HL Deb 12 March 1946 vol 140 cc36-64

4.23 p.m.

LORD VANSITTART rose to call attention to the unsatisfactory provisions for security in this country; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, security is a very important part of national defence, and, therefore, I make no apology for returning to the subject. Just over a year ago, I brought forward a Motion in this House drawing attention to some defects in our system, and asking that they should be remedied. That Motion was agreed to, and to-day I would be glad to know what if anything has been done in the interval. I stressed four points, First, in regard to naturalization, I pointed out that this should no longer be the monopoly of one branch of the Home Office. I suggested that there should be formed an Inter-Departmental Committee composed of representatives of the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the three Fighting Services, the Board of Trade and the Board of Education. I suggested that to that committee all matters pertaining to naturalization should be remitted, and they would then be able to judge them in the light of their pooled experience. I would be glad to know whether such a body has been set up. I know, of course, that the Home Office draw upon the experience of other Departments when required. But that is not at all the same thing. What I asked for was a standing committee whose members would automatically have the opportunity of volunteering their knowledge and experience without waiting to be asked.

Secondly, I asked that any person or body drawing directly or indirectly subsidies from abroad for purposes of politics or propaganda should declare the fact and the amounts received. I should like that knowledge to be also available to the public. Once the Government were in possession of that knowledge they could easily discriminate between a friend, a foe and a doubtful person. Now, a word about the methods of importation of foreign subsidies. It is rather necessary, because it points to a distinct joint in our harness. Before the war we knew that the Fascists were getting funds from abroad. We were pretty certain that we knew the way in which this was being done. Indeed I was pretty certain I knew the man who was doing it. But we were quite powerless to verify, and even if we had had the power to verify, we could have done nothing. There is nothing to prevent a man leaving Dover with £5 and returning with £5,000. That sort of thing went on under our noses, and I believe that we should not again allow ourselves to lapse into a position of that kind.

I asked, thirdly, that drastic restrictions should be applied to the intake of aliens into this country immediately after the war, until we are in a position to cope with an influx which otherwise might contain dangers. I know that, on the contrary, we have thrown open this country to any displaced persons who have relatives here who are willing to receive them and look after them. I am not criticizing that. It is a measure of humanity. But I am asking the Government if they are really quite sure that their measures of control and investigation of this intake are satisfactory. After the last war they were not. I would like to be sure that better methods are being followed this time. Let me give an example to show the sort of thing to which I refer. Two or three days ago I read in the Press that the Board of Trade were importing a couple of hundred German scientists and technicians. Again, I am not criticizing. I am sure that the Board of Trade have very good grounds for this action, and that it is fully warranted. But, I wonder if the Board of Trade or the Government quite realize that ninety per cent. of the scientists and technicians working for big industrial German firms were not only Nazis but ardent Nazis. I presume that this lot has been properly "vetted" or "screened"—to use a word which is fashionable now. At the same time, I would like to remind the House that the verb "to screen" has two meanings—the first is to sift, and the second is to conceal. If we are not careful we may find that verb, used in this connexion, gradually degenerating into the second sense. In that case we shall be laying up for ourselves a good deal of trouble in the future. Fourthly, I touched on the subject of undesirable bodies in this country. To-day I must say a good deal more about that, but before I begin I would like to assure your Lordships that I shall speak with moderation and with knowledge of the facts. I think it is particularly necessary to avoid all exaggeration in these matters. There is no cause for alarm, but there is a case for vigilance. Exaggeration is to be deprecated, because any word in that direction is immediately pounced upon by enemies, or even by professing friends, abroad, and grossly distorted.

With that preface, I would remind your Lordships how, on the occasion of which I am speaking—it was I think a year ago last February—I alluded to only two bodies, one, "The Link" and the other, Captain Ramsay's associates. I must say a few words more about Captain. Ramsay to-day, because that episode points to another joint in our harness. For a long time before the war, I was getting, by means of my own, a full account of what went on at Captain Ramsay's meetings. I can only say that they were imbued with rabid Nazism and rabid Anti-Semitism. And here I am going to diverge for a moment to say a word about Anti-Semitism. It is the prep-school of violence. It is part of the ordinary technique of what, I think, is rather misleadingly called Fascism. As a matter of fact, there was very little Anti-Semitism in Italy. In any case Fascism is relatively moribund, and was never very formidable, whereas Nazism was always intensely formidable and is still very much alive. I daresay your Lordships will have noted that Field Marshal Montgomery stated last week that seventy-five per cent. of the Germans are still Nazis. I can remember years ago that a great many people in this country were very down on me for saying that I would not allow for more than twenty-five per cent. of good Germans. But I am not going to repeat that now.

I would, however, like to refer further to Anti-Semitism and to remind your Lordships that it is deliberately used to create a violent frame of mind, and when that frame of mind has been created it is exploited for other purposes. That is why it was so immensely valuable to the Nazi technique. About a fortnight ago I saw in a Swiss review, Die Weltwoche, an article which was headed "The Diary of a Werewolf." It was the musings of a young S.S. Officer, in which he wrote, "Anti-Semitism was always the best of our propaganda weapons, and when we start again we shall have to start on the same basis." I pursue that subject no further, and come back to Captain Ramsay for a minute. When I found out what Captain Ramsay was up to, I wanted to have him prosecuted, knowing that there was another war coming, and I wanted him inside in good time. Other people took a different view, and he was, left at liberty until the hour of our direst peril, in 1940, to consult with The traitor, Tyler Kent, whom I consider an exceedingly lucky man not to have been hanged.

