§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT SANDHURST
My Lords, this is a Bill of much greater importance than is usually the case with the Departmental measures which it is my duty from time to time to submit for your Lordships' consideration. Your Lordships have been for some time interested in this subject, and you will see that the object of the Bill is to give wider powers for revoking certificates of naturalisation and also to provide the machinery necessary to that end.
I think it is fair here to observe that the subject of this Bill has been engaging the attention of the Government ever since the spring of last year. As your Lordships know, our general law on this subject is contained in the British Naturalisation and Status of Aliens Act of 1914. The amending Bill, or the Amendments which will be drafted in the Act of 1914, will find their way in Part II. This Bill affects the interests of the whole of the Dominions of His Majesty, and it follows therefore, as it applies of its own force to Crown Colonies and to India and forms part of a general scheme of naturalisation law which it is hoped the self-governing Dominions will adopt, that their counsel and co-operation had to be obtained for this Amending Bill.
The principle of the Bill was agreed to at the Imperial War Conference in the spring of last year. Drafts of the Bill have been circulated to the Dominions and approved by them—and also by the Government of India—with the exception, I understand, of Australia. But while no agreement has yet been received from Australia, there has been no dissent from that Dominion. There are, of course, certain large questions that, have attracted much attention during the war which are difficult of solution, such
1220 as jus soli, dual nationality, and the general question of the national status of women, which cannot be settled without further direct communication with the Dominions. It is therefore proposed to hold a further Conference on those subjects, and we shall have the advantage of the advice of persons of special and wide experience in these matters from the whole Empire.
As to the Bill, although it is one of importance I do not think I shall have to detain your Lordships very long in my explanation of it. You will observe that we endeavour to reduce in a great measure legislation by reference. By Clause 1 new Clauses 7 and 7A replace Clause 7 of the Act of 1914, and other Amendments in the Bill will be Amendments of the Act of 1914. By that Act the power to revoke certificates was limited to cases in which the certificate for naturalisation had been obtained either by fraud or misrepresentation, and even this power only found its way into legislation in 1914, for in the Act of 1870 a certificate once granted could not be recalled at all; but it will not take much to persuade your Lordships that, especially in war time, these powers were not sufficiently wide and operative, and it is advisable that they should be extended. The measure proposed is to add to the power to revoke for false representation and fraud power to revoke any certificate whenever granted, no matter what the nationality of the person to whom the certificate had been granted might be; and in Clause 1 your Lordships will see set out a variety of reasons for which the Secretary of State can revoke these licences. I need not go through them all, but (d) seems to have a great resemblance to (c). The reason for saying "was not of good character at the date of the grant of the certificate" is that a person might have been guilty of some minor offence and have suffered terms of imprisonment and, at any rate, could not be said to be of the good character which was required by the wording of the Act of 1914.
Then as regards the next reason—Has since the date of the grant of the certificate been for a period of not less than seven rears ordinarily resident out of His Majesty's Dominions otherwise than as a representative of a British subject, firm, or company carrying on business—and so on, or in "substantial connection with His Majesty's Dominions"—such a case as this might happen. There might 1221 be some one who was naturalised, whose business took him to China for a period of twenty or thirty years in a bank. So long as he kept up his connection with this country—that is, through the personality of the Ambassador or the representative of His Majesty or the Consul—this certificate need not be withdrawn, provided that he was directly or indirectly engaged in business in connection with this country.
In addition to these general powers it is proposed to treat specially all certificates granted to persons of enemy nationality since the commencement of war, August 4, 1914. All such, certificates are to be referred to a Committee, which, I shall presently explain, for judicial inquiry as to whether their revocation is desirable. The only exceptions are certificates granted to persons who at first were British subjects, and I believe I am correct in stating that in every case, or almost every case, the persons within the exception are women of British origin who were married to alien enemies and whose marriages have terminated by death or divorce. Dealing with the question of those certificates granted to alien enemeies I may conveniently refer to Clause 3, which provides that for a period of five years at the end of the war no enemy subject shall be naturalised here, except that a discretion is retained as to (1) men who have served in the British or Allied Forces; (2) persons who were members of races or communities opposed to enemy Governments, such as Czechs or Armenians; and (3) people who were at birth British subjects—for example, those British-born widows to whom I referred a moment ago.
As to machinery, by the existing law—while, as I explained, there is a power in certain circumstances to revoke certificates—no special machinery has ever been provided for that purpose. For instance, there is no power to call witnesses. It is desirable to have machinery for proper judicial inquiry, for, whatever our opinions may be on this subject, a man's nationality is to him a matter of the very highest importance, and it is surely in accordance with the first principles of British justice that a man should be properly heard. By this Bill we attempt to rectify this omission. The intention is to set up a Committee on which there shall be a Judge or ex-Judge. The duty of that Committee will be to consider the cases of certificates put before 1222 them by the Secretary of State, and to report to the Secretary of State. The Committee will be armed with the powers of a High Court. They will have powers to compel witnesses, to call for the production of documents, and other matters. The Bill also gives power to refer cases to the High Court.
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a word on the position of women so far as they are affected by this Bill. That is Clause 1, subsection (2). First of all as to the position of a wife of a denaturalised man. If the Secretary of State makes no order in regard to her, her nationality remains unaffected, though she may make a declaration of alienage and follow her husband. If the woman is found to have been privy to her husband's misdeeds the Secretary of State can include her in the denaturalisation order, but if she was a British subject by birth he is not empowered so to do, except after the same inquiry as applies to the husband's case, to which I have just referred. In regard to minor children, except as regards inquiry the position is the same as that of the wife. Secondly, advantage is being taken of the Bill to introduce a certain measure of relief for the wives of enemy aliens. In Clause 2 it is provided that Section 10 of the Act of 1914 shall be modified by introducing a power for the Secretary of State to naturalise the British-born wives of enemy aliens even during the continuance of the marriage. The reason for this is that the war has revealed a large number of very hard cases of British-born women against whom no suggestion of disloyalty has ever been made and whose conduct has been correct in every way. This, it will be observed, is an optional power for the Secretary of State, and would only be exercised in special cases.
Then there is another useful change in Clause 2, enabling the time spent in the service of the Crown abroad, outside His Majesty's Dominions, to be added to the time spent in residence within those Dominions to quality for naturalisation. I may explain that by saying this. By the law as it stands a man must have had five years' residence within His Majesty's Dominions or must he serving the Crown outside those Dominions for a similar period in order to qualify for one period of five years for naturalisation. Now, if he has a residence, we will say, for three years and service for two Years, that will make 1223 five years, and he will then be qualified for naturalisation. It might occur in this connection. A man might have residence in Canada for three years and then be serving with the Allied Forces in France or elsewhere for two years. In Clause 2 there is a number of other Amendments of the Act of 1914 of a minor character, which are shown by experience to be advisable but which are not suggested as arising out of the war.
These are the principal points in this Bill. I know that some noble Lords feel strongly in one direction or another, but may I venture very respectfully to remind your Lordships once more that the view of the Dominions have very much to be considered. What some here may consider advisable those across the seas might not view with equal approval, and, again. certain views which may find acceptance in one Dominion may not be equally acceptable in another. Therefore, the Government would be sorry to see the Bill made a vehicle for important changes in the law of nationality in one or other direction, as difficulties might possibly arise and the Bill be retarded. In asking you to give a Second Reading to this Bill I can assure your Lordships that the Secretary of State's anxious desire is that it should be an effective Bill, and although it is somewhat presumptuous on my part to say so. I am sure your Lordships may be confident that if the Bill is passed and becomes an Act it will be thoroughly and properly administered.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Sandhurst.)
§ VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, the Government in the House of Commons, when this Bill was introduced, said they hoped it might fulfil a useful purpose not only during the war but after the war. Having that in their minds it seems to me a great pity they did not make the Bill take a wider scope. What does the Bill do? It does this; it gives the Home Secretary power to denaturalise everybody who has been naturalised since the war. That might apply to some scores of people. It also gives power, under certain strictly specified cases, to denaturalise people who were naturalised before the war, and I venture to say that, if you pass this Bill as it stands, at the very outside there can never be more than some 200 or 300 people denaturalised under this Bill.
1224 In view of the fact of the thousands of hostile aliens who have been naturalised of late years this Bill in no way fulfils the public demand. It is based on the ideas of certain legal members of both Houses (they are represented here) who think naturalisation is one of the most solemn contracts that can ever be made, and ought never to be revoked without some particular cause in every particular case. I venture to suggest that naturalisation is no solemn contract at all. It is a law, a loose and foolish law, of which these aliens have availed themselves. We do not go hunting about in Europe and saying to these people, "Come to our shores. We will value your services. You give us an oath, and we will give you certain privileges." These people came here, they found this loose law, and they availed themselves of it.
I was very much struck with the explanation given by the Home Secretary in the House of Commons of the Delbrück law. Most of us have thought, I did for one, that the Delbrück law, passed in January, 1914, was a law which allowed a German to retain his own nationality although he took up another nationality. The Home Secretary said that was not so. He said that the Delbrück law created a state of things, as I understand it, that for all time every German who has been naturalised in this country has retained his nationalitiy in his own country. Is not that a farce? What is the good of talking about "solemn contracts," about not tearing up "bits of paper" as if they were nothing. Here is an oath that a man can take with his "tongue in his cheek"; he could swear loyalty to King George, King Edward, or Queen Victoria, knowing perfectly well all the time that he retained his own oath in his own country and that no change was made at all. I venture to say that the solemn contract theory does not hold water.
This Bill is based on these two theories—the solemn contract theory, and the theory that you must only denaturalise in specified cases for proved acts of disloyalty or hostility. I think it ought to be the other way. The view we ought to take—we must think of our own country sometimes—is this: clear out as far as you can the doubtful class. Here you have a class of people many of them of proved disloyalty since the war. There are gross cases. As to most of them I think the evidence is 1225 very strong that what loyalty they have is very lukewarm, and probably kept even at that moderate temperature by the handy presence of a policeman. They want a lot of watching at the best. Why should the Government make the door by which they are denaturalised so narrow On the theory that you must not let the many suffer for the fault of some? You do that in British law. There is almost an analogous case in election law. There is nothing an Englishman claims more than the franchise, and after many elections you have boroughs disfranchised. The election Judges report that there have been one or two cases of bribery and corruption, and you disfranchise every one of thousands of people who never sinned, who never were corrupt, and who never took bribes. In English law the many suffer constantly fur the fault of the few; and if you do that for Englishmen, why should you not do it for Germans?
I venture to suggest what a naturalisation Bill ought to do. It ought to start at the other end. It ought not to say that under certain very narrowly guarded ways we will denaturalise these men. It ought to say, Here is a class of not much value to the country at best, who are highly suspect, let us denaturalise them for ten years at least, and then make exceptions. These exceptions can be gone into by the most impartial Committee you like; they should give their reasons in every case, put the names down on the Table of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and if there is no hostile resolution carried then these people should be taken as naturalised again. That is what a proper Naturalisation Bill ought to do. I think it ought to do more than that; a great deal more. We ought to lay it down—circumstances have changed since the war; the whole condition of things and our knowledge has changed—that no hostile-born alien should ever sit in either House of Parliament. I do not think a hostile-born alien should ever be in the Civil Service, and his right now to pension or pay ought to be ended by Act of Parliament. The Government, I believe, are going to sweep them out of the Civil Service, but in my belief these people, if they are turned out of the Civil Service, will have the right to pay or pension whatever happens. I say that a Naturalisation Bill ought to end this. I also say that no natural-born alien ought to he in His Majesty's Government, and that no 1226 hostile alien should be in the Magistracy. Do you not think you are going to have a nice feeling at the end of this war if when your soldiers return and perhaps are a little too cheerful on the first night, they are fined "40s. or a week" by a German on the Bench. The thing would be a scandal, and the possibility of it ought to be ended.
And last, but not least, an alien Bill ought to enact that no Privy Council, should remain on the Privy Council, or be a Privy Councillor, if he is an hostile-born alien. The people of this country probably think that the Privy Council has a great deal more to do with the government of this country than it has, but what is quite true is that there is no greater honour in this country that a man can hold than to be on the Privy Council. Everybody will consider the general naturalisation evaded by the Government as long as they allow men of hostile origin to sit upon the Privy Council. A proper Aliens Bill ought to prevent them doing so.
For the line of argument that I have been taking this evening that these men are fairly suspect, I have a new authority. The other evening the noble Lord who has recently returned from meeting with the Germans supplied me with a new argument. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, warned us two nights ago that we must not be over sanguine of the result of his mission on the exchange of prisoners. I never was very sanguine about his success. He said that the difficulties of arranging an exchange had not been facilitated by the effect of the active anti-alien agitation that was going on in this country. What a useful sidelight, my Lords, upon the Germans' views! There are people here, even in this House, who think that these men are our friends. Civil servants, Members of Parliament, magistrates, Privy Councillors—they are all above suspicion! They have taken the oath. You must not get rid of them. You must not denaturalise them unless yon have a strong proof in each individual case. They are our friends. What will the Germans think? The Germans think, as the noble Lord said, that the agitation is hostile to them. They do not like it. Why do they not? Because they know these persons are their friends. Cannot we take the hint? If they are friends of the Germans are they not our enemies? I think that what the noble Lord said is a very, very strong reason why we should—although I do not 1227 think that he was specially meaning it—continue this anti-alien movement and keep pressing it upon the Government, as some of us have been doing from the first day of the war. From the outbreak of the war we have been urging it upon the Government, and step by step they have been adopting our views. This is a very milk and water Bill. They will have to introduce another Bill, or other Bills, and the sooner that they do so the better.
We are often told that if we get rid of a number of these people we may be injuring the country, because this country in past times has gained greatly by emigration. So it has. But what class of people did we get in the old days? When we were fighting the tyranny of Spain, and later when we were fighting the tyrant in France, we got Dutchmen and Huguenots, men who are with us in our religion, in our feelings, and in our every sympathy, men who had to leave their own countries because they were anxious to fight for us and work with us. They brought great industries here: they brought great energy and courage. They came from some of the finest old fighting blood in the world, and any of us who have their blood in our veins may be proud of it.
What are we getting now? In the years before the war aliens have been pressing out Englishmen in our big towns, especially in the East-end of London. Is the blood that they bring such as you can be proud of? The one thing that this war has shown is that the courage of our own people is immense. The courage of every class of our people is more than anybody would have dared to hope. When there have been raids in London the trouble has been to keep our people out of the streets, because they treated danger as a joke, and wanted to see what was going on, even if they ran a risk. That has been the trouble with the native-born Englishmen. What has it been with the foreigners? These aliens, who are so carefully safeguarded by the Bill of the Government, blocked your trains to Brighton, blocked your seaport towns, and blocked your riverside towns. Anywhere they went to get out of danger. The alien that we have been having into this country of late years is of poor blood. As a mass they have shown no courage, and the Government would do well to take any steps that can be properly taken to lessen their numbers and discourage others of their kind from coming here.
