HL Deb 03 February 1915 vol 18 cc421-40

VISCOUNT GALWAY rose to move for a Return of the number of alien enemies, male and female, not including prisoners of war, who were still interned on the 27th November, 1914, and the numbers released between that date and the 1st February, 1915.

The noble Viscount said: Your Lordships will probably expect me to say a few words in moving for this Return. I have been led to do so by the fact that there is a great deal of mystery and uncertainty connected with the release of enemy aliens. We are entitled, I think, to know some of the reasons which have actuated His Majesty's Government in releasing enemy aliens who have been for some time interned. We may guess, perhaps, where the responsibility lies, but it would be more satisfactory if we knew who were the leading authors in regard to this releasing of alien enemies. I do not suppose it is the action of His Majesty's Government or of the Cabinet as a whole. It may be the spasmodic efforts of some individual. However that may be, we are entitled to know the reasons which have actuated the authorities in releasing so many alien enemies at the present time. It would be very hard for any one to say that there is any policy in this matter, because the policy seems to change every day. There is a very strong feeling in the country that the time has arrived at which somebody ought to be answerable to the country for the release of aliens. First we have been told that the Home Office is responsible; next, that the responsibility rests with the Police; and then that it rests with the military authorities. I am sure your Lordships' House is tired of this evasion, this throwing of blame first on one Department and then on another, and I can assure His Majesty's Government that the country is a great deal more tired. It is felt that some clear and definite statement should be made with regard to the policy that is being adopted in this matter.

I ask your Lordships to consider what the effect is upon the country of releasing at the present moment a large number of alien enemies. We must remember that it has been the proud boast of enemy aliens that, even though they may be naturalised, they remain German or Austrian at heart still. Should there be an invasion of this country we know quite well that these men will rush to join the invaders and offer their services as guides. We have seen how that has been done in Belgium to the great loss of that country. And there was the case of the German airship raid on Libau. The airship was brought down, and two of its crew turned out to be Germans who hail worked in Libau before the war, and were able to direct the airship from their knowledge thus gained. Is it not a risky thing for His Majesty's Government to embark on a policy—if you can call it a policy—fraught with such danger? These enemy aliens, now that they are free, will be available for signalling and for spying.

I should like to point out what has taken place on the East Coast of Yorkshire. Originally there were five coastguard stations between the town of Whitby and the town of Filey, Scarborough being about half way between the two; but in consequence of the action which was taken some years ago by His Majesty's present advisers, the whole of that coastguard system was more or less done away with. It is true that there has been some patrolling on that coast by Territorials and others, but it is generally felt that the country would be much safer if there were what one might describe as sea experts rather than landsmen doing this duty on the coast. The former would be the first to observe any suspicious movements of foreign ships, and they would be much more useful in finding out what was going on in the way of signalling. Although the noble Marquess the Leader of the House ventured the other day to doubt that there had been any signalling or spying on the East Coast, I think on inquiry he will find that there has been a great deal—


I cannot recall having made any such observation. I do not think that I ever suggested that there was a complete absence of spies on the East Coast; neither did I deny that signalling might have taken place.


I understood the noble Marquess to say so. But perhaps his remark was confined to the raid upon Scarborough.


So far as I recollect, I said I was pretty certain that the particular attack upon Scarborough was not made in consequence of any information given from the coast.


There is no doubt that a great deal of signalling and spying has gone on, and the liberation of these alien enemies is an additional danger to the country at the present time when submarine raids are taking place. I should like to call attention to another matter. One sees it stated in the newspapers—I do not know whether it is true—that some alien enemies are employed even at the docks. If that is the case, it seems to me that we are running a very grave risk indeed. There is another very significant fact of which special notice ought to be taken. I refer to the way in which alien enemies are finding employment again in various restaurants and places of entertainment in London. That is a very serious thing. There is no doubt that in some cases Police officers went to inquire of the former employers of these aliens whether they would take the men back. This could only be done by displacing British labour, and it is not at all right that that should be done. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government when they first realised that it was the correct thing for them to do to try and find work and wages for alien enemies in our midst. This seems to me an extraordinary action for the Police to have taken, and I can assure the Government that there is a strong feeling in the country that it was a very unpatriotic and wrong thing to do. What would foreign nations think of this? What, for instance, would they think in Paris of any Minister or official who endeavoured to get work for an alien enemy? I think we can imagine what the fate would be of that official or that Minister.

