HL Deb 02 May 1945 vol 136 cc102-36

2.12 p.m.

LORD AILWYN rose to call attention to certain matters connected with German nationals now resident in this country; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper, I shall be as brief as possible, but I have a certain amount of ground to cover. The Motion has been drafted in wide terms in the hope that various aspects of this question of Germans in our midst and their infiltration into various activities of our national life may be raised and discussed. Let me say at the outset that I speak on this subject as a member of no association, movement, group, fellowship or what not. I am antipathetic to no sect or religion, and I am dull enough to have no prejudices or intolerances whatever, so far as I know. What I have got is a profound distrust of Germany and the German race. Let no one, therefore, seek to clothe me with the mantle of Anti-Semitism or anything of that sort. It would fit me in no way at all, and would be just about as incongruous as, one might say, a cope and mitre might be adorning a Hottentot. I speak as a plain normal Englishman, concerned for the safety and welfare of this country and of the British Empire. I feel that I should apologize to your Lordships for this preliminary canter, almost amounting to a personal statement, and rather a dreary one at that, but from more than one source have I received a friendly warning that should I raise the subject that I am about to raise in your Lordships' House I should be regarded with dark suspicion as having some sinister object in view. That is, to me, a quite incomprehensible point of view but there it is, and I, therefore, seek, by this disclaimer, to spike at an early stage the guns of any possible detractor.

I would wish to express my grateful thanks to the noble Earl who is to reply, and also to the Home Office, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Information for their courtesy in facilitating my researches into some of the questions to which I shall refer. I have no intention of belabouring any of them, or the Government, with whips, and I hope that the noble Earl, in his reply, will exercise the same Christian qualities, and will not chastise me with scorpions. There are certain questions, of which I have given notice, that I desire to ask His Majesty's Government. In the course of certain observations which I ventured to make on February 27 last, I drew your Lordships' attention to the fact that of the 40,000 Germans resident in this country to-day, a number were serving in our Government Departments—sixty-six was the number I quoted, that being the number that was given, at the end of January, in reply to a question in another place. There were, we were told, sixty-six unnaturalized Germans so employed, quoted the particular numbers employed at the Service Ministries only. They were seventeen at the Admiralty, four at the War Office, and two at the Air Ministry. The reply given in the House of Commons went on to say that in some of these cases the employment had been terminated. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government how many of these Germans are, in fact, so employed to-day? I should further like to know, in respect of whatever the number turns out to be, the reason why it has been found necessary or desirable to employ enemy aliens in Government Departments, and whether there are no suitably qualified British subjects available for the posts concerned. On the former occasion I expressed my concern at this situation. I will not trespass on your Lordships' time by repeating what I then said, but I shall await the Government reply with some anxiety.

One of the results of the debate in your Lordships' House, on February 27,—it arose on a Motion by my noble friend Lord Vansittart with reference to enemy propaganda and agents—so far as I was concerned, was an unusually heavy postbag. The majority of the letters which I received were from men and women quite unknown to me, and they provided an interesting cross-section of public opinion. If I had any doubts previously about the feeling in the country concerning these Germans in our midst, those doubts were finally resolved by the expressions, firstly, of gratification at the matter being thus ventilated in Parliament, and, secondly, of concern and, indeed, of disgust, at the situation existing.

The contents of one of these letters forms the basis of a further series of questions which I desire to ask His Majesty's Government, and I must ask your Lordships' forbearance while I read it. My correspondent writes: I have read the report of your speech yesterday in the House of Lords. For many years I served at the Foreign Office as wireless engineer, and I was transferred to the B.B.C. in 1943 to take charge of that section of the monitoring service responsible for the interception of telegraphed news services from Germany. On my appointment I was astonished and dismayed to find that the policy of the B.B.C. was to have Germans in charge of this most important service. For a year I protested with all the energy I possessed against a policy which I considered ill-chosen and dangerous. In a minute to the director of the monitoring service I drew attention to the unseemly behaviour of these Germans on each occasion of a speech by their Fuhrer and exception was taken to my attitude towards these 'loyal and courageous people,' but I continued to protest against the continuance in positions of supervision of persons of German nationality. I believe it is not realized that the reports received by His Majesty's Government of enemy wireless propaganda are intercepted, selected, translated and edited by Germans under German supervision. I left the B.B.C. at the end of a year, as I found it impossible to continue any longer in office continually and vehemently in opposition to the policy of my superiors. The work upon which I was engaged was given over largely to a German subject, whose grasp of the English language is superficial and who had actually served two terms of imprisonment in internment camps for enemy aliens in Britain.

So serious a view did I take of this matter that I asked the writer to come to London to see me. He told me that these Germans greatly resented his arrival to take charge of them. He found them undisciplined, inefficient and truculent. He repeatedly found it necessary to reject their work and to call for a re-translation, much to their wrath. He described to me how all these Germans crowded into the listening room whenever a speech by Hitler was scheduled to take place. They all poured in, even those off duty, to the considerable inconvenience and annoyance of those engaged in this highly important work, sitting on tables and even on the floor, determined not to miss a word or an inflection of the voice of their Führer. So much for (to quote the Government reply of February 27) "the peer miserable people who have fled from the barbarities of German oppression and German terror." Those words were used to describe the Germans now resident in this country.

Repeated protests by this correspondent of mine to the director of the monitoring service were merely met by a curt rejoinder that nothing could be done in the matter, and that he must try to get on better with these Germans. At the end of a year, as he says in his letter, he resigned his post rather than continue in such circumstances. I feel that your Lordships at least will join with me in applauding such a conscientious and patriotic action. It requires courage to throw away a well-paid job and forfeit a pension. I am told that the B.B.C. look after their employees remarkably well in this way, always provided that they toe the line and do exactly what they are told, and provided that they sink all personality and initiative and are content to be nothing more or less than "Yes men." This somewhat harsh criticism is not based on the testimony of a single individual. Only the other day I talked to a man who had for over five years been in charge of a very important section of the B.B.C. He has lately preferred to resign rather than continue under this autocracy which I have described. Other quite outstanding men have gone during the war years for the same reason. It does seem a pity that a Corporation which I should be the first to admit has done, and is doing, such a first-class job of work should be ready to dispense with the services of men of proved worth and ability, and often with unique knowledge and experience, rather than accept a new outlook and a progressive point of view. I trust that your Lordships will pardon this slight digression.

I do not know what your Lordships may think about this monitoring service situation. To me it appears folly to employ enemy aliens on work of this kind. It is not difficult to visualize the harm that may be done by a slight twisting of the text of a translation, the substitution of a word here and a wrong emphasis there. I do not say for one moment that this is done. The great majority of these Germans are, no doubt, fully alive to the advantages accruing to them in their present safe and protected positions and would be unlikely to do anything which would mean running the risk of losing their jobs; but the danger is surely obvious, and I wish to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are aware of these things, and, if so, what the reasons are for this policy. Are there no suitably qualified British subjects available for this work? I understand that in the reception units of the monitoring service alone there are over fifty Germans employed. I should be glad to have this figure confirmed, and at the same time I shall be grateful for information as to the total number of unnaturalized Germans employed by the B.B.C.