1228 People say "Oh, we shall have good times after the war." It may be so for a year or two, but with the damage that has been done, with the immense loss of property and wealth in the world, that loss is not soon going to be restored, and I believe that two or three years after the war we shall be having very hard times in this country. Is it not, therefore, better to do anything we can to make openings in this country for Britishers and to discourage this foreign element? To create more openings in Great Britain for men of our own blood ought to be the policy of His Majesty's Government. I do not know whether your Lordships will amend this Bill and try to make of it a good Bill, and send it back to the House of Commons. I think that it might be made a good anti-alien Bill, and if your Lordships will amend it to make it one you will be doing good work, and will I believe earn the respect and gratitude of the country.
§ LORD BERESFORD
My Lords. I entirely agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down. This Bill does not meet the wishes of the public. It is not drastic enough. The noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, said that the Bill had been sent to the Colonies. I should like him to tell me how it is that Australia has enacted a Bill which is really good in every particular, and totally different from this Bill. He seemed to suggest that it would be unwise to produce a Bill that the Dominions would not agree with. But the Australians have already gone a step beyond this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT SANDHURST
All I said was that the various Dominions had replied and had agreed, except Australia, who, I understood, had not agreed but did not dissent from the Bill. That is the only statement I made.
§ LORD BERESFORD
They would not dissent from the Bill because their own Bill is so much stronger and better. It has taken up most of the points which the noble Lord, Lord St. Davids, has brought forward, and many other points in addition. And those are the points which we wish to see put into this Bill, or at all events the public want to see them put in. It is satisfactory that the Government have at last realised the gravity of the situation. There is a great danger from the aliens in 1229 this country, and it is only the force of public opinion which has made the Government bring forward this Bill. It is a Bill in the right direction, but it does not go far enough, and I earnestly hope tha your Lordships will carry certain Amendments which will strengthen it.
As to the contention that certain people will be indispensable, I think that the public should know all about the antecedents and qualifications of those people. What the public really wants is that all naturalised subjects of enemy origin should have their naturalisation papers revoked. If they wish to prevent that being done they should be examined before a proper tribunal, and reasons should be given, and their papers should then be placed on the Table of the House of Commons before they are approved. There are a great number of cases to try. There will be 8,000 Germans, I understand, and altogether 18,000 enemy aliens. But the real point is, what are we going to do with the aliens in this country who are giving the real trouble which my noble friend Lord St. Davids referred to? The Committee is a good idea, but I do most earnestly hope that all the findings of that Committee will be published. If we do not have the findings of that Committee published we shall be in just exactly the same position as we were before. There should also be a periodical list of those denaturalised by the Bureau so that the public should know who they are. The Government do not appear to be really in earnest about this Bill, but I can assure them that the people are determined, and they are determined that these enemy aliens, both men and women, shall be interned and their naturalisation papers revoked. If they do go back it must he after full inquiry.
There is an influence in this country to-day behind these aliens. What it is I do not know. We hear of "hidden hands" and of other suggestions of that character, but there is an influence, there has been an influence all through the war, and the sooner we can get to the bottom of it and find out what that influence is the better. We can only hope to do it by taking the naturalisation papers from all of them and letting them prove in open Court why they should have them returned. to them. We see it every day. It is amazing to me why the Government do not act more quickly. Every day we see aliens sentenced. Let me read what is in to-days issue of The 1230 Times. There is a one called Emil Theuergarten who got six months for failing to register; John Krupps, an Austrian, got three months for shooting with a revolver at a man. Julia Klasbosky, a Russian, had a paper which Was prejudicial to discipline. She got fourteen days and was recommended for expulsion. I want to know what happens with these people when their fourteen days or six months are up. Are they let loose again on the public, or are they interned, or are they only watched? Because they ought to be confined until the date on which they are sent back to their own country.
I want to ask my noble friend whether it is true that there are two men called Schultz and Bethmann, Germans, who own and manage the Triumph munition works at Coventry at this minute. These aliens are still attending to their own business in competition with Englishmen. If it is true that these men are at Coventry I think it is a very serious matter, considering that is going on at Coventry. We know by the Press that they have put up every sort of notice in Coventry to stop the war. They say "Bring Lloyd George to his knees." That is posted up all over the place. "Make peace and stop the war" is another notice. "If you go on making munitions it will make the war last longer" is another. These Germans are not indispensable. No man in the world is indispensable. What happens when he dies? Of course they are not indispensable, and the least indispensable are these German-bred aliens that are in our midst.
There is a man called Lindemann who is a brother of the Burgomaster of Kiel and who has been naturalised for fifteen years. At the outbreak of war he was a coal exporter at Glasgow. On August 15 he had a house close to the railway station at Biggar in Lanarkshire. He had a powerful motor car and took long journeys during the night in the neighbourhood of the Firth of Forth the Firth of Clyde and the Solway Firth. What I am giving you is bona fide—I had it from the man who signed the paper. This Lindemann travelled about and had large quantities of petrol in his car which he bought in Glasgow and Biggar. What was he doing? The facts of this case were represented to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the time Sir John Simon was Home Secretary. Nothing was done, and I believe this man is 1231 still at large. That is the sort of thing that irritates the public. Why had he this motor car? Where was he taking the petrol? These are the things that are happening, and occasionally we see notices in the Press of men being interned. The only safety is to take up the whole lot of them, look at their naturalisation papers, and if they can prove publicly that they are all right let those papers be returned to them.
There are several things in this Bill that I should like to see improved. In Clause 7 (1) there should be an Amendment throwing the onus of proof on the alien, not on the Court, and I hope to bring that forward. There is nothing about repatriation in the Bill, though that is perhaps the most important thing of all. On July 8 I described to your Lordships what was a very serious moment in my life, when I saw two ships at the wharf, one taking away from our country the finest specimens of British humanity, artisans, mechanics, and agricultural labourers, to the number of 2,000, and the other carting in the scum of Europe. That was thirty-seven years ago, and that has been going on ever since. That is the class of people we want to get rid of, and let our own Englishmen have a chance.
What is annoying our men in the trenches, to judge from the letters which I get, is this. They own a small business in which they had the good will. Their father, their uncle, their brother, or an elder realtive, took over that business and kept it going for them. Now under the law of the land, to which I do not object, these men are called up, and what happens? The Russian Jew, the Holstein Dane, the Swiss, the Spaniard, who, in many cases, are all Germans, take over the good will of that business. When these businesses are taken over by aliens there should be no lease, and the men who have fought for us should come back to their businesses when they return from the Front. We ought to be able to manage it. But the Germans are a very cunning, clever nation. They are not naturalising themselves into British, they are naturalising themselves into neutrals, all over the country. What can we do? It is these neutrals who ought to be expatriated. Whenever they are brought before the Court or commit any crime they ought to be put in a ship and sent back to their own country. That is the real point, and it is because that is not done, that excite- 1232 ment is caused in the country and annoyance to the men in the trenches. They have done this in India. There was a case before the House of Commons the other day of a very large and well-known German firm manufacturing in India to our disadvantage, which turned itself into Swiss. I believe that that case is going to be taken up by the Government, but it is only one of many others.
Lord St. Davids brought forward the case of German-born magistrates. I say that that is a scandal. There ought to be no such thing. I believe that the German-born man can be called on juries. Fancy their being called to assist and adjudicate on the rights and wrongs of Englishmen! I have referred to Australia. There they have smashed the German interest wherever it is to be found. There is a firm there which Mr. Hughes mentioned the other day in a speech, a firm with the name of "Merton"—I forget the original name, but it was German. Both Australia and the United States have taken over this firm and wound it up, and neither the United States nor Australia have done anything dishonourable. They have not confiscated anything. They have paid the Germans the proper rate at which the shares were quoted in the market at the time, but they have removed all their interest and power in connection with these industries which were their property. Another point which Lord St. Davids brought out was this, Why are these foreigners in the Government? They are not indispensable, and it is wrong that they should be there. I am satisfied. from what I know of the working men in this country, that they are determined to see that these foreigners go out of the Government offices, and, in addition, as far as is possible, out of the industrial and commercial and banking pursuits in which they hold such a strong power at this moment.
