HL Deb 06 August 1940 vol 117 cc107-39

4.10 p.m.

LORD FARINGDON rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement with regard to the internment and transportation of aliens of enemy and other nationality; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the subject which I venture to bring to your Lordships' notice this afternoon has received so much attention during the last two weeks both in the Press and in another place that it might perhaps seem almost unnecessary to raise it again in your Lordships' House. That, however, I do not believe to be the case. I hope to show your Lordships that such abuses have arisen in the treatment of enemy aliens in this country that the more of us who are aware of these facts the less likely are such misfortunes to befall innocent people in our country again. Indeed, a good deal of the trouble probably arises from ignorance. Among the mass of evidence which I have received on this subject none points to any kind of malice, but I believe the trouble arises merely from mismanagement and lack of foresight, forethought and consideration.

Some of your Lordships were possibly unable, on account of the nature of the material, to read some part, at any rate, of a White Paper issued by His Majesty's Government at the beginning of the war on the treatment of internees in concentration camps in Germany. I am not going to suggest for one moment that the treatment of internees in England has been anything like as horrifying. To many of us that document was not a surprise; but it would have been, I am convinced, had it ever reached them, a very great surprise to the vast majority of the German people. The fact that I am airing this subject to-day in your Lordships' House, the fact that it has received very considerable publicity throughout the country in the Press and in another place, is an evidence of the enormous humane superiority of our system over the totalitarian. For I do not believe that the vast majority of the German people, had they known the conditions in their concentration camps, would in fact have approved them, any more than I believe the British people would approve, or do approve now that they are hearing of them, the conditions under which enemy aliens have been interned in this country. I therefore think that, even though this subject has received considerable publicity already, it is still worth while to bring the matter up again in your Lordships' House.

I regret that the noble Earl who is Chairman of the new Advisory Council on the treatment of enemy aliens is not in his place, because I should have liked to say how much his appointment has been welcomed and how much their consciousness of the warm heart and lively intelligence which will have the care of their interests must have raised, and has raised, the spirits of those who are at present interned. At the same time, however, I would venture to make a small criticism, though not one of personnel or anything of that sort at all. Among the functions of the new Advisory Committee, we are told, an; principles of policy, modifications of that policy, and then the review of individual cases. There are three members of this Committee, and I understand that there are in the neighbourhood of 18,000 internees. I fear that the disproportion between those two numbers must give considerable cause for anxiety to the internees, and probably also to the Council itself, since it must naturally expect to be very considerably overworked. That is the only criticism I shall make: that in fact too much has been thrust on the, I am certain, most willing shoulders of this new Council.

One hears, and it is good news, that the Ministry of Labour are forming a labour battalion for aliens who wish to assist our war effort; and the War Office are forming an international brigade. In this connection I would only mention that the first of these two organisations seems to have been set up without due consultation, as was promised on all labour subjects, with the Trades Union Congress. I do not know that this is so, but I understand that a certain amount of feeling exists on that account. Not, I am sure, that the Government would find the Trades Union Congress anything but most anxious to do everything in their power to help the position of these internees.

I will not weary your Lordships with a long speech, but it seems to me that the best thing I can do is to give your Lordships certain cases, for the authenticity of which I, or reputable people who have supplied me with them, can vouch. But before I do that, I cannot help saying just one word on the tragedy of the "Arandora Star" This has received considerable publicity in another place, and I believe that that tragedy may even have served a useful, if a terrible, purpose, for it may have opened the eyes of those responsible and of members of the public and of His Majesty's Government to the conditions under which internees were being transported. But it has given rise to considerable anxiety.

I am not going to inflict a great many cases upon your Lordships, but I cannot forbear mentioning two cases of definite anti-Nazis who were on board that ship and who lost their lives. The first was one Karl Olbrisch, who was born in 1902 in Essen. He was a metal worker by profession and a former member of the Reichstag expelled by Hitler on his accession to power. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1933 and sentenced to three years in the penitentiary and a year in a concentration camp. After his release he went to Czecho-Slovakia and came to this country in October, 1938, on a Czech interim passport. He was maintained in this country by the Czech Refugee Trust Fund until January, 1940, when he was interned. The other is Louis Weber, a member of the International Transport Union and formerly of the German Seamen's Union. After Hitler's accession to power he signed on as a sailor in neutral ships. He thought that if he came as an anti-Fascist on a neutral ship to England he would be considered as anti-Fascist and not be interned. He was, however, interned on arrival and was put into Warner's Camp, Seaton, Devon. He organised in the camp a trade union group which was directed against the interned Nazis. That case is one of the very usual complaint, which I shall have occasion to repeat: the mélange, or inconsiderate mixing, of Nazis and anti-Nazis in this camp. We understand from another place that something is being done to rectify this state of affairs.

But I should like to submit that neither of those men, on their records, ought ever to have been interned at all. Those are absolutely watertight cases in which it seems to me there should not have been any possible doubt of the men's sympathies. I agree that there are many border-line or doubtful cases, and that this refugee position has been and inevitably would be used by our enemies for the introduction of spies into this country. It may be necessary, it may be excusable, however regrettable, to intern certain people for whom one cannot find sufficient reputable background, sufficient guarantees of sympathy. But those two men were not such men as that; they were men about whose sympathies there could be no possible, conceivable doubt; and I consider that whoever was responsible for the internment of these men and, after their internment, for their transportation is answerable for their deaths.

In addition I would mention one or two similar cases of men who were rescued from the "Arandora Star," cases which seem to me to be inexplicable and inexcusable. One is that of Kurt Regner, who was born on August 4, 1912, in Baden, near Vienna. He is an Austrian lawyer. This man was one of the most active members in the Socialist Student Movement, and as a lawyer he defended working-class people in trials. He was one of the instigators of the anti-Nazi demonstration on March 11, 1938, in Baden, near Vienna. He was beaten up and had to flee during the night into Czecho-Slovakia. He was brought over to England by the Hicem group of the Czech Refugee Trust Fund as one of the most endangered refugees. In this country he was Secretary of the Austrian Centre Branch in Liverpool. I should not have thought there was much question about that man's antecedents. Then there is Karl Mayerhoefler, born on December 21, 1911, in St. Peter Freienstein, Austria. He is an Austrian Socialist who came over to this country on January 22, 1939, as refugee. His financée is a Jewess and he wanted to marry her in England. I should have thought that this man's Austrian Socialist background was a fairly good guarantee of his sentiments towards the German invader.