Your Lordships will probably be astonished to learn, in view of all this, and will be able to imagine my own astonishment on discovering it, that in the charter of the B.B.C. (Cmd. 5329) it is clearly stated in paragraph 7 (3): Except with the approval in writing of the Postmaster-General."— presumably that should read, in war-time, Minister of Information"— every officer or servant of the Corporation employed in the conduct of the service shall be a British subject. If this to my mind eminently wise and sensible precaution was deemed necessary in peace-time, one would have thought it would have been all the more essential in time of war; and if modifications had to be made then, at least one would think that nationals of our deadliest enemy would not be selected to take the place of British subjects. I am never very clear as to the extent or degree of control which the Government exercise over this Corporation. I have noticed frequent complaints in another place with reference to certain shortcomings or iniquities on the part of the B.B.C., and the almost invariable reply of the Minister of Information, so far as I can remember, is that he is unable or unwilling to interfere. I understand that in war-time he is the Minister who makes the necessary approach to the Treasury for obtaining the very considerable funds of which I understand that the B.B.C. dispose, so that presumably he acts in loco parentis generally. Perhaps my noble friend who is to reply will be able to enlighten me a little further on this point.

I am no fanatic or alarmist on this matter. I claim to have as much of the milk of human kindness as most people. In the late summer of 1938, when on a visit to Vienna, I sent for two Austrian Jews, whose cry for help in The Times had wrung my heart, and I shall never forget the look of furtive terror on their faces as they walked through the doors of my hotel. They became my servants for a few months in this country and very loyally they served me. Later, I had a German Jewess in my employ until shortly before the outbreak of war. These people's gratitude was touching in the extreme and they never failed to send me a Christmas card each year. This year I have even had an Easter card from them. I only hope that should their eyes ever chance to fall on the remarks that I was impelled to make the other day and upon my further observations this afternoon, they will be large-hearted and broad-minded enough to understand.

It is not true that I regard the 40,000 Germans in this country as dangerous Nazis, as the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, alleged in his criticism of my speech the other day. I am sorry he is not in his place to-day. I told him I was going to refer to this and I am sure he did not wish in any way to misrepresent me, but I expressly said on that occasion: Now I am not foolish enough to suppose that among these 40,000 Germans in Britain to-day there are not many perfectly harmless, genuinely unfortunate people, living quietly and inoffensively in the country which has given them refuge. But is that any reason for complacency, for ignoring the potential danger of our harbouring enemy agents in our midst, for employing these Germans in Government Departments, in vitally important posts in the B.B.C. and cheerfully assenting to their general infiltration into all forms of our national activity?

The Minister replying for the Government the other day said this: As far as I am aware, no fifth columnists are wandering around this country, and indeed, if they are, they certainly have not shown their ugly heads. If they are! With great respect I say, what complacency is this from a Government spokesman! Doubtless they have not shown their ugly heads, but surely it is the business of secret agents not to do so, and Germany does not tolerate stupidity in her employees. The noble Earl further assured your Lordships that "these poor people" are doing no harm in this country. That expression "poor people" is rather unpleasantly reminiscent of the "poor Germans" in the years between the wars. "What will you do if you lose the war?" a Swiss asked a German in 1918. "We will organize sympathy" was his reply. How successfully they did so is a matter of history. Are we going to make it easier for them this time by organizing it for them ourselves?

How can the Government possibly substantiate a statement that these people are doing no harm in this country? I wonder if any of your Lordships chanced to read a Press report of the 15th March last. I read from an article in the Daily Mail. It is headed "A German Sets Four Riddles—Led Double Life." It states: When Home Office experts consider whether or not the man that Scotland Yard knows as Ernst Meissner should be deported they will be faced with four mysteries concerning his movements in this country. (1) Where he came from in Germany; (2) Why he assumed the identity of another man; (3) Why he posed as a British Air Force officer for several hours every night during his four months in England: (4) Where he obtained his uniforms. To people he is known to have met in London he was Horace Ernest Berry, a tall good-looking man of 26. … In the name of Berry, Meissner was on Tuesday sent to gaol for six months on charges of contravening the Aliens Registration Order. At the same time he was recommended for deportation…He claimed to have fought with the Maquis. He was brought to England with other refugees. Berry passed the Home Office tests for aliens and was allowed to get a job. He registered as an alien of 'uncertain' nationality. His first job was as a night orderly at St. Thomas's Hospital which he got because of his medical training. He lived in lodgings in Paddington. A month after he arrived in England he appeared at Marylebone Police Court on charges of wearing an R.A.F. Squadron Leader's uniform with the D.S.O., D.F.C., and Africa Star. He was put on probation. Then he went to live in Wenlock Road, E. Mrs. Lionel Marks let one of her rooms to him. Mr. Marks gave him a job as a cigarette packer. When he came home from work he took off his civilian clothes and put on one of several R.A.B. uniforms he had in his room. Every night he went out in his uniform and returned at eleven o'clock. He told us he was going to the pictures,' Mrs. Marks said. He stayed with Mrs. Marks for nine days. On February 26 the police called and took Ernst Meissner away. They took his uniforms too. The magistrate said: The danger of an alien with a faked certificate going about in an R.A.F. uniform can have a most serious implication. An order for deportation was made.

If it is possible for a German agent, as it is quite clear that this man was, to enter this country after over five years of war and remain at lame for four months, the noble Earl will scarcely be surprised if some of us view with alarm and scepticism the assurance that "these poor people" are doing no harm in this country. Such serene complacency is, I submit, unjustifiable and unwise in the extreme. Let us save our sympathy for our own people, our men of the Navy and Merchant Marine waging their ceaseless war against mines and submarines and in countless cases left to perish on rafts or in the water from hunger or thirst or exposure; for our soldiers and our airmen, in their gallant fight with a ruthless merciless enemy, or languishing in prisoner-of-war camps suffering God knows what privations to-day as the ring closes tighter round our enemy. Let us have less of "these poor Germans" and more realization of what one of my correspondents reminds me—"once a German always a German" and all that that implies in the loss of treasure and blood all through the years at the hands of that race.

Let me read your Lordships a few lines from what this correspondent wrote, a man old in wisdom and with many years of public service behind him. He said: For many years now in my small way I have been trying to get people in this country to realize the gravity of the German menace and that nothing is truer than 'once a German always a German and that, however much a German may be up against the German Government of the moment, he has always in his heart and before his eyes the motto' Deutchsland über Alles' and does and will work steadily to bring forward the day when that motto will be fulfilled. A German writing of his own people says "the German is naturally a kind and gentle person but every German at the bottom of his heart has a lust for conquest which can be aroused by any leader and which, when once aroused, will take him to any extreme."

