§ 4.48 p.m.
§ LORD KILLEARN rose to move to resolve, That in the opinion of this House the system for dealing with financial restitution to certain sections of the British community expelled from Egypt is inadequate; and that it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should, without further delay, institute an effective system of graduated cash advances against claims duly established for loss of property and assets seized in Egypt. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to put before your Lordships the Resolution standing in my name on the Order Paper. I hope that I shall not be out of order if I say that I yield to no one in my admiration of the herring fishing industry and my belief in the importance of the provision and the preservation of herring. But I can only regret that, because the debate on the White Fish and Herring Industries (No. 2) Bill has taken rather longer than I had expected, there is now, when I rise to address your Lordships, not a very full House. I suppose I cannot say more. That debate has certainly delayed my moving of this Resolution to a later time than I had hoped.
§ I presume that your Lordships have read the Resolution. I imagine that most of you, or at any rate some of you, have read the Report of the debate on February 28, which covered the same subject. In what I am going to say to-day I am afraid that I shall have to a certain degree to repeat some of the things I said on that occasion. I shall do so as briefly as possible because the hour is late and repetition is always tiresome. Before I come to the Resolution, may I put this before your Lordships by way of hors d'œuvres? I received this morning two letters which, to my mind, help in giving a background to the cause for 897 which I am standing. The case with which the first letter is concerned is bad enough, but the case dealt with in the second is deplorable.
§ The first letter comes to me from the Anglo-Egyptian Aid Society. It has therefore been vetted and it is absolutely bona fide. It concerns a poor gentleman (whose name I will not mention) who has a wife and two children, and who left Port Said in December, 1956. He has £E3,500 in notes and he and the other three members of his family are living in one room at a rent of five guineas per week, without board. He is receiving maintenance assistance from the Resettlement Board. A brother already working in this country financed him to enable him to take a shop but has no further funds available. This individual—let us call him "Mr. B"—applied to the Board early in March for a grant of £500 to enable him to purchase new stocks and release goods now at the customs, but he was unable to obtain satisfaction. On his behalf the Anglo-Egyptian Aid Society wrote to the Board on March 8 asking for reconsideration of his case. We have not been advised of any action taken. Mr. B and his brother called on us yesterday to say that the question was now urgent and critical, as without help Mr. B has no alternative but to close his business.
§ That letter reached me in this morning's post.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, the noble Lord, at the beginning of his speech, mentioned £3,500 in notes. Does he mean the man cannot get them changed?
§ LORD KILLEARN
They are quoted as "£E"—pounds Egyptian. I had not meant to start off in this way, but the second case is so astonishing that it is almost incredible. This individual is British-born, fifty-two years old, and for thirty-six years worked in the employment of the National Bank of Egypt. He left Egypt on January 12, thrown out with his family, and on his doctor's orders 898 spent two months in Rome on a tourist visa, all he could get. He suffers from angina pectoris and the doctor said that he must spend some time in a better climate before he came here; so he stayed as long as he could, which was two months. He reached the United Kingdom on March 11 to find employment. Before leaving Egypt, this man, on November 5, lent to the British Consul-General at Alexandria the sum of £2,000. This he did because apparently the British Consular funds were blocked. He received a receipt, numbered 44, which said, "To be paid on demand". He arrived in England, having spent two months on the way, with the receipt No. 44 for £E2,000 in his possession and also a life policy for £3,000 with the Scottish Widows' Fund. I am assured that in both cases the Resettlement Board have refused an allowance. I am also assured that the Foreign Office have not recognised, or not paid, the debt of £2,000. I propose, if my noble Leader agrees, to hand him this letter after the debate, and no doubt he will be prepared to go into it.
I had not meant to mention either of these cases, but the letters arrived this morning and I thought that they were such good illustrations of the type of thing we are up against that your Lordships would like to have them. As regards the second case, the note from the Anglo-Egyptian Aid Society received this morning says:Here is an example of a man in London destitute "—that is the word used by the Society—although he has a receipt for £E2,000 lent to the British Consul-General in Alexandria on November 5, and £3,000 due to him from the Scottish Widows.I leave that matter without farther comment.
The Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper falls into two parts. The first says that:…the system for dealing with financial restitution to certain sections of the British community expelled from Egypt is inadequate;There is no reasonable question about that being true. If there were any question about it, the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, effectively disposed of it during the debate on February 28 when, among many interesting and valuable things, he 899 used this crisp sentence [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 202, No. 40, Col. 156]:I must explain at once that the question of compensation for assets lost or any of the financial matters referred to by noble Lords in speeches this afternoon fall entirely outside the scope of the Statute of our Board.That is precisely what I have been arguing for the last few months, and it still remains so. One must keep one's language within reasonable Parliamentary limits, but it is almost too much. Here I should like to add that I am especially grateful to our noble Leader, Lord Salisbury. After the debate on February 28, which ended in a rather peculiar way (he was good enough to give me then some valuable advice, which I followed—in other words, I withdrew the Motion), he promised his personal good offices in the settlement of hard cases. I am afraid that I have once or twice abused the patience of the noble Marquess, but I have not done it more than I could help. I must say here that it is entirely due to his assistance that I have been able to make any progress at all; if I have made any progress; and I should like here and now to express my very great gratitude to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury.
Having said that, I turn back to the actual Motion. It is just one month since we last debated this subject, which I think is quite long enough to allow a matter of this importance to continue with no positive results. I wish right away to make the same point that I made the last time I spoke, on February 28—that this is not a Party matter. It is an all-Party question—indeed, a question of national honour. I maintain that, and I am sure that your Lordships are with me on that. On the last occasion, I also emphasised the reason why it was I who got up and orated like this. It is because I have an interest, which I should declare. For twelve and a half years I was associated with this community in Egypt, in fair weather and in foul; and I was very proud to be in that position. I can tell your Lordships that a more loyal community one could not find anywhere on the globe. That loyalty was put to the test, both during the war and after. England had her trials, and we had our trials in Egypt—though perhaps on a minor scale. And there was one important and vital thing: 900 that we should hold a firm base in Egypt for the operation of our military forces in the Middle East. Here I know what I am talking about. The British community contributed in a positive way to the maintenance of a solid base in Egypt. We were the barometer, and we could not and did not flinch.