In Australia no naturalised or unnaturalised German can hold a share in any guild or corporation; all contracts with enemy subjects have been annulled; transfers of land have been forbidden; the franchise has been rescinded for both naturalised and un-naturalised Germans; and British-born subjects of enemy parentage have been interned. A Bill to bring about a similar state of affairs here is what my noble friend Lord St. Davids and I want to see. But, much stronger than we are, the public want to see it, and they are determined to have it; therefore the Government will 1233 have to bring in another Bill dealing with this question of the alien neutral who is really doing more harm than the others, because, after all, the Germans are pretty well watched.
There is nothing in the Bill about patents, or about the banks, or about the Privy Councillors. I agree entirely with the view of Lord St. Davids on these matters. Mr. Gladstone once said that he considered the office of Privy Councillor was the most honourable of all offices; that he regarded it as higher in both responsibility and honour than the Peerage. I was told that by one of his greatest friends. All these questions should be dealt with by the Bill, or, if not by this Bill, then we must draft another. There is nothing about change of name in this Bill, and that is one of the strongest points the Germans have. If a German changes his name from some unpronounceable German name to a good old English name it should be published in the Gazette, and the person would never be allowed to sign one name without the other. If he calls himself "Brown" and his other name is Fritz something or other, he should sign that after the name he has adopted. I think the Bill may be made a fair one, but it will have to be very much amended or it will not be at all in consonance with the ideas of the people of this country. I am sure that our people will be determined to have a stronger Bill.
With regard to what Lord St. Davids said as to our "honourable contract," we did not break the contract; it was the people with whom we made it who broke it. They swore that they would be loyal to us; but how many naturalised persons have been locked up? Any amount of them have been locked up because they have broken their contract with us. The comparison which Lord St. Davids drew between the principle of the naturalised German and the fraudulent borough is absolutely correct. Three or four voters may have done something fraudulent and the borough suffers. But that is a very minor thing compared with the power which these people have of doing harm to this country; and the gradually rising tide of irritation and anger in the country on this question is, I can assure your Lordships, most pronounced. This Bill will not meet that rising tide of irritation and anger. We may amend the Bill in your Lordships' House and make it better, and from what I hear the House of Commons might be disposed 1234 to accept certain Amendments. Anyway let us try. If we cannot have the Bill amended, let us bring a Bill into this House which will meet the public demand and put us in a safer position than that in which we are at present with regard to the great danger in connection with the aliens now in our midst.
THE EARL OF MEATH
My Lords, I perfectly agree with Lord St. Davids and the noble and gallant Lord who has just spoken that this Bill does not really meet the situation. It has taken four years for the Government to produce this very small and inadequate Bill, and I should be very much surprised indeed if it meets with the support of the great masses of the people in this country. Lord Newton seems to deprecate the agitation which is being conducted against the aliens.
Now, I have had some of my best friends who are Germans. I do not want to be fanatical in regard to this agitation, but I say in all earnestness and with knowledge that the majority of the Germans who have come over to this country have come with the intention of doing all the harm they could to the British nation. I do not want to talk about myself, but I have had a good deal of knowledge of Germany, and I have been surprised at what is called the "influence" which has prevented the German alien from being ostracised in this country. It has been a great puzzle and a subject of great thought to me why it is so. I may be wrong but I have come to the conclusion that it is because it is inconceivable to a Briton that a great nation, a great people, should deliberately work for the destruction of another nation, under the control of the military party in Germany, for years before war was actually declared. Yet I know that this is the fact. I wonder whether your Lordships are aware that even in our Navy we have had Germans. I do not know whether the noble and gallant Admiral knows this fact which I am going to relate and which was told me by an Admiral—namely, that we have actually had sent into our Navy Germans skilled in wireless and in the British language working our wireless system. Is that known to the noble and gallant Lord?
THE EARL OF MEATH
I heard it from an Admiral, whose name I am not at liberty to give but I will give it in private to the noble and gallant Admiral. I was told by this officer that when at the commencement of the war he was in command of a ship he could never understand how it was that, whenever he sent a wireless message, something went wrong. He consulted with his next in command, saying, "There is something extraordinary going on here. Try and find out what it can be." Eventually they found out that this operator was a German. The most extraordinary thing is that, after this matter was communicated to the Admiralty, although the German was got rid of from this particular ship he was not got rid of altogether; he was actually sent on board another vessel because we had not enough English wireless operators. As a matter of fact, he was sent to a part of the seas where it was not dangerous. Now, does this not show that what is called the "peaceful penetration" of Germany is not peaceful penetration at all?
Never in the history of the world have we ever had before not only a Government but a nation deliberately trying in time of peace to destroy another nation. That is what has happened, and we as Englishmen cannot understand that. It is beyond us, and therefore we find even in your Lordships' House gentlemen who will say it is impossible that a whole nation could wish for and work for, deliberately and secretly, the destruction of another.
I am going to tell your Lordships another case that I know. I know that to an hotel in Switzerland just before the war there came a German officer, and that German officer communicated through the manager of the hotel, who was a German, that he wanted to speak at midnight to all the waiters in the hotel. He did speak to them at midnight, and that fact was communicated through the manager himself, who betrayed it. Now if that was the case in one hotel in Switzerland what was going on in other hotels throughout the world? That is what I want to know. Also I know of a British officer who was in the wilds of Africa. He was a British officer in command of a Sudanese regiment, 150 miles south of Fashoda, and yet there came to him two men, one of whom called himself a professor of languages and who said he came to learn the native langugage. The other was a bagman. They pretended 1236 not to know one another, and they stayed with this officer. He knew well enough that they were German spies. What were they doing there? They knew that this war was coming on, and the German Government wanted to have somebody in that part of the world who knew the language and knew what the native tribes were thinking about and what they would wish to do, so that when the time came and the Germans got possession of Egypt they might have somebody also who could if necessary create jealousy, or if the opposite was necessary enable the tribes to support Germany en masse.
What I am driving at is that we have something entirely new—this penetration, this warlike penetration in time of peace—and that therefore our enemy must be kept out. We shall have to keep out a lot of innocent people, but unless we are prepared for another attempt at warlike penetration in peace we must keep out every alien enemy. I perfectly agree with the noble and gallant Lord in thinking that there is just as much and sometimes more danger from the neutral than from the German. I am going to move in Committee, with your Lordships' permission, a small Amendment. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Government, if they think there is danger from the Germans, are going now we will say to take away the naturalisation from an individual and then, supposing the war ends at the end of this year, leave it possible for that man to come back again at the end of five years. What is five years? It is nothing in the life of a nation. What we have got to do, it appears to me, is to make it impossible for these men to come back again, and that you cannot do except in a generation. I should say the proper period would be twenty-five years, but I am going to move to insert ten years instead of five years, and I hope I shall have the support in Committee of your Lordships.
This is a matter which will have to be decided by the masses of the people. Your Lordships' House may discuss the matter, but the real people who are going to decide this question are the masses, and I think the Government. would be wise if they reconsidered this Bill and withdrew it and brought in another far stronger than this one, because if they do not, allow me to say that when the election takes place I am perfectly certain that the whole country will be swept clean of these aliens.