I listened with the greatest interest and sympathy to the speeches made in your Lordships' House yesterday on the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Denham. I am one of those who believe that it is not merely Nazi horrors and beastliness that have to be destroyed; the menace to world peace lies in the diseased imagination, the twisted mentality, the overweening ambition, the aggressive ideas of racial superiority, the inherent cruelty and the vindictive sadism which pervade Germany's rulers, whatever their persuasion, and are transmitted to, and reflected by, and acted upon by the German people. Another correspondent of mine writes: Those who have studied the irrefutable evidence of facts know that it is the perpetual soul of Germany we are fighting, and nothing else. The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, gave it as his opinion the other day that I generalize too much. I only wish I could feel he was right. He told your Lordships of the immense pains he and his advisers at the Home Office took in the years immediately before the war in the matter of sifting and examining the many refugees from Germany before admitting them to this country. One may agree or disagree with such a policy. At least, if that took place in peace-time, uneasy though that peace was, appeasement was the order of the day. The noble Viscount, I am sure, would be the last to claim infallibility for his then Department; and knowing what we do of German cunning, what a heaven-sent opportunity that large influx of refugees afforded for importing numbers of secret agents and placing them just exactly where they were wanted.

Here I should like to ask the noble Earl if he can give me any information regarding a German subject, Dr. Schacht, employed for some years at the Ministry of Information. I am told he has now gone. I understand that before the war he was a university professor in Cairo and was in close touch with the German Minister there; that he was interned in this country for eight months and subsequently released as there was nothing against him; that in addition to his work at the Ministry of Information he was extensively employed by the B.B.C., that the salary he received was at the rate of 600 a year, and that during a certain period he attended policy meetings of the Ministry of Information. It was alleged in another place that this man had had access to the most secret papers. This was denied by the Minister of Information, and of course the denial was accepted. It was further alleged that he was in possession of passes which admitted him to any Government Department in Whitehall. This was denied on no less than three occasions by the Minister of Information, but on the fourth occasion it was admitted that passes had, quite wrongly and irregularly, been issued but had then been withdrawn.

I am not casting any aspersions on the Ministry of Information—far from it—but I draw attention to this as an illustration of the unwisdom of employing Germans in Government Departments, particularly when such employment is not accompanied by the requisite care and precaution. I shall be glad if the noble Earl will state the date of Dr. Schacht's commencing work at the Ministry of Information and, if it is true that he has now departed, did he resign or was he dismissed and, if the latter, what were the circumstances attending his dismissal, and what are his present whereabouts and employment?

I have been dealing this afternoon with the security aspect of this problem, but the economic aspect should not be forgotten. I will do no more than briefly touch upon this, as I have no wish to detain your Lordships too long. While I am very well aware of the fact that numbers of refugees have started industries in this country and have given employment to British workmen, I am equally well aware, as the Government, of course, are, that such cases form only a small fraction of the 40,000 Germans resident in this country to-day. I find myself unable to accept the statement from the Government Bench the other day that the chance of full employment for our own fighting men on their return home is not going to be prejudiced by the retention of these thousands of aliens here in this country, firmly established in business and employment in small trades, in professional classes, in journalism, in domestic service and so on. While I am speaking of this economic aspect I should perhaps say that that is, of course, applicable to aliens generally in this country. My Motion, which I have tried to stick to, relates to Germans.

I have only lately been made aware of a still more, to me, disturbing situation—a revised nationality rule for appointments in the British Civil Service. The nationality rule, which I got from the Civil Service Commission at Burlington House, says that these appointments are now open to a naturalized British subject who has resided in His Majesty's Dominions and/or been employed elsewhere in the service of the Crown for at least five years out of the last eight years preceding the date of his appointment. You will realize that by this revision in nationality rules, which is dated 21st November, 1944, the majority of the 40,000 Germans resident in this country have now fulfilled the residential qualifications, and on signing a naturalization paper are now eligible for permanent appointments in His Majesty's Civil Service. One would have thought that at least the British Civil Service might have been kept secure from this alien infiltration and reserved exclusively for our own people. A certain well-known weekly journal remarks on this in the following terms: The situation is not one to be treated with complacency, since it is surely scandalous, with so many native Britons ordinarily available for employment, that posts in the British public service should go to aliens the sole test of whose loyalty has been the signing of naturalization papers. I shall be glad if the noble Earl who is to reply will say what circumstances have impelled this alteration in the nationality rule and in what way this is likely to benefit this country or the British people.

I have made lists of the numbers of Germans who have received British nationality in the last ten or twelve years. From the year 1933, broadly speaking, about 150 per year have received British nationality. In 1939 there were 390. In 1940, when we were at war, there were still 208 Germans who received British nationality. Then in 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1944 there was an almost complete cessation though not absolutely complete: the numbers were eighteen, twenty, fifteen and nine. Those are Germans who received British nationality. With regard to the 40,000 Germans now here—unnaturalized Germans—I only hope that the measure proposed by my noble friend Lord Denham yesterday, that naturalization should cease for a generation, if not two, will be seriously considered by His Majesty's Government, as this Civil Service situation is, to me, most disturbing. Then there is the question of housing. No stressing in your Lordships' House is necessary as to the seriousness of the housing problem. Indeed, as we all know, it is the greatest economic anxiety of all of those with which we are faced. How are we to justify to our sailors, soldiers and airmen the occupation by these people of hundreds and thousands of houses and flats, if you take England as a whole, while they themselves can find no possible or suitable dwelling, if indeed they are able to find a roof to cover their heads?

I hope I have said enough—and I have tried not to overstate this question—to show how urgently necessary it is that enemy aliens at least who have come here since 1933 shall not be allowed to reside indefinitely in this country. On a former occasion I urged the repatriation of German nationals at the earliest possible moment on the conclusion of hostilities. To-day, when one reads the appalling devastation being wrought on German cities, towns and villages as a result of the criminal lunacy of the German Government in refusing to acknowledge defeat, it may well be impracticable to send these people back to the chaotic conditions that must be prevailing and are likely to prevail on a vastly increased and progressive scale in the coming weeks. I certainly should not propose to-day to send them back to starve or with very little hope of finding a house or employment, but the time will come when chaos will give place to some form of order and persecution and tyranny will be no more. Germany will have to be rebuilt and if there is any truth in the Press reports that Russia will demand large numbers of Germans—I have seen two millions mentioned, but have no idea if there is any truth in that figure—for repairing the damage to Russian towns and cities, it is to be expected that every possible German will be required for the restoration of Germany. Alternatively, has His Majesty's Government approached the Governments of our Dominions and Colonies and perhaps those of other countries with a view to ascertaining whether any of them will be willing to accept a certain number of these German nationals after the war?

Our men will be coming back in due course and there will be no room and no place for parasites in this country. An Englishman neither expects nor desires thanks for hospitality which it is natural for him to offer. All he expects is a reasonable code of behaviour and decent standards of good manners from those whom he has befriended. What he does not like, and what he will not easily tolerate, is any meddling in his private affairs. He likes to be king in his own castle, master in his own home. If a neighbour's house catches fire and is burnt out he will offer the victim shelter in his own house, but he does not expect him to remain there indefinitely. After the conflagration has subsided and the house has been taken in hand for repairs and made fit for habitation again, he expects his guest to show some signs of returning to his own place. If, instead of any such sign or intention, his visitor begins to invade his kitchen and tell his cook how the vegetables should be prepared, and later proceeds to tender his advice to his host as to how to manage and run his own household; and if on top of that the Englishman is expecting his own children to return home very shortly and requires for their accommodation the rooms occupied by his guests, then I suggest it is not unreasonable that he should wish to speed the parting guests. I do not underestimate the difficulties of this task nor the immensity of the problem but it has got to be solved in fairness and justice to our own people.