I do not want to go into personal incidents, but if your Lordships will forgive me I can tell you of how we had the railings of the Embassy painted. Why was that? It was because they said "The Ambassador cannot be going off right away if he has his Embassy painted." I can go further. Field Marshal Smuts was very worried about wives and families. He sent his personal plane and the suggestion was that my family should go to South Africa. That was quite simple, but my family said that nothing in the world would induce them to go. It was just as well, because they too were a barometer. I am not boasting my Lords; these are facts. Is it not then the irony of fate that it should be this community who are now the victims of British policy? I need not labour the point further. I was talking only yesterday to the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, and he said that he wished he could be here to-day, because he would get up and bear out what I had to say about the Base. I had a word with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Freyberg, who was also there; but unfortunately he is not here to-day. It is a fact. If you doubt it, read The Turn of the Tide, by Lord Alan-brooke. Is not that so?
It may be said that all this is beside the point. But it is a background, because these are the people who are now the victims of a policy which did not come off—I do not know what the right phrase is for it; they are the victims of a policy of half-measures. I suppose that views will vary to the end of time as to what the right policy was. But one thing is absolutely clear, and that is that these unfortunate victims had nothing whatever to do with any part of the policy, yet it is they who are now paying for the failure of what I hold was lack of steadfastness on our part. In my view, a man who goes ahead and then turns back is asking for trouble. There is Holy Writ about "putting your hand to the plough," and so on. I feel strongly 901 about this matter. We did not see the thing through, and these people are the ones who suffer. If, on top of that, we find a man coming back here and being refused proper assistance—well, your Lordships will excuse me if I get a little heated about it.
I am not in any way concerned with internal or domestic politics, but I sometimes wonder whether the British Government realise what the latent feeling in the country is on this subject, or the effect it may have. I do not believe they can do, otherwise we should not have this shilly-shally policy; this business of parcelling it out—Foreign Office, Home Office, Treasury, "Uncle Tom Cobley and all." It is not good enough. I should have thought that from the start the Government, in their wisdom, would have established a ministerial committee which would have taken over the whole of the problem and dealt with it, instead of having this parcelling out. We all know within these four walls that it is a question of running up against the opposition of the "dear old Treasury." Of course, it is their job to look after the public purse; but this is a "flea-bite" compared to the sums they have to deal with.
Perhaps your Lordships would just permit me one flight of imagination. We are all sitting here on these comfortable seats; we all have our comfortable homes, and we all get up in the morning and have our breakfast in reasonable comfort. Suppose that, without any warning, a gentleman arrived with a bayonet and said to you: "You are off, my boy"; then pushed you out and you had to leave behind you everything you possessed. Am I not right in supposing that if that (as one hopes) impossible thing occurred, the withers of even this entity, their Lordships of the Treasury, would be wrung. Yet that is what has happened to these people: the whole of their worldly goods have been taken from them and they are left on the beach. I do not believe I have exaggerated at all.
I would just mention that the Americans got out in time. I do not know how that was done. But what: I do know is that our Embassy did not know the night before—that is rather peculiar—so that our people had no notice whatever to get out. Your Lordships will remember that strange incident of the American Sixth Fleet coming 902 down. Nobody knew at that moment whether they were for us or against us. That particular American Fleet was there to see the American refugees safely out. Our refugees were not seen out; they were not even given notice. I speak subject to correction, but that is how I understand the facts. So I come before your Lordships to-day to make one further attempt to persuade Her Majesty's Government to do the obviously right thing, without any further boggling. I do not know how your Lordships feel about the matter, but I feel very strongly; and I have a suspicion that the country feels strongly about it, too. I am not here to score cheap points, or for any of that sort of nonsense. I am here to try to get justice for these people—and nothing less.
Now, I should like to recapitulate quite briefly. Facts and figures are tiresome. I gave them on February 28 last; they are all in Hansard, and I am told that they are fairly accurate. The total British community there before this happened, excluding Cypriots, was 12,000. Of these, 7,000 were Maltese and others, and 5,000 were Anglo-Saxons. I apologise for all this recapitulation, but I must make the picture clear. Of these 5,000 Anglo-Saxons, 2,000 to 2,500 were—and I stress "were"—people of substantial means. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, they are not covered by his charter. It is on behalf of those of whom I spoke on February 28, that I speak again to-day, March 28, one month later.
I know that in the meantime Lord Colyton has done excellent work for a different section of the community. He has told me of the number for whom he has arranged migration to Australia and so on. But let us use our imagination again. Suppose we were in that position. Should we like to be told that we were being migrated to a Colony? I cannot believe that we should. We should feel we ought to have something rather better. It is excellent for the particular individuals for whom Lord Colyton is working. I am not in any way criticising that—on the contrary. My only criticism is that I think his mandate should from the start have been much larger—every-thing under one hat, as I said before.
As I have just told your Lordships, there are 2,000 to 2,500 people of what I may call substantial means who are not 903 covered by the charter. These have almost all been totally dispossessed. The proposal I made on February 28 was that when these claims had been properly vetted, graded, and all the rest of it, there should be a system—which is what I am still advocating—of graded advances. I put it in these terms: those with claims of £1,000 should get 100 per cent.; those with claims of from £1,000 to £2,000, 75 per cent.; from £2,000 to £3,000, 50 per cent.; and those with claims of £5,000 upwards 25 per cent. That was my concrete proposal. I broke down the numbers of persons as follows—these figures are all in the Report of the debate of February 28. There are 1,500 persons with claims of £1,000 or under; 1,000 persons with claims of £3,000 or under; and 1,000 persons with claims of £5,000 or under. That is the proposal I put forward in the second part of my Resolution.