I really do not see why in this country, either from sentiment or other reasons, we should depart from the strict law of hostility, and why we should show favour to alien enemies over British labour. I move for this Return because I think it is necessary that everybody in England should know how many alien enemies have been released during the last two months, and how much the danger to this country has been increased in consequence. I am one of those who think that the danger has been increased very much indeed. I wonder how many of these alien enemies will be allowed to go into protected districts. I should like to have, if I may, some answer to the question as to who is giving the order for the Police to ask former employers of interned Germans whether they would take them back. I hope also that His Majesty's Government will make up their minds that somebody must really be answerable for the whole system of dealing with alien enemies. I beg to move.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for a Return of the number of alien enemies, male and female, not including prisoners of war, who were still interned on the 27th November, 1914, and the numbers released between that date and the 1st February, 1915.—(Viscount Galway.)


My Lords, I can give the noble Viscount the figures for which he asks, so perhaps it may not be necessary to have them issued in the form of a Return. The number of alien enemies, exclusive of those taken as prisoners of war in the course of the naval and military operations, who were interned in the United Kingdom on November 27 last was—Males, 18,259; women, none. No woman has ever been interned. The number released between November 27, 1914, and January 1 this year is 1,916.


I ask in my Motion for the number released between November 27 and February 1 last.


I did not until this moment notice that the figures which I have are of the numbers released up to January 1. The reason probably is that the figures up to February 1 are not yet available.


Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to supplement the figures later.


Yes. Perhaps I may now say a word with regard to the policy which has governed this. As your Lordships are aware from information previously given, there have been a considerable number of arrests made of alien enemies in this country. At first arrests were made of those who were in any way suspicious characters; but as the war proceeded alien enemies were arrested, quite irrespective of their character, because they were of a military age. That went on fairly steadily until the figures which I have given your Lordships were arrived at. It has naturally been the case that representations have been made, not only by the relations of the interned men but also by British subjects of British descent, friends and so on, that some of these men were not open to the suspicion of being in any way hostile to this country. That was bound to happen. It was inevitable that among such a number of detentions there should be some extremely hard cases. At any rate, the War Office, on whom the entire responsibility for this rests, decided that these cases should be looked into.

What has taken place is this. When the question of the release of any particular individual has been raised inquiry is made by the Police, and if the Police report does not show that the individual is either dangerous or destitute, the question of his release is considered by the Home Office and by the War Office in conjunction. The responsibility for the release of the prisoners rests with the War Office, which has a very satisfactory working arrangement with the Home Office for carrying it out. I hope that what I have said makes quite clear on whom the responsibility rests for what is done. The responsibility, as say, rests on the War Office, who are perfectly prepared to undertake it. I am answering to-day for the War Office, because it is the War Office which accepts the responsibility. The other question which the noble Viscount raised with reference to the action of the Police is a Home Office question, and if the noble Viscount would not mind repeating it on sonic, subsequent occasion we will provide him with an answer.


My Lords, I wish to say a word or two upon the statement which we have just heard. It appears that there were 18,259 alien enemies in internment camps two months ago, and that between that date and January 1 nearly 2,000 had been released—that is to say, 11 per cent, of the total number of interned aliens had been released in a little over one month. At that rate, by the end of July next there will be no interned aliens left at all. This gives cause for anxiety, especially as the public know that many of those who have been released are to-day residing in prohibited areas. It seems to me inconceivable that it is the policy of the Government first to intern these people in concentration camps, then to release them at this alarming rate, and finally to allow them to take up their residence in prohibited areas. The noble Lord says that the entire responsibility rests with the War Office. This question has been the topic of debate for six months, and this is the first occasion upon which we have been told who is responsible. We now understand that the entire responsibility is with the War Office. If that be the case, how is it that the Home Office accepts representations on behalf of interned aliens? If the entire responsibility rests with the War Office, what business has the Home Office to receive these representations?


The Home Office undertakes the work of investigating each of these cases as it comes up, and the Police make all the inquiries in each individual case. That is why in a great many cases the applications are made to the Home Office.


The noble Lord says that the Home Office accepts the responsibility for making the investigations.


I said nothing of the kind. I said that the Home Office makes the inquiries through the Police.