The complexities of the economic aspect in any case do not obtain on the security side, which is the main theme of my remarks this afternoon. I submit again that aliens of German birth should be rigidly excluded from employment in our Government Departments and from such highly important and confidential work as I have mentioned. Equally dangerous, in my view even perhaps more so than actual participation in our war effort, is the psychological influence which Germans can exert through their association with British officials who influence policy. It is this psychological infiltration which is really the most sinister thing and one sees it in almost every sphere of our national life—Government Departments, B.B.C., the Press, the universities, the factories and so on. More and more they appear to be penetrating into positions where they are able to exert a pernicious influence. Germans have been used, and so far as I know are still being used, by the Ministry of Information to address British audiences all over the country on the plea, as I understand it, that as they have experience of German ways they will carry great weight. The fact that whatever anti-Nazi stuff they put across they are nevertheless all pro-Germans, and are given this wonderful opportunity from the platform to organize sympathy as they call it once more for Germany, seems to be completely ignored. Is it necessary to employ Germans for this propaganda work when there can be no lack of Britons who can be used for this purpose? Many Germans have joined our Fighting Services. All honour to them as individuals. But numbers of them have been given Commissions. Is it right, is it desirable that Germans shall be put in charge and command of British soldiers?

One could multiply examples of German infiltration throughout the length and breadth of this land of ours, but I will not weary your Lordships further. By all means let us, in the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, not depart from the ancient tradition of this country which has always been an asylum for those flying from injustice and terror on the Continent. But let us use discrimination in this matter, let us temper this mercy with vision and judgment if we wish to win the peace after we have won the war, and if we wish to prevent the world being bathed in blood for a third time in our lives, which would mean the final destruction of civilization through the infamy of Germany and her rulers. I beg to move.

2.59 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord concluded his series of remarks on this subject by suggesting that discrimination should be used in considering this problem. I am inclined to commend his own words to his own notice. He was very insistent in the earlier stages of his speech in stating that he was speaking with complete detachment and without any prejudice of any kind. Let me say at once as regards the attack which he seemed to fear he might have to ward off because of the sentiments which he has expressed this afternoon on the basis of Anti-Semitism, that no such charge will proceed from me. I am perfectly content to assume that no consideration of that kind entered into anything that lie has said, and that the remarks with which he entertained your Lordships over a considerable period of time were due entirely to a complete failure to apprehend the situation with which he was attempting to deal. He has at various stages of his oration poured over himself not merely the milk but the clotted cream of human kindness, showing with what sympathy he approached this slightly delicate question. Yet, was there much kindness in his speech? Was there much sympathy, was there much humanity, was there much understanding of this difficult and heart-rending problem?

I think your Lordships will realize that I would not stand here taking the opposite line to that which the noble Lord has taken, whatever considerations influenced me, unless I was satisfied that my advocacy of the point of view that I proposed to put was not in conflict with the interests of this country. The noble Lord, disclaiming all prejudice, all hostility, talked about parasites—the parasites, presumably, who gave a very welcome reinforcement to British industry during the war at a time when we were driven to our last point in shortage of man-power; the parasites who have fought and died in the British Army; the parasites who walk about in British uniforms, wearing British campaign medals and British decorations for gallantry. These are your parasites, your dangerous enemies in your midst. Your Lordships, I think, will forgive me if I speak with perhaps a little heat on one subject, and I will endeavour to deal with the rest with more detachment. It is deplorable that the noble Lord should turn his attack upon these young men—and I know them—who are serving as commissioned officers in the British Army and endeavour to stir up hostility among the men whom they so ably command. The noble Lord is a professional sailor. I have only been on occasion an amateur soldier, but I do know that if an officer is a bad officer his men will not follow him and that if the men will not follow an officer it is the commanding officer's business to get rid of that officer there and then. Facilities for doing so with great expedition are not lacking in the Army to-day. For all the milk of human kindness that was a most regrettable statement.

Now let me approach the question perhaps with a little more detachment. I think that what the noble Lord said can really be based upon three propositions—the first, that these people are German without reservation or qualification; the second, that therefore they will want to return to Germany; and the third, that, wanting to return to Germany, they will desire to influence this country to make conditions as easy as may be in Germany in order that their life may be as enjoyable as possible after their return. I think that is not an unfair summary of the basic proposition that the noble Lord was proclaiming. I will deal with his specific cases later on. It is very easy —so easy, so pitifully easy—to make the kind of case that the noble Lord has made by appealing to every prejudice, every instinct of xenophobia that resides in the people of this country, perhaps particularly acutely in the moment of war.

Something like 90 per cent. of the 40,00o people of whom he spoke are Jews who, if they had not been in this country, would have been in Dachau, or Belsen, or Buchenwald. They are people who have saved their lives from that type of horror which was being discussed in your Lordships' House yesterday. They are people who have lost everything, their homes, such fortunes as they had, their families. The noble Lord reprobates the use of the adjective "poor" in connexion with them, protests against any form of sympathy being displayed towards them; but yet are they not deserving of sympathy whose only fault was that they happened to belong to a people—as I do—who were considered, as part of the fundamental policy of the Germany of the time, as members of an inferior race, whose only privilege was to be massacred at the hands of the Nazis? Do not let us apply the adjective "poor" to them lest anybody should feel sympathy with their lot!

Forty thousand was the figure the noble Lord gave, and I am prepared to accept it. Let us analyse a little more carefully this figure of 40,000 dangerous aliens who are loose in this country. A large proportion of them are people well over fifty years of age, some of them definitely elderly, and 10,000 of them are children. The noble Lord would say "once a German, always a German" although they may have arrived here at the age of six or five or less and have been educated at British public schools and although some of them hold Commissions in the British Army. Once a German always a German! That is not quite the view that the Germans, amongst whom their early lives were spent, have taken of them since, or they would not be here. They are people without citizenship, Stateless people, with no foundation, no firm ground under their feet in any corner of the earth, and if the noble Lord has his way there will be no firm ground under their feet even here.

It will be a satisfaction to the noble Lord to know that even in the relatively static condition of transport in war-time, with all the difficulties that have inevitably been in the way of emigration, not less than 10,000 quitted this country as emigrants bound for countries overseas. When facilities offer again, no doubt many more will wish to take advantage of opportunities to emigrate to other countries. But is it right to assume that the rest will want to go back to Germany? How can they go back to Germany? It is not just that very little of Germany is being left from day to day, but that, as I said before, everything that made their lives has gone; their homes have gone, their businesses have gone, worst of all their families have gone. All roots which may once have bound them to Germany have been once and for all effectively cut. Will they therefore want so eagerly to make propaganda in this country in order that they may live in easier conditions on their return to Germany, if, indeed, a few of them have any intention of going back to Germany at all? What are they making propaganda for?