Now I turn to my fuller, prepared brief. This matter was raised in this House just one month ago, and no further indication has since been forthcoming of the Government's policy towards the proposed making of graduated advances, or grants, to compensate British nationals for the property and assets seized in Egypt. Meantime—and this is an important point—the plight of these unfortunate victims continues to worsen. Some, in an attitude of despair, are having to move to parts of the country where they can reduce living costs to the absolute minimum, thus trying to conserve what slender resources the fortunate few may have had available on their arrival in the United Kingdom. But what they want—and surely what they have every right to expect—is not charity but some degree of compensation for the assets of which they have been deprived as a direct result of the action of their own Government. That cannot be contested.
To the question put in this House four weeks ago by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 202 (No. 40) col. 166]:Is there nothing that the Government can do to make advances against private claims?the noble Earl, Lord Gosford replied:…all I can do is to promise the noble Lord that we will consider it further.That was a month ago. What is the result of this further month's consideration? Not only is the plight of these British 904 nationals becoming worse, but even since our debate on February 28 additional Egyptian legislation has caused further deterioration of their assets in Egypt. As recently as March 20—a week ago—the Egyptian Minister of Finance announced that a decree was to be promulgated the next day for the Egyptianisation of all shares held by British and French nationals in Egyptian companies. This gives a further indication of the outright appropriation of assets.
In the debate of February 28, I quoted examples of new Egyptian laws which made it practically impossible for British subjects to return to Egypt to start up their businesses again, or to resume their employment. Why, therefore, do Her Majesty's Government delay in making these grants or do something practical to help these unfortunate people? Some of them are born optimists. Some of them talk as though there were a practical chance of their going back. Although that shows the right spirit, I gravely doubt if they ever will. The absence of any such decision—that is, to give grants—increases the feeling of despair that many already hold; and the thought that they must await a day, in the far distant future, when some sort of financial settlement is reached with the Egyptian Government, before their claims can be entertained merely heightens their bitterness of feeling and natural resentment.
In this connection, it was recently argued in another place that it was wrong to expect this relatively small number of innocent British subjects, who are the victims of national and international policy, to await justice in respect of their present claims until the whole problem is cleared up. Your Lordships can understand the feelings of the claimants so far as that is concerned. The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, in his reply on February 28 to the question of advances to be made to these people who could show that they have assets in Egypt said (Col. 164):…the first thing to do is to register the claims, and that until that has been done it is impossible to make a plan based on the realities of the problem.Precisely that argument was anticipated by the expelled British subjects themselves, who early in December formed a powerful organisation, comprising the leading members of the British community councils and the British chambers of commerce in Egypt. They realised that 905 the Government would not only wish to know the total of British assets confiscated, but would require the individual claims to be vetted and substantiated before payments could be made against them. Seeing no action on the part of Her Majesty's Government to undertake this, they set about the task themselves. Their "Declaration of assets" forms were prepared with professional skill, and by means of Press announcements all British subjects with assets in Egypt were invited to obtain forms and fill them up. The organisation has, in fact, set up a panel of experts, consisting of bankers, accountants and professional men, all of proved integrity, with many years' experience of values in Egypt, and with a background of knowledge so essential to the task.
I need not elaborate on that. Such questions as the value of land in Egypt are very difficult. It is difficult to say here in London whether land is worth so much, whereas there are professional valuers there who know it right away. Your Lordships may like to know that many hundreds of declarations have already been received and are at present in process of being carefully vetted. A memorandum describing in detail the intentions of the organisation was submitted to the Foreign Office as far back as December 14. It was almost a month later, January 9, before a reply was received; and this reply was entirely unsatisfactory. It stated that the association could not be officially recognised for the purposes mentioned in the memorandum, and refused the small grant asked for, in view of the valuable assistance the information would be to Her Majesty's Government, to cover expenses.
Undeterred by this rebuff, the promoters brought the association into being feeling that they had a moral responsibility to their fellow victims to have some organisation to protect their interests. Here, I should like to emphasise the restraint shown by the leading members of the British community in Egypt. Although conscious of the public sympathy which they could have aroused, they had no wish to embarrass the British Government by seeking publicity. I happen to know that the director of the organisation, Colonel Moore, who is here to-day, a president of the British Community Association in Cairo, twice re-fused 906 invitations to give a talk on the B.B.C. and to appear on television to explain their plight. This restraint is surely to be highly commended. But patience has its limits, and if this policy by the Government continues, you must inevitably expect them to come out more into the open and to take active steps to put their case more fully before the public, emphasising the grievance which they so justifiably feel they have.
I am sorry to have detained your Lord-ships for so long but I am coming to the end of what I want to say. Incidentally, my attention has been called to a circular issued by the Foreign Office in which the following paragraph appears at the end:In registering details of your property in Egypt, Her Majesty's Government cannot accept any responsibility for admitting the validity of the figures or other information given"—which is quite a natural thing to say. The circular then goes on:nor can registration be held to involve Her Majesty's Government in any commitment, financial or otherwise.I ask your Lordships: if you had a communication like that on your break-fast table, and were feeling aggrieved because you felt you had a very sound claim, how it would affect you? I have detained your Lordships quite long enough. I return to the terms of the Resolution on the Order Paper, which I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House the system for dealing with financial restitution to certain sections of the British community expelled from Egypt is inadequate; and that it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should, without further delay, institute an effective system of graduated cash advances against claims duly established for loss of property and assets seized in Egypt.—(Lord Killearn.)
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I feel that all your Lordships will have reacted sympathetically to that very fine speech by the noble Lord, Lord Killearn Perhaps he will allow me to say that I think it was a speech that did him great honour. In fact, having read yesterday the debate of February 28, I thought the whole of that debate did your Lordships' House great honour, because it 907 showed how quickly this House responds to instances of hardship and injustice. Indeed, one of the greatest tasks which Parliament has to perform is the redress of hardship and injustice. Those are matters which certainly are raised in this question of the Egyptian refugees. I think also it showed that the Government are not immune from the feelings which affect other noble Lords, are fully alive to the hardships and injustices which are involved and will seek to redress them to the best of their ability.
