HL Deb 12 June 1940 vol 116 cc530-70

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing on the Paper in my name.

Moved, That leave may be given to advance the Motion of the Viscount Elibank—To ask His Majesty's Government what further steps they have taken to suppress Fifth Columnist activities in this country by the internment of both males and females, irrespective of age, of any nationality, who are or might be of service to the enemy, and whether they can now say that after thorough investigation they are satisfied with the integrity of every individual on the staff of or employed by the B.B.C. throughout the country; further, to urge that the Government assume for the duration of the war direct control of the B.B.C. throughout the country under the Minister of Information or some other Minister in charge responsible to the War Cabinet; and to move for Papers—from tomorrow to this day.—(Viscount Caldecote.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and leave given accordingly.


My Lords, in rising to ask this question and make my Motion for Papers, I should like first of all to acknowledge the courtesy of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House in arranging that the Motion should be taken to-day As your Lordships know, it was originally put down for to-day and then a Secret Session was arranged. As that has been abandoned I am permitted to move the Motion as was originally intended. The subject I am dealing with to-day is one which was debated a fortnight ago, but it is of even greater significance on this occasion, since Italy has entered the war. Consequently, it is more important than ever to be careful about the aliens in our midst, and not only the aliens, but even persons of British nationality who are so perverted and traitorous, as some of them evidently are, as to wish to help the enemy. Since the debate a fortnight ago, I have had sheaves of letters upholding my action in opening the matter for discussion and giving very useful and interesting information. Such of that information as I thought of real value, I have passed on to the Home Office for investigation and action.

I should like, at any rate, to give the Home Office credit for this, that they have been considerably more active since I spoke here a fortnight ago. But even now I do not consider that they are sufficiently active. There still seems a very great deal to do, and considerably more activity is required. It is a fact that the original Category C of aliens who were passed by the aliens tribunals set up for the purpose were regarded with far too friendly an eye. Their cases were examined at a time when we had not the unhappy examples of the betrayal of Norway and Holland before us. There seems to be little doubt that the special tribunals which were set up for that purpose were heavily imbued with the spirit which the noble Duke described so feelingly in the debate a fortnight ago and in which I could have agreed with him in ordinary times—namely, that this country has always been a haven for refugees, political and others, of other nations, and we did not wish to disturb this policy more than was necessary even in this war. But to-day we are engaged in the most terrible and terrific war that has ever been waged; we are engaged in a life-and-death struggle; we are engaged against the most ruthless, treacherous and barbarous enemy that has ever been known, an enemy that is even now at our gates. Consequently I suggest that we must modify that humane spirit at the present time.

The risks which we might be prepared to take in ordinary times cannot be taken to-day in this war. So it comes to this: that in my judgment the police should be given very wide powers immediately to arrest and intern aliens in spite of their having been classed in Category C, and they should be empowered to use their discretionary responsibility in those cases where they consider it desirable in the country's interest. While I am on this point I should like to ask the noble Duke how it is that Chief Constables are not already in possession of those powers. I have been informed that at the Home Office there is a volume of Defence Regulations that has existed for some years, and that, either at the end of 1939 or at the beginning of this year, those Regulations were amended so as to give the police very wide powers of arrest without warrant in those cases where the safety of the realm was at stake. I wish to ask the noble Duke categorically whether, if this is the case, the Home Office have distributed these amended Regulations to all Chief Constables. I have reason to believe that this has not been done in all cases. If the Regulations have not been so distributed, will he say why they have not been distributed after four months? I should be very glad if the noble Duke would give his reply to that question in the course of this debate. It seems to me that, if what I have heard is correct—namely, that these amended Regulations have not been distributed to all Chief Constables—there must be some blockage in the Home Office somewhere; or at least it gives colour to what I said on the last occasion about reluctance of the Home Office whole-heartedly getting on with its job.

I should also like to ask the noble Duke to arrange, if His Majesty's Government will do so, that fresh orders should now be issued by the Home Office eliminating these age limits of sixteen and seventy for internment of both classes of persons of any nationality. I cannot understand the reasons for those limitations. From every part of the country come stories of individuals either over seventy or under sixteen who are a danger to the State, and I see no reason—and I am sure that very few people in the country feel that there is any good reason—for maintaining these limits of age. Then I observe that while there have been many arrests and internments of Fascists of British nationality, there are others like Communists, Peace-Pledgers and so on, who continue to make speeches of a nature subversive of the national endeavour. I know that this is done; it is unnecessary to enumerate them here. I venture to suggest that these individuals should either be stopped from making these speeches or should be interned, or, if they are too dangerous, they should be both stopped and interned. In these days there is a very strong feeling that such offensive utterances are at this moment unfair to those who are putting forth the whole of their efforts. Many of our workmen, working seven days a week in order to win this war, feel it intolerable that these people should, openly and even without rebuke, be allowed to continue these intolerant and subversive speeches in favour of the enemy.

I should now like to come to the second part of my Motion, which is concerned with the British Broadcasting Corporation. All my information goes to show that the B.B.C., in London and elsewhere in the country, has a number of employees who should not be a part of that establishment. Aliens are employed who have not only foreign names but also personal associations that are incompatible with the safety of that institution, one of the most vital and vulnerable in the country in the event of a German invasion. There are, I am told, not only those but also British people with German wives, Communists, pacifists and, I am advised, even a conscientious objector. I suggest that the B.B.C. should be sans reproche and absolutely pure in the integrity of its employees. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that to-day this requires no argument, if ever it did require one. I go so far as to say that the country will not be satisfied until there has been a thorough investigation of the personnel employed by the B.B.C. establishment in London, and wherever it exists in the country, by a Government Committee specially appointed for that purpose.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is a semi-official body, and the Director-General is appointed by the Corporation and is responsible to it. It is not under Government control, except that I have been advised that the Minister of Information is responsible for all official messages emanating from it and seeks to guide and direct their policy. That is surely all wrong; that such a vitally important institution at this time should not be under the direct control of the Government is something which ought to be altered with as little delay as possible. I strongly urge that the Minister of Information, who has proved his skill in propaganda and his definiteness of purpose, should be placed in direct control of the B.B.C. and be responsible to the War Cabinet for that institution.

Personally, I am not particularly concerned with the entertainment branch of the B.B.C., although this is, as we all know, a very important side so far as the public is concerned. There has been, however, much comment with regard to certain talks which have recently been delivered by a gentleman called the Rev. J. Middleton Murry—and I should like you to note that his name is spelt "Murry" and not "Murray" Certain talks delivered by him have caused the greatest heartburning amongst many of those who have listened to them. If your Lordships will bear with me I should like to read two short extracts from a talk which he gave some time about the third week of May, and which was reproduced in the Listener, a journal published by the B.B.C. every Thursday. The talks are entitled "A Christian looks at the world. Ends and Means. By J. Middleton Murry." These two short extracts which I wish to read to your Lordships will give you an indication of the sort of stuff which this gentleman sends over the air through the medium of a semi-official organisation of the Government: Human freedom, in the modern democratic sense, is a very recent invention; and perhaps it is premature to assert that there is any secure basis for it at all. Moreover, some countries have gone totalitarian in recent times without ceasing to be Christian, at least nominally. And is Britain more Christian that they? I leave that to speak for itself. The next extract from this talk is a little longer, but it is worth recording: Men will have to change; and change radically…. The responsibility of controlling the new technique is too much for the ordinary democratic man. He feels it is too much for him. And he surrenders the burden of a meaningless freedom which he knows he cannot exercise with knowledge. This is the main significance of modern totalitarianism. And I beg of you not to underestimate its positive value. To call it anti-Christian is to miss the mark. That is not the most important thing about it. It might be if there were any accepted Christian alternative solution to the problems totalitarianism tries to solve. But there isn't. As man is at present, totalitarianism is, I believe, his only refuge. He is not capable of taking responsibility as an individual, for directing the complexity of the modern industrial and social system to humane and peaceful ends; and he succumbs with relief to an authoritarian system. Those are two extracts from a talk delivered by this gentleman over the air, and my attention was drawn to this talk by someone who felt very strongly that such utterances should not come from our broadcasting institution at the present time.

