THE EARL OF MEATH
My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government—
In drawing the attention of His Majesty's Government to the question of the uninterned naturalised and unnaturalised German sympathisers in this country and to the danger with which the national interest is threatened by their presence within the British Islands in time of war, I am perfectly aware of the difficulties with which His Majesty's Government would have to contend were an attempt made to solve the problem in a manner entirely satisfactory to the interests of the Entente Powers. But I would point out that these difficulties have in a large measure been overcome by our Allies, and ought, therefore, not to be beyond the power of His Majesty's Government. In making these remarks I am actuated by no hostile or prejudiced feelings towards Germans qua Germans. I have lived too long in Germany and known too many Germans of all classes to fall into such an error. I have been privileged to live several years in Germany. I was educated there. As many of your Lordships know, in my earlier years I was a young diplomatist in Frankfurt and in Berlin. I have since had the privilege of knowing intimately several of Germany's eminent men, and I have had opportunities—special opportunities, perhaps—of knowing the German character.
- 1. Whether they adhere to the statement made by the Right Hon. Herbert Samuel on 21st February, that on that date there were 22,946 uninterned enemy aliens in Great Britain, and to a further statement made a few days later that 6,756 male Germans and Austrians of military age had been exempted from internment, and whether any material diminution of these figures has been made since that date.
- 2. Whether it is true, as stated in the Press of 7th June last, that a man giving the name of Walter Thomas Lacey applied for a post in the Censor's Office in Liverpool, when it was accidentally discovered that he was a German named Lindver who was reported by the London Police to be a dangerous criminal.
- 3. Whether it is true that, on the 7th of June, a German subject, who on his own admission was employed before the war in Krupp's works at Essen, was sentenced at Glasgow to three months' imprisonment for failing to register himself as an alien, although he had been in this country since 1st August, 1914.
- 4. Whether the presence in this country of uninterned naturalised and un-naturalised German sympathisers does not constitute a serious national danger; and, if so, what steps His Majesty's Government propose to take in the matter.
The German character is one for which I have in many respects the very highest respect. In fact, I dare say a good many of your Lordships may be aware that for years I have been trying to point out to the British people that we fail in many good qualities which the Germans possess. Therefore I am not likely to be one who desires any action which should be of an unnecessarily hostile or prejudicial character towards the German nation. I cannot claim, as a noble and learned Lord [Viscount Haldane] has done, that Germany is my spiritual home, but I may say that for at least six years it was my material home, and as long as I was a student I suppose I may say my intellectual home. Germany never does anything by halves, and in this particular instance, in this question of aliens, she has not done anything by halves 464 either. Germany has not hesitated, as we have, to expel from its soil all persons of both sexes whose presence, in the opinion of its Government, constituted a danger to the interests of the Central Powers; and, for myself, I think they were perfectly right. War is war. One of our Allies—France—has expelled all enemy aliens, and requires that the subjects of neutral and even of Allied nations shall be subject to the constant supervision of the Police, and shall be required every month to renew the official licence to reside in that country, even in the case of British or other friendly alien nurses attending the French wounded in hospitals in France.
Neither our enemies nor our friends could object if the exigencies of self-preservation compelled us to follow the example of France, and protect ourselves and our Allies in a similar manner in time of war. If the figures which I have quoted, given by Mr. Samuel on February 21, be correct, at that date there were nearly 23,000 uninterned enemy aliens in Great Britain. Consider what 23,000 men and women mean! Our notions of figures have expanded very much in recent months. Now in this figure of 23,000 no account is taken of the naturalised British subjects of German, Austrian, Bulgarian, and Turkish origin, some of whom are undoubtedly actuated by feelings of hostility to this country; nor is any mention made of the Germans and Austrians living in the British Isles some of whom masquerade as Swiss, or of the genuine German-speaking Swiss of whom some are not too friendly to this country. I contend that all these men are a potential danger to the Allied cause under our lax system of Police supervision. Why do I call it a lax system? Because everything in this country has been arranged for peace and not for war. By long tradition England has afforded asylum to the victims of religious or political persecution on the Continent, and the British temperament is hostile to all forms of Police supervision except in the case of undoubted criminals; hence the difficulty of grappling with the new danger to our national existence which Germany's autocratic dealing has brought about through her elaborate and costly system of spies and agents all over the globe working in secret for many years against the interests of the British Empire, of our Allies, and of the human race.