And accepts the responsibility for making those inquiries presumably. The Home Office therefore accepts the responsibility for recommending to the War Office the release of these prisoners.


No, no.


The noble Lord opposite, Lord Courtney, says that that is not a fair deduction from what Lord Lucas said. Let me repeat Lord Lucas's statement. The Home Office, acting through the Police, makes investigations into the claims put forward on behalf of interned aliens. Lord Courtney cannot deny that. That is literally what Lord Lucas has just told us. That being so, it is perfectly clear that the War Office does not have sole responsibility. In saying that the entire responsibility rests with the War Office Lord Lucas is incorrect on his own showing.


There is a working arrangement between the Home Office and the War Office under which one department of the Home Office works in the closest possible touch with the War Office. Inquiries are made by the Police; then a joint consideration of the case is made by the War Office and the Home Office in order that the War Office may satisfy itself entirely as to the sufficiency of the inquiries made by the Home Office; and the War Office then decides as to whether it will release the man or not. I do not want to quibble over words, but I think that my original statement that the responsibility rests with the War Office bolds good.


None of us wish to quibble over words, and the noble Lord's words are perfectly clear. What his words spell really is division of responsibility between the two Departments. There can be no doubt about it. An alien desires to have these precautionary measures released in his particular case. He thereupon applies to the Police, who carry out, the investigations under the Home Office. When the investigations have been completed the Home Office and the War Office confer, and the War Office apparently has the last word. But obviously the War Office takes action upon information supplied by the Police and collected on the responsibility of the Police. Therefore we come back to the old trouble that here are two Departments inextricably confused.


The noble Lord opposite will admit the plea when he recalls that he said there is joint, consideration by the two Departments. Therefore the entire responsibility cannot conceivably rest upon one. But at any rate there are two Departments concerned now, whereas recently there were three or four. I am convinced from communications which have reached me from every part of the country, including communications from military and naval officers of high standing who enjoy commands of great responsibility, that there is marked anxiety in the country amongst soldiers and sailors. These men, and the public as a whole, are beginning to lose patience on this subject. They learn with surprise that alien enemies are allowed to live in areas from which Belgian refugees have been dismissed—prohibited areas, in other words; and as the public, bit by bit, is getting to realise the ferocity with which British prisoners are being treated in Germany—and the public is now beginning to do so—so may the animus of the public find an outlet in hostile action towards aliens at large. I submitted this argument to your Lordships within a few days of the beginning of the war, and it was on these grounds that I then so strongly pressed the Government to take up a line of its own on the subject. However, our arguments have been disregarded and this danger remains. But you may be quite sure that unless the Government is strong on this question of enemy aliens you will have the gravest danger of a very serious and painful thing—and that is the public as a whole trying to enforce the law in circumstances where it thinks the Government is neglectful.


My Lords, I must say these discussions always make me regret that we have not got a rule in this country that Ministers of the Crown should have the right to answer questions in both Houses of Parliament. I think it is a great pity that we have not the chance to-day, on a matter like this, of asking the Home Secretary whether he would be kind enough to come here and make a statement. I have not the slightest intention or thought of joining in the attack that has been made on the Home Secretary in the Press, with which I do not sympathise in the smallest degree; I think that the Home Secretary is probably being attacked with great injustice. But I do say that a case has been made out for a somewhat different working of Government Departments with regard to this matter. I forget which noble Lord opposite it was who suggested in the early stages of the war that there ought to be a special Department for this particular purpose during the war. The Government then submitted that it was not necessary to have such a Department, because they had a satisfactory system already. They explained to us that there was the Home Office and the War Office, and I think at that time there were some other Offices—they all met together, and this practically constituted a special Department. If the working of it was satisfactory, one would accept that position. But is it satisfactory?

I saw the statement in an evening newspaper last night that two Germans had been sentenced because they were caught working at the London Docks without permission. One of them, I believe, got six months and the other three months. Those two men are, happily, out of the way for the time. But there they were—two Germans working at the docks, one of them said to be an engineer and probably a man of some sort of education or culture. The newspaper stated—and I suppose the statement was passed by the censor—that there was very important and secret work going on at the docks. In the next debate which we have on this point, if the noble Viscount opposite puts down his Question again, I think we ought to be told by the Government how those men got there. Were they Germans who had not been detected as such?—I mean, were they two unknown aliens who had escaped notice? Or had they been interned and been let out? You can often learn more by a concrete case than by any amount of theory. I should like to follow out how these two men got at the London Docks, whether they were known as Germans, whether they had been interned, and, if they had been interned, who let them out.