There are two other very short extracts, which I should like to be allowed to read. The first is from someone in the West of England, who writes: May I be allowed to suggest that you try"— I am glad he says "try"— to read the script of The Shadow of the Swastika which was recently broadcast serially by the B.B.C.? I tried listening to it, but the artful manner in which an attack on Nazism was turned into a glorification of Communism nauseated me. I received another letter this morning: Is the pro-German influence in our B.B.C. never to be removed? It is dreadful. Tonight at 7.40"— the letter is dated June 6— there was a discussion on 'Prayer in wartime: should we pray for Victory?' It was a most disgraceful discussion belittling our National Day of Prayer, and there is to be another discussion on the same subject and on the peace terms next week. It was a most irreverent discussion and would do a great deal of harm to our noble reason for fighting and praying for victory. I do not propose to give any more extracts, but I think that what I have said will show that some form of direct Government control is necessary over the British Broadcasting Corporation.

I do not wish to say anything against anyone in control of that Corporation, but no doubt the Director-General is responsible to the Corporation for the talks that are sent out. I believe that the Director-General is a man who in the last war was as brave as any man could be, and served his country with great distinction; but I understand that after the war he took on a different mind, perhaps as a result of what he suffered, and that from being a very brave fighting man he became what is known to-day as a pacifist. I have learned from certain inquiries that, for instance, he caused quite a stir in Belfast in 1936 when he banned the participation of the University O.T.C. in the Armistice Day celebration. Mr. Ogilvie is, so far as I can judge, a man without any axe to grind, and he has few strong views, except perhaps on the subject of peace; but I venture to suggest that that is not the type of mind that we need, during the terrible struggle in which we are engaged to-day with a most treacherous enemy, to conduct and administer the Broadcasting Corporation in this country. I think, moreover, that the facts which I have laid before your Lordships with regard to the type of employees who are employed there show that at least that side of the administration requires some examination, as well as the establishment itself.

I do not wish to keep your Lordships very much longer. I only wish to add that in moving this Motion to-day I desire to emphasize again to the Government that there are all over the country the most intense interest in and the greatest anxiety over the matters of which I have spoken, and that the public as a whole will not be content unless they are handled firmly, expeditiously, and at once, and with full regard to the safety of the nation and of the Empire. I beg to move.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who is about to intervene, will allow me to say a word first? My noble friend Lord Elibank, with whose speech I almost entirely agree, has made an attack on a very old friend and late colleague of mine, the head of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Ogilvie. Mr. Ogilvie was Vice-Chancellor of Belfast University. I am very sorry indeed that the noble Viscount should have made a reference to an incident that really requires explanation. I do not propose to give the full explanation to your Lordships in relation to Armistice Day in Belfast; I will only say that Mr. Ogilvie as Vice-Chancellor was anxious that the ceremony on Armistice Day should be a university ceremony, and not a military ceremony. The military ceremony at Belfast was held at another place. I only say this in justice to Mr. Ogilvie, who has carried out his work remarkably well and, I am quite convinced, does not come under the term "pacifist" which the noble Viscount has applied to him. Otherwise, I do not quarrel with one word the noble Viscount has said, because I entirely agree with him.


My Lords, I think I ought to reply to that at once. I of course accept what my noble friend has said about Mr. Ogilvie. I could only judge by what was stated publicly in the Press and elsewhere as to the condition of the establishment of the B.B.C. to-day, and by the quotations which I have read out, and which speak for themselves. Of course, as far as Professor Ogilvie's personal character is concerned, I must accept what my noble friend has said, while not withdrawing any of the case which I have made.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I should at any time be delighted to give way to the noble Marquess or any other of your Lordships, especially to one who had so pertinent a matter to explain. My noble friend Lord Addison has asked me to state our point of view on the very important matters contained in the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, and I may explain that I have had the advantage of consulting not only my noble friend Lord Addison on what I am now going to say, but also my right honourable friend Mr. Lees-Smith, who has taken on the rather thankless task of the Chairmanship of my Party in another place. Therefore what I say may, I think, be taken to approximate to the views of my friends in both Houses. With regard to what the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, has said about the rounding up of Fifth Columnists, we agree that no risks are justified there, and we do not wish in any way to criticise the measures taken. If the Government think it is necessary to confine more people of any nationality, we will support them whole-heartedly. But a great many of these people who have to be interned are undoubtedly well disposed towards this country. It has been difficult to separate the sheep from the goats, and I understand from what the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, let fall on the last occasion, that the hard cases are going to be reviewed—with that we have no quarrel at all—but could not some means be found of usefully employing those who are well disposed to this country?

After all, in the war of 1914–1918 the German soldier prisoners did very valuable work on the farms, and they liked doing it. One of them married the daughter of a farmer, a neighbour of mine. They were married secretly and the fact came out after the Armistice. They rendered very useful work to the farmer—I am not referring to this particular episode. When I had the honour of representing Hull in another place I had the most terrible trouble in connection with a private in the Guards who was missing after the prisoners of war came back from Germany, and after I had been chasing the War Office, the Foreign Office and other Departments, eventually this Guardsman was found to be living on a farm in East Prussia, where he had married the farmer's daughter (the men being away or killed) and he had hidden his identity and did not want to come back. These things, therefore, may happen. As I say, the enemy subjects whom we have interned—and now we have many Italians who, quite rightly, have been taken into custody—should be put to some useful work. We are short of man-power already in certain directions, and I am sure those who are well-disposed will be only too glad to help in the national effort.

With regard to the British Broadcasting Corporation, what the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, said about the broadcast talks of Mr. Middleton Murry is, I venture to say, justified. Those broadcasts should never have been allowed. The man is known to some of my noble friends. He is what is called a near Communist; he is extremely clever, and I was disgusted by one of his talks I listened to myself. With great subtlety he puts the Nazi case—and these were broadcasts made while the war had been raging for some months—and he puts forward a most insidious argument favouring the doctrine of non-resistance. At such a time this is a dangerous doctrine. However, we have moved a long way from the days when Mr. Middleton Murry was given the air, as they say in the United States of America.

With regard to the remedy proposed by the noble Viscount, my Party are, and always have been, a little doubtful about the wisdom of making the B.B.C. a Government Department. We think it should be made answerable to Parliament—we think there is that amount of justice in the claims of the noble Viscount. But with regard to the entertainment side of the B.B.C., which is very important, especially in war time, we tremble to think of its being controlled by the Civil Service, and I hope in this connection that the report that light variety is going to be cut out of the programmes is untrue. I venture to suggest to the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, and also to my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, who takes an interest in these matters, that in time of war entertainment is very necessary. The people cannot be listening to bulletins and communiqués about the war all the time; they need relaxation. My noble friend beside me, Lord Marley, says, "They have got the House of Lords," but they do not broadcast your Lordships' House. I wish they would; they would get better entertainment and instruction than they do from many of the things they broadcast.

But, apart from the horrible effect on the entertainment side of the programmes that would result from making the B.B.C. a Government Department, it would, we fear, become too partisan. My noble friend Lord Addison's plan is that you should have a Minister answerable to Parliament for the B.B.C., but he should be advised by an all-Party committee—or a non-Party committee, it does not matter—and the B.B.C. should not be used only for putting the political views to the people of the dominant Party in power. I myself would resist the exclusive use of broadcasting by my own Party if we, later on, formed a Government, just as I would resist its exclusive use by, for example, my Conservative friends. Certainly the Minister of Information makes full use of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the matter I am now going very briefly to refer to is one I approach with some delicacy.

