HL Deb 02 March 1916 vol 21 cc266-7

LORD STRACHIE rose to ask the Lord President of the Council whether in Westminster alone there are over 3,000 unmarried aliens of military age registered under the National Registration Act; and, if so, why those men who are subjects of countries allied with us are not sent back to serve in their own Armies.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have been asked by persons interested in trying to get as many recruits as possible to come in under the Derby scheme to place this Question on the Paper. I am informed that there is great dissatisfaction amongst young unmarried men in this country who find, especially in London and our great towns, many men of military age belonging to countries allied with us who are earning good wages here and in some cases actually taking the places of men who have been called up in the various Derby groups. It does cause a certain heartburning to our men to feel that they are called up to fight, perhaps, in defence of the country of which these aliens are subjects, whilst these men remain in England earning good wages.


My Lords, this is a Question which should have been addressed to the representative of the Home Office, but as the Lord Privy Seal, who answers in your Lordships' House on behalf of that Department, is unavoidably absent this afternoon, I am authorised to give the noble Lord the best information which the Home Office has on this matter. There are no official figures available as to the number of unmarried aliens of military age registered under the National Registration Act, and even if such particulars were available it would be very difficult to arrive at any estimate as to the number liable for military service in their own country, having regard to the fact that the limits of military age and the conditions of service vary so much in different countries. I think I might quote an answer which was given in another place recently with regard to Belgians. By a Decree of March 1, 1915, all male Belgians between the ages of 18 and 25 were required to enrol themselves and to appear before a Belgian Recruiting Committee for enlistment or exemption. The Belgian authorities have been given every assistance by the Home Office and the Police and also by the Local Government Board and the Registrar-General in carrying out this Decree, with a view to securing that every male Belgian in this country to whom it applied should be either exempted temporarily or permanently, or enlisted. Apart from the requirements of the Decree, a large number of Belgians have joined the Belgian Army from this country as volunteers. When similar assistance has been asked for by other Allied Governments His Majesty's Government have rendered it according to the various circumstances and as far as their powers allow. This is, as I am sure my noble friend who asked the Question will see, a matter of some delicacy with regard to the relations between His Majesty's Government and the Governments of the Allied Powers. I hope, therefore, that he will be content with the answer I have given.