I do not think there are many, even after two years of war, who realise perhaps as 465 much as I do how thoroughly the German system of espionage has permeated the whole globe. Personally I know—I knew at the time—that I have entertained two spies under my own roof, and I think perhaps I spied upon them as much as they spied upon me. And I know that my son, 150 miles south of Fashoda, also entertained two spies knowing them to be spies. And we know that this system has gone on throughout the whole world—in Persia, China, Japan, in every part of the world, it is the same thing. I discovered a German who had been travelling in the same steamer with me photographing our fortifications from the utmost peak of Hong Kong. These instances are only a few. All over the world has this system been going on, and if we wish for security we must protect ourselves. No one else will protect us; and we must not trust persons who have shown beyond all question that they will break faith if it suits their purpose to do so.
In my humble opinion this protection should take two forms—first, a more effective and real supervision and control of aliens; and, secondly, the reform of our naturalisation laws. As far as I can perceive, no difficulty arises as regards International Law. Surely it is the inherent right of any nation to exclude foreigners; and that, of course, covers the lesser right of supervising every person admitted. As regards naturalisation, this has always been a matter of grace and not of right. I do not think anybody will deny that. A suggestion was recently made by Mr. Alfred Fellows in the Evening Standard which seems to me worthy of consideration. His proposal was that Germans—and I individually would add German-speaking Austrians and Swiss—who preserved habitually their own language in their own circle should not be eligible for naturalisation; secondly, that any alien whose own country claimed the right of service from him should not be eligible for naturalisation as a British subject. Why should we imagine that the mere act of naturalisation could at once change the entire feelings of a man or a woman towards the country of his or her birth? I cannot see any reason why we should. I always think it is better to put oneself in the place of one's opponent. Now should we, under similar circumstances, renounce our friendly feelings towards our mother country? Individually I certainly should not. A sense of honour 466 or of regard for personal safety might restrain some; but it is only natural to suppose that under the exciting stimulus of war some might consider it their duty to injure as far as they could, notwithstanding any oath they had taken, the enemies of their original mother country.
I have in my Question quoted two instances showing that it is possible—and that is my object in quoting those cases—for dangerous aliens to evade Police supervision. In the case of Walter Thomas Lacey, whose real name was Lindver, it was apparently only through an accident that he failed to obtain the important post of censor at Liverpool. Fortunately the London Police heard of the application, and reported the German to be a dangerous criminal. Conceive what opportunity for mischief would be at the disposal of an enemy censor in such a commercial centre as Liverpool. Why was he at large? That is what I want to know. Since I put this Notice on your Lordships' Paper I have received a letter from a gentleman in Liverpool—I do not know him—who says:It is freely stated that there are many people in the Censor's Office of this city of suspicious enemy origin, and any numbers of supposed Belgians and Russians. It seems very advisable that the matter should be strictly investigated.Whether there is any truth in that I do not know.
The second case which I have quoted is that of a German who, by his own confession was employed before the war in Krupp's great gun factories at Essen. Remember what that means—that he was in Krupp's factory before he came over here, and that he only came over a few days before the declaration of war. He was able to evade the notice of the British Police for how long? For a year and ten months. A still worse case to my mind is that of Wilhelm Scheneber, a German subject who, after being free in this country for twenty-three months—a month longer than in the last case—was lately arrested, when it was found that he had been an officer for fourteen years in the German Army. A number of military maps issued by the German General Staff were found in his possession. Again I ask, Why was he at large? What information may not many of these men during these long periods have conveyed to Germany? What harm may they not in that time have done to our country? And what is going to be 467 done with those men after their three to six months' imprisonments are over? Are they going to be allowed to remain in this country until they are caught a second or a third time?
The instances I mention are typical, and they could be increased in numbers almost indefinitely if desired. It was recently stated, with what truth I do not know, at the Hackney Borough Council by a Mr. Davenport, as reported in the Press, that he had received a telephone message from an official at the Home Office asking him if he would employ an interned German. Why this official eagerness to release enemies who have been at all events tried and thought to be dangerous? But here—if it is true—a Home Office official actually asked that this man might be given employment. If employment should be, given to him, why was he originally interned? Why is he to be released to take the bread out of the mouth, probably, of some Englishman? Why should the Home Office, instead of interning all suspicious enemy aliens, desire the employment in civil life of some of those already interned?
