HL Deb 13 November 1945 vol 137 cc839-42

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, the statement I have been asked to make relates to the admission of distressed persons into this country. It is the desire of His Majesty's Government that our contribution towards the alleviation of distress in Europe shall be the maximum which the resources of this country permit. With this object, the Government have considered which of the classes of distressed persons among the countless cases calling for sympathy have special claims to join relatives in the United Kingdom and to receive protection and help. They have authorized a scheme of admission to this country for the purpose of enabling husbands, wives, and dependent children to be reunited, of enabling young people who have no one to give them a guardian's care to receive such care from relatives, whether near or distant relatives, in this country, and of enabling elderly people who are in special need of filial care to find shelter in the homes of children or grandchildren in the United Kingdom.

In pursuance of this scheme, instructions will be sent to passport control officers that when a person in distressed circumstances on the Continent has an offer from a relative in the United Kingdom of maintenance and accommodation in his home, a visa may be granted, subject to considerations of public health and character, if the applicant falls into one of the following six categories:

  1. (1) The wife of a man who is in the United Kingdom, and any of his children under twenty-one. If the result of bringing the wife and any children under twenty-one to the United Kingdom would be to leave alone and in distressed circumstances one daughter over twenty-one who is unmarried or widowed and without children, she also may be allowed to come.
  2. (2) The husband of a woman who is in the United Kingdom if he is incapacitated, infirm or too old to support his wife abroad.
  3. (3) Females under twenty-one with their children, if any, and males under eighteen who have no relatives to look after them abroad, but have a relative in the United Kingdom able and willing to take them into his household.
  4. (4) The mother or grandmother of a person in the United Kingdom, if she is widowed and in need of filial care.
  5. (5) The father or grandfather of a person in the United Kingdom, if widowed and in need of special care owing to age or infirmity.
  6. (6) Where both man and wife are living together abroad, such couples may be admitted if, because of age or infirmity
or other special circumstances, they are unable to look after and support One another and are offered hospitality by a child or grandchild in this country.

All admissions to the United Kingdom under this scheme will be subject to time limits which will be reviewed periodically in the light of circumstances obtaining future dates. It will be right that many of the younger people shall engage in occupations in which there is a special nerd of workers, such, for example, as agricultural work, and it will be a condition that persons admitted under the scheme shall take Such employment only' as is approved by the Minister of Labour

Persons in this country wishing to invite a relative who falls into one of these categories should write, not to the Home Office but to the relative on the Continent, a letter showing that maintenance and accommodation are available, and should advise the recipient to show the letter to the passport control officer at the British Embassy in the country in which the relative is at present. As regards Germany and Austria, where there is no British Embassy, special arrangements for dealing with applications from persons in those countries will be worked out as soon as possible. If some people may be disappointed that the scheme does not cover their relatives or friends, it must be realized that no scheme of this kind is workable unless it operates within clearly-defined limits, and a flood of letters to the Home Office about persons who do not fall within the prescribed categories will merely impede the official machine.

It is not possible to give a numerical estimate of the persons likely to be admitted under this scheme, and its operation will be carefully watched. The difficulties are obvious which would be caused by large-scale additions to our foreign population at the- present time, when there is a shortage of housing and of supplies of many kinds, and when we are struggling to repair the losses and dislocations of a five-year war in which we have sacrificed our resources without stint; but it will, I think, be the general desire of the British people that, despite these difficulties and within the limits imposed by them, the utmost should be done to maintain this country's historic tradition of affording asylum to the distressed. It is to be hoped that other countries will share the task with this straitened island and will, in proportion to their resources, give opportunities of refuge in their territories to many of these victims of oppression.


My Lords, I do not wish to take up the time of the House, and so I shall merely say that I hope the remarks I have already made with regard to the statement by the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, will be applied also to the further statement which the noble and learned Lord Chancellor has just made.

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