We have been assured that all those bodies were officially dissolved. Yes, but they are beginning, as I predicted, to come to some sort of life again. You have the 18B Detainees' Fund, the 18B Publicity Fund, with addresses at 21, Gray's Inn Road and 15, Woburn Square. Again, you have the League of ex-Service Men and Women, which is closely connected with them. Most of those who attended the functions of that body were ex-members of the British Union of Fascists. The British Union of Fascists has not been re-constituted, but it was sought to replace it for a while by a body known as the Independent Nationalists, which was launched at a meeting on March 24, 1945. I his is an example of the necessity of keeping the thing in focus, because that movement has been a flop. It ran a certain number of meetings last year, of which I have a record, and I do not think the biggest had an attendance above five hundred. By the end of the year the number of people attending those meetings had grown very considerably. Thus, on December 15, at the Royal Hotel, there were no less than 2,000 people, all howling away to their hearts' content. I think the figure I have given you shows that without any exaggeration or overemphasis there is an expansive tendency there, and I predict the Government will find the expansive tendency is continuing.

Next I come to a rather more inner circle which styles itself "The National Front after Victory Group," which is housed at 15, Craven Street. Its membership is rather more interesting than that of the other bodies, but again we must keep the thing in focus, because they also are very short of funds and there have been abortive efforts to merge this body with the British People's Party. Coming a little lower down the scale, let us cast a glance at the so-called British Protestant League in Glasgow. That is run by Radcliffe, who also edits the Vanguard. The Vanguard is just a subversive rag, and I shall not worry you with any accounts of its turpitudes. Radcliffe has accused the members of the Government Front Bench of perpetrating worse atrocities than the Germans or the Japanese. A good many people have urged upon successive Home Secretaries that the V an-guard should be prosecuted, but no action has ever been taken. The reason given, of course, is that its circulation does not warrant the action, but that is a rotten argument. It means that a Home Secretary will prosecute when a paper has a circulation of 50,00); but will not prosecute papers, let us say, of 5,000, where the circulation works out exactly double.

I think it was in the second speech I made in this House that I said, "You cannot measure sin by circulation," and I repeat that to-day. This matter of prosecution is again one of our weaknesses, and one of our deficiencies. May I drive that home with an even more cogent example? In 1936 a man called Leese, leader of the Imperial Fascist League, was prosecuted and jailed for six months for an attempt to create a public mischief. When he got out he immediately repeated the offence in a very aggravated form by publishing a book called, My Irrelevant Defence, and naturally he should have been prosecuted and jailed for considerably longer. But presumably nothing happened to him. After an interval he cropped up again. Early this year three men were convicted by a United States Court for inciting to riot, and the principal charge against them was that they had been circulating that very book. Only the day before yesterday this man hit the headlines again with more of the same offences, and he has been able to cock a snook at the Law.

I have mentioned these three men among others, Ramsay, Radcliffe and Leese, because I think jointly they point to a weakness in our system. I venture to suggest that the remedy may lie in some form of law of community libel. When Radcliffe accuses noble Lords on the Front Bench of atrocities, or when Leese accuses the Jews of ritual murder, I think there should be some law under which action against people of that kind would be facilitated. There is no explanation for these matters whatever, and it is fatal ever to dramatize them. As a matter of fact there are probably only about 5,000 registered Fascists in this country, but I think it is common knowledge that in all totalitarian movements the number of inscribed party members is always surpassed by the unregistered adherents.

I do submit to the House that it is entirely anomalous and absurd that we should be pledged to eradicate Nazism on the Continent and allow it to begin growing up here in even an attenuated form. That kind of thing always exposes us to a certain amount of legitimate misunderstanding on the Continent and to a great deal more wilful misrepresentation. For the past six months the actions of this country have been subjected to a chorus of anti-British propaganda such as I have never in my life known or even dreamed of in peace-time, let alone from a professing Ally. One of the recurrent causes of these complaints is our alleged indulgence towards Fascism in this country. I think we might contribute to restrict the area of misrepresentation by slightly better methods for the control of what is not a danger but is certainly a nuisance. I know what I shall hear anon about freedom of speech, and I say in advance that I approve of freedom of speech. I can use a good deal of it myself and enjoy it, and I should be the last person in the world to wish to curtail it by any undue method. At the same time, freedom of speech should be a reasonable god, and not a fetish.

What I propose to the Government is what I hope your Lordships will find entirely reasonable, and which I hope meets the case without any exaggeration. I ask that there should be enacted legislation which will make it an offence for any person to print, utter or distribute material calculated to stir up civil strife or hatred in this country or to subvert the Constitution of this country on totalitarian lines. I ask, moreover, that it should be an offence to import any funds or material from abroad for this purpose.

I ask, further, that it may be made an offence to import funds for any political purpose without declaring them. We have a democratic Constitution of which we are justly proud, and I submit that we should be prepared to defend it with clarity and vigour. I believe you are going to need those qualities. Therefore I ask that the principle and practice of our security should be reconsidered in the light of what I have said to-day. In one respect I think it may easily get on to the wrong lines. I shall say no more on that to-day and I hope that I may not have to revert to the subject. I beg to move for Papers.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Motion before the House. I think the House is indebted to the noble Lord for bringing to your Lordships' notice these supremely important matters. His eloquence, as usual, makes it difficult for those who follow him. My interest and concern in this matter of security have led me on two former occasions in the last twelve or thirteen months to submit certain information and put certain proposals before your Lordships. On both occasions the country was still in the grip of total war, and the measures which I then ventured to advocate for the better security of the community are to-day mercifully no longer applicable. My protest, which I am reluctantly compelled to repeat to-day, against the employment of considerable numbers of German nationals in our Government Departments and in other walks of our public life, brought upon my luckless head a storm of disapproval from the Liberal Benches when the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, whom I am glad to see in his place, poured scorn upon the views which I then expressed and, with great eloquence and a somewhat caustic wit, vigorously assailed me for my lack of charity towards those Germans resident in this country. It was a brilliant performance displaying great histrionic qualities, marred only—


What does the noble Lord mean by "histrionic"—that it was put on?