The noble Lord dealt with three aspects —what I may call the security aspect, the economic aspect and the psychological aspect. Let us just consider them for a moment. The noble Lord seemed haunted by spectres of enemy agents popping up at unforeseen corners and doing their best on behalf of the Nazi system in Germany which has been in force during the five and a half years of the war. My Lords, this is not the beginning of a war; this is the end of a war. For five and a half years of war these people have been resident in this country. The noble Earl, Lord Munster, will, perhaps, tell us, in his reply, how many of these dangerous persons have been imprisoned for traitorous activities, how many of them have been put into the Tower and subsequently shot, how many of them demonstrated, in that way or in similar ways, their passionate devotion to the Nazi règime—which threw them neck and crop out of Germany—and proceeded to work for it in this country during the period of war. After all, in these five and a half years we have had in operation—or so I imagine—a system of intelligence and counter-espionage of our own, and if these dangerous fanatics have really been loose in this country during the whole of that time one would think that our own authorities might, perhaps, have got on their track by now and have put them in some place where their activities could no longer be harmful. I know of no case of that kind. The noble Lord may be more fully advised.

There was a gentleman of the name of Meissner who seemed to excite great interest in the mind of the noble Lord. I confess that this is my first introduction to this obviously undesirable person, and if he is to be deported at the earliest opportunity I think that nobody would be more ready to attend the scene of his deportation than I should. And I have no doubt that many thousands of these dangerous Germans to whom the noble Lord refers would be equally pleased at his departure. The noble Lord made one assumption for which I could see no shadow of evidence in anything which he said about this person. He said that the man was obviously an enemy agent. Where is the evidence of this? The fact that he wore R.A.F. uniform was unfortunate, but quite a lot of British sub- jects who have no right to wear that or other uniforms do so. You see day after day in the newspapers reports relating to people who have been walking about wearing uniforms and decorations to which they have absolutely no right. But it is not safe to assume from that that these British subjects are necessarily enemy agents. They may be merely gentlemen who have impressionable lady friends who are more susceptible to two rows of medals than to one, and to three rows than to two. But to assume from that that these men are enemy agents seems to me to be stretching probability to a very remarkable degree.

The noble Lord talked about the B.B.C. monitoring system. I happened to know, at the beginning of the war, something about that system. The noble Lord's particular friend does not seem to have been very happy in his environment, and I should think it was a good thing that he and those who worked with him were separated. The B.B.C. presumably arrived at their policy with regard to the staffing of this department in order that they might have the most expert material at their disposal. Are we to assume from the noble Lord that the B.B.C. chose those people either because they thought they might be enemy agents, or because they thought they were aliens and therefore it would be very kind of the Corporation to employ them, or because they thought, on consideration, that these were the people best qualified to perform the task? After all, it is not very easy to pick up a foreign language coming from a distant station, to select it from a number of others, to sort out the different wavelengths and to get out a transcript accurately, for, of course, a transcript unless it is accurate is useless. Possibly these people may have been chosen for this job because they happened to know German. That did not appear to be an explanation which has entered the noble Lord's head.

He has said that they all clustered round the microphone in a very sinister way in the listening room—and this was a very curious expression to use remembering whom we are talking about—when their Fuhrer spoke. "Their Fuhrer." Do you think that that now deceased functionary claimed them as his? Do you think he would have recognized the expression coming from them: "My Führer"? As an integral part of his policy he had thrown them out of Germany, and it was just because he was not "their Führer," but the Führer of the German ration that they were in England and available to do monitoring for us. Really, to say that because people listened to a speech by Hitler they were enemy agents and full of ardour for the success of the German cause, is so childish that I do not propose to pursue it further. How many of us in those early days of the war did not set aside quite important things, which we might be doing, in order that we might listen to that raucous, unattractive voice on the microphone? We did it, not because we loved him, not because we regarded him as our Führer, but because, in those days, what that voice said signified much for the whole of Europe, and it did not signify less for these unfortunate people—I apologize to the noble Lord for putting in the epithet "unfortunate"—who had been expelled from their country at his orders. Is it really remarkable that they wanted to know what he was saying? A case which has to be built up so painfully and laboriously as to require the use of material like that is really not a very powerful or convincing case.

The next aspect with which the noble Lord dealt was the economic aspect. His argument relating to this aspect is a very easy one of which to make use. It will be well received by certain sections of the Press, and well received by a certain section of the public which shares, with various degrees of ardour, the noble Lord's views. I understand it to be the view of the Government that so far from being over-stocked with labour after the war we shall still be short of labour. If that is so, we may yet find that there is as useful employment for these people in industry after the war as there has been during the war. The noble Lord waved aside rather contemptuously these poor factories which these people have put up. I am told that some 450 factories have been started in this country by refugees, and that they employ some 20.000 to 30,000 British workpeople. If the noble Lord objects so strongly to British troops being commanded by refugee officers, I wonder that he does not object to British workpeople being employed by refugees. Perhaps he will consider that point when he comes to make his next speech on the subject. As I say, 20,000 to 30,000 work- people are employed. There are 40,000 refugees. Take away the children and the old people and the men in the Forces: is not the balance perhaps even now on the side of the refugees having given more employment than they have taken?

And when more materials are available and these factories can increase their output, is there not some value, when our export trade is going to be all-important Ito us in the future, in having people who are prepared to develop their factories and to put at our disposal their knowledge of the export trade which used to be German, and which we shall be very glad to get, in order that it may contribute something to the establishment of the economic position of this country at the end of the war? Let me give two instances. The centre of the fur trade used to be Leipzig, but even before the war the centre was being transferred almost entirely to this country. That was entirely the work of the "parasites." The toy trade had begun before the war to build itself up here. I do not imagine that Nuremberg will be a very suitable centre for it after the war comes to an end. It used to be a very considerable trade, with very considerable exports, and it may not be without value to us to secure at least a portion of that trade in the days after the war.

To speak of housing is to make such an easy point, but is it really such a good point? If these people contribute anything otherwise to the life of this country, are they not entitled to have somewhere to live? What else are you going to do with them? Drop them in the sea? Put them in a camp? Are you going to re-intern them, which I think was the amiable suggestion of the noble Lord when he spoke on the last occasion about the future disposition of these people? I think that the noble Lord's highest bid was hundreds of thousands of houses; he started with tens of thousands, but gradually in his zeal worked up to at least a hundred thousand, which allows about three houses per refugee, including the children, which, even allowing for the normal expansion of their families, is perhaps an excessive ratio. As I have said before, many of these people are old, and most of them are poor. They do not require so very much accommodation. They do not require so very much space in a country which, I agree, is already overcrowded. But unless there is somewhere else for them to go, and unless they have shown themselves unfit to remain here, must we really be quite so narrow, quite so ungenerous, quite so prejudiced as to deny them the one little place in all the world which for anything up to twelve years now (because they began to come over in 1933) has represented the only thing that remains to them of what they used to know as a home? —

Then there is the psychological aspect. The noble Lord is very frightened of the penetration of these people into our lives. He is frightened that they may pervert the sympathies of this country and lead us to deal gently with Germany, that they may organize sympathy for Germany. Why does he turn particularly to the refugees for that? Are not there plenty of people, some of them quite highly-placed people, in this country who are already endeavouring to do precisely the same thing, who are saying exactly the sort of thing which he—quite wrongly, I think—attributes to the refugees as being likely to be said by them? In the days of Munich, there was a satirical and anonymous poem in circulation which some of your Lordships may still remember, and which contained the lines: But it could not be the Germans; The Germans never arm; They're fond of beer and Beethoven, Wherein resides their charm. There are plenty of people of the "beer and Beethoven" school still walking about in this country and proclaiming their faith.

