HL Deb 27 November 1940 vol 118 cc35-6

LORD STRABOLGI rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will state the circumstances under which Dr. Negrin has been asked to leave this country where he had sought asylum; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I put this question on the Paper in collaboration with some of my friends, and I am asking it only to give my noble friend the Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House a chance, which I believe he will take, of refuting certain statements made in the public Press. My noble friends and myself quite understand that there is no right of asylum in this country, but all your Lordships will support us in the statement that it is a cherished custom. The political refugee seeking asylum here must understand of course that he cannot take part in any political agitation against a country not at war with us. In case of any misapprehension abroad, especially where our customs are not always fully understood, I may say that we not only seek asylum for those who may be described as being on the Left; it is an impartial privilege which we grant. I may mention three cases of foreign subjects here to whom we have given hospitality: the Archduke Robert of Austria, Prince Henry of Prussia and Prince Starhemberg of Austria. I have not the honour of knowing Dr. Negrin and the information on which this question was based came from the Press and from members of my own Party. I beg to move.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his question and for the form in which he has asked it, and I do not think I shall have any great difficulty in setting his mind at rest in this matter. I can assure him at once that His Majesty's Government have no intention whatever of departing from the long-established practice of this country in the general treatment accorded to persons who seek refuge here and which, as he has pointed out to your Lordships, has been traditionally pursued without regard to the particular political opinions of those seeking to take advantage of it. I need scarcely say that no steps have been taken to oblige Dr. Negrin to leave this country against his will, nor is any such action in contemplation. I may, however, add that unscrupulous enemy propaganda has naturally exploited the fact of Dr. Negrin's continued residence in this country, and His Majesty's Government thought it well to establish contact with him in order to discuss the possibility of counteracting such propaganda. Dr. Negrin, I think I can say, fully appreciates the situation and the motives of His Majesty's Government. I have only to add that it is, of course, understood that while he is in residence in the United Kingdom Dr. Negrin will refrain from all political activities.


My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for his statement, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.