The word "histrionic" is one which the noble Marquess will understand as well as I do. It was marred by certain misrepresentations and distortions of what was actually said. The difference between us, of course, was fundamental. The case for the alien was being most ably expounded in that quarter of the House while I was more interested in putting the case of this country and of the Englishman. My Lords, I still am. I should like to ask the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack why it is necessary to-day for numbers of unnaturalized Germans to be employed in our Government Departments. I am aware that Defence Regulation No. 60D authorizes their temporary employment if, firstly, they have special qualifications and if, secondly (and this is the point I would particularly stress), no suitably qualified British subjects are readily available. Well, it is conceivable, of course, that during the war, with its immense call on man-power, there were not readily available sufficiently qualified British subjects. But to-day, with demobilization in full swing, can it possibly be said that that situation still exists? I am most anxious not to overstate this case, and I readily admit that from the point of view of security to-day the employment of these Germans is not the menace that I hold it to have been while war was being waged.

But from a long-term point of view, I ask your Lordships to consider whether it is wise, with the world in its present unsettled state, and whether it is fair and just to our own people that foreigners and ex-enemy nationals in particular should be employed in our public service. It may well be that we shall hear from the Government that there is no intention of retaining this Defence Regulation 60D for very much longer. It certainly is very difficult to understand why it should not be repealed forthwith. I should be most grateful if the Lord Chancellor would give the House some information on this matter. I went into considerable detail when inviting your Lordships and the Government to consider the matter last May. The only satisfaction I received from the Government spokesman was a series of waspish remarks accusing me of making grossly exaggerated statements and of raising hares. He ended with the amiable suggestion that the matter should not have come up for discussion in your Lordships' House, and finally made the strangely improper request that I should refrain from raising the question again.


In the usual terms.


I beg your pardon?


If the noble Lord had read the concluding remarks of what I said last May, he would observe that what I told him then was that he should not bring up the same question again with the same remarks he employed on that occasion. I have no reason to withdraw now and I certainly have no intention of doing so.


The noble Earl might wait until I ask him to withdraw. Ever since I have had the honour of being a member of your Lordships' House I have tried not to make exaggerated statements. I am far happier sitting in my place imbibing wisdom and gathering the pearls which fall from your Lordships' lips—some of them. But when I am moved to leave my safe refuge and rise to address your Lordships, I try to be objective and to have my facts well documented. I hope the noble Earl, Lord Munster, may be disposed to agree in retrospect that the emulation of the hornet is not the happiest way of replying in Parliamentary debate, and incidentally that your Lordships' House is a very suitable and proper forum for these matters of security to be discussed. A noble Lord at the end of that debate remarked to me "Depend upon it, when you are met with rudeness in a Government reply you may be sure you have got under their skin." My Lords, I would not like to get under anybody's skin; it sounds a most uncomfortable performance!

What I am concerned to do is to bring to the notice of the Government of the day a situation which is distasteful to the people of this country. I was assured on that former occasion—and indeed in February, 1945, when I first raised this question—that the employment of aliens in Government Departments would never prejudice the employment of our own people. I have to say that information which has come my way, entirely unsolicited and unsought by me, appears on the face of it to refute that assurance. So I am left in that sore state of perplexity to which 2,000 years ago Pontius Pilate gave expression when he cried "What is truth?" Because of that perplexity and because of my real disquiet in this matter, I do ask for a very solemn assurance from His Majesty's Government that the most searching vigilance may be applied and observed in this matter, to see that under no conditions whatever the employment of these aliens and ex-enemy aliens shall ever be allowed to prejudice the employment of our own people. I am persuaded that none of your Lordships will under-estimate the importance of this matter.

Before passing to my next point, I want to register a mild protest at the unsatisfactory form of reply one gets from the Government to a straight question. I asked a week or two ago the same question that was asked in another place in January, 1945, and asked by me last May, to wit: "How many un-naturalized Germans are employed in our Government Departments?" The same stereotyped form of reply was given on both former occasions, the only difference being the numbers quoted. Those numbers, by the way, progressively increased. In January, 1945, the figure was 66; in May, 1945, it was 83; and in February, 1946, it was 97. One wonders why. The Treasury, appearing anxious to cover itself, did not say that ninety-seven are actually employed but said "Consent has been given in the case of ninety-seven persons of German nationality." To make it still more disingenuous and evasive they said, "In some of these cases employment has been terminated." That is what I call a rather tortuous reply and I ask the Government if in future we may have a straight, plain answer to a plain question. A further point I wish to put before the House is exercising many other minds besides my own. Is it wise or desirable that large numbers of aliens and Germans in particular, should be allowed to change their names to British names? What are the qualifying conditions governing these changes, these metamorphoses? You meet a Mr. Shaw and find that yesterday he was Herr Schwabacher, or a Mr. Graham who was Herr Steinberger or Mr. Ian Stewart Menzies who yesterday was Herr Hans Menzinger.


No, no.


The noble Earl says no. I can repeat the names. With Germany's record as fresh in our memory as it is—and for our better security hope it may long so remain—it does seem to me, in spite of one remark in the admirable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, last Thursday, an intolerable position. There was only one point on which I disagreed with Lord Lindsay and that was when he said that one of the greatest qualities of the English is that they have short memories. It is one of their greatest qualities that they do not remember and they meet the occasion at the time as the situation demands. It is unfair to take a sentence out of its context, but I want to say that in my own humble opinion a very long memory is required in all our dealings with Germany. It seems to me intolerable that German nationals should be allowed to live in this country masquerading under British names. I for one should like to see the Government take a strong line in this matter and prohibit these people from changing their surnames into English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish names for a period of ten or even twenty-five years. There is no prejudice in such a proposal. It seems to me it is stark common sense and facing up to reality and, I suggest to your Lordships, a due regard for the dignity of this country. Someone wrote the other day, "What is wrong with a country that has so little pride in its ancestry as to permit such prostitution?" There will be many who will agree with that view.