But may I say also that I think the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, was an admirable choice for the appointment which he now holds. I feel sure that within his terms of reference he will do all that his administrative abilities and natural humanity permit him to do; but he is, of course, confined within his terms of reference and must not be held responsible for omissions which it is not in his power to remedy. In some things that were said again this afternoon I get a hint of the dead hand of the Treasury. I think it has been said of a limited liability company that it possesses neither a soul to be damned nor a posterior to be kicked. Sometimes, I feel that that is equally applicable to the Treasury. But, of course, hardship and injustice are not really within the sphere of the Treasury, who are concerned only with the administration of rules and regulations and, of course, with complying with directives which they receive from the Government. If I may digress for a moment, I confess that, having noticed their meticulous observance of rules and regulations, I sometimes wonder why nothing ever seems to happen to those gentlemen who are responsible for wasting millions—far more money than is required to redress the hardships of these refugees—and who are responsible for wasting millions in regard to certain Service stores, of which we have had some glaring examples lately and for which it seems to me there can be no possible excuse. I say that the Treasury could be put on to hunting those gentlemen.
The ground in this matter was very well covered in the debate of February 28 and again by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, this afternoon, and there is not really a great deal which can be added to the case which has been 908 already so admirably put forward. I confess that, if possible, I should like to hear something about the Maltese and the Cypriots. As an old sailor, I always feel interested in the fortunes of the Maltese. I was very glad when I was Governor of Cyprus to agree to the Secretary of State's suggestion that I should admit a certain party of Maltese to Cyprus. I am bound to say I never had any cause to regret it. They showed themselves, as they always do, good and law-abiding citizens. Also, as regards Cyprus, while we feel that the Cypriots are rather tiresome people at the present moment, I must say that I always found that the Cypriots, apart from politics, were good and industrious people and, to that extent, an asset to any community. So it would be of great interest if one could hear something about the fate of the Maltese and Cypriots who have recently been expelled from Egypt.
Apart from that, there is only one point I wish to make. I entirely agree with what the noble Earl. Lord Gosford, said in the debate on February 28. These were his words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 202 (No. 40), col. 164]:But we are. I suppose, the oldest and most respected bankers in the world, and bankers depend on the confidence which they inspire. To destroy that confidence would inflict an injury on our credit which it would be impossible to repair for many a long day.I feel most fully in agreement with those words. We must not do anything to impair our reputation as bankers. But sometimes I feel that the bankers' code may violate many people's ideas of equity. I am not suggesting for that reason that the code should be altered, but at times the bankers' code seems to be a little at variance with equity—at any rate at variance with ideas of humanity and of fair play. Apparently we must obey that code, even if it means letting Egypt get away with a shocking piece of dishonesty. Nevertheless, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, that the bankers' code must be observed. I realise also that the formalities of registering and of verifying claims to the best of one's ability must be gone through.
I want to ask this question. The people for whom many noble Lords are appealing this afternoon are British subjects who are in trouble through no fault of their own. I do not want to labour that point. I do not want to open old 909 controversies about Suez. But I think it is fair to say that these people are in their difficulties through no fault of their own, but in consequence of an act of British policy. I feel, therefore, that the British Government (I believe they recognise this) have a peculiar responsibility in this matter. As I say, I do not want to labour that point; I do not think we assist matters by reopening these old questions. But, that being so, I should like to ask what will be the action of the Government in the event that the Egyptians—as I feel, in view of their past conduct, is quite possible—reject the claims altogether or make quite ridiculous payments on account of them, payments which bear no proper relation or proportion to the claims. What will the Government do in cither of those alternatives?
May I, with great respect, suggest what I think should be done? If the Egyptian Government reject these claims in toto—claims which will have been verified by every means open to the Foreign Office or the Treasury—will the Government take those claims over and pay them? Or in the event that the Egyptian Government pay only a ridiculously small sum on account of the claims, will the Government in that case make up the balance? Will they pay the claims or make up the balance in the case of losses which those concerned can prove that they have incurred? We do our prestige and name abroad great good by sticking rigorously to the laws of banking—I agree about that. But I believe that we should do our prestige equal good abroad if we took over the claims in the manner which I have suggested.
My Lords, these people have suffered something for which there can be no compensation and for which there can be no reimbursement. The interruption of a life's work, inconvenience, the killing of hopes and ambitions, having to start again at an age when it is not easy to start again—all those things they have suffered, and those are things for which they cannot be compensated. But where their money and their material possessions are concerned, I hope that the Government will feel that there is an obligation upon them to see that these people suffer no financial or material loss. I feel that this is an instance where the Government really should go a little outside Treasury conventions, and that they should do something which 910 shows that it is a great thing to be a British subject—and that a British subject who is brought into misfortune through the policy of his Government will be fully compensated by that Government for the financial and material losses he has incurred.
§ 5.37 p.m.
My Lords, with others who are interested in this problem, I am profoundly dissatisfied with the progress that has been made—or rather with the lack of progress—in compensating some categories of our nationals who have been evicted from Egypt. The noble Earl who replied to the debate on February 28, speaking from his wretched brief, said that certain matters would be investigated, others would be examined, and that others would receive consideration. One month later what has happened? What compensation has been received by those unfortunate people? The answer can be given in one word—nothing.
For one thing, I would suggest that the terms of reference and powers of the Board over which the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, presides, seem to be far too limited. For example, school fees can be met only up to the end of the present scholastic year—that is September. Surely parents and schools must know what their prospects are for the next year, and indeed the years that follow. I am today informed that the policy of the Anglo-Egyptian Resettlement Board is to pay school fees only in respect of those cases where the parents had entered into commitment with a school or schools in the United Kingdom before the armed intervention in Egypt. They will not pay school fees for parents who have been compelled to put their children into United Kingdom schools as a result of this action. In the absence of any explanation, that seems to me not only fantastic but straight out of Alice in Wonderland.
Then, the activities of the Board appear to be mainly aid as opposed to resettlement. Certain grants, it is true, have been made under the latter heading; but the Board have been able to consider only the smaller cases—up to £200 for furniture, and so on—for initial household needs. No consideration is yet possible for those who need opportunities of starting on their own businesses or practices. I refer particularly to the majority who, by 911 reason of their age and loss of capital, are quite unable to establish themselves without full compensation for what they have lost. As the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, has said, in many of these cases considerable assets have been left behind, and there is no hope of returning to businesses in Egypt on account of the Egyptianisation now in force.