§ LORD WITTENHAM
My Lords, I must begin by claiming your Lordships' indulgence, although it is a difficult thing to claim at my time of life, on my first speech in your Lordships' House. It seems a long time ago since I had to claim a similar indulgence in another place, and I then thought it would be the first and last time on which I should have to do so. I am sure, however, that I shall have your Lordships' sympathy. I have often stood as a member of the House of Commons at the Bar and tried to familiarise myself with the atmosphere of your Lordships' House, although I had no idea in those days that I should ever have the honour and privilege of being allowed to take part, in however humble a degree, in your Lordships' debates.
I feel that this subject has been well talked out, but it is a subject which lends itself to a great deal of talking. My second general observation will be this, that during the last four years I from my humble position in the House of Commons, have devoted myself specially to this matter. The number of Questions that I have asked I should not dare to count and the correspondence that I have received upon the matter would make a very formidable volume; but I entirely agree with noble Lords who have spoken, other than the noble Viscount who moved the Second Reading of this Bill, that the public feel immensely, deeply, and passionately upon this matter, and it is no answer for the leaders of either this House or of the other House to say that the public are needlessly alarmed. The public have taken the matter to heart, and if you do not given them what they want, the more difficult will the impasse become.
I read that after the last debate on this matter in your Lordships' House it was said that general declamations in either House were of no use, and that it was much better to give specific instances. Let me give specific instances, and I will not be afraid. You have got to go to the biggest poppies in the field, and not be switching your stick among the lesser weeds. The Home Office—and I said so a year ago in the presence of the present Home Secretary—has been suspect in this matter ever since the beginning of the war. I do not mean that the Home Secretary himself has been suspect (I would not say anything of the kind), but the Home Office has been suspect. I have been a Civil Servant myself at one time of my life. and I know how its per- 1238 manent officers run the offices, and not the political heads. It is the men who spend their lives there who run the Departments. I am not going to say anything about the "hidden hand" although I have my strong view upon that matter; but I do say teat the Home Office, ever since the beginning of this war, has shown an extraordinary reluctance to grip this matter, to understand the intensity of feeling that there is in the country upon it. See what Mr. McKenna did as Home Secretary when the war began. During the first five months he made between fifty and sixty naturalisations of enemy aliens. I think I am correct; I am speaking from memory. During the first year there were no less titan 150. After he went Sir john Simon came. Well, I will only say of that right hon. and learned gentheman—for whose intellect I have the greatest possible respect—that in the matter both of the internment of Germans and the naturalisation of enemy aliens he was really as had as his predecessor. Some noble Lords and people outside may say worse. It was during his régime that there was that strange case of the German maid of the Headmaster of Eton. I see the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, sitting there who took a strong part in that matter and has strong opinions on it.
Then came Mr. Herbert Samuel, who began to draw the rein tighter; and then came the present highly gifted occupant of that post. When Sir George Cave became Home Secretary—I hope I am not offending against any unwritten law of your Lordships—I said to him, "I am thankful you have come. Now we are going to have the real article." Again there was this subtle, indescribable influence which, whenever he wanted to be bold, seemed to paralyse him. Instead of his playing the man that he really and truly is, he became in this business—I do not like to say it—apologetic and anæmic for want of that backbone which he has had in every other thing that he has touched in life.
Let me go from that to special instances during Mr. McKenna's time. There is the extraordinary case—I am not going to be particular about mentioning it—of Baron Bruno Schroeder. As I understand, he had been in this country for years before the war. He was a very notable, prominent, business man, a great discounter of bills, a great foreign banker. He had never taken the trouble to go through the 1239 solemn form of naturalisation, which to the lawyers means so much, and to the person who wants naturalisation often means so litthe—just a coat that he puts on with much less trouble than he would put on a coat for which the tailor was fitting him. A few pounds paid and the thing is done! A few people to stand sponsor for him and the thing is done! Baron Bruno Schroeder never took the trouble to go through the form—that easy form as we all know it to be now, because we are no longer blind. Men who were blind now see. He did not take the trouble to go through the form. War came, and suddenly Mr. McKenna discovered that Baron Bruno Schroeder was absolutely necessary to the financial stability of this country.
Well, I am a banker—a country banker, that is all, but still I know some little bit about finance—and I have always been astonished how it was that Baron Bruno Schroeder, who had been here all these years before the war without taking the trouble to be naturalised, suddenly, a few days after the war had broken out, had to be naturalised in order to save the financial stability of this country. A week ago I saw in "Through German Eyes" in The Times this extract from a German paper which told me, and will also tell your Lordships if you happen to read it, what the real state of the case was. The Neue Freie Presse said—Among the naturalised was the German banker Schroeder. England's greatest private discounter. If he had not been naturalised he would have been shut out from the support action of the Bank of England at the beginning of the war, and although perfectly solvent would have had to declare himself unable to pay—I stop there a moment, if I may, my Lords. Therefore it was to save Baron Schroeder and not to save British finance. Of course, the Bank of Enlgand stood at the back of all great bill discounters; the bill discounters would have gone down—we all know that—to the tune of millions, every one of them, and would have precipitated a terrific financial crisis in this country. What is the good of Mr. McKenna telling us that Baron Schroeder was necessary for British finance? Naturalisation was necessary to Baron Schroeder in order that he might come under the wings of the action of the Bank of England. Otherwise, he would have gone down. Let me finish the quotation from the Neue Freie Presse—and although perfectly solvent would have had to declare himself unable to pay; that, again, would 1240 have meant a shattering upheaval of the whole city.I suppose the Neue Freie Presse means this—Baron Schroeder, a great bill discounter, a great German bill discounter in London; war came and the Bank of England said: "We will stand behind the British bill discounters." Baron Schroeder was not a British bill discounter. He was a German. So Mr McKenna naturalised him. Then he came under the agis of the Bank of England. If he had not, the Schroeder ninepin would have gone down; and I suppose the Neue Freie Presse means that the Schroeder ninepin would have brought down a lot of British ninepins besides. That is all. It does not mean that Baron Schroeder was necessary to British finance. It means that it was necessary for Baron Schroeder to have the protection of the Bank of England. In those circumstances—and I can see, in view of this quotation, that is the real meaning of Baron Schroeder's naturalisation—ought he to have been naturalised? I say emphatically to your Lordships. "No." Recently he has been before the public by his exploits in the coal direction. He has almost become the coal king, considering the amount of coal that he has been enabled to purchase where we poor ordinary British people have had to go without. We have been apologetic to him in the matter of his nationality—" Please, Baron Schroeder, come and be naturalised, and save British finance; and please, Baron Schroeder, have as much coal as ever you like; the more the merrier; you are so necessary."
May I take another case in a different connection? It is the case of quite as big a man, perhaps more dangerous—Sir Edgar Speyer. Has he got one nationality or two? As I understand, and I believe it to be the fact, until the Delbrück Law came in—the present Home Secretary is quite right in his explanation—you could have two nationalities. In fact, every German who was naturalised before January, 1914, had a German nationality and a British. Well, Sir Edgar Speyer had two nationalities, and after the war began your Lordships will remember with pain—everybody will remember with pain and shame—that he metaphorically, almost actually, threw his Privy Councillorship into the Sovereign's face—this man with two nationalities! Imagine if you can the views and sayings of Sir Edgar Speyer at 1241 the beginning of the war. Where did his sympathies lie? Let us judge him by his actions. He throws his Privy Councillorship in the Sovereign's face, and his Baronetcy as well; and are we not justified in saying that his sympathies, by that very action, showed themselves to be German and not British.
