Supplementary Estimate is of the same order of magnitude as the original Estimate, as this is, the hon. Lady can discuss policy.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

The point with which, with respect, I though I would not be in order to deal, was that concerning the 1951 returnees, as they are a subject for the Foreign Office and not the Home Office, If I may say so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think that we are in agreement.

The number of people who have received ex gratia payments is 2,100, involving a total expenditure of £3,548,000. As for pensions, the Board was, at one time, paying pensions to 493 Anglo-Egyptian expellees, but, recently, the Egyptian Government have been paying some of those from whom they had been withholding pension. At the moment, the number being paid by the Board is 82. The remainder, as I say, are at present being paid by the Egyptian Government.

I hope, therefore, that the House will feel that excellent work has been done by the Board, and that very substantial progress has been achieved, both in helping those families to emigrate who wished to, and alternatively in resettling the refugees in this country. I can assure my hon. Friend that great care has been taken to provide for education and, in particular, to deal with any difficulty experienced by adults. I should like to take this opportunity to thank, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, the local education authorities for their very great cooperation. When there was an influx of children who, in many cases, could not speak a word of English, those authorities were most helpful and co-operative in aiding the children so that they might be assimilated quickly into the schools. In view of the size of the problem, it has been a comparatively speedy process, and we are most grateful to them.

I believe that both sides of the House will agree that this problem is being admirably dealt with by the Board, and would wish to join in our expression of thanks to them, and to its chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, who was for so long a member of this House. I hope that the House will approve the Supplementary Estimate.

Question put and agreed to.

Second Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.

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