People are not satisfied, and if this system of acting between two Departments and a sort of Committee of Departments is not working satisfactorily, I think the Government ought to do something to strengthen it. One does not want to add to the number of Government Departments, but a Department established for only one particular purpose, and established with the limit of the war, would not be a very severe tax on the resources of the country. I think the Government might harden their hearts and be a little firmer in the case of alien enemies than they have been. My Own humble abodes happen to be in counties on the coast, and I know that all my neighbours, irrespective of Party, are most anxious that no aliens should be allowed there at all, whether they are supposed to be innocent or not; and they would like still better if the naturalised aliens could be removed as well.


My Lords, I entirely agree with what has fallen from the noble Lord opposite. I have no wish to make an attack on Mr. McKenna, or on the Law Officers of the Crown, or on anybody else. What I object to is the absence of system with regard to alien enemies. From beginning to end this question has been made a shuttlecock of different Departments, and to-day we have had confusion made worse confounded. I noticed that the noble Lord who replied for the Government was very careful not to answer the question, put with great force by the noble Viscount, with regard to the action of the Police in asking the former employers of these enemy aliens to take them back at restaurants and hotels to wait upon people and listen to any secrets that they could find out. Have the Police, with the cognisance of the Home Office, done that, or have they not? If they have not, it is high time that the statement was contradicted.


I pointed out that I was answering for the War Office and not for the Home Office, and I Stated that if the noble Viscount would repeat his question regarding the Police on a subsequent occasion, he would receive an answer.


I am very much exercised in my mind with regard to the prohibited areas. I happen, perhaps unfortunately for myself, to live upon the sea coast, and' we do not at all like the present state of affairs. The whole of the difficulty with regard to the prohibited areas commenced, not with the War Office or with the Home Office, but with the Local Government Board, in a circular sent down by them asking the relief committees to provide accommodation wherever they could, without restriction of area or nationality, in every part of Lincolnshire. I was present when the circular was read, and I immediately took strong objection to it on the part of that portion of Lincolnshire which is in the prohibited area, and on the part of Grimsby, which is also in the prohibited area. The Home Office was telegraphed to, and we were told that there had been a misunderstanding, and that the Belgians, or so-called Belgians—for I do not believe half of them were Belgians—were not to go into the prohibited areas. Bat when I pressed the question—and I am bound to say that Mr. McKenna replied to me with the greatest courtesy—he said that that was not the understanding; that the aliens who had already arrived in the prohibited area were to remain there, and that the arrangement he had come to with the President of the Local Government Board was that no more were to come in.

Let us look at that matter clearly. Either the Home Office had the power to keep them out or they had not. If they had the power to keep them out and wished to do so, which was perfectly clear from the telegram we received, they ought to have done so. The Home Secretary did not get any more power by consulting the President of the Local Government Board, because the President of the Local Government Board has no locus standi whatever under either the Act or the Orders of the Privy Council with regard to aliens. The Act specifies enemy aliens in the first instance, but provision has been made that if an emergency arises the Home Office shall consult with the War Office and the Admiralty, and, acting on their advice, may extend it to all aliens, and they can also declare any part of the county under the Defence of the Realm Act. In this case the Home Secretary did not confer with either the War Office or the Admiralty; he conferred with the Local Government Board, which has no powers whatever under the Act.

I happen to be, no doubt in consequence of my age, senior magistrate in my part of Lincolnshire, and my advice is very often asked. Consequently I feel a certain amount of responsibility in the matter. We have now a large number of committees of special constables all over the North of Lincolnshire. They have what are supposed to be secret instructions, but from the number of letters that have been written by various Lords-Lieutenant I think that those secret instructions are pretty well known by everybody. But we have nearly 200 aliens in that prohibited district; and supposing a raid took place, these men would be a great incubus to us in carrying out those secret instructions. Therefore I press this point, that it is high time that this alien question was placed under one Department. Personally I do not care very much under what Department it is placed, whether under the Home Department, with the advice of those whom Sir William Harcourt used to call his legal advisers, the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General, or whether under some other Department. But I think it is monstrous to put it under the War Office, because it is impossible that the responsible men there can look into these matters for themselves. There are a great many things being done by the War Office now with regard to recruiting and other matters which have never come under the cognisance of the responsible Minister or the responsible permanent officials. Therefore I press the point that has been raised. I also hope that we shall have a definite answer with regard to the case of the waiters, because if ever there was a monstrous case it is that of letting loose enemy aliens and trying to get Englishmen turned out from their positions in order that the aliens may be reinstated.