I would also refer to the cases of Ernst Seemann, a member of the Austrian Socialist Youth Movement, and Michael Glass, searched for by the Gestapo in Vienna. Then there is the case of Valentin Wittke, born in 1904 in Marien-burg, Germany, who worked as a cabinetmaker and later as a ships' joiner, one of the leading officials of the workers' organisation. I do not think that I need remind your Lordships that under the Nazi régime no one is in more danger than organisers of labour and trade union movements. This man, as a town councillor, fought for the interests of the anti-Fascist workers, and in 1933 organised the collection of money for political prisoners and their relatives. This was betrayed to the Gestapo, and he had to flee to Czecho-Slovakia. He came to England and was interned by the decision of the tribunal in York—it would be interesting to know on what ground—in October, 1939, and sent to Seaton camp. His wife was interned at the same time and spent the winter and spring in Holloway prison. She is now in the Isle of Man.

Those are cases of men who have been saved from the "Arandora Star," and I think it would be a great comfort to know that their internment and their transportation was an error, and an error which His Majesty's Government will see is now rectified, so that these men may be set at liberty and able to give that assistance which I am convinced from their records they would give towards our cause and the cause of anti-Fascism. There are one or two other cases which I should like to give your Lordships. There is the case of a blind man, who has now been released. That seems a very peculiar case, to say the least of it! Then there is the case of a Mr. and Mrs. Nonnenmacher, for whom a member in another place vouched as personal friends. They received a restricted C certificate. They were brought over here some years ago because the woman is Jewish, though the man is not. He was able to carry on his work as a sculptor. He is deaf, and barely speaks a word of English. They are both in the sixties. He is in one internment camp and she in another, although they have never previously been separated. I understand—I shall be glad to know whether this is well-founded—that there is a rule against communication between one internment camp and another. That would seem to be peculiarly hard, if it is true, where a man and his wife are interned in separate camps.

I have a note also about the method of collecting people, which gives an unfortunate impression. People call at the house at seven o'clock in the morning and give the proposed internee a quarter of an hour to collect a few things and then take him away in a "Black Maria," telling the relatives that they can send on the man's overcoat and other things in a few days' time, when they will be told where he is. It is often weeks later before they hear anything, and then they may be told that he is on his way to or has arrived in Canada.

I wish to call your Lordships' attention to a case which is typical of the type which gives rise to a great deal of ill-feeling. It is the case of a boy from the East End of London, who was brought by his mother to England at the age of eleven months, together with his two sisters, children of ten and fourteen. The mother, I should add, is English. He can speak no German, and has never been out of England since that time. The father was permitted to come to England from Germany in. 1930 as, owing to an operation, Mrs. Pachmayr, the boy's mother, was no longer able to work, and the family were in difficult circumstances. The family have lived at the same address for nearly seventeen years. At 8 a.m. on June 25, the police called and said that they had come for the boy and for his father. The mother asked for time to get clothes and other necessities together. She was told that it would probably be only a week before they returned, that it was not necessary for them to take anything, and that if she made a fuss she would be taken as well, and one daughter, aged twenty-five, who lives with her and is married to an Englishman.

The mother was in a state of complete collapse when the boy and his father were taken. No word was received from the boy or from his father until July 6, when a letter came from Mr. Pachmayr, dated July 2. That, as I shall tell your Lordships in a minute, is a quick transit for a letter from an internment camp—only four days. This letter gave the address of an internment camp at Liverpool and said that the boy was in the same camp. A letter from the boy dated July 3 was received on July 8, and that is the only communication received from him since his internment. The boy has an unsatisfactory health history, being rheumatic. Mrs. Pachmayr transmitted this information to the Commandant of the camp, and on July 17 sent him a prepaid telegram asking for news, but in neither case did she receive any reply. Another letter was sent to the camp Commandant at the end of the same week, imploring him for news of the lad, since a further letter had been received from the father, saying that the boy had left the camp for an unknown destination. No official communication of any kind has been received by the boy's mother, and it is only owing to personal inquiries by a local Member of Parliament that it was possible to inform the mother last week that the son has been sent to Canada. As a result of further inquiries it was possible on July 26 to give the mother the boy's address in Canada—an internment camp. The boy was well known in the locality, was a member of the local church club, was earning 25s. a week, and was the main support of his mother, who is now receiving public assistance. His employers are quite willing to reinstate the boy.

I have given that case at some length, as it is to some extent a typically bad case of the internment of aliens who are really aliens very largely by accident. In the East End of London I understand that it is not unusual for people who have lived in England since their childhood, or at any rate for very many years, not to be inclined or to be able to expend the £15 to£20 necessary for naturalization, never having realised the importance of it. That is the reason why I mention this case, which has given rise, I know, to a great deal of bitterness in the area from which the boy comes and where he is known. I have an enormous number of other cases with which I will not weary your Lordships; I imagine that other members of your Lordships' House will have cases to which they would like to draw attention.

There is, however, a case which is slightly different and to which I should like to refer. It is that of the son of a German doctor, who, for certain very understandable reasons, does not want his name mentioned. The father had a Social-Democratic career, and was an official of some importance in Germany before the Hitler régime. He left the service and came to this country shortly after Hitler came to power, and he sent his son to school in Cambridge. The father gave no occasion for suspicion. The son, who had lived in Germany for 11 months only since his birth, obtained a scholarship before he had turned seventeen at Brasenose College, Oxford. The father was recently interned near Liverpool, and the son, who was waiting to go to Oxford, was first interned there and then sent to the Isle of Man. With him was another boy, seventeen years of age, from the same school. The headmaster, who knew both boys, wrote to the Home Office and asked for reconsideration of the case. He was informed that the case was under review, but, on July 4, both boys were shipped to Canada, the parents being informed by telegram after their departure.

The father, now interned, asked if he might be sent to join his boy. He was told that his ultimate destination was not yet fixed; he might be sent to Australia. I sincerely hope that at any rate some comfort may be given to this father if he is to be transported—and the reasons for his transportation do not appear on the face of it—but if he is, I do suggest that the most common motives of humanity would indicate that he should be sent to join his son. There is another case here, which is also a peculiar one, because it is the case of the son of a famous Viennese surgeon whose family had visas for the United States of America. The boy, however, has been shipped to Canada, in spite of the fact that the Home Secretary, I believe, gave an undertaking that those who had facilities for going abroad should be allowed to do so.