Here is another case. The late German Consul at Liverpool is stated in the Press to be still walking about its streets. Do you imagine that a British ex-Consul would be permitted at the present time to walk about the streets of Berlin or Hamburg? It is actions such as these which cause widespread suspicion that there is some mysterious high-placed influence at work to shield enemy aliens from internment. Resolutions in favour of the internment of aliens have been passed by a great number of public bodies. I came across a letter the other day to a newspaper in which the father of an officer writes—A German whom I knew on the Stock Exchange is now an officer in our Army, with an English name hiding his own.I do not know whether that is true or not. But would an Englishman be allowed by Germany to command German troops? The idea is inconceivable. Are His Majesty's Government going to guarantee the bona fides of this German officer in command of British troops? He may be an excellent man, and perfectly loyal. But we are at war, and we have not to consider the feelings of individuals; we have to consider the interests of the nation.
Again, what assurance have we that the ever-growing number of Swiss waiters— 468 we see them all round us, so-called Swiss in this country who speak German—are really Swiss, or, if they are Swiss, that their sympathies are not with our enemies? It cannot be denied that there exists a widespread feeling amongst all classes that too much leniency is being shown to enemy aliens in our midst, and that not sufficient care is taken to exclude possible spies. It is this feeling which is at the bottom of the numerous rumours, which run from mouth to mouth and do no good, that even members of the Government have financial, personal, or other reasons for their leniency towards aliens. I am a confirmed sceptic in regard to the truth of popular rumours, and have always made it a rule to discount them by 50 or 75 per cent. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to do this; and I confess I found rather a difficulty the other day in the following instance. Some few months ago, at a meeting of a patriotic organisation at which I spoke, I was requested by three ladies to wait after the meeting as they wished to obtain my advice with regard to the following circumstances. Now these ladies were ladies in Society, and I could not for one moment doubt that they believed what they said. They told me that the conduct of a German resident in the West End having brought him under the suspicion of his neighbours, two of these ladies determined to investigate for themselves, and called upon the German under some professional plea. They engaged him in conversation, when he became greatly excited and strongly expressed his sympathy with Germany and his hostility to England. On being asked why, if he sympathised so deeply with Germany, he still remained in England, he stated that he actually held a letter from a member of the Government asking him to remain and assuring him of the complete confidence of the Executive. The ladies, on leaving, went straight to the nearest Police-station and asked the officer in charge whether he knew the German in question. He replied that he did; and when he was asked what he thought of the German this officer said, "He should have been shot long ago," and he added that he had received many complaints in regard to his conduct. Asked by the ladies whether he had reported the case to his superior officers, he replied that he had often done so but could do so no longer, as he had received orders not to report or take notice of anything be might hear or see to the detriment of this German. I 469 desire to express no opinion as to the truth or falsehood of this story. I only wish to point out that it was told me at first hand, and not, as many of these stories are, at second, third, or fourth hand.
This system of espionage has been going on for many months. When we lost those three cruisers, the "Cressy," the "Hogue," and the "Aboukir," there was ground for suspicion that the vessels were sent to their doom entirely through treachery. Several other instances could be mentioned where it was thought that disaster had overtaken the British cause owing to information given to the enemy by spies. If there is only a small modicum of truth in the rumours of German espionage, why should any risk be run when the nation is fighting for its existence, even though that risk be slight? To my mind nothing should be left to chance. The struggle is too vital, the stake for which we are contending is too large, for any odds to be given to the enemy. Let us remember that we have to win this war, and that we can only do this by utilising our fullest strength and giving no chance to the enemy. Let us bear in mind that nothing but ourselves can beat us.
§ LORD BERESFORD
My Lords, this question of the aliens at large in our midst has been brought up two or three times in this House, and the public are getting very irritated at the laxity of the Government in the matter. I think it would take very little for the public to take the law in their own hands—which would be fatal and dangerous—something in the way they did at Deptford when reports as to Germans were made to the Police and taken no notice of. There is no doubt that the force of public opinion has good effect on this Government the same as on other Governments, and something is done after every occasion upon which the strong views in the country on this question of aliens have been called attention to. My noble friend Lord Lansdowne will remember that I spoke to him on the last occasion about the German Athenæum Club. There is no doubt in the world that that club, which contained very prominent Germans of high position in this country, was closed entirely on account of public opinion.