My Lords, I desire to say one word with regard to the large number of aliens in this country. I have been informed on very good authority that among our working classes alarming discontent has sprung up, and is likely to grow, against the further prospective employment of aliens to the serious detriment of our British workmen. If that discontent should assume still greater proportions I need scarcely say that the Government will incur very serious responsibility in allowing such a state of affairs to exist. I hope the Government will be alive to the very grave importance of this matter.


There is just one point on which I should be glad to be enlightened. With regard to the procedure that is now followed, we understand that the Home Office is charged with the investigation, and that the War Office has the decision. Where does the Admiralty come in? Surely in these cases of espionage in the coast regions the Admiralty, more perhaps than any other Department, should have a voice. I should like to know whether that is considered.


My Lords, in his first interpellation in this debate the noble Marquess opposite drew particular attention to what he considered to be the confused method of working this matter of inquiry into aliens. I understand that he adopts the view which was clearly stated by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Heneage), that a matter of this kind should be in the charge of one Department and of one Department only, and that it is liable to lead to confusion and to bad working when two or three Departments attempt to combine to carry out this purpose of the restriction of aliens. Although I entirely, I think, apprehend that particular complaint, I am not quite certain what course noble Lords opposite would desire should be taken. The absolute internment, without a single exception, of all alien subjects is a quite intelligible policy. Some, I think, would desire to carry it further, and, besides interning every hostile alien, German or Austrian, would like to intern a not inconsiderable portion of those who have been naturalised. There are objections to this course, and, as I have more than once pointed out in this House, almost every individual would desire to make an exception or two among those with whom he is personally acquainted. But it is a quite intelligible policy; and if we are to understand that that is the definite policy of noble Lords opposite, the matter, of course, becomes very much simpler. It is a clear-cut policy, but it is not the policy which His Majesty's Government have adopted; and I do not feel at all confident, if it is closely considered' in all its bearings, that it is the policy which the country as a whole would desire us to adopt without any discrimination whatever.

If you are to have any species of discrimination, it must be worked through one or other of the Departments of State. It would have been quite possible to treat this as a purely military matter, as a matter of what is vulgarly called Martial Law—that is to say, that where an alien enemy was to be arrested a file of soldiers would march into his house, or the house of anybody with whom he happened to be residing, take him out without question, and place him in an internment camp. There, again, I am a little doubtful whether that method of procedure would have commended itself to the country. I think it was on the last occasion when we were debating this subject that a noble friend of mine who is not in his place now, Lord Durham, complained that he as Lord Lieutenant of the county found himself receiving, or at any rate those with whom he was acting found themselves receiving, instructions from some young Staff officer of no great military experience instead of the matter being left to the Lord Lieutenant and the Deputy-Lieutenant, of whom the great majority are, as we know, civilians; and I think that is an index of what would be felt all over the country if these matters were placed under a quite arbitrary and unquestioned military domination of the kind which we are more used to associate with Prussia than with the United Kingdom. At any rate, His Majesty's Government have not adopted that course.

That being so, the only other kind of machinery which exists in the country for working a system of this kind is that provided by the Police, and if there is any intention of exercising discrimination between individuals the Police, from their local and personal knowledge, are more likely than anybody else to be able to exercise it sensibly. It would, therefore, have been possible to place the administration of any Act of Parliament that was passed on the subject entirely under the Police—in one sense, if you like so to state it, under the Home Office, although, as we are all aware, the relations between the county and city police and the Home Office are not very close. The Metropolitan Police, as we know, are directly under the Home Office; the county police is under the joint committee, and the city and borough police under the respective municipal officers. That would have been a possible course to take, giving the Home Office the general supervision. But there you were confronted by the difficulty that not only the Army but, as the noble Marquess opposite has pointed out, the Navy, are intimately concerned in this question. When the Defence of the Realm Act in its various forms—because, as noble Lords will remember, it took more than one transaction in this House to get the Act into its present shape—when that legislation was passed the responsibility was placed upon the Admiralty and upon the War Office respectively, and, so far as I remember, it was so placed without objection from noble Lords opposite here or from their friends in another place. It was not then, so far as I can recollect, suggested that these powers should be placed in the hands of the civil authority. I do not in the least complain of that, or desire to twit noble Lords with that fact in any way. As we know, this legislation was passed into law with great speed, and it is quite possible that further consideration might have made them desire to place this administration entirely under the Home Office. I doubt myself whether such consideration would have had that effect.

