§ 12.31 p.m.
§ LORD NEWTONhad the following question on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government if Dr. Dittmar, a German civilian resident in this country, who was interned on October 4 and examined by the Advisory Committee on November 13, is still detained, although the Advisory Committee recommended his exemption from internment, and although no charge of any kind has been brought against him.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I feel that I ought to apologise for again returning to this case, but as, unfortunately, I happen to know that it is typical of others, that must suffice as an explanation. It is a case which ought never to have occurred at all, and I bring it forward 1888 because, although I am absolutely satisfied that there is no official in this country who desires to be in any way in-humane or anything but considerate to this particular class of person, yet there is at least evidence of delay and of discrimination. That is why I feel bound to draw attention to it and shall continue to do so. The man in question, who is afraid to return to Germany because he is a strong anti-Nazi and would be put into a concentration camp if he returned, is an historical student. He came to me in connection with his work. That is how I became acquainted with him. This man on October 4 was brought before one of the one-man tribunals, and although I provided him with a letter stating that I would be prepared to undertake any guarantee, the magistrate never thought it worth while to send for me. I could have been in court in a quarter of an hour. The result was that the man was interned, and although he was interned on October 4 he did not succeed in getting his appeal heard until November 13.
§ On that day I gave evidence for him, and I was informed privately by the committee that there was nothing whatever against him and that he would undoubtedly be released in a very short time. Ten days have already elapsed and there is no sign of his being liberated. The Advisory Committee sit in a building which is within about a quarter of a mile of the Home Office and I should have thought that a telephone message occupying perhaps five minutes would have settled the whole affair. Perhaps my noble friend who is going to answer will have some satisfactory explanation to offer, but I cannot conceive what it is. Here is a case of a perfectly innocent man. It is admitted that he is innocent. I think the tribunal confirmed that opinion, and has so informed the Home Office. Thereupon the Home Office should liberate him. I believe that is the usual course, but it has not been done in this case. It seems to me absolutely without common sense. There is no sense in my opinion in interning civilians at all, unless there is some information against them and you know without doubt that they are hostile in sentiment and ready to act in a hostile way, if they can, against this country. What is the sense of detaining an innocent man? You are inflicting considerable hardship upon the 1889 individual, and you are putting the country to a certain amount of inconvenience, because the country has to keep him and pay for his guards. In this particular case also quite a lot of money must have been wasted in dragging him backwards and forwards from Devonshire.
§ Here we have a man pronounced to be perfectly innocent, and yet there is no sign of his coming out. I do not for one moment suggest that officials wish to be inhumane or inconsiderate in any way, but it does show evidence of laxity and dilatoriness. This is a case of a man who ought never to have been interned. I hope my noble friend will be able to give some sort of satisfactory explanation, but I would like to warn him that I do not mean to leave the case alone. It is very unsatisfactory that all this trouble should be caused by one man, but I intend to pursue the matter, and I hope that I shall meet with some support in your Lordships' House, perhaps from some of the noble Lords opposite who are so much concerned with the rights of individuals.