The naturalised Germans, in my opinion, are far the most dangerous, because they are not absolved in any way from their allegiance to the German Government. 470 It has been often said, "Once a German always a German"; you cannot change a man's nature. I have had a large number of letters since I took up this question, most of them anonymous and some I can hardly describe as friendly, calling attention to the fact that if the British Government took any action against the naturalised Germans they would be following the "scrap of paper" programme adopted by the Germans. But that is not so, because the German Government do not absolve the German people who come over here and become naturalised from their allegiance to their country. As I have said before in this House, the real position of the Germans over here, whether naturalised or not, is that they must be traitors either to their own country or to ours; and while we are at war we have no room for traitors of any sort or kind. No German can be harmless if he secretly sympathises with the land of his birth. I do not object to his doing that. I have no feelings against the German nation, though I have every sort of feeling against the brutes who have been diabolical in their treatment of our prisoners. But I am thinking more about our own people, and there is some sort of favouritism which I cannot understand on behalf of these German aliens to the detriment and to the danger of our own people.
Let us take the question of these aliens changing their names. What do they change their names for? This is a question which is considerably occupying the minds of the working classes at this moment. Our men are going out to fight for their country. They have given up well-paid jobs and good positions in order to fight for their country, and they come back in many cases maimed and are not looked after properly. And what do they find? That a lot of Germans, with their changed names, have taken over their positions and their trade. I think the Government should look into this matter, and there should be a published list in all boroughs all over the country of these Germans who have changed their names to English names and have taken over most of the trade and the positions which our men patriotically left in order to go to the Front.
Again, I call attention to this point. Why do we arrest hairdressers and waiters, and overlook the people who have influence, wealth, and social position? Anybody 471 who goes down to Windsor, to Egham, or to Englefield Green will find the whole place occupied by Germans. A person told me the other day—and I told my noble friend of this privately—that going out for a walk near Englefield Green he met three German children, two girls and a boy, who were talking to some other children and saying "Ve vill vin the var." That ought not to be permitted. If that is the feeling of the children, it is surely the sentiment of the fathers and mothers also. I agree with Lord Meath that the fact of these people being at large is a danger to our people and ought to be stopped at once. We have no right to take chances with public safety at any time, more particularly during the biggest war that has occurred in the history of the world.
I repeat that our enemies appear to be officially protected to the detriment of our own people. It was said in the other House, I think only yesterday, that there were still 400 German firms in this country carrying on their trade. Lord Meath has called attention to the fact that there are still over 22,000 enemy aliens uninterned, and that 6,756 male Germans and Austrians of military age have been exempted from internment. What are they here for? What do we want them here for? Surely they are a danger to us and ought to be locked up. I do not wish to be hard on them, but I would put the whole lot behind barbed wire and keep them there until the war is over. Any leniency that we show to these people is not treated with gratitude in Germany, but with contempt. They think we are afraid, and dare not lock them up as we should. I would ask my noble friend on the Front Bench opposite to give us full and explicit answers to the Questions which Lord Meath has asked. I certainly support my noble friend in his view that the fact of this large number of alien enemies remaining in our country uninterned, thousands of them being of military age, is a serious danger to the State.
§ LORD LEITH OF FYVIE
My Lords, I would like to associate myself with the request of Lord Meath and of Lord Beresford for answers on these matters. There are some important points which have not been considered and which have been mentioned by our noted friend Mr. Hughes in several of his speeches—namely, that every German merchant and every correspondent of a German merchant 472 remaining in the United Kingdom is a caretaker for a business in the future. As a caretaker he is holding together that business as much as is possible, and it is in a practical way being carried on largely through America; and correspondence for the business which is being done at the present is for the benefit of the business that is to be done in the future. As long as we leave these associations of influential Germans in our midst have we to look forward to a loss of business in the future and a continuation of what has been a very serious loss in the past.