I take another case, from another angle. It is interesting to look at them from different angles in view of our knowledge now There is von Bissing, half-brother of the Governor of Brussels who murdered Miss Cavell. I do not know when von Bissing became naturalised here. Mr. Herbert Samuel told me in another place that actually no list had ever been kept of the aliens who were naturalised, and I do not know when he was naturalised. What has happened to him now. I was going to say he is under lock and key; but he is not. I asked a number of questions in another place and was told that he had had a mysterious illness either bona fide or otherwise, but whether bona fide or not the key unlocked the lock, and he went into a nursing home. I do not know whether he is in the nursing home now or out. But do you want the half-brother of the German murderer a naturalised subject of this country? I venture to doubt at.
I come now to another case and one that will illustrate the absurdity of the facility with which an alien enemy can get naturalised in this country. Take the case of Laszlo, on which I asked many questions in another place and extracted some very curious information. Laszlo, as your Lordships know, is an Austrian painter of great ability. He began life (all the more honour to him) in very humble circumstances, worked his way up by the force of his genius, made his merit known, and migrated into Germany, where he remained for many years. He painted the portraits of great Germans, and then found his way here, where he painted many notable men and women, and married an English woman. A few days before the war, pressure I believe was brought to bear upon him, very likely and naturally by his English relatives here, to become naturalised, and he said openly that his heart was still with his country and that if he became naturalised it would only be for business purposes.
To make a long story short—I do not wish to weary your Lordships—he was naturalised: Let me examine the farce of the form. Who were his sponsors? As I 1242 managed to find who they were, I hope your Lordships will excuse me if I mention them here. I hope I shall not be guilty of any bad taste; their names were given in the papers. I had great difficulty in getting the information, as the present Home Secretary said it was not in accordance with precedent, and I am afraid, in my strenuous way, I said "What do we care about precedent in these days" But he told me who the sponsors were. Imagine—the sponsors of this man, who is now under lock and key for an offence against the Defence of the Realm Act—were the present Foreign Secretary; Viscount Devonport; and a relative of the lady Laszlo married. It is inconceivable. We know that the Foreign Secretary has too much to do, even if he was not Foreign Secretary at the time, to go into the merits or the demerits of Laszlo. He knew him as a great painter, and as one who had painted many of his friends, but he was one of the sponsors. These three gentlemen were the sponsors of Laszlo, who is now under lock and key for a very gross offence against the Defence of the Realm Act. I have ventured to give you these cases so that nobody may think, and the public ought not to think, that whilst there is this general denunciation of noble Lords who talk about German hairdressers and Germans of low degree, we do not strike at the head.
And last, but not least. Here I speak, not with any doubt and I do not want to bring in names unnecessarily, but I must; I feel it is my duty, and I am here to do my duty. I must mention Sir Ernest Cassel—must—although his course, of conduct has been admirable since the war began. He, like Sir Edgar Speyer, is a German undiluted, nothing but German blood in his veins. Ought he to be a Privy Councillor? If I were addressing your Lordships in private conversation I am perfectly certain that every one of you must have the same opinion that the man in the street has—namely, that a man of undiluted German blood ought to find no place in the councils of the Sovereign. Here, again, there is this double nationality. "Once a German, always a German." He has got German nationality and British nationality, but the great call of the blood must come in. In this great world struggle the whole fate of Germany depends on the issue, just as the whole fate of ourselves depends on the issue; and in that terrific series of moments which have made up the last four years do 1243 you suppose Sir Ernest Cassel's breast must not have been torn with a conflicting duty. Perhaps he wants to do his duty to this country, but the great call of the blood has come in. He is a German first, and last, and all the time, and education is never going to stand against that. We have been wrong in ever putting him in that position. It is our laws which have put him in that position. It ought not to have been possible for him to have been a Privy Councillor. I do not blame him; it is not his fault. It is our law. We have been so lax, and so negligent, such friends to every country except our own.
But now the time has come when we must draw the reins tight. Yet you bring in this nerveless and apologetic Bill. Sweep the slate clean. Let every German naturalised make his case good. Length of time in this country makes no difference, neither does age. There is a case in the Courts at this moment. Naturally I do not mention it, but it is in all your Lordships' minds. It must be. It does not matter if a person has been naturalised fifty years if the call of blood is there. I must not trespass upon your Lordships' indulgence longer than a few moments.
I do not know whether this Bill is open to improvement. I see one of the great pillars of the law sitting immediately opposite, the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. When I was Registrar of the Privy Council many years ago I conceived for him that veneration which I still hold for him, I need scarcely say, to-day. The noble and learned Earl will tell us perhaps whether this Bill is capable of real amendment in Committee. It has been so wrongly conceived, so wrongly cast, in my opinion, that it is almost impossible to amend it adequately without turning it topsy-turvy. But half a loaf, a quarter of a loaf, an eighth part of a loaf, or 90 per cent. of dilution is, I Suppose, better than none at all. It is either this or nothing Therefore it may be that it is better to take this than nothing at all. There may be no time for amendment. But I hope that your Lordships will press, in the strongest possible way, that this must only be considered as an instalment, because you have not only the public to consider, but you have to consider yourselves. You have a duty to the public. The other House comes and goes. At this moment it does not represent public opinion, and everybody in the House knows it. They have outstayed their 1244 welcome. They are not the mirror of the nation. You, my Lords, have your splendid independence, and if on the whole you feel that you ought not to alter this Bill at this eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute of the Session, then I hope that you will make it clear that this must only be the first instalment, and that something virile is demanded by the people and by your Lordships.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords. I desire to express my entire concurrence in what the noble Lord has been saying, and in what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Beresford, and Lord St. Davids have said. The difficulty in dealing with this Bill is this. It is a Bill not really for supplying the public demand—the public demand is one which cannot be denied—but a Bill for regulating the mode in which you can undo the mischief that has been done. And in opposing a Bill of that sort, one would be doing what would be wrong for the purpose of righting something else. Therein is the difficulty of dealing with it. I so entirely concur with what has been said that I do not think I should be justified in occupying your Lordships' time longer than to say that when the time comes for amending this Bill I shall see whether it is possible to engraft upon it something more drastic, something more real, and something which will go to the root of the matter. I shall then say what I have to say on the subject. At present I content myself with the statement that I shall certainly, on that occasion, endeavour to do something which this Bill pretends to do and does not.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, I wish to say a word in support of a remark which fell from the noble Lord, Lord St. Davids, when he was complaining of the attitude of our Government Departments which presumed, or were inclined to presume, the innocence of a man until they actually caught him out in a flagrant act. I had a letter sent to me this morning which typifies that exactly. It comes from a firm in Bradford, and reads as follows—I think that you may be interested in the following faithful and accurate report of a conversation which passed between a merchant in this city and an interned subject at Lofthouse Camp. You have my authority to repeat it and publish it anywhere you like. I take all responsibility for it being absolutely correct, and I do not care a button if it is or is not libellous.1245 Then the letter is signed. The conversation which was overheard was that between an interned German and a very prominent partner in what is called a supervised firm, which has been officially declared to be beyond suspicion on more than one occasion recently. I will attempt to read the conversation as it is written in the sort of English which our naturalised aliens use. The interned German said—Well, ou arrr yu koin onn een Praatfort?And this was the reply—Hoch, fein! Ve arrr orl rreit. I sink orl Inglisschmen moost pee tampt phools; der Vor can ko hon for ass longg ass eet leike—ve arrr orl ferry 'appy an mekking mooch munny; vu haf no hinterranses voteffer.
§ EARL GREY
It is dated this month. That conversation took place at Lofthouse Internment Camp at, I understand, a very recent date. I am asking for more details and shall send them on to the proper quarter. There you have a man who is declared above suspicion going to his interned friend and saying that in his business he has no hindrances whatever. Can you be surprised, my Lords, if the attitude towards the Government is one of suspicion? They may have a reason for never having taken action. But if they have a good reason why is it that they have never informed the public what it is? So long as they do not inform the public, they are only making their case hard. The fact that we do and these cases, and that they are not isolated but of frequent occurrence, makes it all the more incumbent upon us to bring them forward when they come to our notice.