My right honourable friend Mr. Duff Cooper earned the gratitude of many people and the admiration of myself by the stand he took at the time of the Munich Agreement. We have had a warm corner in our hearts for him ever since. I should not have publicly referred to this matter at all if it had not been discussed in another place last night and if it had not also been referred to in a very powerful and very excellent leading article in the Daily Herald to-day. On Monday night we knew that Signor Mussolini had drawn his unfortunate people into war, and the opinion of my friends and of the Government has been well expressed in both Houses of Parliament of that dastardly and cowardly act. One reason undoubtedly why certain Italians have supported this warlike policy of Signor Mussolini is the rankling feeling of soreness over reflections made on their military prowess in the past. Those of your Lordships who know the Italians will bear me out in that. They are very tender indeed if anyone refers to military failures on their part. All nations have their military failures. It was the great Napoleon who said, "The English could only fight properly at sea because there they could not run away." He was wrong, but we have had our military failures too. This is a point on which Italians of all classes and all political creeds are naturally sensitive. Furthermore, we know that a great many Italians, including some of the finest scholars, men of affairs and statesmen in that country, are bitterly opposed to the entry of Italy into the war as ally of Nazi Germany. We know that; it is true.

I have here the text of this particular broadcast by Mr. Duff Cooper to which I am going to refer and which was made at the beginning of the 9 o'clock news on Monday evening. This is the actual text issued to the Press, so I take it that it is authentic, and I propose to read to your Lordships one sentence: …after the disgraceful flight of the Italian Army at Caporetto, the British and the French had to dispatch troops at great inconvenience to themselves in order to restore the position in Italy and put back some courage in the hearts of the Italians. That sentence will be of great value to Dr. Goebbels, who will make sure that it is extensively known in Italy. This broadcast was not only given to the British people, but to America and to the British Empire at the same time.

There is another sentence at the end to which I must also refer, because one has to say these things. This war is not going to be won by vulgarity. Italy is a country which contains some of the greatest monuments in the world—some of the most famous relics of the great architects of the past, which belong to the culture of the whole world. Our Minister of Information found it possible to say the following. He referred to Mussolini as a "murderer," which I agree was justified—he is a murderer, and I am glad to see Mr. Ernest Bevin reminded us of his murder of the great Italian trade union leader Signor Matteotti. But one can feel strongly about these things without descending to the language of guttersnipes. Mr. Duff Cooper then said: He will bring misery and starvation upon his people; he will leave nothing behind him but the curses of those whom he has betrayed; he will increase the number of ruins for which Italy has long been famous. That is not worthy of our nation. As for the plea that it is necessary to make this sort of broadcast to rouse the spirit of the British people, I know as much about the spirit of the British people as does the Minister of Information. My Party for the most part come from working-class homes, and the spirit of this people does not need artificial stimulus in the present crisis. They only wanted leadership from the beginning. The spirit of this people will yet astonish the world.

There is one other matter to which I must refer, and that is the proposal of Lord Elibank that the Minister of Information should control the B.B.C. Mr. Duff Cooper himself does not want to do that. In this same discussion in the House of Commons last night—I do not know if Lord Elibank is aware of this—my right honourable friend the Minister of Information made this remark: I do not intend to take over the administration of the B.B.C. or to be responsible in any way for their entertainment programme. So far as announcements on political subjects and reports of news are concerned, however, I have satisfied myself that machinery now exists whereby I can exercise complete control over what is said on important political matters. I therefore find myself able to support His Majesty's Government against the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, in this particular matter.

I prefer people who boast when they take their armour off rather than when they put it on. It is a great mistake in war to under-estimate your enemies. That is the mistake we made about Nazi Germany from the beginning. The Minister of Information has a most important duty in this war. He has to reorganise and increase the efficiency of a vast organisation with branches and tentacles spreading all over the world. That is a full-time duty. Mr. Duff Cooper has made some interesting and heartening broadcasts, but if he is going to broadcast every day he will neglect that much more important work of administration and reorganisation. It must be one thing or the other. We need great inspirers who can broadcast to us and to other nations, but we also need a great administrator at the Ministry of Information. With regard to propaganda generally, I am sure your Lordships will agree that we should hit hard in our propaganda, but also you will agree that we must be sure it consists of blows in the right direction.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, there are one or two observations I should like to make on the Motion before your Lordships' House. Everyone is deeply concerned for national security. There is no one in this House who would suggest any step being taken which is counter to the safety of this country; but I greatly hope that the Government and the public will take the view that an insufficiently discriminating internment of aliens, especially those of German origin, whether they are in Category B or Category C, cannot be in all circumstances either necessary or right. I am sure that the Government are right to intern individuals, whether they are of alien or British nationality and however numerous they may be, whose loyalty they have reason to suspect, but I venture to think—and I have some knowledge in this matter—that the internment of aliens of German and Austrian origin irrespective of character, irrespective of their attitude to the Nazi régime, irrespective of their devotion to the interests and cause of this country and our Allies, is demanded neither by national security nor by justice.

The task of the Home Office is a very heavy task and, in my own personal experience, I have found during these past years in connection with aliens that the officials have always taken an immense amount of care, worked with great thoroughness and shown a deep sense of responsibility. I think that the country should be grateful to the officials for the mixture of firmness and consideration with which they have consistently discharged a difficult and thankless task. In facing the problem of national security and suspected persons I suggest that there are various categories. There are first the proved British Fifth Columnists. These are men and women of undoubted danger to the country, and they should be interned. There are also spies who get into this country by various ways, and there are foreigners of dangerous or unreliable character. They also should be interned. There are others who have been in some cases long resident in this country who are now interned because they were rounded up on Whit Sunday or Whit Monday last. I am sorry about their case. I think that there are genuine hardships and some injustice here too.

But there is one large group of aliens of German and Austrian origin who stand in a category entirely by themselves: I mean the genuine refugees from Hitlerism who have either fled here or been driven here because of the cruelty they have suffered and because of the persecutions they have endured in Germany or Austria. They regard Hitlerism and the Nazi régime with horror. Many of them have been in concentration camps themselves. For all of them life in Germany was no life. They were treated as, and they were, outcasts because of their race or because in some cases of a very strong anti-Nazi political opinion. They have come to our country, where they have been living in safety, and where they have been very grateful guests. Our cause is their cause. If such a thing were conceivable as the victory of Hitler which I refuse to contemplate, it would be terrible to us, but it would be trebly terrible to them, and yet upon a very large number of these men and women who have been the victims of these internment orders commencing on Whit Sunday, the new policy has fallen most heavily. It is just the accident that one of these refugee males of the category I have named was on that Sunday living in a protected area that caused him to be interned. He had no choice, no three days notice to leave the protected area. The process of arrest was, in all cases of which I know myself, kindly and considerately performed. The police are very considerate; but the fact remains unaltered.

I could say much because I know a large number of these men and some of the women, but I am content—and I appeal to your Lordships' sense of justice—to call attention to the strangeness of the decision taken by the Government under great pressure which has had the effect of placing men and women, who have been rescued from Hitlerism and who are full of gratitude to this country, in internment camps in this country because the British authorities, and some portion of the British public, suppose these persons are anxious to bring the Nazis who are their bitterest enemies here into England. I am aware that the charge will be made that the internment of many of these persons, while possibly unjust and certainly involving hardships, was necessitated by conditions of national security. I am speaking with deliberation, and I confine my remarks only to the refugees, but I should like to say this. First, the agitation for the internment of these refugees or for the infliction of penalties upon them shows an extraordinary lack of confidence on the part of the public in the ordinary police authorities and the ordinary Government authorities. I think some of your Lord- ships are well aware, and all your Lordships should remember, the sifting which has gone on. There was on the one hand the visa to be issued by the Consul in Germany, there was, not for all but for the great majority of these refugees, a voluntary organisation responsible for their escape to this country after the war, there was the tribunal presided over by a lawyer or a Judge All these refugees are registered with the police, the police know everything about them, and in certain cases there has been a second tribunal when their cases have been subject to appeal. What, then, are the grounds for this sudden reversal?