My Lords, it seems to make no sense, and it is little in accord with common justice, to keep such men on the "aid" basis indefinitely. They should receive full compensation for all they have lost. Why must Government Departments be so dilatory about compensating men and women who have suffered the loss of their all following the action of our Government? Whether the Government's action was right or wrong is quite immaterial. Why should the Government fail to deal fairly and squarely and promptly with claims that have been established? If I may digress for one moment and compare small things with greater things, I would remind your Lordships of the appeal that the Lord Mayor of London made a few years ago for those who had suffered loss from floods. The response to that appeal was magnificent and those of us who had to deal with the situation were given a free hand. There were no Government Departments to hamper us. We investigated claims immediately, verified them at once and satisfied properly established claims for loss of personal belongings, farm stock and so on, forthwith. I have yet to learn that any justifiable criticism was ever made about the proper handling of that Fund. Those who suffered heavy losses were fortunate indeed that compensation did not have to pass through Government Departments, or they would have had to wait long enough for their losses to be made good.
Many of those who were evicted from Egypt after being robbed of their property made their claims months ago. They are still waiting. How much longer are they to have to live from hand to mouth? No wonder they feel that Her Majesty's Government are not only dilatory but callous. And who can blame them when they are well aware of a fact which the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, gave your Lordships' House last month—that the French Government did far 912 better for French nationals who returned to France with empty hands and pockets?
Last month I asked certain questions to which I have had no answer. First, is there any reason why, in bona fide cases, Her Majesty's Government should not accept Egyptian currency brought from Port Said? Next, the question of taxation: in view of the fact that the sojourn of these people in this country is enforced and not voluntary, is there any reason why those evicted should not be considered as visitors, at any rate for a reasonable period? Then I asked last month about the seizure of the proceeds of insurance policies to which many of those evicted had contributed for many years. It was their money which was confiscated, in London. I have had no answer to that question. I must not occupy more of your Lordships' time, but I strongly support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Killearn.
§ 5.43 p.m.
My Lords, as the noble Lord. Lord Killearn, has said, it is one month to the day since he raised this matter in your Lordships' House. What has been done? I am going to deal only with a matter with which I dealt before—the question of blocked sterling accounts. There, the answer is definitely that little or nothing has been done. Strange as it may seem, the attitude of the banks seems to have stiffened against these unfortunate people as the result of the last debate in this House. I understand that their attitude stiffened because of certain remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, in replying to matters which I raised. The noble Earl then said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 202 (No. 40), col. 165]:It is impossible…for a bank in this country to disregard its obligations to hold the securities to the order of a bank in Egypt.In other words, as I understood it, that means that funds in the United Kingdom of dispossessed United Kingdom nationals are to be held to the order of the Egyptian Government. The noble Earl went on to say that the only remedy which these nationals had was to test the matter in the courts.
As a result of these remarks, the banks, and particularly the bank chiefly concerned, which is Barclays Bank D.C. & O., have looked carefully into the matter. They have been frightened by 913 those remarks and have been even stricter than before in making advances. I am very glad that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House is going to reply to this debate—he was good enough to intervene last time and make some very encouraging remarks. He said, as I understood, that this particular point was already before Her Majesty's Government and that they were looking into it as a matter of urgency. Those remarks were quoted by speakers on behalf of Her Majesty's Government in another place, and everybody was made to feel that things were going along nicely and that all claims were being sympathetically considered. But, in fact, that has not happened. Hardly anybody, whether private individuals, schools, corporations, charitable funds or others, has got any advances from the bank against blocked accounts. Cannot Her Majesty's Government call a meeting with the banks concerned and get senior officials of those banks round a table, so that this matter may be discussed from the point of view of how we are to help these people and how we are going to cut the red tape and get over the legal difficulties, if any, instead of giving the banks an excuse for doing nothing?
I feel I must say a word about a matter with which I dealt at length in the last debate—the question of Egyptian pounds brought out from Port Said. If I may weary your Lordships again with a few brief facts, I would point out that many of those who were evacuated from Port Said had collected quite large sums in sterling at a late date. A few days before the evacuation they were suddenly told that regulations about the import of sterling into the United Kingdom were to be rigidly adhered to and that they were not allowed to have more than £10 sterling. They were told, however, that they could take in unlimited amounts of other currency, mainly Egyptian pounds, and that these would be exchanged at what they understood to be the par rate of exchange. I know that there has been a quibble over the exact terms on which the official order was made; but it was an official order, given with the authority of the British consul. Whatever might be the legal interpretation of the words 914 used, these people should surely have been able to exchange those Egyptian notes at par. Replying to the point last time, the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, said it was a long and complicated story. It is a perfectly simple story, and the sums involved wore by no means enormous. That is a decision which could be made at once, enabling those notes to be exchanged at the proper rate.
Several noble Lords have spoken on this matter and I do not propose to detain your Lordships any longer, but let us have no more "buck-passing"; let us really get down to this matter with the will and the way to deal with it quickly and as sympathetically as possible. I appeal to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, with his very great influence, to do all he can to bring this happy event forward, so that instead of these unfortunate people being disillusioned and bewildered they will feel that Her Majesty's Government are doing all they possibly can to help them in the very difficult situation in which they find themselves.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ LORD HADEN-GUEST
My Lords, I feel very much as if I were back again in the days of the outbreak of the First World War, when I was in Paris in charge of a large hospital organisation and nobody seemed to know what to do next. By courtesy of the French Government I was able to take over the Hotel Majestic which, at that time, was completely evacuated. This was about ten days after the actual outbreak of war, and I remember feeling that everybody had gone completely "dithery". From some of the statements we have heard of what has been going on in regard to these unfortunate people who were living in Egypt, it seems to me that this situation has gone completely "dithery". There is not any simple clear plan, and that is what there ought to be.