I am a little tired of being told that these things are in accordance with the traditions and customs of this country. I find myself unable to accept that line of argument. I have as much reverence for tradition in the real sense of the word as other noble Lords, but to-day we are slowly and painfully emerging from the devastation and agony of the second of two world wars brought about by Germany. Are we really to accept the axiom that what we did in the spacious days of the past when happiness and security reigned supreme in our land, we must always continue to do? Autres temps, autres moeurs. Let us not confuse the word "tradition" with "quixotry" and let us guard against allowing what someone called the other day that national characteristic of ours—extreme tolerance—to degenerate into a vice.

I was greatly interested to see the report of a debate on a Motion moved in your Lordships' House in 1918 by a very distinguished sailor, Lord Beresford, under whom I had the honour to serve as a midshipman forty years ago. He, too, asked for information about aliens employed in Government offices and the number of Germans who had been permitted to change their names. In the course of his remarks he observed that he thought he voiced public sentiment when he objected to Germans being employed by the Government and maintained that, as taxpayers who pay these people salaries, we are entitled to know the names and characters of the people whom we employ. I can only say that I am glad to find myself in such good company; but I am pained to notice that in the course of the debate he too, while receiving very considerable support from noble Lords, was given nevertheless unsatisfactory replies from the Government of the day. History repeats itself but, as your Lordships know, "sailors don't care."

There is one other point. I desire to draw attention once more to the alteration in the nationality rule for the admission of candidates to His Majesty's Civil Service. It was contained in a Civil Service Commission Regulation dated November 21, 1944. By this revision permanent appointment to the British Civil Service is now open to "a naturalized British subject who has resided in His Majesty's Dominions and/or been employed else where in the service of the Crown for at least five years out of the last eight years preceding the date of his appointment." There is one qualification. The appointment of a naturalized British subject to the Foreign Office and to the three Service Ministries shall be subject to the consent of the political heads of those Departments. May I draw your Lordships' attention to the implications of this regulation? The majority of Germans now living in this country have fulfilled the residential qualification and have now only to apply for, and be granted, naturalization to become eligible for permanent appointments in His Majesty's Civil Service. Bearing in mind that implication it would appear to my uninstructed mind that Parliamentary approval should have been sought for such a measure. I may be entirely wrong in this, in which case I shall no doubt be corrected. Nevertheless, this change was made in an unobstrusive way and the public was suddenly made aware of the fact that key posts in our public service were no longer reserved for British-born subjects. Apart from the impropriety, in my view, of such a measure, the question of security is clearly involved. If it was not so, there would have been no reason for the proviso I have just read about the Foreign Office and the Service Ministries. Lastly, how can such a measure be justified to-day when demobilization is at its height and when, as I understood from the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, the other day when the House was debating the noble Marquess, Lord Reading's Motion on the work of the Civil Service, there is no evidence of any lack at all of British subjects coming forward as candidates? Surely one's yardstick in all these matters should be: is this or that innovation likely to be beneficial to our country? I ask the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack with great respect to say in what way this measure can be said to be in the national interest.

Let me end by suggesting to your Lordships that there are many contributory causes to war and unrest. It is difficult to assess with any accuracy those causes, direct and indirect. If the gods of old had only been content to remain in their abode on the summit of Mount Olympus, feasting on ambrosia and nectar, instead of descending to earth and meddling with the affairs of mortals, there would, for example, have been no Trojan war. The direct cause, as your Lordships will remember, was the elopement of Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, with Paris, the son of King Priam of Troy. But observe the sequence of events. A wedding feast; a slighted goddess, uninvited. Disgruntled, she peevishly throws the Golden Apple among the guests with the inscription "For the Fairest." Jealous commotion follows. Venus, Juno, and Minerva all claim the apple. Jupiter, not man enough to decide in so delicate a matter (and perhaps his spinelessness may be excused when one remembers that that difficult lady, Juno, his wife, was one of the aspirants) he shoos them all off to Mount Ida, where we are told the beautiful shepherd, Paris, was tending his flocks. To him is committed the decision—a dirty trick. They all importune him, poor mortal. Venus wins after promising him the fairest of women for his wife. Under her protection he sails for Greece. By her machinations the lovely Helen, until then living happily with her husband, is persuaded to elope with Paris. And so the stage is set; the ruinous Trojan war begins, and for nine long years the Grecian heroes go to their death.

Admittedly, as Mr. H. A. L. Fisher tells us in his History of Europe, the facts of history are obscured in a haze of legend. But the moral is clear. Tradition was largely to blame for the catastrophe. If the celestials had stayed put and confined their love-making and other intrigues to their own company min domain, Jupiter might have been less of a voluptuary; Juno might have been less vinegary; the fateful decision would not have been relegated to a mortal, and the earth would have been spared the cataclysm which followed. A little farfetched, you say. Perhaps. But there may be a moral there, nevertheless. I have kept your Lordships too long. Let not our passion for tradition blind us to the realities and the requirements of the present time. Let me beg His Majesty's Government seriously to consider whether our future security is to be built upon the rock of British enterprise or upon the shilling sands of a Tower of Babel.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, who has just spoken to your Lordships, was good enough to inform me that he intended to refer to a speech which I delivered to your Lordships last May, replying for His Majesty's Government, I thought it would be fit that I should intervene for a very few moments in this discussion to amplify the remarks which I made to the House on a previous occasion. At that time I was speaking with the whole authority of His Majesty's Government, and one member of the Government was the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, who I understand is replying to the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, this afternoon. May I be permitted to give your Lordships some indication of the procedure which is followed at the present time, upon the admission of foreigners into this country? For indeed nine-tenths of the debate to which your Lordships have listened this afternoon depend practically wholly upon the admission of foreigners. No foreigner, either at the time when I was at the Home Office, or I understand to-day, was allowed to enter this country without a passport. That passport is issued by his own country. In addition, he has got to obtain a visa; and in any case he is not allowed to land in this country either at the port to which he sails, or at the aerodrome at which he arrives, without the permission of the immigration officer. That officer can subject him to any condition which he may see fit to impose. This rigid control should be sufficient to protect the national interest and indeed the security of the State. There may, of course, be isolated cases in which there is illegal entry, but I know of no case (certainly none came to my knowledge during the time that I was at the Home Office), where this method of illegal landing had undermined the security of the State, except possibly in war-time, when, of course, that was the nature of the method of enemy spies to accomplish.