The trouble with the Germans—not with these people who have been hounded out of Germany, who have broken all their ties with Germany when their lives were broken too—is this. There are plenty of people in Germany, perhaps even now, who are fond of beer anti Beethoven, but they are fond of Belsen and Buchenwald as well. That has always been the irreconcilable aspect of the German character—this strange Faust-like duality of good and bad; and, unfortunately, the moment that there is the slightest sign of a conflict between the two beginning to appear on the horizon, the good has always been ready to offer unconditional surrender to the bad. These people of whom the noble Lord is talking may have been Germans of the Germany of years ago; they are not Germans of the Germany of to-day or of to-morrow.

They cannot go back. The noble Duke talks about the psychological aspect. What about the psychological aspect from their angle? It is not just the material things; it is that they have seen the people who were their friends and neighbours and customers turn against them, loot their houses and stand by and jeer at their humiliation. Are they going back to live in the midst of those people and restart their lives in that environment?

This is not just a question of the Nazis. The Nazis may have started it, but it has gone on now for twelve years, drop by insidious drop from day to day into the minds of the German people as a whole. How are these people, who are Jews and who know what has happened in the course of those years in Germany, ever to go back and face the psychological future that awaits them? The noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, need have no fear of their crowding the docks to get back to Germany, nor need he have any fear of their malevolent scheming in our midst in the interests of the Germany of to-day or the Germany of to-morrow.

There are others who shared the same fate, met the same exile, escaped the same torture because they happened to have the political views of the Left which were not acceptable to the Party in power. After all, somehow, some time, something has got to be rebuilt in the vacuum in the midst of Europe which is Germany to-day. In the course of time some of these people may—I do not say want to go back, but may be willing to go back in order to restart something of a Germany of the future. But are they likely to try to influence opinion in this country to make a soft peace with Germany at this date? Their only hope of being able to rebuild anything in Germany in the future is that a hard peace should be made with Germany now, so that a new country which will accept them back, which will be responsive to their influence, which will give them a hope of being able to build up something in Germany in the future, may be created when we come to peace.

Is it better that those people should go back, or that the rebuilding of Germany should be left to people who have throughout these war years been impregnated in greater or lesser degree with Nazi philosophy? Is it better that those should go back—the people who have suffered for their political views in the old Germany—and try in the future, perhaps in a distant future, to rebuild something which they can model on the memory of their years spent in this country, with the knowledge that they have come to acquire in those years—the years of their "parasitic life" in this country—of Britain and the British way and purpose, and to rebuild a structure which may be in some degree a memorial to the admiration, the gratitude and the reverence which they have learned during their years of exile?

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, I was grateful to the noble Lord who moved the Motion standing in his name on the Paper for having indicated to me some of the points which he intended to raise during our discussion this afternoon. The questions he has raised have revolved round a. variety of Ministries, and in speaking on behalf of the Home Office I am not in a position to reply to the many questions concerning other Ministries contained in his speech. Most of the Government's speech has, fortunately, been made by the noble Marquess opposite, and therefore I shall not have to delay the House for any length of time in replying to what thought were the grossly exaggerated statements made by the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn.

He first took me to task for making certain observations in this House at the end of February last in the course of my reply to the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart. Let me state quite categorically, so that there may he no doubt whatever, that I see no reason to withdraw them, nor do I see any reason to modify them in any way whatever. Who were these refugees that we were discussing on that occasion, and indeed that we are discussing on this occasion? Who were these people who were allowed to come to this country and were given temporary refuge and asylum in England? They were German nationals who had fled from the terror of Nazi oppression. Has the noble Lord ever thought what were the alternatives open to them—the alternatives so well described by the noble Marquess? We are fortunate in this House in having with us to-day the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, who was the British Minister responsible for introducing the policy which allowed these German nationals to come to this country. He at any rate had no hatred for these people, and I am glad to think that I was associated with the noble Viscount as being a member of that Government which supported him in the action which he took.

The noble Lord feared that these Germans in this country were engaged in activities of a dangerous character. Let me see if I can explain to him and to the House exactly what happened at the beginning of the war. As soon as the war broke out the case of each German national in this country was considered by a tribunal or by a regional advisory council, and no one was left at large if there was any reason to think that his liberty would be dangerous to national security and to the State. At a later stage when France fell the Government, entirely as a precaution against the possibility of the setting up of a fifth-column movement in this country, embarked on the policy of the internment of aliens of enemy nationality. Thereafter each case was reviewed in great detail, and those who were released were only the nationals about whom the Secretary of State was satisfied that their sympathies lay with the Allied cause. There was no complacency there. I need hardly assure the noble Lord that there is no enemy alien at large in this country to-day if we have any doubt whatever about his powers to do mischief. There are no secret agents, as the noble Lord described them when referring to the remarks I made on a previous occasion. Who are these German nationals who are at liberty in this country? They are the large number who have made and are still making a substantial contribution to the war effort, either by serving in the Armed Forces or in industry, or indeed in science if they should have the technical abilities, or any other work of national importance to which they have been directed by the Ministry of Labour.

In this connexion the noble Lord cited the case of Ernst Meissner, which was reported in the Press on March 14–15 last, and the noble Lord read from a newspaper cutting those portions of the case which were likely to catch the public eye. But what is the story of Ernst Meissner? It is not the least difficult of the cases of those German refugees in this country. In fact, he was not a refugee from Nazi oppression at all, but he was a German who was unwilling to fight for the Nazis, and who by impersonating a British soldier or sailor on the field of battle was brought to this country as a prisoner of war. Inquiries were made to confirm certain statements which he had given and his impersonation was discovered. The man was arrested and he is now serving a sentence of imprisonment and has been recommended for deportation. But if it would be any happiness to my noble friend, let me assure him that the evidence is quite clear. He did no harm whatever to this country while he was at liberty.

The noble Lord went on to ask how many unnaturalized Germans were employed in Government Departments. Let me read to him and to your Lordships a statement which was made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on January 26 last. The statement which I shall read is identical, except that I have altered the figures. What did my right honourable friend state? He said: Under Defence Regulations 6oD aliens may be temporarily employed in the Government service if they possess special qualifications, and there are no suitably qualified British subjects readily available for employment in the post concerned. Specific Treasury consent is required for the employment of an enemy alien in any non-industrial post, and that consent— the noble Lord will note that it is only consent to employ— has been given in the case of eighty-three persons of German nationality, or who are now Stateless but were formerly of German nationality…In some of those cases their employment has already been terminated. I am not in a position to give the noble Lord the actual number employed to-day, but what I can give him is the information which I have just read out, that the Treasury have given consent from the outbreak of war up to date for eight-three persons of German nationality to be employed in Government Departments.


Why? I ask the noble Earl, why? What were the reasons? Could they not find suitable British subjects to take their place?