Next, it is said—but so often these remarks are vague and general—that there have been spies among the refugees. It is possible that a few spies have slipped through, but the number is out of all proportion to the total number of the refugees concerned. I was talking only this morning to the Secretary of the German Emergency Committee of the Society of Friends, who has herself been responsible for a very large number of refugees who have come to this country. She tells me that not a single spy has been amongst them. Also, the voluntary organisations have always kept in touch with the Home Office and with the police authorities, and they have been scrupulous when any doubt or any irregularity of any kind has occurred in reporting that doubt or that irregularity to the Home Office or to the police.

Further, national security and national service are not altogether disconnected. Large numbers of the men who have now been so suddenly interned were actually working for the Government when they were taken. Some of your Lordships know the camp of the Pioneer Corps at Richborough. The men who were working at Richborough as proved and trusted servants of the Government, because they lived in Richborough, on Whit Sunday last were removed from Richborough and are now interned. They do not understand it. This action is really depriving the country of valuable work. These men were encouraged—rather strongly encouraged—to join the Pioneer Corps. They most willingly accepted this opportunity of serving the country to which they are so grateful. Now they are interned and out of action, unable to help. There is another category of considerable importance—quite a different class. Amongst the internees lately made are something like thirty scholars of great eminence in Europe whose loyalty to this country is beyond any manner of doubt. Some of these men have made very great contributions to science and to learning in various branches. Some of them have been doing work for the Government. Now they are useless. They cannot work. There is an extraordinary waste of their capacity. Even if they were allowed to go harvesting when the time comes, they would be doing infinitely less service in the camp as internees than they could do if they were outside and have done.

I believe that, all unconsciously, acts of injustice have been done. I also venture to say that, all unconsciously, the policy—unless, as I hope, it is changed—is playing into Hitler's own hands. I do not understand how the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, can really miss that point. I am sure that that is the remark which is made in secret in his chamber by many a Nazi leader in Germany, and I can have little doubt that it is not an uncommon impression abroad. I would suggest that there are certain steps which ought to be taken for the sake of justice. When the Order was made, it was described as a temporary measure and hope was given that there would be a re-examination of the cases which were admittedly hard. I would like to suggest that that promise should be implemented with all speed, and that there should be local tribunals in the camps set up now which should have the power to order the release of persons of indubitable integrity and loyalty. I should further like special consideration given to the hardships of students, boys and girls just over sixteen, going through their ordinary school course.

But if nothing can be done for a large number of individual cases of undoubted integrity—and I hope that is not the case—I still hope that special action may be taken with regard to the conditions under which these men are interned. As to the women's camps in the Isle of Man, I should like to take this opportunity of paying a very high tribute to the splendid way in which the arrangements for the women in the Isle of Man have been conducted. No one could have been appointed of greater good will and ability than Lady Ampthill for the supervision of those camps, and the life, spirit and full protection of the internees in the Isle of Man are beyond reproach. But the situation in the men's camps is very different. The great camp at Huyton, outside Liverpool, was originally intended to be a transit camp, but now the men internees have been there for several weeks. I am not criticising the conduct or the good will or the splendid care that the local officials wish to give. Nothing could exceed the kindness of the men on the spot, but through circumstances beyond their control they have been impeded in providing the conditions which your Lordships would yourselves admit to be necessary. Correspondence between the internees and their relatives outside has been very difficult. There have been great delays in receiving letters and there has been a great shortage of paper on which to write.

There is one particular lack which I think will surprise your Lordships. No newspapers are allowed in the camp at Huyton, and no news gets through to the internees. In the other camps, newspapers are allowed, but in Huyton—and I believe it is the case in one other camp where these refugees are interned—there are no news-sheets. Therefore the most extraordinary rumours get round about the state of the war; the fears of the internees are enhanced, and the mental strain is very great. I am allowed to make an offer if it were of any value to produce a broad-sheet of appropriate news for the purpose of that camp in Huyton which would give the minimum—if a minimum is thought to be necessary—of facts and information about the progress of the war and life outside. I should also like to suggest—and there are reasons for making this suggestion—that the camp should be subject to the supervision of the medical officer of health. I realise also the difficulties of providing an organisation in a place which had these internees so suddenly thrust upon it, and I have every sympathy with the men who have to do the work. All I would ask is that the help of the authorities in London should be given to make good the various defects.

I should like to make two other suggestions before I close. The first is that refugees of undoubted loyalty might if possible be released from internment but not given complete freedom. I have reason to know that there are many citizens, including ministers of religion, who would be willing to make homes for these refugees and keep them under the joint supervision of themselves and the police. I believe that would in itself be a considerable lightening of the difficulties of accommodation as well as of supervision. I would also ask that, if the system of internment is to be maintained, it should be improved, and in particular that married couples should be allowed to live together When they are interned. None of your Lordships would, I am sure, think that an unreasonable request. I ask your Lordships' pardon for bringing these observations before you, but I am concerned for the good name of this country, and I am also concerned that the refugees who were welcomed before should not feel themselves outcasts a second time. I know something of them and of the melancholy and depression from which so many of them are suffering now. Therefore I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I speak in this way and ask that some care may be given to the needs of these fellow human beings whose loyalty to our cause and to the cause of the Allies is beyond all doubt.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot but feel that most of your Lordships must have listened to the remarks of the right reverend Prelate with amazement. One would almost imagine he does not appear to realise that we are at war and that the lives of our own people would be endangered if we were to carry out the suggestions which he makes so glibly. I can quite realise that these people may loathe the Hitler régime, but that does not mean that they would wish to see Germany overthrown. No one wishes at any time to be other than fair-minded, whether it be to refugees or to anybody else of that character in distress; and I am sure that a Britisher would always wish that all should have fair play. But it seems to me that we must also have fair play for those who are fighting for us. We must see that they are protected in every possible way; and what is being done is the only way of ensuring that. I would go still further and say "Intern the lot, and put the onus upon them to prove that they are in favour of this Government and of what we are doing, and are not working behind the scenes for Hitler and his brutal band."

I did not intend to intervene to-day, because the noble Viscount who moved this Motion dealt with all its aspects so comprehensively, but seeing that I asked in the last debate whether the Government would approach the United States of America, who had expressed willingness to help in every possible way with the refugee problem by giving money, material and kind, and ask whether they would take some of them over there to help us in our present plight, I would like to renew that question. To-day this country is an area of war and is no place for refugees. I would like to ask the noble Duke whether representations were made to the United States of America. The right reverend Prelate tells us about the hardships of these people in the Isle of Man, although he praises the Home Office for what they have done.


Not the Isle of Man. I particularly praised the treatment of women internees in the Isle of Man.


I think they are being very well treated indeed, far better than the wives of the men who are fighting for us. I do not see why they should be given such a happy time when the wives of the men who are fighting for us are bearing such hardships over here. These people come over to this country not for our good but for their own, and so long as we are fair and treat them fairly we are playing our part. I sincerely hope the Home Secretary will do nothing in the way of giving them news of what is going on, as suggested. I am amazed that such a thing is asked for at such a time. We might almost imagine that people thought it was a picnic and not a war.