I hope my noble friend will forgive me for interrupting him for a moment, but what about all the displaced people who have not got passports and cannot get passports and who may come to this country? I am only asking as a matter of information.


The noble Viscount is a little early in interrupting. I am coming to that now. I will turn straight away to the refugees who were landed here during the war. Those refugees were landed on conditions, and amongst a number of conditions it was clearly laid down that they were not to be allowed to land, if they intended to set up businesses or to take up employment, without the authority of the Home Secretary. I am quite certain during the time I was at the Home Office that there was no fear that those refugees, to whom we had given entry for the period of the war, and perhaps a little beyond, were entering into any occupation which might deprive British Service men of their rights of employment when they were demobilized. But I intend to ask the Lord Chancellor, who I understand is replying, to say if these important conditions are still in force, whether those conditions apply to those refugees who are still in this country, who came here at the beginning of the war, and who were allowed entry on the conditions which I have just mentioned.

I stated on the previous occasion that, if His Majesty's Government were satisfied that the existing powers which they possessed to control the entry of aliens into this country were insufficient, they would not hesitate to come to Parliament and to ask Parliament to grant them additional powers, however drastic and however severe those powers may be. I would, indeed, ask the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack if that is still the case, that if His Majesty's Government feel they have insufficient powers, they will come to Parliament and ask Parliament to give additional powers. These aliens of enemy nationality who came to this country at the beginning of the war were all interned when France fell. Each and every case was considered on its merits, and the individual was released only if the Secretary of State was satisfied that his or her sympathies lay with the Allied cause.


The noble Earl will forgive me for interrupting. He says they were all interned. He must except those who by that time had entered the Armed Forces.


I am coming to those. These aliens whom I have just mentioned, who were interned and whose cases were subject to review on merits, were released if the Secretary of State was satisfied that their sympathies lay with the Allies. These cases, from my recollection of them, were considered one by one, and it was physically impossible to generalize about the whole crowd who came over here. I am perfectly satisfied that none of those foreigners in this country to-day, of enemy nationality, who came here to avoid the persecutions and the terrors to which they were subject in their own country, have been guilty of espionage or of efforts to undermine the security of the State. I am saying nothing about the Englishmen to whom the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, referred in the course of his speech. I am wondering if I might ask the Lord Chancellor whether these foreigners of enemy nationality, who are at the moment in this country, are being encouraged to return to their own countries when the danger to their lives has ceased and when the totalitarian Governments from which they fled in 1939 or before have been wound up.

Finally I would like to make a very brief remark on the position of naturalization. A short time ago—at the end of last month — the Home Secretary announced in another place that it was intended to widen the scope of naturalization, and amongst those who might send in claims to be naturalized as British subjects were a large number of foreigners who had served in one capacity or another in the service of the Crown. Personally, speaking entirely for myself, I have no objection. It is a proposal which I frequently persuaded my right honourable friend the former Home Secretary, the present Lord President of the Council, to agree to, and I am glad to think that my persuasive powers have had some effect upon His Majesty's present Government. I understand it is intended that those individuals who have served in the Armed Forces or who have priority to the claim for naturalization on the ground of their contribution to the war effort or to the economic welfare of the country, will be carefully considered and, indeed, will receive very favourable consideration on any demand they put forward. Now who were these aliens who were employed, not necessarily in the Armed Forces, but in the Government Departments, and whom the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, held so much to ridicule and contempt?


Would the noble Earl repeat that? Ridicule and contempt of whom?


I said that the noble Lord held up these individual enemy aliens who were employed in Government Departments to ridicule and contempt, and said that they should never be so employed. Will he disagree with that? I do not think so. Now who were these enemy aliens? The noble Lord should surely know better than I do, being a gallant naval officer, that certainly one if not two of these enemy aliens who were employed at the Admiralty throughout the whole period of the war was vital to one scheme the Admiralty had in mind. Is it proper, is it right, to turn round now to ridicule the services which they rendered to this country during the time of the last war? Those men who were employed in the Civil Service—and the figure which the noble Lord gave was the maximum that had been employed; they may not all have been employed at the same time—were taken into the service because of their particular qualifications, because of the views which we knew they held and the knowledge which we knew they possessed of some particular subject which was vital to the success of the scheme we were putting through at that time. I have no hesitation in saying that the views I expressed last May on behalf of His Majesty's Government are the views which I believe, and I certainly hope, the present Government hold. I have no reason whatever, in spite of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, to withdraw one word or to express regret to your Lordships that I made the remarks I did on that occasion.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose to go into any cases of detail. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Vansittart that it is important that at this time we should not fail to learn and apply the lessons of the past. Equally, however, I think we want to be pretty sure that we do base ourselves on real experience and that we learn and apply the right lessons. I venture to intervene for a moment or two because I happened, for some years at the beginning of the war, to have considerable responsibility for and ex- perience in co-ordinating these security matters. I would like very shortly to put to your Lordships one or two propositions which I think are fundamental and with which I do not think my noble friend Lord Vansittart will disagree. In the first place, security is not an absolute abstraction; it is and must always be a balance of advantage and disadvantage. I know that in the early stages I found a tendency to impose so many regulation and so many restrictions on operations, on industry and on shipping, that it would not only have occupied mast of the Army we had at that time in guard duties but it would almost have rendered production, transportation and shipping impossible. There was a quite natural tendency to try and guard against every possible chance. I agree with him in this: that it is vital to continue that combined experience which we all had at the present time.