But you can get such a plan only if you have available the services of people who have had experience of this kind of thing. There are many people in that category. They are to be found, for instance, in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. There are many in those Services who have had that kind of experience in an emergency—such as the emergency facing us at the present time in regard to Cyprus. The kind of individuals who can really be 915 helpful are those who have had a good deal of military experience, for they are accustomed to working to a definite plan. I believe this matter wants to be studied in a cool and calculated way in order to ascertain what is the best which can be done for the people of whom we have heard who are now in such an appalling position.
I do not believe for a moment that the Egyptians are going to give way unless they are compelled to do so, either by force of public opinion (and that is something which is remote at the present time) or as the result of our waiting for some little time and organising a bigger and bigger force of people who can exercise influence on them. It should be possible to tackle this problem as a military operation and to get the whole situation straightened out in a comparatively short time, if you have a sufficient number of experienced people to do the work. There must be a great many people like that in the world. There are very many in the nursing and the medical professions. They stand foremost with regard to such matters as the actual caring for the sick and disabled and so on. But there are various others with other qualifications who might be brought in with them to form an organisation which could take charge of the situation.
One of the great troubles at the present time arises from the terrible position in which the refugees—perhaps it is not right to call them refugees, as many of them are people who are not able to go anywhere—find themselves, and the very great difficulty of getting anything done. I suppose that a good many noble Lords now present in this House—probably a considerable proportion of those who are listening to me—have been in Egypt, and from their knowledge of the country they can realise how difficult it is to create and apply the necessary organisation to get control of such a situation from a military point of view—I do not disguise that it is a military point of view—in order to get things done in an ordered and definite way. I believe that it can be done. I think it is quite possible. I myself have been responsible for the evacuation of many thousands of people in France and other countries and I know that this work can be put through successfully if it is done on a big scale.
916 It must not, of course, be held up by the hostility of people who are in a state of enmity towards those who are being evacuated. And it must not be held up by people who are not particularly anxious to do anything because of the disturbance which would be caused to their own lives. It seems to me that we must be determined to get control of the situation properly. We must not let the disorders of the situation overwhelm us. I remember how shortly after the beginning of the First World War, as it is called, in France, when I began going over the setup of the various hospitals (I eventually had about fifty) I found it very difficult to prevent people from panicking, becoming excited and exhausted and, in some cases, going about in picturesque uniforms just because they were interested.
As I sec it, this is a war situation. The Egyptians are making war on British and other people who have been living in Egypt for many years as citizens of Egypt. They have turned them out in a most brutal and utterly inexcusable manner. There is no possible justification for their doing so and there is no justification for us to be inactive. We have to do something on a big scale. As I have said, I believe it is most desirable that we should look at the matter from a military point of view and take the necessary steps to gain control of the situation. We are not going to do so by merely talking platitudes about humanity and helping people. We must really do something; we must take some concrete steps. Members of this House have spoken to-day about "people who have sufficient money". But a large number of the people concerned must have no money at all. These poor people must be provided for. That will mean definite commitments by the Government. It is no good expecting money to come from any other source; it cannot possibly do so.
Lord Killearn asked me whether I knew anything about this kind of thing, and I must say that I was shocked to find how dreadful is the situation which exists in Egypt at the present time, and what a very bad situation existed before those of whom we are speaking were turned out. And I wonder whether all the people of this kind have been turned out. I wonder whether some of them have been held under duress. I wonder whether bribery has been going on. I wonder 917 whether all kinds of nasty tricks have not been carried out. I should not be surprised to learn that very unpleasant things have been happening below the surface. In my belief it is necessary that we should take hold firmly from a military point of view, and see that this trouble is dealt with and remedied with a strong hand.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, in rising to support once again my noble friend, Lord Killearn, I am pinning my faith on the assurance given, when we last discussed this matter, by the noble Earl who replied for the Government, when he said that Her Majesty's Government had every intention of holding the Egyptian Government responsible for their actionsand intend to do everything in their power to pursue the claims of British nationals.He went on to say that the Government had invited claims, and that as the claims came in the Government would have a clear idea of the whole scope of the problem and would then be in a better position to judge what tactics should be adopted in order to induce Egypt to take the necessary action. And it was stressed, rightly, in my view, that it would not be sensible to forejudge the situation or anticipate it in any way, or to reveal in advance the intended approach.
As I see it, all that sums up to this: that we are justified in assuming that this community whom Lord Killearn has in mind are not going to be abandoned, whether it is a matter of the Egyptian Government paying, whether it is a matter of the Egyptian Government not meeting their obligations, or whether it is a matter of the British Government themselves having to step in to meet Egyptian obligations, as Lord Winster suggested. I think we are justified in believing, as a result of what we were told last time, that the fate of this unfortunate community will be met.
On studying statistical details, as the noble Lord has given them, I confess to being puzzled over certain aspects. First of all, the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, has set out a scale of advances, and I take it that it is the principle of the scale which he wishes to have accepted—because on the actual figures he has given, a man claiming £1,100 918 would actually receive a little less than a man claiming £1,000. I take it that it is only the principle of the scale of advances which has to be accepted. Lord Killearn tells us that there are some 3,500 people involved, and he divided them into three categories—1,500 with claims of £1,000 and upwards; 1,000 with claims of £3,000 and upwards; and 1,000 with claims of £5,000 and upwards. One can assume that all these are Anglo-Saxons. At the time, the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, told us that some 4,500 British citizens had arrived in this country and that 3,000 at least were being looked after in the hostels of the Resettlement Board. The total number of Anglo-Saxons from Egypt is apparently 5,000. Putting two and two together, and on the assumption that most of those who have returned to this country are Anglo-Saxons, I can only conclude that there is an overlap and that any attempt to divide these people into two rigid categories—the one suffering from great hardship, and the other perhaps a little more affluent in their circumstances in Egypt, and therefore equally deserving of assistance: the one to come within the scope of the Resettlement Board and the other to fall outside—is quite unreal.
I think that my noble friend Lord Killearn is quite justified when he suggests that there should be one umbrella for every case. Indeed, that seemed to be acknowledged on the last occasion, when the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, referred to the three specific cases of hardship mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, and said that if they went to the Resettlement Board, they would receive satisfaction. Surely the logical conclusion is that the scope of the Resettlement Board should be widened, and that the terms of reference should be adjusted to include all categories. It would not involve extra heavy overhead charges at the Board's headquarters in Great Smith Street, but it would mean that these poor people would receive a focus for their grievances and urgent financial assistance.