It has been announced by His Majesty's Government that certain categories, if they satisfy the authorities, are to be set at liberty. Will this concession apply equally to those who have already been transported? The internees include men who have brought with them what money they were able to get out of Germany, who have used that money to set up industries in this country, and when they came here one of the conditions—a condition very frequently imposed—on which they were permitted to settle and to found undertakings which gave employment to our own people, was that they should place those businesses and undertakings in the distressed areas. Of course it was natural enough that those areas should become protected areas, but that has led unfortunately to a very considerable increase of hardship. These men, owing to the fact that their businesses were situated in the position indicated for them by the Government at the time, have in very many cases found that they are no longer allowed, even if at liberty, to live in those regions, and they are unable to carry on the businesses which they had founded. This does seem to me, as I am sure it will to your Lordships, to be a very considerable hardship, and one which, if it is at all possible, the Government should do all in their power to alleviate, particularly in view of the fact that in many cases these same industries have added to our export facilities—goods we were able to export at the expense of our enemies.

I said that I would mention very shortly the question of the time taken by letters to and from a camp, presumably owing to censorship. I have here a longish list of times of posting and of the reception of letters. I am not going to inflict these in detail upon your Lordships. Suffice it to say that, taking four internees in three different camps, and taking ten letters, the quickest one took nine days, and the slowest twenty-seven. I think those figures speak for themselves. I quite appreciate the difficulties of censorship, but I submit that these times for letters written by people to their relatives and friends, who have no other means of knowing even where they are, much less how they are, should be decreased in some way or other. They seem to me to be unnecessarily long. I have here a case of a Jewish girl of sixteen. Incidentally, I spoke before of the complaint that Nazis and anti-Nazis have been interned in the same camp. This is a complaint which ever since the beginning of the war, and of course very much more so since the general internment order last May, one has heard again and again from all sides. I have received reliable reports of camps run by the Nazi inmates really on the lines of a Nazi internment camp, where these unfortunate anti-Nazis who have escaped from their own country have had inflicted upon them here in our country, their refuge, the treatment which they would have received had they stayed at home and been interned in Nazi concentration camps.

Much can be excused, I think, owing to haste and to the difficulties of an emergency, but I hope the Government will be able to assure us to-day that that situation at least no longer exists anywhere. I mentioned the case of a Jewish girl of sixteen. She has in fact been released from the Isle of Man, but for many weeks she had to share even a bed with a Nazi girl. That is a case, and by no means a bad case, of the type of thing of which I was speaking to your Lordships. I have here a note about the permits for legal advisers to visit internees. Application was made in one case on July 19, a second letter was sent on the 22nd, a third on the 26th, a fourth on the 30th, and a fifth on the 31st. The answer ultimately came by an undated printed form on August 2 that "the issue of permits is temporarily cancelled." What does this mean? Perhaps His Majesty's Government will tell us.

There should be a review of Category B aliens. That is one of the principal complaints of all interned aliens. For one reason or another many aliens have been put in categories without, it would seem, really any consistent reason for their being so placed. It is difficult to tell exactly what is the reason of it. Your Lordships are aware that the tribunals which were set up to deal with this sifting of alien enemies into categories were presided over by a lawyer, or consisted of a lawyer, but the persons summoned before these tribunals were not allowed the benefit of legal representation. I am sure that this was originally meant to save expense and complications, but it seems likely that this provision has had an unfortunate effect because these people are foreigners. Many of them have an incomplete understanding and command of our language, and it may be that they have been unable to make their sentiments plain to the tribunal or to clear themselves, or even to understand the questions on various points that were put to them. This whole question of tribunals to inquire into men's sentiments is in my opinion a highly regrettable one; I do not believe that we can possibly on these lines arrive at very satisfactory results.

I may put myself in the position of a spy sent over here by the German espionage service, a refugee. Suppose I come up before the tribunal. I have no doubt that a fairly adequate command of English would be one of the things that my employers would have made sure of. They would no doubt make sure that my papers were in fairly adequate order, and that I had guarantees of some sort. In passing, I would mention that too many English people have been inclined to give guarantees loosely. That, I am afraid, is a fact. Such guarantees, of course, should rot be given except on personal acquaintance. When I, as a spy, come before a tribunal and am asked my sentiments, I am not going to say that I consider Herr Hitler the greatest man in the world and that the victory of Germany in this war is the best thing that could happen for humanity. It stands to reason that I am obviously going to give expression to sentiments of the kind that will please the tribunal, and if I have been well chosen by my employers as a spy, no doubt I shall express these sentiments eloquently and well. This man, this spy, will probably get through the tribunal; he will make a good impression and he will be passed, whereas a man with an inadequate control of English, with not too clear an idea of what he is being asked, may falter, may hesitate, may make a bad impression. The tribunal may say that "he is tripping himself up." Really, these things do not mean anything.

I submit that what really matters in this question of refugees before tribunals is their past records. Unless the system has been changed recently, I understand that His Majesty's Government, or the authorities they have set up to deal with these questions, have taken little or no consultation with what I may call the approved organisations in this country of refugees from Fascism. I am informed that the vast majority of the refugees in this country can be guaranteed by recognised and well-known members of political and trade union organisations in their own country who are refugees here, and who are known to the equivalent organisations in England. It is these records which are the real guide to a man's sentiments, to the sentiments he held in the past. I believe that this has been given insufficient consideration by His Majesty's Government or, at any rate, by the authorities whom they have set up to inquire into these people. Many people have been put into categories where they do not belong on inadequate grounds. When I say "categories to which they do not belong," I mean on both sides. I have no doubt that most of those in Categories B and C who should be in Category A are, in fact, in B and C because they have taken most pains to get through. Inquiry cannot be based on inquiry from the man himself. It must be based on his past record, checked and counter-checked for this purpose. Legal representatives, I submit, would be invaluable. It would be the business of the legal representative to bring out the whole of a man's past, the whole of his record, and all the points that have reference to him.

There is another point—a really extraordinary point to my mind. It has been repeatedly, and in innumerable cases, impossible for a very long time to trace internees. This really does seem to indicate a disorganisation that is highly discreditable to the Department concerned. For their own sakes, for their own organisation, a knowledge of where internees are should be absolutely essential to the Department. That it does not exist must give rise in all of us to a most anxious disquietude. I have read of repeated cases of insufficient time being allowed for the collection of clothing. I trust that in future adequate time will be allowed for people who have to be interned to take adequate clothing with them. I trust everything will be done to enable those so interned to receive what is necessary. Here is a bad case—a young man of twenty taken away without hat or overcoat, and no information is obtainable for three weeks. Now it is discovered he has been shipped to Australia in what he stands up in, without hat or coat. Incidentally, there is a point here I should like to stress. A considerable number of those who find themselves in Category B are there because they left Germany before Hitler came to power and therefore are not refugees from Fascism. That is really too farcical. There were many people who saw the coming storm and the danger to their families, and left the country when they were still able to do so. These, in fact, have been among the most valuable of the refugees, since they have been able to bring resources with which to found new industries and businesses here.