There was one other point I would touch upon, and that concerns the B.B.C. I have received many letters, and I can well understand people wondering whether we have in the personnel of the B.B.C. other than really staunch Britishers. They give us information from time to time over the air when a bomber comes across and misses its objective: they describe where it dropped its bombs and by how much it missed its objective. That is no news for our people in times of stress like these; it simply helps Germany, for possibly the bomber did not know where; he was when he dropped his bombs, and the B.B.C. give him all this information. It may all be quite above board, but it is not sound to give statements which will help the enemy in this way. Therefore I hope that the inquiries which the noble Viscount has asked for will be most vigorously carried out. My main reason in rising was to say how much I deplored the speech of the right reverend Prelate, and I feel that in saying what I have I am voicing the opinion of the majority in this House.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, I only wish to draw to the noble Duke's attention a particular case which has come to my notice. While I do not doubt the sincerity and the good faith of the leaders of any German peace organisation which has settled here since the coming into power of the National-Socialist régime in Germany, it would seem both unfair to them and asking for trouble to ourselves not to take certain quite definite steps, particularly where such organisations are located in areas of strategic importance, and where in fact any hostile element could make itself extremely unpleasant to us. I suggest that such centres should be subject to local internment, and have police or even a military guard billeted on the spot. This would safeguard not only our own interests but also the lives and property of the organisation referred to. In the particular case of which I gave particulars to the noble Duke, I should like to add that local feeling is running very high, and I am sure that he least of all wishes to see a disturbance of the peace.

I inspected this community with a friend of mine a week or so ago, and I should like to record my gratitude for the way in which we were received. We were shown everything that we wanted to see and every question was quite obviously answered sincerely and fully. I still think, however, that we should not let these things go by too easily. My friend and I had no doubt of the sincerity of the leaders, but accidents will happen, and, after all, we are fighting an exceedingly crafty foe who stops at nothing to deceive us. For the sake of the members of this community themselves, I do beg the noble Duke to see that the Home Office takes full precautions to protect our interests and to protect the lives and property of the community as a whole.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, I shall endeavour to detain you for a very few moments only, but there are one or two things which I desire to say. This Motion raises two entirely-distinct subjects—what the noble Viscount has described as "Fifth Column activities," and the control of the B.B.C. I should like to say a word about each. I confess that I find myself altogether of a different opinion from that expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Marchwood. We all agree with him that every measure which is necessary for the safety of the country ought to be taken, but I think that he misinterprets the views of those with whom he disagrees when he says that they do not realise the importance or the seriousness of the war. That is not the case at all. I am quite sure that the right reverend Prelate understands that just as well as the noble Lord.


If my words conveyed that meaning, I should like to withdraw them at once. I realise that those of whom I spoke must appreciate how important it is that we should see the danger that accompanies the state of war that we are in at the present time, and I am quite sure that the right reverend Prelate realises that as much as I do; that is why I deplored his speech.


It is not a question of doing everything that we regard as necessary for the safety of the country; we are all agreed about that, and there is no doubt or dispute about it. No one would say that the interests of any individual should stand in the way of the safety of the country at this moment. On the other hand, I think that it is very harsh to suggest, as the noble Lord apparently did, that these refugees have come over here of their own free will. That is probably true of a certain number, but we all know—the right reverend Prelate knows a great deal about it, and I know a little—of the terrible happenings which have driven some of these men and women out of their countries, with the absolute loss of the whole of their property and their total ruin. Often they have escaped from a concentration camp or something of that kind, having suffered terribly. They come here and they are received in the first instance with hospitality and kindness, but then, owing to the further misdeeds of the very people who have oppressed them, they are interned and suffer at any rate a considerable limitation of their happiness, and they are deprived of the means of earning their own livelihood. It may be that their means of doing so are permanently destroyed. That is a case which ought to be considered. It must not stand against or in competition with the safety of the country, I agree; but surely we ought to do our best—I think that even the noble Lord, Lord Marchwood, will agree with this—so to arrange the necessary precautions which are taken as not to do serious injustice in particular cases. I think that that is all for which the right reverend Prelate really asked, and it is certainly all that I ask. I believe, or at any rate I hope, that the Government are in this matter of the same opinion as ourselves.

There is also the other side of the question, which must not be ignored, although I agree that it is of less importance. Some of these people have already been of great service to us economically; they have done a great deal of work for us which is really of great value. I read only this afternoon—I will not go into the details of it—a passionate appeal for good treatment for some of those who could really be of great service to us in the actual fighting in which we are engaged, who for special reasons have knowledge which is perhaps not possessed by anyone else in this country. All those things must be considered; but I quite agree that we must take the utmost precautions to avoid finding ourselves in the position in which some other countries have found themselves, of an invader finding friends in our midst, and I am quite content personally to support any measures that the Government of the day think necessary for that purpose.

Just a word about the B.B.C. I am afraid that I do not share the view that it would be a good thing to put the B.B.C. under the control of the Government, unless it were thought absolutely necessary to do so. I think it would be a very dangerous thing. The B.B.C. is a great organ of information. I do not want to see us drifting into the position of Germany, with all information under the control of the Government. We see the consequences there. I do not want to see a British Goebbels. I dare say that we should not develop one. Whatever authority were given to the Minister of Information, I trust that he would never degenerate into a Goebbels. Even if, however, you do not have a Goebbels but have a relatively honest and straightforward man, you are giving him tremendous power if you give him the power to say that the country shall read and hear only what he approves. That is a state of things which even in war-time—indeed, especially in war-time—I should deplore.

We have seen in this debate how difficult the matter is. My noble friend Lord Elibank is most anxious to have the Minister of Information in control, but my noble friend Lord Strabolgi thinks that the Minister of. Information is the very man who requires control himself. Whoever is put in control, it will be found that some people will disagree with him. There is the very great advantage that where there is a relative freedom—and it is not possible to have more than a relative freedom, I agree—there is a power of correcting anything which is said which is untrue. I admit that I am a fanatical believer in liberty. I know that that is not popular with some noble Lords opposite, but I really am. I do believe that it is the thing which will bring us through this war, and bring us through this war triumphantly. It is because we have through centuries educated our people to a deep sense of personal responsibility and a great sense of individuality. We heard the other day eloquent and absolutely truthful testimony to the magnificent work that is being done by our airmen, and to the fact, which appears to be undoubted, that they are individually greatly superior to their German opponents. Why? Because they have got much more individuality and self-reliance than the men who have been trained under the German system never to think for themselves but always to do only what the Government tell them.

I believe personally that we should make a most profound mistake in the interests of victory if we were to nibble away unnecessarily at the great fabric of liberty which we have erected. I, personally, should regret most bitterly if the view were taken that opinions with which I personally profoundly disagree should not be heard even in war-time, provided they do not go beyond a certain point. We all agree that there must be a certain limit—the law has always provided a limit, and I do not wish to cut it down; indeed I recognise that in war-time there are certain other things which must be put out of bounds besides the things which are out of bounds under the ordinary system of our law. But I earnestly appeal to your Lordships not to give any colour to the view that, fighting this crushing system of dictatorship on behalf of liberty, we are ourselves going to diminish that liberty which we have enjoyed over so many centuries.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, I ask your Lordships' permission to intervene for one moment to make a correction of an error into which, I am sure unwittingly, my noble friend Lord Elibank fell in his opening speech. I understood my noble friend to say that Professor Ogilvie, who is at the head of the B.B.C., is a pacifist. I was very much astonished when I listened to that observation, because I had the honour of serving in the same battalion as Professor Ogilvie, and I am aware that at a later period of his service he went abroad and fought for his country, and was very severely wounded; in fact, he lost his left hand as the result of the wound. Upon hearing my noble friend's observation I took the necessary steps to find out directly from Professor Ogilvie whether there is any shred of foundation for the suggestion that he is a pacifist, and I have his authority absolutely to deny it.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, I desire briefly to allude to another form of indiscriminate action which would come under the admonition of the right reverend Prelate, who in my opinion has made out a very strong case against an indiscriminate policy in the matter of aliens. It has been suggested that in some districts an order should be given at short notice to aliens to evacuate the district en bloc. It would be better far to intern them than to turn out people who have nowhere to go and no money to pay for removal in most cases, thus causing confusion and disorganisation. There has been fear of such action in North London, in the Hendon neighbourhood. In Golders Green there happen to be very large numbers of refugees, and it would be far easier to keep a watch on them there, where they are well known to the police, than it would be if they were suddenly scattered and obliged to move from place to place, unable to find suitable lodging. If driven to one of the safer areas, again, they would occupy space which may be required later on for British civilians evacuated from London or from the -coast; and if obliged to give up their work and incur the expense of moving it is probable that many would have to apply for public assistance and become a burden to the State.