I know of several cases in which Germans, men of influence and position, are in Government employment here. There is one extraordinary case in the Cable Department. Many officers have tried to get this gentleman removed; he has been removed once and put back again, and he is in the position of receiving and de-coding all the most important naval cables. His name is F. Lange, and he is in T.C.O. employment. As I have said, he has been removed once and been interned, but he is now back again; and this man and his associates have openly gloried in "the defeat" of our Fleet. Such a thing seems inconceivable, but I have investigated the case with friends and associates in the Navy; it is perfectly true, and this man was there last week. And there are others. He has with him men who are not exactly alien enemies although they are the next thing to it. One is a Dutchman who has been in Germany most of his life. Another is an associate of his who is in the employment of the War Department. I give these instances because they seem so absolutely inconsistent. I have thought from day to day that these matters would be corrected, but last week, as I have said, this man Lange was still in the T.C.O., carrying on business, and all the cipher de-coding was going through his hands.
I look upon it as somewhat hopeful that the Government have now given the Declaration of London, as I trust, its quietus. The question is whether we can get progress made also against the alien enemies in our midst who are actively engaged against us. It is no use trying to excuse them; they are by nature, by business, by association, in every way against us; those who are not with us are against us and should be removed. It does not signify what position, social or otherwise, 473 they have or had; at present they must be asked to go out of this country or else be interned.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am sure the House listened with interest to the preface with which my noble friend on the Cross Benches (Lord Meath) introduced the Questions which he has put to us, and I certainly take him at his word when he tells us that he approaches this subject with no exaggerated feelings of animus and with no special hostility against the German race as such. I admit very fully that, as he contends, and as my noble and gallant friend Lord Beresford contends, this question is one which calls for the utmost vigilance on the part of His Majesty's Government, and I hope I shall be able to show that such vigilance has not been altogether wanting. I also am quite content to assume, as Lord Meath urges, that the German system of espionage, not only in this country but all over the world, has a completeness and an ingenuity which extorts our reluctant admiration and which certainly justifies us in resorting to the most stringent measures of precaution that we can devise.
Let me take in their order the Questions which my noble friend has put. He asks, in the first place, whether the figures given by the Home Secretary in the month of February as to the number of uninterned alien enemies in Great Britain represent the facts as we know them to-day. Those figures are approximately correct. There has been no census of aliens since that time, and therefore we have no precise figures. The total given by the Home Secretary would no doubt require to be to some extent reduced owing to cases of repatriation and internment, but I think my noble friend will be safe in taking the figure as it stands to-day at something in the neighbourhood of 20,000. It will, I think, interest my noble friend to know something of the manner in which this total of 20,000 is made up, because he laid some stress upon that point. I am told that it contains, in the first place, about 10,000 women. Then there are about 4,000 men of friendly race or origin, people like Poles, Italians, Southern Slavs, and others. There are about 1,500 men over 70 years of age; there are a certain number of individuals whose sympathies are beyond all question with the Allies, and who are doing valuable service in one capacity or another to us in 474 this country. Finally, there are about 6,000 others most of whom have been very long in residence in this country; about two thirds of them, I am told, have been domiciled for thirty years and upwards here, and many of them have sons fighting in the British Army. But I am able to add that all these cases have been individually examined by one of the advisory committees that have been set up for this purpose, committees which were, at all events until lately, presided over by a Judge of high standing, and in a few cases which have arisen more lately they have been examined by the Home Office upon the principles laid down by the committees to which I refer. I ought, perhaps, also to say that the decisions in all these cases are provisional decisions and are liable to review should the circumstances call for a reconsideration of any individual case.
My noble friend asked for information with regard to several special cases which he mentioned. Only two are referred to in his Question, and it is only with those two that I am able to deal this evening; but I need not add that if he will supply me with the facts in regard to other cases, or if my noble and gallant friend will do the same in regard to the cases in which he is interested, the Home Office will certainly make it its business to institute the fullest inquiry.
Now I come to the two cases. In the first place, there is the case of Walter Thomas Lacey. This gentleman's career appears to have been picturesque and disreputable. He was in Germany at the beginning of the war, and was then interned at Ruhleben as a British subject. At the end of 1915 he was sent to this country under the agreement for the repatriation of invalided civilian prisoners of war. The man had a withered hand, and therefore came within the scope of that agreement. He produced on arrival a certificate of birth in this country in the name of Walter Thomas Lacey. He soon after proceeded to Liverpool, where he came under the notice of the Liverpool Police, who evidently were not remiss in their watchfulness in this case at all events. They were not satisfied with his bona fides, and they kept him under close observation. Thereafter he applied for a post in the Censor's Office in Liverpool, and there he was fortunately recognised by one of the employees as a man whom he had known in London under 475 the name of Lindner, and he had then described himself as a German. He was finally identified as a criminal who has served several terms of imprisonment in this country between the years 1899 and 1908. He passed under false names and gave various accounts of his nationality. He was sentenced to six months for failing to comply with the Aliens Restriction Order. The facts as to his nationality have not, I am told, even now been finally cleared up; but no information has been obtained which tends to show that the man was really an enemy agent or connected with the spy service. My noble friend says, Why was this man at large? He was at large because he had succeeded in effectually concealing his identity and origin, and I do not think that any general measure of internment, however strict, would have been effectual in terminating this gentleman's somewhat mysterious activities.