I have been handed another note which suggests peculiar unfairness. Refugees who came here and started technical, and particularly chemical, businesses, the chief asset of which is generally a secret process, have themselves been ejected from their businesses or interned, and the Board of Trade have put in other persons, often their trade rivals, to run the business. For example, in a number of such businesses in the chemical industry, Imperial Chemical Industries have been put in by the Department, thus not only depriving the refugee of the fruits of his brains, efforts, research, and capital, but involving I.C.I, becoming possessed of them free, gratis, and for nothing. One understands that in war-time even secret processes must be at the disposal of the nation, but it does seem to me that men who have been the possessors of such processes, and have invented or developed them, should be given some recompense when these processes are being used and developed by other people. These processes should, I suggest, be operated under licence or some such system.

Finally, I should like to mention one case which came to my notice only this morning. I have very little information about it. All I received was a small printed formal card from a man I knew, from an internment camp near Liverpool. This man is not a German. He is not an enemy alien. He is a Czecho-Slovakian who was a member of the Czecho-Slovak Parliament. It is utterly incomprehensible to me why we should give as one of our war aims the liberation of the Czech people, and yet intern a member of the Czech Parliament. For the internment of this man I can find no reason whatever. It must be a singularly bitter situation for him to escape from the secret police and the concentration camp in his own country and in Germany only to find himself interned on reaching the soil of his Ally, the country which is fighting for his national freedom. I do trust that this case at least may receive very speedy consideration and rectification.

I hope I have not wearied your Lordships. I have been longer than I intended, but the cases seem to me to be their best advocate. I have added very little to them. I hope your Lordships have been moved, not by anything I have said, but by the facts themselves. I hope that His Majesty's Government can assure us that in future a more considerate and, if I may say so, a wiser policy will be followed, because we must not only treat these men humanely. Surely it is up to us to avail ourselves at this time, when we find ourselves without allies, of those who, being the victims of our enemy, are our surest help and our surest allies. I beg to move for Papers.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure you will have listened with great sympathy to the presentation of facts and illustrations by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, and to the spirit in which he has put them. I have just returned from a visit of four days to the aliens internment camps in the Isle of Man, and I think it may be useful if I speak on the basis of this experience and on that of a visit which I paid a few days before to the aliens internment camp at Huyton. I was enabled to pay these visits by the kindness of the War Office and the Home Office. I should like to express my deep appreciation to the authorities both in London and on the spot for the consideration and courtesy which I received and for the generous facilities which were afforded to me.

I knew many of the internees before my visit. I had indeed helped many of them to escape from oppression. Some of them are my intimate friends. I spoke to them one by one, and also in groups; and I should like to say this: they knew that their guards were not to blame. They knew the hardness of the Regulations under which the work had to be done and the many great difficulties with which those on the spot had to contend—difficulties of supply and organisation, for example—and I am bound to say they spoke more than once in different camps of the kindness which they had received from many of the officers in those camps. I think that we all appreciate the extraordinarily fine example of devotion to humanity which was given in the gallant and self-sacrificing way by which Major Bethell a Commandant of the internees on the "Arandora Star", gave his life for others. I think we must recognise—it is only fair to recognise—the difficult and sometimes painful position in which the administrators are placed, partly by the fact of the wholesale policy of internment, but still more by the extreme suddenness with which they were required to put it into execution. I am sure I speak for all of the refugee organisations when I say that we tender our very best wishes to the administrators at the Home Office in the new responsibilities which they have just undertaken and assure them of oar sympathy and our good will.

There are, I know, many conditions in the camps, themselves which can be criticised. These are well-known to the authorities; on the spot. I mention again what the noble Lard, Lord Faringdon, has already mentioned—postal delays. There are other matters connected with accommodation, recreation and health. Some of these have been dealt with and some will be dealt with on the spot. But I do not wish to speak about the conditions in the internment camps, but about the men and about the impression which my friends and my country's friends made upon me. The first thing that I saw when I visited Huyton on July 18 was a high palisade of barbed wire with a passage, also of barbed wire, guarded by soldiers, by which access to the camp was given. Beyond this palisade I saw crowds of men, useful men, able men, distinguished-looking men, walking aimlessly about, with absolutely nothing to do, in a restricted place. These men are shut off from their families, which they feel very keenly. They are shut off from the world, and, as the months pass, they lose all hope. They are also condemned to enforced idleness.

Two things struck me in the general impression. The first was the quality—if I may venture to say so, the extraordinary and unexpectedly high quality (my expectations were high but they were more than met)—of the men and their aimless walking about. These things were burned in upon my memory. There was the same palisade of barbed wire in the Isle of Man. The central promenade of Douglas, which gives its name to the main camp, consists of a row of large boarding houses facing the sea, and a palisade of high barbed wire going down the middle of the road with the pavement and half the road allotted to the internees and the other half of the road and the beach and the sea allocated to the civilian population passing to and fro. There again I saw a similar quality and a similar depression.

I am not going to pretend that every one of the 2,800 German and Austrian internees at Huyton, or every one of the 10,000 men, women and children in the various internment camps in the Isle of Man for Germans and Austrians—there are Italian camps as well—are animated by an identical spirit towards this country, but I am going to suggest that some of them, I would say a great many of them, ought not to have been interned at all. Who are the men—I would confine myself to the men—who have been interned in these alien internment camps since May? Some are Nazis, real enemy aliens—not very many. Some are men whose attitude to this country is doubtful—not a great number. Others are men whose friendship for this country is certain. Of these, some have been settled many years in this country and have well-established ties of hearth and home, but a great many came into this country from Germany and Austria as refugees who not only love England and are grateful for the shelter and hospitality which England has given but loathe the present Nazi régime which made life unbearable for them, and loathe it because they know the truth about it, which is more than many of us do, and because they have suffered at its hands.

I want to suggest—and this is the main contention of my remarks—to His Majesty's Government that there is all the difference in the world between aliens of enemy nationality and refugees from the enemy. In the last war enemy aliens were in large numbers interned. The refugee problem did not exist. In the present war no doubt the internment of real enemy aliens is peremptorily required, but refugees from the enemy are of an entirely different order and cannot rightly be regarded as prisoners of war. Do you know, my Lords, that at the Central Promenade Camp in Douglas out of 1,900 internees there are 150 who were in concentration camps in Germany, and that similar large numbers of ex-concentration camp prisoners are in other camps in England? Do you know that some of the leading political antagonists of Hitler whose lives are forfeit in Germany are interned in England, and that the assembling of them all, or nearly all, in a small island adds to their fears? Do you know that famous cartoonists like Willi Wolpe, who has fought against Hitler for fifteen years, are interned in the Isle of Man; that writers of anti-Hitler works like Bruno Heilig, author of A Man Crucified, are interned as enemies of England when they have proved themselves by their work and their suffering antagonists of Hitler? Do you know that Sebastian Hafner, the pseudonym of the author of Germany—Jekyll and Hyde, a book described—mark this—by the Ministry of Information as eliminating all other books on the subject of the Nazis, is interned in the Isle of Man?