This Bill does not lay it down that suspects "shall" be so treated. It is all discretionary. The Secretary of State is given power "if he thinks fit" He "may" do certain things "when it appears to the Secretary of State that." It is purely optional all through. And therefore the effectiveness of the action which this Bill is intended to ensure, depends entirely upon whether the Department entrusted with its execution is going to follow the line, which has apparently become customary, of demanding accurate and sustained proof of malignity, and that until it gets it every body is to be looked upon without suspicion. It is not the individual character of aliens 1246 that is the real ground for our suspicions, it is the known policy of the German Government. We know that the German Government does not hesitate to use its subjects, in whatever country they are; it uses them as its servants, as has been proved over and over again. The more upright we may consider an alien, as long as he is under the influence of the German Government the more dangerous he is to this country. I hope sincerely that we shall be successful in strengthening this Bill; otherwise the suspicion which undoubtedly exists, and with very good cause, in the country will not be allayed, and the Government cannot afford to create suspicion against it at the present time.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
My Lords, I recognise that this Bill is brought in really in consequence of popular pressure which has in the end, and after a long time. overcome what, putting it at its lowest, I will not call by any worse name than the vis inertiæ of the Government. We have to thank previous Governments for the existence of much of this popular dissatisfaction, because at the beginning of the war I remember that the Home Office issued on the subject of espionage a manifesto that was ridiculous and fatuous in its optimism, about all spies having been absolutely annihilated so that everybody could sleep in their beds, and all the rest; but the public, having had the best of all reasons to see that that was a ludicrously sanguine misdescription of the state of affairs, has been very much dissatisfied ever since. All this has been added to by a quality on the part of Ministers and their subordinates which I ventured to describe to your Lordships in a previous debate about the distribution of honours. It has a habit of observing what I called a mule-like silence, an obstinate reticence, in cases where the public is mystified, and where probably a good reason for official action does exist, but the good reason is never brought forward, and the public are left in that perplexed, embarrassed, and exasperated state which has made inevitable for good or ill the bringing in of this Bill.
Lord St. Davids remarked that this state of naturalisation was not to be described exactly as a state of contract. Probably he is right as a matter of accurate definition but nobody mould deny that it gives rise to a situations which is analogous to a state of contract. The true description of the relation would be to say the analogy to a 1247 state of contract is certainly not an analogy to a unilateral contract. It is a contract of bilateral and reciprocal obligation. It is a contract in which the value given is value of the very highest kind. We all remember what it availed to a certain Jew of Tarsus when he was able to say Civis Romanus sum, and we can recognise that there is one merit in this Bill, that at all events it aims at a uniformity of legislation between this great country and the great Dominions which, with this country, form a family of free nations.
It is right that the Bill should surround the grant of this privilege with every protection that is right and every protection which is deserved. But deserved by what? Deserved by loyalty to the terms of the arrangement into which the State has entered. Obviously it is right that, where there has not been that loyalty, there should be a withdrawal of the privileges. That we have been slow to withdraw them is certainly not to our discredit as a great, free nation, claiming to be of the most civilised of all the nations. Now let us look at the state of civilisation of the country with which we are at issue. The Home Secrerary, in announcing the general policy of the Government with regard to aliens, said that there were new circumstances which had made the situation more acute, and one of these was the tendency of aliens to supplant in their businesses Englishmen who have gone to the war. My noble and gallant friend Lord Beresford remarked that there appears to be a growing practice on the part of the Germans to seek naturalisation, not in the United Kingdom but in neutral countries, and thereafter to pose as Swiss, or Danes or Swedes and to get hold of the businesses of Englishmen who have been called up for service and take their good will from them.
This gives me the opportunity of pointing out what I think is the direction in which it is most important that this Bill should he amended. I intend to put down an Amendment in Committee to Sub-clause (f) on page 2 which recognises at last—I say advisedly at last—that a man ought not to be naturalised or continue to enjoy naturalisation who remains a subject of a State at war with His Majesty which does not regard naturalisation within the British Empire as extinguishing his original national status. I should propose to move out of that sub-clause (f) the words "at war with His Majesty," and for this reason.
1248 We ought to claim that this practice on the part of Germany of trying to set up a divided allegiance is an uncivilised practice of which an unneighbourly use has been made all through the period of this war and for many long years before. That, I think, is the only Amendment I shall move, but it is not by any means because I am not in sympathy with other of the Amendments that have been suggested.
I think that when we come to regard the situation which is created by so monstrous a claim on the part of a foreign Government it will not be difficult to persuade your Lordships that always in the case of any country it ought to be a ground of objection to the grant of naturalisation at all that the naturalisation is not going to be complete—is not going to be a divesting of the obligation which attaches to the foreign citizenship which preceded it, and that therefore this country in future ought probably to refuse altogether to gram naturalisation in those cases.
One word about what was said in the House of Commons about the Delbrück law. The Home Secretary there explained that the Delbrück law of January, 1914, had not created this double nationality for the first time; on the contrary, it restricted it. True, it did restrict it, but it restricted in a way that showed that the German Government intended to continue to use it hereafter as a means of controlling the application by their own citizens of the grant of nationalisation abroad. Our doctrine is that there should be the greatest freedom in these things; that foreigners who come to seek naturalisation from us should encounter no difficulty or obstruction save what they create by their own ill conduct; and if we have a foreign State which, as a means of controlling the conduct of people who have accepted another citizenship, tries to maintain what I have described as this unneighbourly kind of law, I hope that this legislation will make their efforts useless.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I shall detain your Lordships for a few minutes only. My first experience of German espionage dates back at least twelve years when, as Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, it was brought to my notice that in several parts of the country Germans were going about taking notes of everything of military value and picking up all the information which they thought. 1249 was likely to be of use to them. I endeavoured to get some steps taken. but it appeared that our law enabled us to do nothing: it was only when they went into the neighbourhood of. Say, a dockyard and were seen taking photographs that anything could be done.
The practice of those men was generally to take their lodgings in a vicarage or rectory, and say they were learning the language. They would then spend their time walking about the country taking these notes which I have mentioned. There was one case close to Portsmouth with which I was connected. but I found the only thing to be done was to get the Chief Constable of the county to tell off a policeman to dog these people until it became so tiresome and unpleasant that they cleared out. But many Chief Constables could not afford the men for this work, though in the one or two cases where it was done it proved effectual. I suppose the Germans because bored by being constantly observed by a policeman and eventually cleared Out.
But what astonishes one so much is the ignorance of the Government of the things that were going on. My noble and gallant friend alluded to the Mertons. The Merton's branch in Australia has been entirely broken up. I believe; but the Mertons, as everybody ought to have known, before the war was the greatest of all the branches in Frankfort which were getting control of the metal trade of the world; and I think I am right in saying that for a year and a-half after war was declared the Mertons were the Government brokers. I am under the impression that they are carrying on their business in some way to-day. I have brought many instances of German trading before your Lordships' House, and I have come across several more, some most suspicious cases, but I will not trouble your Lordships with them now. However, whenever you try to follow up a case you come up against an impalpable something, which you cannot describe, but which means that no steps can ever be taken. It is perfectly true that there is protection of Germans in this country, and we hope to know—I trust, that some day we shall know—where that source of protection is.