I confess that I do not quite accept Lord Killearn's assessment of the sum involved as "a mere fleabite": £35 to £40 million is not an inconsiderable sum and if the principle of the sliding scale of advances is accepted—
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, if I may clarify that point, that is the total amount of claims. I was asking for a percentage on every claim, so it would not have meant paying out £35 million or £40 million.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
I assume that the sum involved to the Treasury would be considerably less. The noble Earl reminded us that this was not a question of charity. I think we shall all agree that it is not a matter of charity but is a duty. Duty, like charity, should begin at home, to our own people who have suffered—not, shall I say? from our mistakes, but from our actions.
§ 6.4 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, your Lordships may remember the case which I put before the House a month ago, the case of 170 British officials who lost their posts in Egypt in 1951. I asked on that occasion that these men should be included within the mandate of the Anglo-Egyptian Resettlement Board, so that their claim for damages for breach of their contracts of service with the Egyptian Government might be settled at long last. I did this, frankly, because I was not very sure what were the terms of reference of the Board; and seeing that it was the only organisation which was dispensing cash payments to those who suffered from the events of last year, I hoped that it might prove to be the organisation which would provide for all those who had thus suffered. But, in hoping that, I was under a misapprehension. One, at any rate, of the achievements of the debate last month was that we found out the exact delineation of the Board's mandate, and the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, himself told us how narrow it was.
It transpired that there are still large numbers of those who were affected by the Suez action who can look to the Board for nothing and who must rely on some other, so far insubstantial, promises for any help which they may hope to receive. Among these people outside the scope of the Board are even, I think, the 170 officials, if any of them are at this moment suffering actual hardship—although if I am wrong in that statement, I shall be delighted to be corrected. The reason they are outside the Board's province in their case is that they are not technically pensioners of the Egyptian Government.
920 I will not weary your Lordships with the proposition that I put forward last time, that the loss of their posts came to precisely the same as the loss of a pension, nor would I again go over arguments, such as, if it had not been for the action in Suez they might even now have received full compensation. Of course, theirs is not the sort of case that the Board deals with, any more than it can help those who lost large, medium-sized or small fortunes in Egypt but are lucky enough to have, shall we say, £200 in this country or a family who are kind enough to put them up rent free. No, the consolation which all these people can draw from last month's debate is this. The 170 officials were told by the noble Earl, Lord Gosford [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 202 (No. 40), col. 162]:…their claims will not be lost sight of when a financial settlement becomes possible with Egypt".For the others was the request, which they had already received, that they should register the full details of their claim in the correct quarter as soon as possible. I am delighted to hear that this assessment is progressing satisfactorily.
But what comfort is this? The 170 officials registered their claims in the correct quarter several years ago. Yet still all they can look forward to is the time when a financial settlement becomes possible with Egypt. Is the same going to apply to the later refugees who are now registering their claims? I cannot believe it. These are all people, innocent people, who happened to lose their livelihood or all their possessions or both as a result of actions of the United Kingdom Government. That applies equally to the 170 who lost their posts in retaliation for the bulldozing of the village of Kafrel Abdul in 1951 as to those who have recently been forced to leave Egypt. I submit that the principle should be the same in both cases.
I should like to say a few words in general about the more recent expellees. I will put the matter very simply—per-haps too simply. Even before the Anglo-Egyptian force went into Suez there was a full-scale debate in your Lordships' House about the situation as it then was, and also about the massing of forces in Cyprus to be used if necessary. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House said in his speech during that debate on 921 September 12 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 199, col. 640]:…Her Majesty's Government and the French Government have thought it right to take military precautions against all eventualities whether in respect of protection of their own nationals or, if need be…This was one of the justifications which he put forward for using force even before the event. The noble and learned Lord, Lord McNair, speaking later in the same debate said [col. 659]:It is true that a Government is entitled to use the necessary amount of armed force, and no more, for the protection of its nationals in a foreign country and their property and its property, when the local authorities are unable or unwilling to protect them against violence.And the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, after the action in Suez, repeated that. I do not suggest for a moment that this was the only consideration that caused Her Majesty's Government to do what they did, but it was a reason which was backed by International Law and, in addition, a duty which must have been laid upon them.
Secondly, along with this avowed intent, it is, I think, not unreasonable to assume that in taking the action which they did, Her Majesty's Government were aware of some of the reactions by Egypt which, according to Egyptian psychology, could be expected to ensue. I would hesitate before being so discourteous as to think that they were unaware of such things. But I submit that it was by no means a far-fetched or unforeseeable reaction when the Egyptians, using the most elementary and unsubtle form of vengeance open to them, chose to "take it out of" the unfortunate nationals of the countries with which they were offended who chanced to be within their power at the time. I cannot believe that this was an unexpected result; it most certainly was not an unprecedented one, as the summary dismissal of the officials in 1951 will bear witness. That was an absolutely clear indication of the way the Egyptians' minds work when they are incensed with a particular country.
If, then, one puts this not unfair presumption beside the reason expressly given as one of the reasons for the action in Suez—that is, put the likely reaction beside the need to protect British lives and property—what conclusion is there to reach? If Her Majesty's Government really intended to protect British property, they cannot say now that they had 922 not envisaged doing more than protect it in Egypt only. Protection in Egypt alone could not have been complete protection at all; for what were the most likely results of this so-called protection? But what is quite allowable is for Her Majesty's Government to say: "We could not guarantee full protection to your property in Egypt itself, in the first place; it was not improbable that our action would lead to your eviction and the loss of your immediate property. But what we mean by 'protection' is that in such a situation, when you return home to the United Kingdom, you will be none the worse off. "What else can a Government mean when it assumes the right and proper responsibility of protecting its nationals and their property?