When all is said and done, I confess I do not find it easy to be convinced that the fact that more than one Office is concerned in this administration is necessarily productive of confusion or difficulty. We are entirely familiar with the co-operation of different Offices in different parts of the world, and in this country as well. The noble Marquess opposite himself remembers countless cases where the Foreign Office and the War Office have had to engage in concerted action, although probably it would be found, just as in this case, that the ultimate responsibility rested upon one Office. The mere fact that two Offices or three Offices work together does not seem of itself to involve a division of responsibility. What really takes place in this instance, I take it, is that the Police, whether under the Home Office or under the county authority, are lent for the purpose of this administration to the War Office, and the War Office in certain cases consults the Home Office with a view to arriving at a final decision. It is, of course, open for noble Lords opposite, in any particular instance, to say that the action of the Police has been unwise, too lenient, or not sufficiently founded on inquiry; or it is open to them to say, if they please, that the ultimate sanction of the War Office has been wrongly given; but it does not seem to me to be reasonable to draw the conclusion, because more than one Department is concerned in these matters, that, even supposing a mistake had been made in a particular instance, the mistake is due to the fact that the whole matter is not placed in one hand.

I would ask noble Lords once more to remember that, even if you like to invent a brand-new Department for this purpose and place it under anybody you please, he must work with some machinery. You cannot improvise a large corps of persons, whether they be military or civil, who are competent to act under the direction of a single officer or of a committee, whichever you may choose to institute to preside over these inquiries and to make the decisions. He is bound to use some existing body of men, either civil or military, to carry out his work, and why the invention of a new force for this purpose should produce better results than the use either of the harder system of unquestioned military action or of the method to which we are more accustomed—working through the local Police—I confess I am not able to understand.

The noble Lord below the Gangway (Lord Heneage) entered upon a somewhat different line of discussion with regard to the manner in which people had been moved from and were allowed to remain in the prohibited areas. On one particular point I am told that there have been cases in which Germans who had somehow escaped internment, or who were being sought after to be interned, had succeeded in passing themselves off as Belgian refugees, and that the prohibition of the settling or remaining of Belgian refugees in a particular area was due to that fact. That is the information which I have received, but on what scale that may have taken place I am not in a position to state. Nor am I able to give any information upon the particular point raised by my noble friend behind me (Lord St. Davids) of two German workmen having been discovered among dock labourers. That is, I entirely agree with him, a somewhat alarming incident, but it is an incident against which I can understand in a single case it might be exceedingly difficult to guard. Where a man is thoroughly acquainted with our language it is possible to conceive that, for purposes of unskilled labour, he might slip past even a fairly close cordon of I inquiry in such a case as working at the docks. Nor do I believe that short of a system of absolute internment of everybody without, any single exception can you avoid the possibility of a case here and a case there occurring of a kind which is likely to arouse public inquiry to some extent.

I do not know that I can add anything more. I understand that the noble Viscount opposite proposes to bring forward the subject again with a view of inquiring more particularly into the action which has been taken at the instance of the Home Office, and I have no doubt that the whole question in all its bearings, particularly on the point which I have mentioned of the necessity of confining the operations under this Act to one Department, will be considered by the House. Therefore I will not attempt now to pursue the subject any further.


My Lords, I do not desire to pursue the larger question of the general policy that ought to be adopted with regard to the internment of enemy aliens which has been to some extent opened by the noble Marquess, because an opportunity for doing so, as he said, will occur when my noble friend again puts his Question on the Paper. I only rise to explain what a any rate is my attitude, and, I think, the attitude of some of my friends, on one point. The noble Marquess appears unable to understand what it is of which we complain. I will endeavour in a very few words to enlighten him.