We very soon found that the real thing we had to consider was this: What is the balance of risk, what is the real risk, and how is that risk to be met? If I may put it in a sentence, it would be that security should always be informed by Intelligence—and I use Intelligence with a big "I" in the first place, but certainly equally with a small "i" as well. It really is essential that you should not treat these as abstract propositions but that the whole of your sources of Intelligence should be used, as indeed the noble Lord knows very well we did use them, in order to appraise the risk, see what the right solution was and then apply it. If I may say so, there should be another cardinal rule, and that is that no Department, no Office, should be allowed to say, "This is my business and it is not anything to do with you." On the Security Executive we had the rule that nobody was allowed to say that. Everybody came, we faced up to our propositions quite irrespective of what was the function of this or that Department; everybody had to put what he had into the common pool. Then we appraised the problem and we arrived—or I hope we did—as nearly as we could at the right solution and decided who were the proper people to carry it out. That really, I think, worked pretty well. I think I shall carry with me on those propositions anybody who has had practical experience.

The question of aliens has been debated a good deal. I am sure it would be foolish and wrong to deprive ourselves of the great knowledge which we can get from Germany at the present time. We shall not only get that knowledge by sending our best experts over to examine inventions on the spot; we must draw upon the people as well and use them. I agree it may be said there is a balance of risk, but I am quite certain that unless that is done—done with scrupulous care if you like—those people will certainly go somewhere else, because they are not going to be left in a vacuum, and we shall lose at a critical time of industrial development knowledge which it is vital for us to have. I agree those people must be carefully vetted. There is a difficulty in discussing these things in public debate but it would be idle to pretend that after six years of war, during which certain services worked very well indeed, we do not know a great deal about a great many things and a great many people. Provided that that knowledge, that Intelligence, is applied, I certainly should not be under any anxiety.

May I respectfully say, also drawing on experience, that the most dangerous man—it may be the most dangerous woman, too—is not always the most outwardly disreputable? As to the scum, quite rightly, we put lots of them inside at the critical time, but a great many of them did not really matter very much. They were used, willingly or unwillingly—probably willingly. I dare say some of them did not quite know what they were up to, but others certainly did. The really dangerous man is not the active black-shirted leader of some semi-secret, semipublic organization; he is quite a different person. He is intensely respectable; he has the most respectable friends in many countries, in many Parties and in all quarters.

I am certainly not going to mention any names, but I remember one man whom nothing would have induced me, so far as I could use my influence, to permit to come near this country, but whose entry was vouched for by some of the most respectable of my friends in all quarters. He was very rich, he was prepared to be quite generous to many causes in this country, and he had some respectable—really respectable—relations. He had some very curious sources from which he made some of his money. I remember a very good friend and colleague of mine who said, "But this sort of man cannot do this sort of thing." I said to him, "What sort of man do you suppose is really at the back of this sort of racket? It is not the person who appears in the police courts; he is too far back for that kind of thing and it is very seldom you can catch him, even when you know about him." Do not let us think it is just the people who are obvious. That is one of the reasons why information by Intelligence, with a big "I," is so important, so that we know who is who. I was very much interested in Lord Vansittart's proposals about cash and so on. He read out a definition which—I hesitate to draw on my very slender legal knowledge—sounded to me like the present law of sedition.


I did not read out anything. It was a very loose form of words which I did not mean necessarily to be the one adopted. I am not a legal man either. It was a suggestion.


I was not criticizing my noble friend's law. What I was going to say was that it sounded to me very like the existing law of sedition. I am greatly interested in his suggestion that there should be knowledge and publicity about organizations which receive cash from outside. I think there is a great deal to be said for that, but, if I may make the suggestion to him, it is not only cash which matters. It is just as important to know whether people are receiving orders from outside as whether they are receiving cash.

5.26 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot hope to remember all the questions which have been asked in the course of this discussion, but I will do the best I can to answer, at any rate, some of them. My experience of aliens since the war started has been rather like that of the noble Earl, Lord Munster, who referred to the Admiralty men. Before Mr. Churchill's Government was formed I was a private Member of Parliament and I was elected as chairman of a certain Parliamentary Committee. The two Secretaries of State for Air in those days, first of all Sir Kingsley Wood and later the noble Lord, Lord Temple-wood, gave us every assistance they could. We very soon came to the conclusion that the whole essence of expenditure was to increase production. We looked to see what was the bottleneck in aircraft production and we very soon discovered where it lay. It lay in a certain technical process which I do not suppose I should mention even now.

What did we find? Owing to the fact that Hitler had started persecuting the Jews, a Jewish gentleman called Mr. Loewe had come to this country and had brought about eight assistants with him. Had it not been for the work those people were doing for us at that time I think we should have been in a difficult position. When the critical time came the military authorities and the Home Office clapped everybody who had a funny-sounding name into gaol. What did they do at once, but put in all Mr. Loewe's assistants. By this time Lord Beaverbrook had become Minister of Aircraft Production, assisted by Lord Llewellin. Mr. Loewe came to see me in my room at the Law Courts and he said, "What do you think has happened? They have locked up all my assistants." I said "I will speak to Lord Beaverbrook," and I did so. I should not like to tell your Lordships all that he said but he did say, "Leave it to me. I will see what I can do." He had a tremendous struggle but, I need hardly tell your Lordships, he won, and after a few days those people were back again at their work. I know, having talked it over with other colleagues of mine, that that story can be duplicated and that there are very many instances of the same kind. There is no doubt that we owe a very great deal to some aliens.