I read out, I thought quite clearly, and I endeavoured to emphasize the point: provided there are no suitably qualified British subjects available. I do not think my noble friend can have been listening.

Now I turn to the question of the B.B.C. I am not able to-day to answer the question which the noble Lord asked me as to what is the position between the B.B.C. and His Majesty's Government. It seems to me to be some distance away from the subject of aliens. The policy of the B.B.C. with regard to the employment of aliens is in accordance with the relaxation rules applied to temporary civil servants in 1941. The noble Lord will notice how careful the Government are on all these questions, and there is no complacency. Aliens are employed by the B.B.C. on a temporary basis provided they possess special qualifications or experience which fit them for the post in question and again that no qualified British labour is available at the time of their employment. Aliens are, however, excluded from certain important posts on the output side: that is to say, editors, sub-editors, language supervisors and switch centres; and in fact they are excluded from many other posts where it is considered imperative that control should be exercised by a British subject and by a British subject only.

The German staff in the monitoring service are employed exactly as the noble Marquess said, because, curiously enough, perfect German linguistic qualifications, coupled with the most intimate knowledge of economic conditions in Germany, are essential and again it has not been found possible to fill those posts with any British subjects. The total number of Germans, exclusive of registered Austrians and Stateless nationals, employed in the monitoring service of the B.B.C. is 66, and the total number of unnaturalized Germans included in the staff of the B.B.C. is 136. The terms of the licence of agreement between the Postmaster-General and the B.B.C. require that the Corporation should employ British subjects except with the approval in writing of the Postmaster-General. The Minister of Information, to whom the powers of the Postmaster-General were transferred on September 5, 1939, has agreed with the B.B.C. that aliens may be employed under the same conditions as Government employment of temporary civil servants in Government Departments, provided the alien concerned is to be engaged in connexion with foreign broadcasts.

Then the noble Lord went on to ask for some information about a gentleman called Dr. Schacht, who fortunately, I understand, is no relation to that slippery customer of the same name who was here some years ago. I understand that this German is a very well-known Orientalist who was first employed by the Ministry of Information on a fee basis on 1st October, 1941. What was his work? His work consisted in checking the texts and proofs of certain of the Ministry's publications in Arabic and Persian. Towards the end of 1944 the volume of work required by that Ministry in London was reduced, and the arrangement with Dr. Schacht was terminated at the end of January this year. Apart from that, this German Orientalist has never been a member of the staff of the B.B.C.—never been a member at all. Since October, 1939, however, he has, from time to time, submitted scripts which have been used in the Corporation's Arabic service. It seems to me to be quite a suitable job on which to employ him as he was an Oriental scholar.

Before I wind up I must mention two other questions which the noble Lord raised. One was the question of the employment in the Civil Service of naturalized British subjects. My noble friend struck me as appearing to think that in order to obtain naturalization all that is necessary is for the individual concerned to fill in a form, rather like buying a stamp from the post-office, and naturalization then becomes automatic and at once. I can assure the noble Lord that if that is his belief it is entirely and absolutely erroneous. I have never been more amazed in my life than at the endless questions which are asked and the endless inquiries which are made before any alien becomes a naturalized, British subject. Before tie obtains naturalization the Secretary of State has to satisfy himself—and it is entirely in his discretion and that of nobody else—that the applicant has identified himself with British life, British thought, British sentiment and British ways, and that his naturalization will be in the public interest. The noble Lord will see that the individual so naturalized now becomes a British subject and he has all the responsibilities of an ordinary British man or woman, and it seems to me quite wrong that a privilege which is accorded to a normal British Subject should be denied to a naturalized British subject. But in point of fact the noble Lord has not read the proviso to your Lordships. Even in becoming a natural- ized British subject he is excluded from serving in four Departments of State—the Foreign Office and the three Service Ministries—unless and until the consent of the political head of that Department has first been obtained.

The noble Lord finally raised a hare about the houses or flats that these German nationals were occupying. So long as there are refugees in this country of any nation—Allied nationals or enemy aliens—they must obviously occupy some accommodation, and the amount that they occupy seems to me to be of a negligible quantity. I believe the noble Lord said he would turn them out of their houses but he would not starve them.


No, no.


I certainly thought I heard remarks of that sort fall from the noble Lord.




These people whom we have been discussing to-day form a very small and negligible part of the total number of displaced persons throughout the world and their future disposal will no doubt have to be considered in due course as part of the world-wide problem.

Finally, let me say this. I was disappointed with the noble Lord's speech. The question he has raised to-day had much better never have come up for discussion in this House. There is no complacency on the part of the Government in dealing with this problem. There is no infiltration of thousands into British businesses or British Government Departments. There is no fear that by these Germans remaining in this country for the moment they will fill employment that is required for British Service personnel or that that personnel will in any way be prejudiced. I say again—and these are my final words—that I for one should have a poor conscience if I thought that these 40,000 Germans had been prevented from coming into this country merely because of the dislike of a few enemy aliens. These Germans were quite out of sympathy and out of agreement with the whole of their country's policy. If they had been excluded from this country, I should feel that I had a very heavy conscience which would take very many years to overcome. I sincerely hope the noble Lord will with- draw his Motion for Papers and will refrain from raising this question again in the manner which he has adopted this afternoon.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to say a few words in support of my noble friend Lord Ailwyn who has been "written off" in my view and the really important point has not been answered. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, made a most eloquent defence, as we would expect, for his co-religionists remaining in this country and the noble Earl who replied spoke very much on the same lines as on a previous occasion. Then I was impressed with the figures that were given and by the speech of the noble Earl, and I went away feeling reassured until I read through the Report in Hansard the following day. My fears then returned, not because of what these unfortunate and miserable people do, but because of what the people who are recruited into the Government service might do. It is no good saying they have all proved themselves to be so honest and true and all that kind of thing. What is the policy? If the Germans wanted to plant a man over here would he go about committing acts of sabotage? Of course he would not. What is his policy? It is to do good work, to behave himself, to gain numbers of supporters and if possible, after he has got himself planted here, to use his position in order to exercise influence on behalf of his country. I do not call him a miserable man for doing that. He is a brave man if he comes on behalf of his country. A good German will do what he can for his country.

I would like to put the matter in this way. If there is a danger of one man doing harm, then it is much better to keep these posts for British subjects. I do not believe there are no British subjects who could have taken these places in Government offices which are now filled by Germans: and if there are 130 Germans in the B.B.C. I should say there are probably 100 too many. I doubt if even the remaining thirty are necessary. There is an old saying that he who sups with the devil requires a long spoon and I do not believe there is a British spoon made that is long enough to allow anyone here to sup with a German. That, in my view, applies both to the nation and to indi- viduals. The German who is over here to do any work of the sort that is harmful to us has been carefully trained and knows exactly what he is doing. He sets about creating an impression that he is a good German. There is a danger which I do not think ought to be allowed to continue to exist. These so-called good Germans ingratiate themselves and get the sympathies of our people in order to gain support for Germany. There is a great deal in what has been said by my noble friend. I do not think it should be pooh-poohed by saying that my noble friend wants to get rid of refugees and make them starve. That is a gross exaggeration but I leave my noble friend to deal with that aspect of the matter, I wish to support his Motion.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, I also wish to support what has been said by the noble Earl who has just spoken. I think the noble Earl in his reply treated my noble friend Lord Ailwyn's Motion very cavalierly. He even showed that he did not appreciate the Motion fully by the last words of his own remarks. At the end of his speech he stated that his conscience would have been stricken if these people had not been allowed into this country. I do not remember in the speech of my noble friend Lord Ailwyn any word of reproach about these people having been allowed into this country. His contention was that they were in this country, that some of them might be a danger to this country in the future, and that from a security point of view the Home Office ought to reconsider the matter on those lines. My noble friend Lord Reading went to the other extreme and he put it almost entirely on the racial issue.