Then comes the case of the second man who is, unless I am mistaken, a man named Scheneber, and who, according to his own statement, was employed for two years in Krupp's factory. He left there in 1914 and came to this country, where he appears to have led a wandering life. He is des-scribed as a kind of tramp. The circumstance that he was not ascertained to be an alien and compelled to register as such is to be at any rate to some extent explained by the fact that he is a deaf mute. In the manual language his proficiency appears to be chiefly in English, but he appears to know some German. The Police do not regard this man as very dangerous, and he will be repatriated after he has served the full term of imprisonment to which he has been sentenced.
My noble friend concluded by asking me whether the presence of people of this kind in this country does not constitute a serious national danger. I certainly do not underrate the extent of that danger, and His Majesty's Government have throughout proceeded upon the assumption that the danger is a real one. Their policy has been to divide persons of this class into two categories—persons who have been naturalised, and persons who have not been naturalised. As to the persons who have not been naturalised, the rule is that all adult males are to be segregated or interned or repatriated if over military age. Women and children are also repatriated; but there are certain cases where, in the 476 interests of humanity, it is desirable that an exception should be made. Then I come to the case of the naturalised aliens. These people are, of course, technically British subjects, and therefore prima facie the presumption is in their favour; but it is fully recognised that these naturalised aliens should be kept under the strictest supervision both by the Police and the military, and all suspicious cases are dealt with under the Defence of the Realm Regulations. Cases where the naturalisation has taken place recently are dealt with with special strictness and severity.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I can merely state the general rule, that where the person has become lately naturalised he is regarded with more suspicion, and his case is more carefully scrutinised than that of a person who has been naturalised for a long period of years. But I may, perhaps, add that we believe there is not a single alien enemy now at large whose case has not been thoroughly investigated by one of the committees to which I referred a moment ago. Of course, there have been a few cases where the individual has succeeded in concealing his identity, just as the two persons referred to in the Question succeeded in concealing theirs; but such cases, I am afraid, are inevitable. Concealment of this kind is, of course, an offence against the Aliens Registration Act, and is dealt with by the Court in the manner in which the two cases referred to by my noble friend have been dealt with.
It may, perhaps, interest my noble friend if I tell him, before I sit down, that up to this moment there have been about 32,000 male alien enemies interned and 10,000 repatriated. I will only repeat, if I may, that if noble Lords in this House, or indeed anybody in or out of this House, will be good enough to supply information as to cases in which there has apparently been evasion of the Regulations in force, those complaints will be welcomed and dealt with with the utmost care.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, the noble Marquess who has just spoken is at a much greater advantage in speaking on this matter than if his place had been taken by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, because those of us who feel strongly on this point must admit that since the time when the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, and his friends joined the Government the action of the authorities as regards naturalised or unnaturalised aliens has been considerably stronger. But those of your Lordships who have been in this House from the early days of the war will, I think, agree with me that the debates here on this subject and the debates in the other House have been the only things that have ever strengthened the hands of the Government in dealing with enemy aliens. It will be within the recollection of many noble Lords that we heard in the early days of the war from the noble and learned Lord who was then on the Woolsack—not the present occupant—that you ought not to intern Germans or send them home because you would inconvenience some very estimable people. But we have got past those days.