Most of them had far better reasons for disliking Hitler than any of us in this Chamber. Therefore, let it be quite plain that I am not by any means ill-disposed towards these people. Further, I like to think that the traditional doctrine of this country has been to provide an asylum for political refugees. I am very glad to think that, in the past, Karl Marx and the Empress Eugénie came over here. So, you will see from what I have said, that I am not, in any sense, ill-disposed to these aliens. I should like to say, in the first place, that I realize, of course, that the grant of naturalization is a very serious matter. It is a very serious matter for this reason. The 1914 Act provides that: A person to whom a certificate of naturalization is granted by a Secretary of State shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be entitled to all political and other rights, powers and privileges, and be subject to all obligations, duties and liabilities, to which a natural-born British subject is entitled or subject.…. That is the right he gets, and as that is the right, it is incumbent upon us to take the very greatest care to see that we only grant it to people who are worthy of it. And, believe me, my Lords, the very greatest care is taken. The noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, on the last occasion when this was raised, put forward the suggestion that there should be an Inter-Departmental Committee instead of, as at the present time, a Home Office Committee. That suggestion was considered, but it was not accepted. It was considered—and, I think, rightly—that it would not strengthen the present organization. So long as the responsibility is cast fairly and squarely upon the Home Office, and so long as there is complete liaison with other Departments, who may be likely to have anything to say about a person whose case conies up for consideration, that seems to me the most satisfactory solution. And that is what we, in fact, have.

By the next question which the noble Lord asked he indicated that societies that receive any form of subsidy from abroad should be registered, so that the public might know of the fact. Now when I am discussing foreign affairs, and I have to answer the noble Lord on behalf of the Government, I always feel that I am at an undue disadvantage. He understands all about such matters, and I understand very little. But on a subject of this sort we are on a footing of equality. Let me tell the noble Lord not to put his trust too much in the making of all sorts of laws. Laws are obeyed by the law-abiding people. When you are dealing with people who are getting money from abroad, you have to bear in mind that there are many ways of doing it. It is not, of course, an easy thing to detect, and it is very questionable if new regulations would effect an improvement. I have myself a small.22 rifle, for shooting rabbits, and the difficulty which I have, filling up forms and so on, to get ammunition is colossal. I have never yet heard of any gunman who has been held up in his activities because he could not get a revolver or cartridges for it. Making regulations in matters of this kind is apt to result in simply putting impediments in the way of the law-abiding citizen, while leaving the other fellow, who is not a law-abiding citizen, unaffected because he simply ignores them. I do not believe in dealing with persons who engage in murky pursuits of this sort by way of regulations. I do not think that they would be deterred by hearing that an announcement was to be made to the public that they were receiving subsidies. What would happen would be that they would receive these subsidies and make no disclosure of the fact. On the one hand, thoroughly respectable people who receive subsidies would be in the published list, while, on the other, the really bad ones would not appear. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, that what we want in this connexion are not more regulations, but intelligence and information. And His Majesty's Government is not so completely without information as some of these people might, perhaps, desire.

With regard to restriction upon the entry of aliens into this country, the noble Earl, Lord Munster, has stated the position perfectly correctly. The admission of aliens is now very strictly controlled. A visa is granted for a prolonged stay only to an alien with a strong connexion here already, and there are all sorts of stipulations about engaging in business. The grant of a visa however does not guarantee an entry, and the alien still has to satisfy the immigration officer and register with the police if his visit is to extend over a certain period.

The noble Lord went on to ask that there should be greater supervision of undesirable societies—pseudo-Fascist societies. He mentioned some gentlemen I know very well—Mr. Radcliffe, Captain Ramsay and Mr. Leese. I know them very well. I am not going to say very much about the matter now except to make it clear that I think that although there is no cause for alarm, any Government, at the present time, that did not take serious notice of these matters, would be very ill-advised. I can assure your Lordships that this Government is taking serious notice of all the matters which have been mentioned. I am not going further than that, except to say that we shall continue to take that notice.

The noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, who suggested a form of words, might like a reference to the Digest of the Criminal Law by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen. The noble Lord will find on page 93 of the Seventh Edition a statement of the law on sedition. I think the noble Lord will agree that he has there something which is very much what he wants. A seditious intention is an intention to bring into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against the person of His Majesty, his heirs or successors, or the Government and Constitution of the United Kingdom, as by law established, or either House of Parliament— I suppose an intention of such a kind against the Front Bench of this House would be included. Then, at a later stage it goes on: …. or to raise discontent or disaffection amongst His Majesty's subjects, or to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of such subjects. There are the words, and may I tell the noble Lord, as one who has had responsibility as a Law Officer of the Crown, that I know very well what you have to consider in taking action? First, you have to consider if you are going to get a conviction. It is very unfortunate if you take proceedings and do not succeed in getting a conviction. You want to be tolerably certain that you are going to get a conviction. Where you have a man who wants a little cheap advertisement, very often you find that he is trailing his coat to make you prosecute him in order to get the advertisement he wants. It is a fact which you have to bear in mind. That I think deals with the question which he asked.

Now I come to the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, who enlightened what is after all a dull subject. He asked why it is necessary to have unnaturalized Germans in Government Departments and what is the statutory authority. Regulation 60D of the Defence Regulations, which is now continued by the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, makes it lawful to employ them so long as there are no equally suitable British subjects. I will try to explain why to the noble Lord, because I have not the slightest desire not to give him a candid answer. It is difficult for this reason, that it is easy to find out in how many cases consent to employment has been given, but unless you go through and check up each person and see whether he or she is still employed, you cannot say how many are still employed. I can say that the number is 160, but that includes enemy, neutral or stateless aliens who have been employed with Treasury consent. Without finding out what is the life history of each of the 160, it follows that I cannot tell him whether all the 160 are still so employed. He will realize that it is not only Germans, but also neutral or stateless persons. Whether any of them are now left I do not know. He asked why unnaturalized Germans apparently in increasing numbers are employed in Government Departments. As far as I know, that is not so. I have no figures which make me think they are being employed in increasing numbers, but I do not know on what figures the noble Lord is relying.