That is just another illustration of the urgent case that the right reverend Prelate has made. Everyone, of course, would support the plea of the noble Viscount for Governmental action against spies and traitors, but he, I think, would agree that we must be careful to avoid loss of service which may be obtained from refugees who have special knowledge and skill, and he would agreee—we all should—that suffering should be avoided if it is imposed without need. A panic atmosphere is not helpful to the Government. The Government have rightly discriminated in the matter of aliens in a marked degree, and a great many leading men have expressed a warning against what has been called "spy mania." The Archbishop of York, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and others wrote just lately in the New Statesman urging that anti-alien propaganda is causing needless suffering to people who have already been through terrible experiences. They say: The vast majority of refugees, being themselves the victims of Nazi terrorism, are as hostile to this régime as we are ourselves. We appeal on their behalf to all citizens of good will to check this cruel and ill-informed propaganda, while supporting the action taken for national safety. Mr. Ramsay Muir and other well-known political authorities have written to point out the advantage we have gained from the work of scientists, doctors and industrialists, some of whom have added to employment, and even largely contributed to our export trade. Everyone knows that there are anti-Nazi aliens who are on the black list of the Gestapo. The chief danger of Holland was not from refugees, but from Dutch nationals, and there is plenty of evidence that the danger in Belgium was similar. No doubt, to ensure national safety, considerable suffering for the innocent is involved, but there is clearly a necessary point at which a line should be drawn.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, I would like the last speaker before the Government representative replies to be one who said that national safety has to be the first consideration, for that is really what we all feel, and all the humanitarian considerations have to take second place. The Government have been advised this afternoon to take all sorts of different courses. They have been advised to "intern the lot," meaning the aliens, and they have been advised not quite to let them all out, but certainly not to intern any more, and to let a good many out. You cannot generalise about these things. Everybody knows that there are quite a number of enemy aliens who have done useful service in this country, and who dislike the Nazi régime. On the other hand, it is impossible to be quite certain that all those who have been the subject of persecution by the Nazi régime are, in fact, any more favourably inclined to this Government, because the very result of that persecution may be to enlist them as agents of the Gestapo. They may have had to leave relatives and friends in Germany, and they may be forced by a system of blackmail to do work against this country over here. I do not think that a fantastic suggestion, and it is one in these days of national danger which must not be overlooked.

There is just one observation I want to make from an angle which has not been touched upon yet in this debate. This question of national safety is in the hands partly of the military and partly of the police. What we want at the present time is the greatest possible collaboration and the greatest possible confidence between one Department and the other. It is not very many months since I made a speech in your Lordships' House, saying I hoped that the tradition of this country as a country of asylum would be maintained. That is the traditional policy of this country, and it is a policy with which the Home Office is very much imbued. I am not suggesting that the Home Office, being very much imbued with the policy of asylum, has been too slow to take action when asked to do so by the military, but suggestions have been made—my noble friend did not make them—that there has been obstruction on the part of the Home Office. I am not concerned to defend the Home Office, be- cause I do not know the facts, but I know the traditional policy is that this country is a country of asylum, and in this time of national crisis we have to see to it that that policy is modified. National safety has got to come first. It would be very unfortunate if through any alleged reluctance on the part of the Home Office to take action, the impression was given that there was obstruction. It would be very unfortunate if, on the other hand, there was any allegation that the military wished to have people arrested without adequate evidence. There is, all over the country, a sort of wave of denunciation by people of one another. That possibly comes from the feeling that everything has not been done.

I hope my noble friend will do nothing to encourage the idea that there is reluctance in any official quarter to take action where need is shown. I do not think there is. I believe the necessary machinery is there, and the plea I wish to make is for the greatest possible collaboration between the Services. We ought to establish confidence as far as we can—confidence which I believe is justified—in the arrangements that exist so that there should not be any ground for lack of confidence on the part of people, which leads to distress and to unfounded allegations. I believe a great deal is being done, and I do not think any purpose is served by saying every enemy alien has got to be interned. There are a lot of British sub-pects who are perhaps more dangerous than enemy aliens. The only thing is to have confidence in the administration. I believe that collaboration between the civil and military administrations will give the results we want. We must not generalise, and we must do everything we can to encourage and stimulate public confidence.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend who spoke last made a most admirable contribution to the debate. I am able to assure him that what he said in his opening words is, in fact, the policy of the Government. Public security must come first. It is realized that in pursuit of that policy injustice and hardship may be caused, and while the Government hesitate, and I believe rightly hesitate, to cause hardship wherever it can be avoided, they are not deterred by the fear of causing hardship from putting public safety first. Subject to that consideration it is quite obviously undesirable to intern people who need not be interned.

The noble Lord opposite, Lord Methuen, referred to the case of a community in the West Country. That community is one that has been the cause of some anxiety to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. It consists of pacifists and conscientious objectors, a number of them Germans. They live in a community, they take no wages, they live off the produce of their land, and sell the rest. They wear a kind of long brown dressing gown and long beards. In fact, they present an appearance which must convince any yokel or unthinking person they can only be German spies! Like my noble friend, I had a considerable period of service in our own Intelligence Service in the last war, and the last person I should dream of employing as a German spy would be one who spoke little, if any, English and wore a long beard and a long dressing gown. These unhappy brothers have now become the victims of so much suspicion and antagonism that they are themselves begging to be interned, and in fact they are in some danger unless they are interned. My right honourable friend is most anxious not to intern them. They are industrious farmers. They work literally from dawn to dark, they produce a great deal of foodstuffs, they have taken so many barren acres and turned them into valuable land. If they are interned they will cease to be a producing asset and become a drag on the country.


Local internment in situ.


I know my right honourable friend will consider the noble Lord's suggestion. It is most desirable that some guard should be put upon them, and in that way they would be able to carry on their ordinary work and at the same time the fears of the public would be allayed. My noble friend Lord Marchwood asked whether an approach had been made to America with regard to the question of taking in these refugees or enemy aliens. The Government are in touch with America on that and other problems. I do not want to go into that in detail, but my noble friend will realise that shipping questions are involved and that events may well take such a course that we may want shipping for other purposes than conveying refugees to America.

The right reverend Prelate made a speech which commanded my sympathy and will probably command more sympathy when the war is over than it does to-day. I can assure him that, subject to the consideration I have mentioned, the Government are most anxious to avoid causing hardship, but I am advised that a general review of all aliens who recently have been interned would, at the present time, be really impossible. It is not, in fact, possible to prove a man's bona fides. I have no doubt that the vast majority of these unhappy people, for whom I feel the deepest sympathy, are genuine refugees from Hitler and are 100 per cent. with us in our endeavours to overthrow him; but equally there can be no doubt that there are some others, and it is difficult to decide between them. After all, there is no one except myself who can be perfectly sure that I am not a German spy! There is also the consideration that in some cases the safety of these people themselves requires that they should be interned. So far, we have not had heavy bombing over England. It is not unreasonable to say that we may expect much heavier bombing in the not distant future, and the consequent violent exacerbation of public feeling against the Germans may react upon these unhappy people if they are not interned. While the Government constantly put the consideration of public safety first, they are sympathetic so far as these people are concerned in the extremely difficult circumstances of the case.