Do you know that multitudes of men whose names are on Hitler's black list are interned at Huyton and in the Isle of Man; that men who have risked their lives by underground work against the Nazi régime are interned? Do you know that journalists like Walter Nissen, a special correspondent of the Nationale Zeitung of Basle, who, as he told me, has since 1936 written two articles a week in praise of England, are interned in the Isle of Man; that Bren gun experts and tank experts and the author of a textbook which the Air Ministry uses for instructing classes in the Royal Air Force are interned in or even deported from the Isle of Man; that men whose dossiers at the Home Office or refugee organisations if found would lead to their instant execution by Hitler are interned; that twenty-six German doctors holding British degrees and practising in this country with the Home Secretary's permission were still a few days ago interned in Huyton? Do you know that Jews and non-Aryan Christians who have no chance of a home or a life in Germany, who have been brutally expelled from Germany, who are not regarded as Germans at all or as human beings by Hitler and who cannot possibly be a danger to England, form the great majority of the internees in the aliens internment camps? These men who suffered at Germany's hands long before the war began, what motive have they for helping Germany? Why should we by our treatment of them make the enemies of Germany our enemies? I am sure that the Government did not realise when they took the drastic steps they took in May that they were imprisoning their friends and that there are no men in the world more anxious that England should win the war than the refugees from Germany whom they have interned.

Seven weeks ago I ventured to intervene in a debate here and the noble Lord, Lord Marchwood, following me, said that I could not realise that there was a war. I think I know the meaning of this war as well as most people. I have been an active and public opponent of Hitler in his attacks on the Churches and on the Jews since 1933. I desire the defeat of Hitlerism as strongly as any one in this country. But the refugees are not Hitlerism; they are the enemies of Hitlerism. The refugee is not an enemy alien. The present war is not a war on a primarily national basis, but is, as British statesmen have often stated, a war between ideologies and principles. Therefore the question who is Britain's friend or enemy cannot any more be answered under the aspect of "passport nation- ality" but must be answered in terms which take into account the new character of the present war, in terms of ideological citizenship. The refugees were the first victims of this ideological war before the military war starred and are standing in its forefront. They have chosen the side of this country, to which they fled for asylum, because its ideology is theirs.

I would ask noble Lords who are judges and lawyers to note this point, that principles have been laid down in the past for the treatment and for the internment of enemy aliens—that is "passport nationals" of enemy countries. Those principles are not applicable to refugees and a belligerent nation adhering to such obsolete methods towards refugees brands material friends as formal enemies. Wholesale internment or deportation of refugees as if they were enemy aliens is therefore an arbitrary act—that is, in the language of the law of nations, an abus de droit. I do not hesitate to say that this is the root of the feeling prevailing amongst all refugees, that severe tort has been inflicted upon them by wholesale internment, let alone deportation. Let me put it that those enemy aliens who are interned are persons who are under the protection of the German Government, and are properly dealt with under the Convention concerning Prisoners of War, 1939, through the Swiss Legation. But refugees proper are those persons who can prove that they do not enjoy, in law or in fact, the protection of the German Government and are thus properly dealt with under the Convention of February, 1938, concerning the status of refugees coming from Germany, etc., through the High Commissioner for Refugees of the League of Nations.

The special status of refugees has not been altered by the state of war. The refugees in this country have acquired rights. The British Government since the war have recognised the vast majority by marking them officially as "refugees from Nazi oppression." It is consistency and action according to principles that are required. I hope I have made my principal point; sufficiently clear. The difference between civilian aliens of enemy nationality and refugees from that enemy cannot be too strongly emphasized. There should be discrimination in our treatment of the former; but refugees stand on a platform of their own. They have rights; and I would particularly add this, in which I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon; that definitely many of the B cases ought to be C.

May I also stress this from the practical point of view? I do not want to speak too much in terms of principle. It is a vital point in considering policy now. The situation in England in August is very different from the situation on May 12. The security of our country is far stronger now than it was then. The difference between our country's attitude to and control of those of alien origin, and the lack of control in Norway and Denmark on account of the fear of Germany, in Holland and Belgium on account of the fear of Germany, and in France, which fell from corruption from within, is now far more completely recognised on all sides. As to the chance of a Nazi spy having come here as a refugee—do you think, my Lords, that any Nazi spy masquerading as a refugee would get through the sieve if the Government were to allow some of the most expert refugees to be associated with British experts in the investigation of these cases?

Reference has already been made to the White Paper just issued. From what I have said you will judge that it only travels a minute distance in fulfilment of the principles for which I have ventured to contend. But release at all is something, and I would place the strongest emphasis on this point: let there be no further delay in releasing the categories already permitted. Far more speed is required than has yet been applied. The declaration of principles of release is only a very preliminary stage, arousing great disappointment unless the administration takes very swift and new steps to put them into effect. The noble Lord, Lord Croft, only a few weeks ago spoke encouragingly of the enlistment of internees in the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps; but in the White Paper it is said that arrangements are still under consideration. Many of those affected by the White Paper were told when they were arrested that their detention would be only for a few days, that it was very temporary, that everyone had to be netted in order to catch a few. So they took a minimum of clothes; they left their businesses, their practices; they have suffered ill-health—there are pitiful cases—and their families are swiftly becoming, if they have not already become, penniless. Mr. Haffner, the author of Germany—Jekyll and Hyde, the consideration of whose case was promised within a few days two or three weeks ago, is still in the Isle of Man, as I heard from his sister-in-law only this morning. I believe that there ought to be a very definite time-limit. I believe it is not too much to ask that all those qualified under the eighteen categories should be, and could be with proper system, released in one month.

Mr. Bevin has just established an international labour force. It is most welcome. One of the tragedies of the refugee situation is the waste of talent and ability. In the Isle of Man and at Huyton I was astounded at the quantity as well as the quality of the material available: doctors, professors, scientists, inventors, chemists, industrialists, manufacturers, humanists—all wanting to work for Britain, freedom and justice. It would be a wonderful thing if all these men could be roped into the international labour force, and all kinds of talent and gift used for the service of freedom. I should like also to see all genuine refugees marked as our friends, with a badge and with a document; for, alas! in the haste of internment many refugees have lost the documents which are very nearly as much to them as life. I welcome also the setting-up of the Advisory Council under the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, partly for welfare, partly for co-ordination, partly for contact with Government Departments; but I confess I am a little shy of the multiplication of Committees when decision and action are instantly required.