I read the figures to the noble and learned Lord, 60 in January, 1945, 80 in May, 1945, and 97 to-day.


Those are only people for whom consent has been given. Of course if you are going to carry on like that, each date you mention must be a larger number, but it does not in the least follow there are a larger number employed, and so far as we can trace it is probably not true to say that the number employed is larger. May I add this? In spite of demobilization, in certain branches it is so extremely difficult to obtain any helpers that I should be thankful to have some Germans. Take, for instance, the Services divorce scheme. The whole of the Services divorce scheme is being held up because I cannot obtain sufficient typists.

The next question was: "What check is there on Germans in this country changing their names to British ones?" Under Defence Regulation 20 (1) it is an offence for any alien to change his name without the authorization of the Secretary of State. Consent was given occasionally during the war to aliens who were serving in order that they might conceal their real identity, so that if they did fall into enemy hands they would not be penalized. Subject to that, consent has been given only in a very few cases. If an alien has become naturalized, however, then as I read the British Nationality Act of 1914, he has all the rights of a British subject and can change his name just as much as any of us can change our names.

Another question was "Why are naturalized British subjects admitted to permanent employment in the British Civil Service when there must be a sufficient number of British subjects available?" Well, there is not a sufficient number of British subjects available in many classes and many types of work. The Nationality Regulations were revised in 1944 because it was felt that this was carrying out the principle of the Act of 1914, which said that once naturalized you are a British subject for all purposes. In the case of the Service Departments and the Foreign Office the special permission of the Head of the Department has to be obtained before a naturalized British subject can be appointed, but with regard to the other Departments a person who has been naturalized is eligible to enter the Service.

I was asked that we should take very great care that Germans and other aliens were not allowed to compete with British subjects in the labour market. May I give the noble Lord this word of warning, which I am sure he does not need? It should not be thought, as some people used to think before this war, that the labour market is a limited thing, that there are only a certain number of jobs available, and if one alien comes in and takes a job then there is one job less for a British subject. The long and short of the matter was stated by Viscount Swinton. I believe myself that we shall get the best reparations from Germany by trying to imbibe some of the German technical skill and knowledge, and therefore I am glad we are going to have 300 or 400 highly skilled Germans over here. I am willing to risk their being Nazis—and I think they probably are—so long as they are highly skilled technicians who will teach our people something which they did not previously know. They may, like the Huguenots of old, be worth their weight in gold. I do want to say that if an alien comes and contributes by production more than he consumes, he does not diminish the demand for labour, he positively increases it.

I will give the noble Lord this assurance. If it is a question of there being a British subject and a German competing for the job, both being equally suitable, I will give him the most absolute guarantee which the law requires that in such circumstances the British subject should be employed. I hope the noble Lord will rest satisfied that we are not going to allow our subjects in this country to be preferred to an undesirable alien. I think, to the best of my recollection, I have dealt with the various questions that I can remember, and I hope I have been able to satisfy your Lordships.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, the time is getting short and there are four Motions to follow this. As I have caused a good deal of trouble, perhaps I may be absolved from entering into what arose between the two noble Lords who followed me, particularly as the points they raised were slightly aside from those on my Motion. Of course if I am asked to adjudge, as Lord Ailwyn suggested, between a good memory and a bad one, there is no doubt where my money would go. But I would like to remind the House in that matter of the saying of the famous French epigrammatist, La Rochefoucauld, when he remarked that every-one complains of their memory and no one of their judgment. Some time ago, in a book called Black Record, I was indiscreet enough to quote Tacitus and it took me an awfully long time to live that down. I should be reluctant to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, right back into Greek mythology because I am sure I should never hear the last of that.

I was very grateful for the support given to me by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. I can assure him that I do not wish to introduce any cumbersome regulations or red tape, but I ask for consideration of quite a small number of points and quite simple ones. I could not agree with him more when he says—I do not think he used quite these words but something very near it—that these matters should be handled with and by Intelligence. That is the essence of the whole thing. I also listened with approval to what the noble Lord said on the dangers of respectability. Perhaps we should all endeavour to avoid anything so suspect. I am afraid I did not get very much change out of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. He said that he turned down, after mature consideration—and everything I know is always turned after mature consideration—the idea that matters of naturalization should be handled by an Inter-Departmental Committee. I suppose I must take your word that it is the better sys- tem, but I still prefer my own, not unnaturally.

On the matter of registering or declaring subsidies from abroad, I think I got even less encouragement. He was good enough to say that on this matter we were at least on a footing of equality. I hotly disclaim that; he was right up there and I was down here; that cock will not fight either. I am exceedingly sorry to hear that. Finally, coming to what I propose in the matter of legislation to meet subversive action in this country, he used the argument of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. They both said that legislation to that effect already existed, and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was even good enough to read it out to me. That reminds me of a famous passage that took place between Mr. Owen Seaman, one-time editor of Punch, and Sir Max Beerbohm. Sir Max Beerbohm said: "You have the nicest job in the world." He said: "I know I have." "You must get an awful lot of good material as editor of Punch." "I do." "Why don't you use it?" asked Sir Max Beerbohm!

I would only add one comment to what I said then, and that is that the passage quoted by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack did not cover part of my submission, which was that there should be penalties for trying to subvert the Constitution of this country on totalitarian lines. I am sure that no such provision appears in the tome from which he read because totalitarianism did not exist when that was drawn up. Therefore, while I am not really quite satisfied with the reception that my Motion has received, I hope at least it will have done something to stimulate interest in these matters. As I said at the end of my speech, I have reserved to myself the right to revert to the subject if I think I find that our present method, or lack of method, is not giving the best results. With these remarks, therefore, my Lords, and still with my eye on the clock, I shall beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.