The noble Lord opposite, Lord Strabolgi, raised a point about making some use of the activities of these interned persons. The Home Office and the War Office, the two Departments concerned, are most anxious that their services should be made use of. The question presents considerable difficulties, because to combine useful activity with close supervision is very difficult. The case is not upon all fours with that of the great number of German prisoners who were engaged in agriculture at the end of the last war. I saw a number of them myself, and my noble friend will realise that for the most part they were not the best of the German Army. They belonged to the Landsturm and other similar forces; their heart was not in the war, and they took the first opportunity of surrendering. It was felt that they were people who could be left largely to themselves while doing agricultural work. Many of the people whose internment is now necessary are not people of that type, they do require supervision, and the combination of supervision with making real use of their potential capacity is not an easy problem. I am specially asked to say that the Departments concerned will welcome any suggestions which my noble friend can make, and that they are bearing this question in mind at the present time. It is not one of urgency at the moment, because these people are being usefully employed in increasing the amenities and fulfilling the necessary requirements of the quarters where they are interned. But that occupation will not last for ever, and it is desirable that they should be put to some useful activity when their present work comes to an end. Any suggestions for making use of them would be much welcomed by the responsible Departments.

Now I come to the main Motion of my noble friend. It fell into three parts. He asked what steps had been taken by the Government to suppress Fifth Column activities, and whether the Government are satisfied with the integrity of the staff of the B.B.C., and he urged the Government to assume control of the B.B.C. I will deal with these three questions separately. When I last replied for the Government on this subject I said that their policy was fluid and not static, and that it would be adapted to the exigencies of the situation. Since then, in addition to the clearance from the south and east coast areas of male Germans and Austrians from sixteen to sixty, irrespective of category, which took place on May 11 and as a result of which some 2,800 persons were interned, and the general internment throughout the country on May 15 of Category B male Germans and Austrians from sixteen to sixty, as a result of which some 2,100 persons were interned, further steps have been taken which I think go a long way to meet what my noble friend asked for on the last occasion—namely, the general internment of Category B females from the age of sixteen to sixty, which took place on May 27 and affected over 3,000 persons, and the increase of age from sixty to seventy for both male and female Category B persons, which affected some 500 to 600 persons. The position now is that there are some 11,000 Germans and Austrians interned.

Two nights ago the general internment of all male Italians between sixteen and sixty who have less; than twenty years' residence in this country, as well as all others against whom there is any kind of suspicion, took place. On June 6 an order was made under which no enemy alien may have in his possession or under his control any wireless apparatus of any kind whatever without the express permission of the Secretary of State.


May I ask my noble friend whether this has been carried out very actively?


Yes, I can safely say that any enemy alien who has in his possession a wireless would be very severely dealt with indeed, and it would be a serious offence.


May I put it in this way? Are aliens compelled to hand over their wireless sets and are they compelled to report that they have a wireless? I believe that many aliens have not handed over their wireless sets.


That is the kind of case in which my noble friend can be of such immense value to the police and the Home Office. He says he believes that aliens have not handed over their wireless sets. If he knows of a case and will be good enough to give information about it he will be doing a very valuable service indeed to the Government and the authorities. I can only say that aliens who have in their possession a wireless set render themselves liable to very serious penalties. On May 28 the Aliens Movement Restriction Order was made. That applies to all aliens and requires them to be indoors at their registered address from 10.30 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the country and from 12 midnight to 6 a.m. in London. It also imposes an embargo on the use or possession of motor cars or motor bicycles unless police permission is obtained. That Order applies to all aliens but the police have been given instructions to be lenient with regard to exemptions from this Order in the case of French nationals.

A consolidated Order made on June 8 further extended the protected areas so as to include a wide belt of country around the whole of the coast of Great Britain. The new Order provides that Chief Constables may require any alien to remove himself forthwith from the protected area, and this Order differs from the Order previously in force in that while the right to appeal still exists the alien may be required to leave the area pending the hearing of his appeal, instead of as heretofore remaining in it until the appeal is heard. My noble friend asked whether Chief Constables are informed of these Orders. Of course they are. It is the business of the Chief Constable to know the law, and I think practically speaking every Chief Constable receives from the Stationery Office copies of all Acts and Regulations when made. In the case of those of special importance the attention of the Chief Constable is called to them by a circular letter, but in the ordinary course it is the Chief Constable's business to receive copies of all Orders and he does receive them through the Stationery Office.

So far I have been dealing with the cases of aliens of enemy or neutral nationality. Now I come to the case of British subjects. On May 22, the day before my noble friend first raised this subject, an Order was made which authorised the detention of members of organisations subject to foreign influence or control, or organisations the principals of which had associations with or sympathies for the system of government of enemy Powers. The total number of persons, all except a very few of whom are British subjects, who have been arrested under this Order is about 600, and in addition a considerable number of persons have been temporarily detained by the police under another Defence Regulation, 18B, made on the 31st May. This Order enables the police on their own initiative to arrest any person, British or foreign, where they have reasonable ground to suspect that he either has committed or may intend to commit an act prejudicial to the public safety or to the defence of the realm. Greater powers can scarcely be imagined. It is widely believed that cases existed in which the police were anxious to act against individuals whom they had reason to suspect of some subversive activities but that their hands were tied by Regulations. They are no longer so tied. The initiative rests with the police. There are other steps which have been taken against possible Fifth Column activities which it would not be in the public interest for me to disclose, but I can assure your Lordships that the competent authorities have continually under review vulnerable points of all kinds, and their protection against damage, whether from without or within. The Civil Service, the local government service and public utilities and corporations are not immune from the closest scrutiny.

There are one or two general considerations which I would venture to put before your Lordships before I leave this subject of Fifth Column activities. One of them is that in times of very grave anxiety like these many people are apt to detect enemy activities everywhere and to become amateur detectives. It is the duty of every citizen in critical times like these—as indeed at any time—to report immediately to the police anything which he observes himself which is suspicious. Concrete information of any kind may be of very great value indeed to the police, and no one has any right to keep to himself any concrete information which may come to his knowledge. On the other hand, to report to the police without having any adequate grounds, that it is commonly believed in such and such a district that so-and-so is up to no good, is not only quite useless, but imposes on the police a great deal of unnecessary work at a time when the strain on them is already very severe. My noble friend referred to what he described as subversive speeches in favour of the enemy which were being made up and down the country. No Defence of the Realm Regulation or any other Regulation is required to deal with that. It is conduct calculated to cause a breach of the peace, and the police have ample powers. It is my noble friend's duty, if he knows of cases of that kind, to report them to the police.


May I say that these speeches are made in public places? They are made in public places in Edinburgh, they are made in public places in Glasgow, and I have no doubt they are made in towns like Birmingham or anywhere where these Communists assemble. Why should I have to inform the police of things which ought to be within their knowledge?


If these speeches are made in public places, it is for the police to act.


Why do they not act?


My noble friend, on what seems to me hearsay evidence, is accusing the police of neglecting their duties. I have no reason to believe that they are neglecting their duties.


I am not accusing the police of neglecting their duties. I am accusing the Government who do not instruct the police to take notice of these cases.


The police without neglecting their duties could not neglect these cases. What does my noble friend know about these speeches? He says subversive speeches are made up and down the country. Has he heard any of these speeches?


I do not go to these meetings to listen to Communists making speeches, but it is common knowledge. The noble Duke has only to make inquiries of the Chief Constable, say, of Edinburgh or Glasgow—I am talking about Scotland, but probably it applies in England as well—to find that such speeches are being made by Communists, in the market place.


I shall make inquiries, but I shall be very surprised to find that such speeches are made. What is common knowledge is not evidence. The practice of amateur detection is an activity which can give the police a great deal of trouble. The amateur detective may not always realise that his activities have aroused the attention of the police, and that his activities have involved them in a very great deal of unnecessary trouble in keeping him under observation, and that he has only escaped arrest himself owing to the trouble they have taken in establishing his bona fides.