§ 12.36 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, when I retired from the Government in November last, I made a resolution not to make any public utterance whatever, for at least a year, lest by any chance I should embarrass my late colleagues. Now the year is ended and I am released from my self-imposed silence, but I am still, of course, restrained by the same resolution that is common to us all, and which I have noticed that your Lordships all observe, not to say anything which might conceivably interfere with the Government plans to ensure what I am certain is the immediate war aim of every one of your Lordships, to achieve victory. My noble friend Lord Newton has for some time had on the Order Paper a question relating to enemy aliens; he has now substituted a question relating to a man called Dr. Dittmar, about whom I know nothing, but I should like to protest against the underlying assumption in his original Motion which has remained on the Order Paper for many days, and also against the underlying assumption contained in his speech—namely, that enemy aliens ought not 1890 to be kept in confinement unless a definite charge is proved against them.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I thought my noble friend said proved, but I accept the word "alleged" and I protest against that. We British subjects all cheerfully acquiesce in every sort of interference with our liberty. Even if we do not understand the reasons we recognise that the Government, with more knowledge than we can possibly possess, have good reasons for asking us to accept these restrictions and we obey them. Every German who is well disposed to this country will cheerfully accept a similar rule, and indeed internment in England is far preferable to the horrors of the concentration camps.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Internment is far preferable to the horrors of the concentration camps which have been described in the White Paper, and which would have been his lot, I gather from my noble friend, in Germany. We accept from the Home Office the blackout with its heavy casualty lists and grave public inconvenience because the Government tell us that it is a necessary precaution against grave dangers. But I think the people are entitled to be assured that the security of the blackout will not be imperilled by the release of any Germans on whom the slightest suspicion exists in the minds of those in authority. Any Minister would lay himself open to grave criticism and even to public execration if he allowed the slightest risk, if air raids came, that any Germans should be free to sabotage our air raid precautions or to start fires to guide the enemy. I always understood that in the last war German plans had been completely frustrated by the arrest of all Germans in this country on the outbreak of the war. I fancy that in those days the responsibility for keeping Germans in confinement and for deciding who could safely be at large was vested with the military authorities. I understand that in the present war the Home Office are entrusted with that responsibility. I hope that in discharging this duty the Home Office will be actuated by the same principles, and will 1891 pay due regard to the views of our Military Intelligence and not release any enemy alien if Military Intelligence considers him or her to be dangerous.
I should like to say in passing, as an ex-Secretary of State for War, that I recognise what I think the public does not realise: the devoted service which the staff of Military Intelligence render to this country. I hope that their activities will not be diverted from their legitimate function of securing the public safety and protecting the Realm against the constant activities of the German espionage system, into formulating or proving any charge against any German who is safely kept in internment. I consider that the basis upon which this duty ought to be exercised is not that any enemy alien should be allowed to go free unless there is a definite charge proved or formulated against him or her, but that no enemy alien ought to be free unless he proves conclusively that he is completely loyal to this country and utterly opposed to his own. I hope that in his reply the noble Marquess who answers for the Government will be able to give a satisfactory assurance to this effect.
§ 12.41 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
My Lords, I need hardly say how fortunate I consider myself that the end of my noble and learned friend's self-imposed vow of silence came at this moment, when he was able to bring such heavy artillery to my assistance. I am grateful to him for the speech which he has made, which, as far as I know, represents very much more closely the attitude of the Government than did the speech of my noble friend Lord Newton. But I do not think that the speech I must make to-day in reply to my noble friend, Lord Newton, need be very long. His speech was based certainly on a misconception, and actually on a misstatement repeated on several occasions—no doubt entirely by accident. But my noble friend's argument really turns on the supposition that the Advisory Committee declared that Dr. Dittmar was innocent. I can only assure him that the Advisory Committee have advised the Secretary of State of no such thing.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
No such advice has come from the Committee. They have seen Dr. Dittmar, they have considered his case, they are presumably still considering all its implications. But it really is not true to say that the Committee have decided that Dr. Dittmar is innocent—at least so far as the Secretary of State's knowledge goes. Therefore it is rather unreasonable that my noble friend should complain too much about a delay which no doubt is very irksome to alien subjects, but which is being reduced as far as is compatible with the efficient working of the tribunal, and which in this case I have no doubt will come to an end in a very short time.
§ 12.44 p.m.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I do not know whether by the indulgence of the House I can say anything, but I gathered from the speech of my noble and learned friend beside me that he would not be really happy until he knew that every single enemy alien in the country was interned, even with the assistance of the black-out. The noble Marquess says that he knows nothing about it. I suggest to him that it is perfectly easy to find out. When he returns to the Home Office—if he ever does repair there—he has only to ask this Committee whether they have considered the case and whether they have sent in a report. My information from the Home Office itself is that whenever a recommendation of that kind comes from the Advisory Committee, it is at once attended to, and if they recommend that such a thing should be done, the man is immediately liberated.