I would conclude, however, by calling attention to the first of the terms of reference, which is To suggest measures for maintaining the morale of aliens in this country so as to bind them more closely to our common cause. I have no doubt whatever that the first step towards maintaining the morale of refugees from Germany and Austria, refugees from Nazi oppression, is not to speak to the world in general terms about ideals of freedom, but to convince them that you will do justice: that the upholders of freedom, as we are proud to be, the fighters against evil things—brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution—are doing justice to the men and the women who have already suffered bitterly from these things in Germany and have fled from them to us.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I received this morning a letter from a man who has rendered exceptional service to this country. He has a foreign name, and I should imagine that one of his ancestors was a Jew. When he was on my staff he volunteered for an exceptionally dangerous duty, and he discharged that duty so admirably that he received the official thanks of the Army. It is fortunate that the noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, is to reply to this debate, because the noble Duke, in a previous debate, when the name of Count Blucher was mentioned, the suggestion being that because he had a German name he might be an enemy, jumped to his feet and replied with some heat that Count Blucher was a most gallant officer.

I am sure that your Lordships will have been deeply impressed by the speeches of Lord Faringdon and the right reverend Prelate. It is only this morning that I received this letter from this man, who, like Count Blucher, has rendered quite exceptional service and has been rewarded for his valour. Not long ago the place where he was was surrounded by the military, who burst into the room where he and his wife were and took him away to a police-station—a police-station well known to your Lordships, because one of your Lordships takes his title from the place where that police-station is. There, without any chance of communicating with his friends, he had to stay. Why? Because, like Count Blücher, he had a foreign name; I suppose, as I have said, that his grandfather or great-grandfather was a Jew. Now this is intolerable. The right reverend Prelate asked us to make a distinction between enemy aliens and others. I plead for those who, just because they have names which sound as if they were German, although they may really be Scandinavian, are not only regarded with suspicion but, like this gallant officer, actually taken away in the dead of the night to a police-station. This officer still hopes—vainly for the moment—for redress.

Since I came into your Lordships' House, I have been handed a letter which says: I am still receiving the most pathetic letters from British-born women, married to aliens who have been interned under the general order, and of whose whereabouts in most cases the wives are quite ignorant, though in one cast the husband's clothes have been returned with no accompanying letter. I beg your Lordships to consider what folly this is. We are always supposed to be a brave, determined nation, quite prepared to "have a go" at the enemy, and not timid, frightened people who would try to revenge ourselves on those in our midst who bear foreign names. Consider this case of the woman who has not the least idea where her husband is, but who has his clothes, returned to her. She does not know whether he is alive or dead. What real danger can there possibly be to this great country, with its serried ranks of more than two million fighting men, prepared to fight and die for their cause, if this man is allowed to be at large? It is only in your Lordships' House that one can quote Latin nowadays—the language which sums things up. I have always believed that it was the characteristic of the Romans and of our own people to follow the advice, "Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos"—spare those whom you have in your power and fight the arrogant people who dare to invade you. I hate this vicarious valour which makes people, including some in Government offices, hesitate who tell us to tight to the last, while pursuing with relentless hate those who, like the man whose case I have mentioned, are not accused of any crime and who have not committed any crime. Why do we do these things?

I should like to make a practical proposal to the noble Duke. I know that he will receive it with sympathy, because of the heat with which he replied about Count Blucher, holding that it is wrong to say that people are hostile to the country just because of tittle-tattle caused by the names they bear. I know that the noble Duke agrees that it is wicked to attack people merely because they are descended from Germans or from Jews. I therefore make this, practical suggestion. The case which I have brought to your Lordships' notice, and of which I heard only this morning, was due to the military. The military are totally unfitted to perform, this function, and they ought not to be allowed to have anything whatever to do with it. I appeal to the noble Duke to say that the Government will put a stop, once and for all, to the military authorities having anything to do with deciding who is and who is not a spy. I hate phrases such as "Fifth Columnist." In the last war I was responsible for interning spies and traitors, and I think we did it very well, so I know of what I am speaking. That is the first point that I want to make. I want the noble Duke to say, as a consequence of to-day's debate, that the military shall be definitely told that they have nothing whatever to do with it. If they are told that a Mr. Dummerkopf lives in a certain street, they have merely to report it to the police; they are not otherwise concerned with it.

The next point that I want to make is this. I regard it as of great importance, and I hope that the noble Duke may be able to induce His Majesty's Government to consider it, and that your Lordships will support what I am saying. My view is that the regular police have not sufficient time to do this job properly, and that the Home Office should be instructed to reinforce them immediately by a body of men beyond military age and of approved character who would be responsible for advising the Home Secretary through the Chief Constable as to who should or should not be interned. Let us leave the regular police to do the manifold duties which fall on them. In the event of small parties of the enemy coming here, it is agreed that the police must join with all other civilians in repelling the invader. I hope that I am not going to tread on any toes here when I say that there are some who are really too old to belong to the Home Guard, and they are the type of people who should be at once enlisted by the Home Office to take charge of this business. They should be a special force, with shoulder straps plainly showing that they are people to deal with spies or traitors, and the soldiers and sailors and everybody else should be left to do their own jobs. I am very glad that the noble Lord has raised this point; I was most anxious myself to raise it. For my part I thank the right reverend Prelate for his most eloquent plea on behalf of these most unfortunate people.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene for a moment only in order to ask the noble Duke who is going to reply for the Home Office to give me an assurance on a point which I consider of extreme importance. Everybody who takes any interest in these questions, and everybody who is impartial, must recognise that the great difficulty is that a number of people have been interned who ought never to have been interned at all I observe that the Home Secretary recently made a somewhat pompous announcement that elaborate steps were to be taken to mitigate the discomfort and the hardships of aliens, and I observe that he has appointed a very imposing looking Committee for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the aliens. Well, this Committee is of such an imposing character and contains so many important people that I very much doubt if it will ever come to act at all, or at all events if it does act, it will only be after an extreme delay in consequence of all these eminent people wanting to express their opinions.