With great respect I did not put it on the racial issue. I said that in regard to some 80 per cent. of them you could not help putting it on a racial basis.


There are some of us who do not take a prejudiced line because people have the Jewish faith. I have many friends who are Jews.


I am very sorry to interrupt again but this is a matter that I do not want to be got wrong in the Press or anywhere else I thought I said in my opening words that I did not for one moment accuse the noble Lord who had moved this Motion of Anti-Semitism or any prejudice against these people as Jews. I do not know how I could have put it more plainly or made more appeal to the noble Lord.


I accept what the noble Marquess says and I will go on. What the noble Lord did say in the course of his remarks was that the war is now over and what does it matter? Why not keep these people here altogether? What does it matter?


I am sorry. If we are to have a debate we must debate with accuracy. I did not say, "What does it matter?" I said this war had been going on for nearly six years and if spies were to be found and if we had any counter-espionage one would have imagined that in the course of that time they would have been discovered. If I am going to be quoted, I would prefer not to be misrepresented.


Well, my Lords, so far as I understood him the noble Marquess stated that the war was now over and that as the war was now over it really did not matter whether these people remained here. That is exactly what he said.


It was not what he said.


I wish to submit to your Lordships that it matters a great dear now that the war is over and that you will have the sympathies, as the noble Lord said, of people in this country being assisted possibly by certain of these German nationals who remain in this country. I want to suggest to the noble Earl that he should not treat this question in the way he has done this afternoon, but that the Home Office should continue to look into the activities and the associations of these German nationals even after the war is over. By the line that the noble Earl took in his speech he certainly left me with the impression that the matter is finished. His attitude seems to be, "Do not raise it again in this House, because there is nothing in it whatsoever." I agree with what the noble and gallant Earl, Lard Cork, said. It seems entirely wrong to have eighty-three Germans in our Civil Service to-day. I for one cannot believe that it is not possible to find British subjects who could fill these places equally well. I do hope that the Government will look into that question. I feel sure that there is a strong body in this country who would support my noble friend in the views he has expressed.


I must interrupt for a moment. I am afraid from the noble Viscount's concluding remarks that he failed to listen to all that I was saying. I never said there were eighty-three Germans employed. What I said was that Treasury approval had been given for that number, but I distinctly made the point that it did not mean that eighty-three were now employed.


Will my noble friend say how many are employed?


I also said in my speech that I could not say how many are employed.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, before this debate ends I would like to say one or two things which I think will reassure the noble Viscount who has just addressed the House. It so happens that during almost my whole political life I have been involved in this aliens question. For thirty-four years when I represented a London constituency it was one of the liveliest issues in London politics. Then I had a period at the Home Office, when I was confronted with the very difficult problem of the refugees flying from Nazi tyranny. In later years in Spain I have seen something of the other side. I can tell the noble Viscount and the noble Lord who raised this debate—one can safely do it now when the war is almost ending—that some of my most useful agents were German subjects. This is a question which, as perhaps I know better than anybody else in your Lordships' House except the two former Home Secretaries, raises many prejudices. I would like to repeat what I ventured to say the other day, that you cannot generalize upon it. You have to take these cases one by one, and I can assure the noble Viscount who has just addressed your Lordships' House that he need have no misgivings as to the care with which the Home Office investigates these cases.

I did not gather from the speech from the Government Bench that cases when once dealt with are final decisions and not subject to revision. My experience of the Home Office—and I expect it will be the experience of the present Home Secretary —is that these cases are constantly being investigated and re-investigated. I believe myself that the only effective way of testing them is to test them by results, and I challenge the noble Lord who raised the debate and the noble Viscount who has just addressed your Lordships' House to deny that, judged by results, the policy that we have adopted here has been not only a wise policy but has been a very cautious policy.


May I say that I think my noble friend is inadvertently misrepresenting me? I was talking about the future, not the past.


Then I would say to the noble Viscount that I think he cannot have listened to what I have just said—namely, that these cases are kept constantly under review by a very alert body of officials in the Home Office. I remember very well, if once again I may quote my own experience, that often I found them very rigid. Perhaps I was more sentimentally-minded than they were, but it was made very clear to me that each case was sifted through the closest possible sieve. I claim to-day that after nearly six years of war that policy has been amply justified.

Before I sit down I should like to make one rather more general observation. I recognize the fact that the noble Lord who raised this debate had no Anti-Semitic motive at the back of his mind—he raised it, I am sure, from entirely patriotic motives—but I would venture to say this word of caution, not so much to noble Lords but to the country generally. I think there is a danger, in the justifiable reaction that we all feel against these terrible atrocities that have now been brought to light, that—I will not say we may imitate Nazi methods or adopt Nazi prejudices, but that we may forget the very great fact in British history that we have stood for the decencies of life and have offered an asylum to those whose lives have been outraged in foreign countries. Therefore, whilst I agree wth the two noble Lords who have spoken in favour of this Motion that every possible safeguard should be taken against the infiltration of undesirable aliens, I hope we shall not be pushed into the other extreme of making this a closed country against every foreigner. I hope we shall maintain this country as an asylum for those driven out by the outrages and terrorism of their Governments, and that we shall make this country, and London in particular, the centre of the intellectual, scientific and industrial life of Europe. For that purpose we should encourage those to come here who can contribute to making London such a centre.

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to thank the noble Earl for his reply. I thought that I made a completely moderate speech and I was a little unprepared for some of the terms addressed to me by the noble Earl. It seemed to me that the noble Earl (and may I say the noble Marquess?) took certain arguments which I was alleged to have used but which in fact I did not use, and then proceeded to knock down those arguments as ninepins with the greatest satisfaction. I do not propose to detain your Lordships more than a minute or two. I am most grateful to the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and particularly to the noble Marquess for giving your Lordships' House the privilege of listening to his most eloquent speech. I do not for one moment cavil at the attitude which he takes up. It is a natural one to take up. The point is that he argues from the point of view of the aliens, while the whole of my speech—and I hope it was a moderate speech—was on behalf of the Britisher. I was unable to make the two things dovetail in the way I have tried to make clear. I shall be perfectly satisfied if the noble Earl gives every possible consideration to every precaution that can be taken to prevent any infiltration of undesirables, as Lord Templewood has said. I am extremely distrustful about these people still working in Government Departments. I find it impossible to believe that there are no Britishers to be found to do the work. But I do not propose to go into all that now, for I have kept your Lordships long enough. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.