There is one other consideration I would put before your Lordships. The view has been taken in this debate that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is a man who has been slowly and reluctantly, rather against his will, compelled to adopt the measures necessary for the safety of the realm. If I belonged to the Home Office I could not say what I am going to say, but I do not belong to the Home Office and so I can say it. I would remind your Lordships that the Home Secretary is not a timid, paltering politician, afraid of what his constituents or anyone else may do. He is one of the ablest, most experienced and most resolute administrators this country has ever had the good fortune to employ. He is the man who squashed terrorism in Bengal. Since the war started, he has taken measures which he and his very experienced staff have thought right. I do not think your Lordships need be in the least afraid that the measures they have taken have been insufficient.


I am sorry to interrupt so often, but before the noble Duke goes on, I would like to say that there were two points which I raised in the early part of my speech. One was about the limitations of age from sixteen to seventy being withdrawn, and the second was with regard to certain Defence Regulations. I do not think it is necessary to repeat the whole of what I said, but I asked whether those Regulations as amended had been circulated to all the Chief Constables in the country.


If the noble Viscount will read the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will find I dealt with both those subjects. I said the age limit had been increased from sixty to seventy, and I said quite clearly that the Chief Constables receive copies of all Regulations.


I am not satisfied with that, because I believe that certain Chief Constables have not received these amended Regulations.


It may be possible that some Chief Constables prefer grumbling to attending to their correspondence and doing their work. Now I come to the integrity of the staff of the B.B.C. I would remind your Lordships that home broadcasts are only a part of the work of the B.B.C. It has also the extremely important task of broadcasting the news from the British point of view to every important country in the world, including those with which we are at war, and also of listening in and making a record for the use of the Government of the broadcasts from every foreign country. In order to do this efficiently, it is, as I think your Lordships will agree, absolutely necessary that it should employ a certain number of foreigners. I think your Lordships will agree that it is of the greatest importance that our foreign broadcasts and propaganda for enemy consumption should be as well done as is humanly possible. If it is to be well done, the B.B.C. must employ people who have not only a perfect command of the language of the country to which they are broadcasting, but also an understanding of the outlook of its people. Therefore, the B.B.C. employs not only foreigners but enemy foreigners on its broadcasting and its monitoring staff. The proportion of aliens of all kinds of the staff is about five per cent., and of German and Austrian nationals the proportion is about one-seventh of the total number of aliens employed.

Those responsible for the B.B.C. are fully alive to the necessity of the absolute integrity of its staff. No circumstance of any kind whatever which may point to a person's unsuitability for employment by the B.B.C. in time of war is ignored. Before the outbreak of war, the credentials of the whole of the staff had been submitted to the appropriate security departments of the Government, and all new appointments which have taken place since the war broke out have been similarly submitted. The closest touch is maintained with the appropriate Government Department, and any doubtful case is at once fully investigated in consultation with the security department. In each of the four or five cases where there has been some doubt about the desirability of the continued employment of a member of the staff, his employment has been terminated in consultation with those departments. In that connection perhaps I might say how much I welcomed the intervention of my noble relative the Marquess of Salisbury on behalf of the Director-General of the B.B.C., Professor Ogilvie. Even so, I do beg your Lordships to take care before making statements of that kind. "B.B.C. Chief Denounced as Pacifist by a Peer" makes a headline which may stick for a very long time. In spite of my noble relative's explanation it might still make a headline, and I beg your Lordships to weigh well your words before making accusations of that kind for which there is no shadow or kind of foundation.

The established staff of the B.B.C. consists entirely of British subjects, and in all departments the responsible supervisory staff is also British. The work and conduct of all aliens while on duty are most carefully scrutinised by the staff of the B.B.C. I might add that the recruitment of all foreigners has been carried out in the closest consultation with the Departments concerned, and as a result about thirty candidates who had been provisionally selected for appointment were rejected for reasons connected with security.

I come now to the third point, the taking-over by the Government of the B.B.C. This is a new point on the Order Paper and I have only had short notice of it. I can assure my noble friend that the Government will consider his representations. I am not in a position to say whether they will adopt them or not, but I read yesterday the speech of my right honourable friend the Minister of Information in which he expressed himself as entirely satisfied with the present system and said he had no intention of taking over the B.B.C. For reasons with which I need not detain your Lordships, there are very considerable administrative advantages in having the B.B.C. with a separate identity; but I can assure my noble friend that there is the closest possible liaison between the Minister of Information and the B.B.C.

The procedure is that the B.B.C. are given general guidance from the Ministry and accept without question the Minister's decision on any questions of policy. They welcome direction, whether general or particular, on any matter which the Minister considers to be in the national interest. Guidance is given daily to the B.B.C. by the Director of the Broadcasting Division of the Ministry of Information for home service broadcasts, by the Director of the Foreign Division for overseas broadcasts, and by the Director of the Empire Division for Empire service broadcasts. The Director-General of the B.B.C. attends the bi-weekly meetings on policy held by the Minister of Information, and the Director of the Broadcasting Division of the Ministry of Information attends the similar conferences which take place at the B.B.C. The B.B.C. arrange broadcasts of political importance only with the permission of the Minister. The appropriate officials of the B.B.C. attend the daily policy meeting which is held at the Ministry of Information. I think your Lordships will agree that the touch between the two organisations, the Ministry of Information and the B.B.C., could scarcely be more close. We live under fluid conditions, and it may be that events will so develop that the solution advocated by the noble Viscount is thought desirable, but I would draw your Lordships' attention to the speech of the Minister of Information yesterday in which he said that he was entirely satisfied with the position, and that for his part he thought it undesirable that the two organisations should be merged.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, I have to thank the noble Duke for the reply he has made. I know that this question only came into his hands yesterday morning, and that he has had very little time to prepare a full reply to the questions which have been asked. I wish to thank the noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and have added not only to the interest but also to the importance, if I may say so, of this subject, which is already sufficiently important in itself. There is one way in which aliens are relieved from internment: by the help of influential friends. It has even been said that influential friends vouch for Germans about whom they do not really know very much. The right reverend Prelate in the course of his speech—with which I should have had great sympathy if it had been delivered in other days, but not to-day—seemed to me to take rather an attitude of that kind. In fact—I do not know whether he will acknowledge this or not, but I believe he himself took a great interest in getting released a German who was interned but who after release was found to be an out-and-out supporter of Hitler.


I have no knowledge of any such person having been brought to this country by my efforts. I have no idea what the noble Viscount means.


Perhaps I am wrong.


I am sure you are.


But there have been cases of that kind, and I think we ought to be very careful about them. It is too late now to go through the various points which have been raised, but I was glad to hear my noble friend say that the Home Office were putting the public safety in the forefront of their policy, and further that co-operation between the police and the military was also a part of their policy. I want to read this extract from a letter which I received from a noble Lord yesterday morning from the North of Scotland, to show that this is really an important point. He says in this letter: You cannot put it too strongly about Fifth Columnists' activities. Here the military do everything in this prohibited area which is possible for them to do, but their efforts are frustrated by red tape, and the police seem to be afraid of acting with energy for the same reason. That is a letter from a noble Peer who is concerned with the public safety of that part of the country, and he has not written it without the fullest knowledge.

There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer, and that is my recommendation of the appointment of a Minister of the Crown in direct control of the B.B.C. So far as I am concerned, if the administration of the Corporation is absolutely sound and the employees are known to be absolutely sound as well, I do not wish to press a solution which in ordinary times I should be very much against. I hope, however, that the Government will keep in very close touch with that side of the B.B.C. and that they will continually and periodically examine it.

I want to add just one word more, and that is in respect to the matter to which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, referred. The noble Marquess has told us that he has it direct from Professor Ogilvie that he is not a pacifist. I am very glad to hear this, and I have the greatest pleasure in withdrawing publicly what I said about it. I think, however, that it was not inadvisable to raise the matter, because there has been a great deal of gossip on this point and people have been saying that Professor Ogilvie was a pacifist. We now hear from his own lips that that is not the case, and I am very glad to make a full and ample public apology to him for having made that statement. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.