But the welfare of the alien internees is not the main point. What we really ought to concentrate upon is action with regard to getting out the innocent people who are now interned, and who ought never to have been interned. This disgraceful state of things arises from the fact that the Home Office, being apparently completely destitute of any sense of discrimination, interned everybody, whether they were enemies or friends. Well, to my mind nothing could be more imbecile than to intern and imprison people who are friendly to this country—and at great inconvenience to themselves. And yet that is going on, and I see no prospect of its early termination. Everybody knows that at the present time there is a Committee called the Advisory Committee—not to be confused with the Advisory Council which I mentioned just now, and which I believe I mistakenly called a Committee: it calls itself a Council. At all events the Advisory Committee, if it is in the same position in which it was when I had something to do with it not very long ago, is only capable of dealing with about twenty cases a week. I do not know whether that rate of progress has been accelerated or not, but they were not able to dispose of their cases more quickly than that a month or two ago.

The urgent question is to facilitate the procedure by which innocent men can get their cases heard and can be liberated, if necessary. I have on several occasions expressed my opinions on this subject, and I go so far as to say that I think it is a national discredit—more than discredit—that this state of things should be tolerated in this country. Here we are with these miserable refugees who come over here, and who are only anxious to do what they can for this country, and we condemn them to the worst kind of life, in which they have absolutely nothing to do and have the utmost difficulty in finding employment from the few people who are public spirited enough to employ them. My noble friend who is going to reply, not being a Home Office Minister, will, I expect, not be completely acquainted with all the facts, and I feel sure that he will be unable to answer the categorical questions with regard to individuals put by the noble Lord opposite, but he may be able to give me some sort of general assurance that this question which I have brought up, of more rapidly examining the internees with a view of liberating those who are completely innocent, will be further proceeded with without delay.

5.35 P.m.


My Lords, I desire to say one word on this subject, because I feel most strongly that the history of what has taken place with regard to these unhappy aliens is one of the most discreditable incidents in the whole history of this country. How it arose I will deal with in a moment, but the result has been really terrible to many people. The grossest injustice has been committed under the influence of an unreasonable and unreasoning terror, aroused not by this kind of people at all but by people who were called the Fifth Column. People forget that the original Fifth Column consisted of the nationals of the country concerned, who were traitors, or rather—because that is a question of how you look at it—who were opposed to the actual Government of the country. There may be such people, there are such people in this country. Nobody proposes to imprison wholesale everybody who has ever been to Germany, or some such test as that. We say each case must be considered on its merits. If it can be shown that there is the slightest suspicion that a person is not a trustworthy and honourable citizen of the country, of course he must be interned. But that is not the kind of case which has caused the trouble here at all. These are all people who have; been imprisoned because they are aliens. It really is a deplorable incident.

The noble Duke made a speech a little time ago, an admirable speech laying down admirable principles, to which all of us I think were prepared to assent. Unhappily there came one of those waves of panic which do occur in war-time, and it was said, "Oh, we cannot wait for any of these elaborate measures for inquiring into the guilt or innocence of Individuals, we must intern the lot"; and that became what I believe is called a slogan. Well, that was the most ridiculous nonsense ever devised to take in a people in a moment of great excitement. "The lot," as the right reverend Prelate has pointed out, is an entirely inapplicable phrase in dealing with these people. As he quite justly says, these refugees are not enemy aliens at all. Enemy aliens are people who are not refugees but who have settled in this country, though of alien nationality. I am quite aware that the grave injustices which have been committed have been, as somebody said, the result of haste, not malice. It was simply that once you laid down this principle of "intern the lot," and you wanted to do it with great rapidity, there was no means of distinguishing between those who ought to be interned and those who ought not, and the result has been this grave injustice.

I am a little anxious about the methods that are now proposed. I rather agree with what my noble friend who has just spoken has said. The Advisory Committee is an admirable Committee presided over by a noble Earl whom many of us know and respect and who will, I am quite sure, be moved by the strictest justice and the most burning desire to be sympathetic and humane. But the function of his Committee, which is a large Committee, is to advise on general measures affecting the welfare of internees and on other matters. I am not quite sure how far the functions of the Committee go. There is; a smaller Committee which is also apparently to deal with particular cases. I cannot help thinking that we shall produce no adequate results by measures of that kind. What we want is to reverse the principle of "intern the lot." That is the foundational mistake which was made. We have got to say, "No."

There are two grounds on which you may intern people in this matter. You may intern a man because he is an enemy alien—that is to say, he is under the protection of an enemy alien State. That is a well-understood category, and it is as reasonable to intern people as it is to make prisoners of war. Then you may intern people as to whose loyalty to this country you are in grave doubt; but that is a special case, when you have real grounds for thinking a particular individual is not to be trusted. I suggest that it would be a very good plan if we accepted the right reverend Prelate's distinction and said that as to the real enemy aliens—the people who are under the protection of an enemy alien State—they may be said primarily to be proper subjects for internment. If there are special circumstances they must be made out in order to entitle them to be released. As to refugees who are not under the protection of an enemy alien State, primarily they should not be subject to internment. If you want to intern any of these, you must make out a case for internment in special circumstances.

If that principle could be laid down, which I am quite certain is all that is required for the safety of this country, you would put an end immediately to the gravest injustices which are being committed; you would free all refugees unless there was any ground for suspicion, in which case the matter would have to be inquired into; and for the future you would only intern those who are real enemy aliens or else who are suspected of being spies or traitors to this country. I earnestly appeal to the Government to take a measure of that kind and do something to restore the reputation we have lost in this matter. I beg them to remember that loss of reputation when you are at war is a very serious military misfortune to happen to any country. Therefore I beg that the strongest and most effective measure should be taken to put this grave matter right.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, we have had two previous debates on this subject, and on both of those occasions I had the task of defending the liberal policy which was then being pursued by the Government. I confess I found that a very much more congenial task than that of defending the emergency measures which necessity has imposed upon the Government. I would ask your Lordships to remember that at the time when the decision to intern all aliens was taken, we were confronted with a situation of extraordinary difficulty and gravity. France was in process of collapsing, invasion seemed an hour-to-hour possibility, our country was full of troops just returned from Flanders, all of them powerfully impressed by the immense paralysing power of small numbers of traitors, the country was in a state of some alarm, and the police were literally overwhelmed by accounts of mysterious flashes seen on the coast, signals to aeroplanes, and every sort and kind of thing.

There was strong hostility against these unhappy aliens, and although I regret and dislike the decision as much as any of your Lordships who have spoken this afternoon, I believe that at the time and in the circumstances it was literally inevitable. It is almost impossible to resist strong military pressure at a moment of acute military danger, and I do not think I am betraying any secret when I say the decision the Government came to was, in effect, forced upon it by the military authorities. The moment of our greatest difficulty has—I think one may safely say—passed. The danger of invasion has not gone, but the Expeditionary Force has been re-equipped. Our own strength has been very greatly increased, and I both hope and believe that it will be possible to pursue from now on a more liberal policy towards these unhappy people.