As to this Bill, I think it is a bad and a weak Bill, but I believe something can be done to amend and to strengthen it in Committee. I hope that your Lordships will agree to some Amendments which will 1250 at least have the effect of strengthening some of the weakest parts: and I am certain that your Lordships' House will show by so doing that it is far more in touch with the true feeling of the country than was the House of Commons in passing this Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
My Lords, I am not going to attempt to make a speech. I hardly think that my noble friend Lord Sandhurst can be pleased with the reception given to this Bill. I have been a member of your Lordships' House for over fifty years, but I never heard a Bill so much condemned from all parts of the House as this unfortunate production which has emanated from His Majesty's Government. Not one supporter of the Government has dared to get up and support the Bill. The most striking part of the debate—what I suppose the French would call the clou of the debate—was that splendid utterance of that fine old Tory veteran Lord Halsbury, which will ring through tomorrow's papers like a trumpet call to the country.
Many members hers of the Government would say, if they were permitted to do so, that they are in entire sympathy with us. I have been told by some members of the Government, "We are entirely with you; we will do everything we can to help you. Let us know whether you have knowledge of any persons whom you consider dangerous and we will do the best we can to look into the matter." But I maintain that it is not the business of the individual to have to go to the Government and say, "I believe So-and-So to be a dangerous person, and you must lock him up." it is the duty of the Government to intern all the aliens at present at liberty in the country, or, if any are left at liberty, the Government should be able to say, "Although this man of alien origin is permitted to be at large, we trust him; we are responsible for him, and you need have no anxiety on the subject." My last word is that we think it is the duty of the Government not only to govern the nation but to do their utmost to protect the country.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am unable to agree with the noble Marquess who has just, spoken, that the reception of this Bill has been so bad that nothing could have been worse. I think there has been a general consent in the 1251 House that it is probable the House will read this Bill a second time. All the points that have been taken are really points for Committee, and in Committee any such points which are embodied in the shape of an Amendment will be most carefully considered with every desire to make the Bill as effective as possible. As that has been the course of the debate, I shall not speak at any length in asking your Lordships to read this Bill a second time, because it appears to me from what has been said that this is what the House is disposed to do.
I wish, however, to express my most, cordial agreement with what was said by my noble and learned friend Lord Halsbury, that what we are now engaged upon is an endeavour to remedy to some extent the errors that have been committed in the past. I believe that in the past in the matter of naturalisation we have been very much on the wrong tack, but I think we are now beginning to appreciate the errors that have been made. A good deal has been said about the German law which permits of a double allegiance enabling a man who has become a naturalised subject of this country still to keep up his allegiance to Germany. I believe that, before the Delbrück law which has been so much spoken of lately, by the law of Germany naturalisation in another country did not interfere with allegiance to Germany, although the right to be considered to have the privileges of a German subject might be forfeited by continuous residence for a certain number of years in a foreign country. Then came the Delbrück law. To my mind that law was a very skilful piece of camouflage. It contains an enactment that "becoming naturalised in another country shall put an end to the German allegiance." But then comes a proviso that, in any case in which the Government thinks fit, they may grant a licence, and that in that case the allegiance shall still continue to exist. I think it shows no want of charity after our experience of Germany recently to come to the conclusion that this power of dispensation was really the effective part of the Delbrück clause, and that it would be used precisely in these cases in which it is most dangerous for any other country to allow German subjects to become naturalised.
We have heard a great deal about the peaceful penetration which Germany has exercised in other countries, and when one looks at the facts one is tempted to wonder 1252 why Germany ever went to war. If Germany had gone on with the practice of peaceful penetration it would not have been very long before she had a great part of the world at her feet. It was a very real danger, and in some respects I believe that the outbreak of this war has been a blessing (a blessing in disguise it is true, but a blessing none the less) for it has called the attention of the world with a trumpet voice to the fact that this peaceful penetration was going on—a danger of the most insidious character, not so noisy as war but all the more dangerous for that reason. The war has enabled us to see things in their true light, and it will he our own fault if we do not take care when peace comes that the process of peaceful penetration is not pursued as it has been pursued in the past.
Some observations were made, I think, by some of the noble Lords who addressed the House to the effect that there was a "hidden hand" which prevented effective measures being taken against Germany. As far as I can judge of that matter, I believe that to be a mere illusion. There is no such influence at work. No one regards naturalisation as constituting a sacred contract. I am quoting from the noble Lord who spoke secondly in this debate, Lord St. Davids. No one regards it in that light. Every one recognises, and certainly His Majesty's Government recognise, that any rights acquired under naturalisation must be absolutely subordinate to the welfare and the safety of this country, and that whatever measures are necessary for the safety of the country and the effective prosecution of the war must be taken. We will do that, but do not let us lose our heads and rush into extreme measures which I am tempted to think would make us a little ridiculous to a great many of our best friends. Let us do what is wanted and do it effectively, but do not take sensational measures which may earn a passing popularity but which will not really tend to promote the object which every one in this country, including the Members of His Majesty's Government, have at heart.
It is clear that Amendments are going to be moved in Committee, but I will only direct your Lordships' attention to two of the main points in the Bill with which we shall have to deal. The first is the power which is conferred by subsection (3) of the new Clause 7 which the Bill introduces in the place of the old Clause 7 of the Act of 1253 1914—the power which was conferred on the Secretary of State of revoking certificates of naturalisation which had been granted. I will not weary your Lordships with a long list of the causes for which revocation may take place after proper inquiry, if desirable. But that under head (f) is a most important one. If the person naturalised "remains a subject of a state at war with His Majesty that does not regard naturalisation within the British Empire as extinguishing his original national status"—this is a most important point, and as dealt with in the Bill ought to meet a great part of the danger which undoubtedly has been created in this country by the presence in our midst of those who, nominally our friends, are really our foes.
The second point to which I wish to call attention is this—that with regard to certificates of naturalisation that have been granted during the present war, if after inquiry it appears desirable in the public interest that the certificate should be revoked, it may be revoked. That is a very valuable power. On the whole, my Lords, I venture to say that this Bill, though it may not go so far as many of our friends desire, is a useful measure, and that any points which have to be dealt with and which have been touched upon in the course of this debate are points really for Committee. In these circumstances I respectfully ask your Lordships to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ LORD BERESFORD
May I ask the Lord Chancellor whether the findings of the Committee will be public or private?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I cannot tell my noble and gallant friend. I presume the findings will ultimately be published?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I cannot answer a question of that kind. As to whether the proceedings will be public or not, I am not in a position to make a statement in anticipation, and I think the noble and gallant Lord will recognise that it would not be desirable that I should do so.
VISCOUNT ST. DAITIDS
May I ask the noble and learned Lord one other question arising out of his speech? He alluded to the Delbrück clause and also to paragraph 1254 (f) of Clause 7, in which a person naturalised who remains a subject of a State at war with His Majesty may be denaturalised. May I ask whether the Delbrück clause is retrospective—that is to say, whether a German naturalised in this country ten years ago would be denationalised in Germany.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am not prepared to answer that question. I should want to look into the Bill to see how far that would be the case. Considering the skill with which the clause was drawn, it is possible it may have a wider effect than appears on the surface.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
May I, with the permission of the House, ask when it is proposed to take the Committee stage? A rumour has reached me that it is intended to take it this day week. The Committee stage will not be a perfunctory stage, and this day week would not be a convenient day for such a debate.
§ VISCOUNT SANDHURST
I had hoped to put it down for next Tuesday, but owing to the arrangement come to between the Leader of the House and noble Lords opposite that appears to be out of the question. I propose to put it down for Thursday next to see how business gets on, and then if we cannot take it on Thursday the only course open to us will be to take it on Friday.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
May I ask the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack whether it would be in order to introduce a clause into this Bill forbidding enemy aliens from becoming Members of Parliament or members of the Privy Council. Would it be proper or improper in a Bill of this kind?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have no authority to rule upon that. It would be for the House to determine. I should, however, very much doubt whether it would be in order.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.