§ LORD LAMINGTON had the following Question on the Paper—
§ To ask His Majesty's Government what are the principles that determine the discharge of interned civilians.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Question ought to have been taken with the one which I have already put, and it is difficult to see how it became divorced from it. The whole question is no doubt a most difficult and complex one as to who should be interned and who should not. I gather that many mistakes have been made, that many who should have been interned have not been, and that many who should not have been have been interned. There are interned civilians who have a son or two sons fighting in our Army, yet they are treated as suspects. But from time to time the authorities allow some of these to come out of the camps. What happens to them then I do not know, but this has been represented to me as a most mischievous principle. These men have had their businesses ruined, and they feel that they have been unjustly treated; and they are liberated with an undoubted grievance against the authorities. I therefore ask His Majesty's Govern merit what are the principles that determine who should be let out; whether supervision is kept on these people when they are let out; and, in cases where they have had their businesses ruined and have nothing to live on, what is done with those unfortunate people.459
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I quite agree with my noble friend in his view that this question also is in an unsatisfactory condition. I am in entire agreement with him in his expression of opinion that there are a large number of people who are interned who ought not to have been interned, and it is highly probable that there are people going about free who ought to be in internment camps at the present moment. But I would remind him that the internments which took place on a large scale were due in great measure to popular pressure exercised in various forms. As regards the principles governing this matter, I would remind my noble friend that those principles were laid down not quite a year ago—in May last year—by the Prime Minister. It was then decided that all alien enemies of military age should be interned unless there were cases which called for exceptional treatment; and in order to carry out this policy an Advisory Committee of a judicial character was set up for the purpose of considering the cases of persons who might be exempted from internment. That Advisory Committee sat for a long time last year, and, I believe, rendered very valuable service. The principles adopted by that Advisory Committee, roughly speaking, were as follow. The usual grounds upon which exemptions were granted were founded upon long residence in this country, and upon the fact of whether the man was married to an English woman and had an English family. The Committee were also naturally influenced by such a circumstance as that the man who was applying for exemption had a son serving in one branch of His Majesty's Forces, and so forth. In addition to this, it was obviously necessary that any person exempted from internment should be free from objection on the part of the Police and of the military and naval authorities. A certain number of persons recommended for exemption by the Advisory Committee had been interned before the Advisory Committee was set up, and some releases have taken place under these circumstances quite recently. The principles laid down by the Advisory Committee have been observed in dealing with any cases which have arisen since the Advisory Committee concluded its work. In addition to these cases, there have been some releases of persons who have been satisfactorily ascertained to belong to one of the races 460 friendly to the Allies. For instance, Ottoman subjects have been treated with exceptional leniency. I am glad to think that a long time ago I was instrumental to some extent myself in securing the exemption of many of these people, who are absolutely harmless. The number, therefore, of Ottoman subjects interned in this country at the present moment is relatively small. A few persons have been released on account of special circumstances that have arisen or in consequence of fresh information obtained since the Advisory Committee dealt with the case. This question of release is only one part of a very complicated and difficult subject, but I think I may say without indiscretion that the object of His Majesty's Government is to release from internment as many people as it is safe to deal with in this way. I think I may add that it is naturally the object of His Majesty's Government not only to release as many persons as can be released without danger, but by so doing to effect the release of British civilians now interned in Germany.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, there is one matter about which I should like to ask the noble Lord a question. Has the opinion or advice of the Advisory Committee always been followed after they have considered one of these cases of interned civilian prisoners, or has their opinion been over-ruled by the War Office or by other authorities?
§ LORD NEWTON
I should think it extremely probable that the recommendations of the Advisory Committee have in certain cases been over-ruled either by the Admiralty, by the War Office, or by the Home Office, but I am unable to speak with certainty upon the point.
§ LORD PARMOOR
It has been stated more than once that the safeguard of interned civilians is that they could go before the Advisory Committee and that the Advisory Committee would give at any rate a semi-judicial consideration to the case. If after they have been before the Advisory Committee the opinion of the Committee is over-ruled, the suggested safeguard to prevent injustice in the case of interned persons would not be a satisfactory one. The true position of the Advisory Committee is to see whether what is suggested by the War Office or the Admiralty is fair from a judicial point of view as regards a particular person.
§ LORD NEWTON
The Advisory Committee is not, of course, a Court of final appeal. I think it is perfectly obvious that in a state of war the decision of the War Office or of the Admiralty must be paramount.