What I feel myself, and what some of my friends feel, is that in all these discussions about spies we are unable to fix either the administrative or the Parliamentary responsibility. Those are the two forms of responsibility that we wish to locate somewhere Look at the experience we have had in this House. This question of spies has been raised three or four times within the last three or four months. On one occasion we had the privilege of being answered by Lord Allendale, who leads a somewhat precarious and fugitive existence between the different Departments of Government. This afternoon we have had the pleasure of listening to Lord Lucas, who, having been admitted to the inner arcana of the Cabinet, speaks with greater authority though not with greater charm than he did on previous occasions. But the moment that Lord Lucas was coming to business and we thought we were getting something, he shelved it off on to another Department. He said, "I am answering for the War Office this afternoon. This is a Home Office matter, and you must look elsewhere:" I noted that when he came to that part of his speech and it was evident what was coming, Lord Allendale beat a hasty retreat from the Chamber; and once again the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has had to bear upon his shoulders, well qualified as they are for the task, the burden that ought to be lifted from them by colleagues who either do not exist in this House, or, if they are here, do not appear to be able to discharge their duties.

We have exactly the same experience in the House of Commons. In all the debates on this subject there the Minister who is, as a rule, assailed is Mr. McKenna. For all I know, he may have been most unjustly attacked. He appears in some cases to be attacked with more than merited severity. But that is not surprising, for so far as we know the majority of these, actions are the actions of the Police. There again, when we think we have got home, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs sidles away and says, "You must go to Lord Kitchener." But we never can get him. We endeavour from time to time to obtain information from the Secretary of State for War in this House, but he is too absorbed, no doubt in very important business elsewhere, to be able to favour us with his attendance. And really where the responsibility lies, what is the Department to which we ought to go, whom we ought to address, I venture to say- there is not, a noble Lord in this House who, after four discussions, has the slightest glimmering of an idea. I confess I have not.

I am in the happy, or unhappy, position of having had a correspondence with the Secretary of State for the Home Department. It was so voluminous and covered so much space that, out of regard for the public interest, I refrained from sending it to the newspapers. It all turned on the question of the degree of interference with or influence upon the War Office that the Home Secretary had exercised in a particular case. At the end I was more bewildered than I was at; the beginning. The Home Secretary had done something he had intervened; but he said that he had not influenced the War Office, and that in the last resort it was for the War Office to decide. But if there is somebody in the-last resort to decide, who is his representa- tive in this House? If we had a single Minister to whom we could turn on these spy questions, these debates would be shortened by one-half and we should obtain information that we desire.

The noble Marquess affected to misunderstand—perhaps he did really misunderstand—what it was that we were pressing for in our discussions a few weeks ago. Here are four Department, who are concerned—the Home Offices No. 1; the War Office, which bears the ultimate responsibility, No. 2; the Admiralty, which must have a voice in many of these matters, No. 3; the Local Government Board, which appears in the case of Lincolnshire to have poked its nose in, No. 4. What we have argued all along is this. Could there not be substituted a Bureau on which representatives of these various Departments should sit in London, which should have the whole of this spy question from the various points of view under its control, and which would have some one among the existing Bench of Ministers both in this and the other House to represent it and answer questions On these points? Some of my noble friends have gone further. My noble friend Lord Selborne said, "Why not put the whole thing under a single man?"; and he named his man. That is a possible alternative. I do not wish to argue it to-night. I have only risen, in answer to the noble Marquess, to try and explain that what we want defined is, first, administrative responsibility, and, secondly, Parliamentary responsibility in both Houses of Parliament.


In what I said just now I endeavoured to point out that, even if you create a body of this kind, it must work through somebody. Are you going to place either the military forces of the Crown or the Police in the different districts under the orders of this body? Are you going to take them away, so to speak, for this purpose from the War Office and the Home Office or from the county authorities, and place them under the direct orders and management of this body? It seems to me that two rather separate points are raised—the actual administration of the necessary local work under the Act, and the Parliamentary position as regards the supply of information to which we entirely admit, so far as possible, the members of both Houses and the public are entitled; and when I said that I did not understand what it was that noble Lords really wanted, it was with regard to the actual local working. Who, for instance, was to arrest the German and carry him off; and under whose orders?


Would it be convenient to the noble Lord opposite if I repeated on this day week my question as to the number of alien enemies released during the month of January LORD LUCAS: Yes—conditional upon my being able to get from the War Office by that time the figures asked for. If I cannot get them by then, I will communicate with the noble Viscount.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.