HL Deb 01 August 1890 vol 347 cc1526-7

in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is true that an edict has been issued in Russia forbidding Jews to hold or farm land; and, if so, whether Her Majesty's-Government will take measures to prevent a wholesale invasion of Great Britain by Jewish Russian paupers, said: My Lords, in accordance with the notice which I gave yesterday, I hope Her Majesty's Government will be able to inform the House whether there is any truth in the somewhat sensational statements which have appeared in the public Press in reference to an Imperial edict which has been promulgated in Russia against the Jews. If true, 1,000,000 of people will be reduced to the condition of paupers and will be obliged to leave the country, and I should be glad to know whether in that case Her Majesty's Government will take such steps as will prevent a pauper invasion of this country, which would tend to the serious detriment of our working classes and lead to an increase of the rates. One can hardly believe that in Europe at the latter end of the 19th Century it is possible we should hear of wholesale religious persecutions. It is hardly possible to think that in these days we are going to hear of repetitions of the dreadful persecutions which took place in the Middle Ages or the dragonnades of Louis XIV. It is a cardinal axiom of British jurisprudence that every man should be considered innocent until he is proved guilty, and, therefore, we are bound to believe, until otherwise informed, that the Government of Russia has not issued any.; such barbarous edict as that to which I refer; but I am perfectly confident that if any such edict has been issued, Her Majesty's Government will use their best efforts to prevent the working classes of this country being overwhelmed by an influx of pauper labour, for I think, however much we must sympathise with these unfortunate victims of persecution, if this should turn out to be true, it is a bounden duty to think first of those at home. I feel confident that, in the first place, Her Majesty's Government would find means to convey to the Russian Government an intimation of the feeling of indignation which must spread through the length and breadth of the country if these statements are true.


Her Majesty's Government have no in formation whatever in confirmation of the statements to which the noble Lord has referred, and we have no ground for thinking that the emigrants to whom the noble Lord refers would come to this country. I will not enter into the economic question which the noble Lord has raised until we have some ground for believing that it will be so.