There is one class of naturalised alien with whom I have sympathy, and one class only. They are the men who have had sons fighting for this country from the beginning of the war. My own view is that where a man's sons are fighting that is where his heart is, wherever he was born; and as regards aliens who have had their sons fighting willingly with us from the first, I have nothing but sympathy. But I go a step further and say, as regards aliens who have been naturalised but whose sons are fighting against us, that it is a scandal that there should be any such in England who are not in concentration camps. I do not know whether any other member of the Government is going to speak, but I would ask this question. Can any member of the Government get up and defend leaving in England outside a concentration camp any man who has a son fighting against us for Germany? I venture to say that there is not a man in England, a naturalised German, with a son fighting against us, who would be outside a concentration camp if he were not a very rich and influential person. I should like a member of the Government to tell us how they defend that. There are cases of very recent naturalisation. There is one notable case of the naturalisation, since the beginning 478 of the war, of a rich man who has a son or sons fighting against us. I ask the Government, How can they defend allowing that man to walk about at large?
The Government say that there are difficulties as regards naturalised aliens. There are difficulties, I know. But there was a case the other day, fully reported in the newspapers, of a group of men in a London public-house kept by a naturalised German. The actions of these men were extremely suspicious; it was a little nest of active pro-Germans, and eventually they were shut up. The Home Secretary was asked why he had not done anything before, and his defence was that these were naturalised people and he had no power to deal with them. Whose fault is that? Has not this House from the very beginning been willing, and would not the other House have been from the very beginning willing and more than willing, to give to the Government every single power they wanted for carrying on the war? If the Government had come, here and said, "We ought to have power to shut up naturalised aliens if we think it right," both Houses would have given that power to any extent asked for. It is no defence to say that the man was naturalised.
Here is a case which was reported in several of the London newspapers the other day. A Captain Theodore Schlagintweit was German Consul in Manchester until the war broke out. When enemy aliens were first rounded up, he was left at large. Eventually he was interned, but he was not interned until he had been convicted of a breach of the Defence of the Realm Act by travelling beyond his permitted distance. He was then sent to a camp in Denbighshire. He was released, for no known reason, in March, 1915, and then he returned to Germany. He was a Reserve officer in the Bavarian Rifles, and he is now engaged in drilling Germans to fight against this country. That is a pretty strong case.
I should like to ask the Government to revise the Naturalisation Act at once. There may be difficulties, but those difficulties in time of war ought to be got over. And in the case, at any rate, of Germans who have sons fighting against this country, it ought to be taken that whatever professions of loyalty they have made are untrue, and their naturalisation papers ought to be cancelled.
479 There is other action which ought to be taken against Germans. We want in this country to use every power we possess—and there are many other powers we ought to have—for carrying on the war with regard to capital, money. There are numbers of English companies employing Germans abroad. Why should Germans abroad be given a livelihood, and a good livelihood, with British capital supplied by British shareholders? The thing ought to be illegal. There is one notorious case of a large company that is employing a great number of Germans in another country at high salaries. Those Germans ought to be left to earn their living not at the expense of British capital. I venture to say that if British directors of a British company take so lax a view of the matter, it is a case where the Government ought to put in the Public Trustee to administer the company until the end of the war. I press that upon the Government for their consideration. The case is a notorious one; it is the case of a big and important company which employs a large number of Germans. I say that those Germans ought not to be paid by British money, and if the British directors will not stop it the Government ought to step in.
THE EARL OF MEATH
My Lords, I am very glad to have heard from the noble Marquess his acknowledgment that there is a real danger to the State in the subject which I have brought to the notice of your Lordships' House, and also that the Government are quite alive to it and are taking every step they possibly can to prevent it becoming worse. But I want to know why His Majesty's Government cannot do what the French have done. Why should it only be necessary once to interview an alien and then leave him alone until something desperate happens? Why cannot we follow the French example, and let every alien have a permit which is renewed each month and be under the supervision of the Police? The reason will be given that it is inconvenient, and that it is not our custom for the Police to interfere with private individuals. But this is wartime; and without wishing to be hard upon Germans or any other nationality I do say that more power in this matter should be given to the Police, and, as the noble Lord who has just sat down said, and as I said in my speech, the Naturalisation Act should be reconsidered.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
I would ask the noble Marquess whether he will answer my question as to whether the Government defend the action of allowing a naturalised alien who has a son fighting against Great Britain to remain at large?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I am afraid I cannot answer that question without further inquiry. I should like to say, generally, that I am not at all sure that some of the noble Lords who have spoken this evening are quite aware of the powers we now have under the Defence of the Realm Act and under the Aliens Restriction Act. The subject is very technical, and I would not like to give an opinion as to the scope of those Acts without further inquiry.