The noble Lord who raised this question asked a number of questions about individual cases as to which he will not expect an immediate reply. I can assure him they will all be gone into. They will be investigated, and he will be communicated with later. There was a particular question about the unhappy persons who were drowned in the "Arandora Star." I have been into that question of transhipment, and it is a fact that there were no category C people on board. Of the 473 Germans and Austrians on board, it has been verified that all these had been individually ordered to be interned on grounds of national security. Accordingly, they came within category A. Fifty-three of these persons claimed to be refugees, but they had been heard by tribunals, and had been placed in category A, so that although the two people to whom he referred, it is true, had been found to be persons deserving a tribunal, in the more liberal policy pursued prior to the collapse of France, I believe it was wise and sound policy to transport them. The noble Lord opposite complained about immense delays which have taken place in communication from these people in internment camps. I am able to say on behalf of the Home Office that my right honourable friend is taking immediate steps to expedite correspondence, and he hopes to bring about in the very near future a substantial improvement in the speed of postal communications.

The noble Lord was under some little misapprehension about the nature and functions of the Committee which has been set up under Mr. Justice Asquith to try and bring about an improvement in this matter. Neither that Committee consisting of only three members—Mr. Justice Asquith, Sir Herbert Emerson, and General Sir Neil Malcolm—nor the much larger Council which is being set up, is intended, or indeed will have power, to deal with individual cases. The intention is that the Committee shall make recommendations with regard to categories. Your Lordships will have in your hands the White Paper which has been already issued and which deals with a considerable number of categories. The intention is that this Committee shall recommend to the Home Secretary what further categories may be released from internment. The object of the White Paper—and this deals with the question raised by the right reverend Prelate—is to secure as speedily as possible the release of persons who would have been in exempted categories if the list of exemptions had been laid down in detail at the outset of general internment, and those persons—I am afraid there are a considerable number of them—who have been interned as the result of genuine mistakes made by the police, who were working, of course, under very extreme pressure.

Conditions in the camps have been referred to this afternoon, and I am afraid that it is impossible to deny that they have in some cases been unsatisfactory. Again I would remind your Lordships that we were working under conditions of extreme difficulty, and that, while no one wants to impose any unnecessary suffering upon these unhappy people, it has to be remembered that all the available accommodation in the country was being occupied by members of the British Expeditionary Force, who had returned in great numbers after having suffered extreme hardships at Dunkirk and elsewhere, and who were living under very difficult conditions which at times were a hardship to them. I think allowances should be made for the very great difficulties under which those responsible for the internment camps were labouring.

As from yesterday my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has taken over from the War Office the management of the internment camps, and it is hoped that he will be able to bring about a steady and a progressive improvement in the conditions obtaining in the camps. It is also to be hoped that he will be able as time goes on to secure the release of all those whose release would involve no danger to the country. But, as I said on a previous occasion, considerations of national security must come first. I think it is inevitable that some people who are innocent will continue to be interned, but my right honourable friend's earnest hope is that he will, under the various measures he is taking, be able to secure the release of innocent persons and persons not likely to be a danger to the security of the country. Recognising that many of those who are retained in prison will be innocent persons, he trusts that he will be able to make a substantial improvement in their conditions. Your Lordships will be aware that Mr. Bevin is organising a labour force and dealing with other questions concerning the making use of these people the vast majority of whom are sincerely anxious to be of use to this country in its war effort. Other means of making their services available are also being considered.

I ought to say perhaps one word about the general policy of transportation. That was decided on when, as I have said, the I risk of invasion was imminent, and it seemed desirable both to husband our resources of food and get rid of useless mouths and so forth, and to release the services of as many camp guards as possible. I believe it was a wise policy, and a great many of these aliens have been transported at their own wish. But the "Arandora Star" disaster has altered the situation. It was the desire of a great many of the people who were interned that they should be transported, and it would be wrong to think that they were all transported against their wish. On the contrary, quite a considerable number in fact asked to go. I do not know if I can add anything to what I have already said. I think the Government are fully seised of the unfortunate position of these people. Working under great stress, mistakes have been made, but I have no doubt this afternoon's debate in your Lordships' House will have an effect, and I can only say I hope that will be so.


Before the noble Duke sits down may I ask him if he can give any kind of reply to the suggestion that primarily refugees—that is to say, people who have left Germany or Italy because of their hostility to the Nazi or Fascist Governments—should not be interned, and that those only should be interned concerning whom there is ground for thinking that they are a danger to the country? Real enemy aliens would be different. I do not ask the noble Duke to pledge the Government to any such policy, but I do ask him to say that the proposition which has been put forward so eloquently by the right reverend Prelate should be seriously considered by the Government.


My Lords, my noble friend behind me (Lord Newton) reminds me that I have said nothing about expediting the machinery for appeal. It is my right honourable friend's earnest desire to expedite these appeals as much as possible, and I can give an assurance that, so far as is possible, having regard to the great pressure under which everyone is working, he will do all that is possible in that matter. With reference to the right reverend Prelate's suggestion that all refugees might be regarded as not subject to internment, I am told that there are great difficulties over that proposal.


Only prima facie.


I can assure my noble friend that that matter will be considered, but I am advised that there are very great difficulties, one of which is, for instance, that people who left Germany before the Nazi régime would be enemy aliens, whereas people who left afterwards would be regarded as refugees. I can assure my noble friend, however, that that matter will be considered, and I can certainly assure him that it is my right honourable friend's policy to be as lenient and as merciful in this matter as the conditions permit.


Do the new categories for release which the noble Duke has mentioned apply to those who have already been transported?


Yes they do, and in certain cases people who have been transported will, if they desire it, be able to come back to this country and live.

5.56 p.m.


My Lords, I think the unanimity in your Lordships' House this afternoon does credit to your Lordships' humanity, and I think, too, that most of your Lordships will have found the reply of the noble Duke comforting, if not perhaps as detailed as they could wish. I would say in passing that I quite realise the cases I quoted from the "Arandora Star" are not in category C. What I really asked was why they were in category A when there seemed so very obviously cases that should not have been in either category A or category B. Before I withdraw my Motion I think I should be expressing the sentiments of all noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon in saying that what concerns all of us most is speed. I think that every speaker this afternoon has stressed the need for speed, and I hope that His Majesty's Government will bear that in mind and will acquire that rarest of qualities in Government Departments. I beg to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.