There are equally two alternatives upon which one is forced if nothing further is forthcoming to help these British subjects. Either, when Her Majesty's Government said that they were acting to protect, they did not even from the start intend to provide the type of protection which surely every British subject is entitled to expect from his Government, and which should go with a British passport—and I cannot believe that Her Majesty's Government would allow a challenge like that to go unanswered; or else Her Majesty's Government had not anticipated what protection involves, so far as the individual is concerned. For I have no doubt that, as they have done with the greatest fervour and pertinacity in the past, Her Majesty's Government will continue to press Egypt to make amends; and I hope, and have no doubt, that they will in due course succeed. But no one can imagine that, with affairs as they are to-day, such reparation will come quickly. Quite apart from political and diplomatic relations, at the last statistical returns of the United Nations, Egypt had a trade deficit of £40 million on a total export of £137 million, which does not provide a very rosy prospect for those who are utterly dependent on a rapid repayment of Egypt's debts and liabilities.
Yet, while a large company such as I.C.I., or Shell, or a banking corporation, can afford to wait until sequestered property is eventually returned—it may not be convenient, but it will not be ruinous—the same by no means applies to private individuals in a like situation. 923 For the individual is not ageless and immortal, like a company; he grows old, he needs security for his retirement—at any rate, of whatever age he may be, he must have money on which to live and he must have money on which to rebuild a livelihood. These private individuals have lost the use of all their money. On what are they going to live, apart from the kindness of their immediate families if they happen to be lucky enough to have some outside Egypt? It is utterly unjust to put private individuals on the same footing as large international companies in circumstances like these and to tell them to wait and wait, and that all will be well in the end: the whole point is that it is not in the slighest all well at the moment or for the immediate future.
I am not, therefore, criticising the Anglo-Egyptian Resettlement Board. For its limited purpose, I am sure it is working admirably and doing its job thoroughly and efficiently. But the time must have come when this machinery should be supplemented. I do not know whether the right thing is to expand the Board, or set up other machinery, or what. But if my speech may have seemed to be destructive, I cannot think it is, because so far nothing has been done, and anything that is done will be constructive. So let the Government take their responsibility. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, is asking, and I fully support him in asking them to do that.
§ 6.15 p.m.
My Lords, I am sure we are all in agreement with the noble Lord. Lord Killearn. I have ventured to speak again at such short notice partly because we are so anxious to get a move on, and partly because I find such a strong feeling in the country I come from that the Government should act—and act quickly. I agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said about the private individual, and I wonder whether there is not some distinction that could be made by the Government. The Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, covers all claims, including companies. Though companies do not grow old, as we have had pointed out to us individuals do, and 924 we are not so concerned with their position as that of the individuals, I wonder whether it is worth considering these individuals who have lost their all, leaving out others for the time being, so as to help those individuals to rebuild their lives.
I should like to take one case that was mentioned to me by a bank. I went to the Foreign Office about it, and they advised me to go to Lord Colyton's Committee. I should like to say here that I found that Lord Colyton's Committee knew all about the case; they were going out of their way to do all they could to give practical help; and they could not have been more sympathetic in the way they were dealing with the case. It is the case of a man born in Port Said sixty-four years ago. His father was a parson there and was responsible for building the church. This man was employed by the Egyptian Government for ten years in agricultural work At the end of his service, with his compensation, he bought twenty feddans of land and turned it into a farm, from the crops of which he has been making for the last fifteen years on an average £E5,000. So that he presumably has a valuable asset there. After that he worked between the wars as a special service officer in the Royal Air Force in Palestine and Trans-Jordan; and between 1941 and 1945 he worked under Lord Harcourt on special duties in Egypt.
What is that man's position to-day? His farm and all his assets have been sequestrated, so that he has no private income and no capital. All his interests in life have obviously gone. He is now dependent on a subsistence allowance from the Resettlement Board. They have increased his allowance from £5 15s. to £7 15s. a week, which includes £1 a week for pocket money. The rest is for rent and food. They have given him £50 for clothes to start him off, as he had none. But the £7 15s. has to cover rent and living, and it also includes £1 pocket money. I suppose his tobacco, if he smokes, will cost him £1 a week, so he has no other luxury in this world. The man is not well, and he has been advised to go abroad to a warmer climate; and he wants to go to Gibraltar or some other place in the Empire.
The question I want to ask my noble leader is: will he have the following 925 looked into? If the man goes abroad, his £7 15s. a week will stop, and he will have nothing whatsoever. The Resettlement Board are not allowed to pay anything to anybody going abroad—I should think for very good reasons. Obviously, what the man wants, in order to have some independence in life—surely he is worth some independence—is a capital sum to enable him to buy an annuity so that he can be free to go abroad. If I understood the Resettlement Board, they said that they cannot do that; it is not within their terms of reference, and it must go to the Foreign Office. It seems a small point, but I think it is an extremely important one. The Board may pay a man £7 a week, but they may not pay him a capital sum to buy an annuity. I do think we should let him have a little independence in life, and the scheme of my noble friend Lord Killearn of some cash advance in a case like that would meet the point.
§ LORD KILLEARN
May I remind the noble Lord of what my noble friend Lord Colyton said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 202 (No. 40), col. 156]:I must explain at once that the question of compensation for assests lost or any of the financial matters referred to by noble Lords in speeches this afternoon fall entirely outside the scope of the Statute of the Board.That is entirely what the noble Lord is saying.
I feel sure that, with my noble Leader's kind help, the point could be fully met. My noble friend Lord Gifford made a suggestion which might help. He asked whether they were co-operating with the banks. If there is a difficulty about finance, it seems to me that a wise thing to do would be to get in touch with the banks. After all, the business of the banks is to advance money against assets, and I feel perfectly certain that if the Government will get in touch with the banks they will find that they will do the financing and save the Treasury having to find this £30 million, or part of it, which is perhaps inconvenient. I have the greatest faith that our noble Leader is going to tell us that we are going to get what we want.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, it is no mere conventional phrase to say that we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, for raising this subject this 926 afternoon. I can hardly remember a debate in which there has been such evidence of strong feeling on behalf of this category of British subjects. All we ask Her Majesty's Government is a simple acceptance of responsibility, because it is from that point that we, certainly on these Benches, approach the subject. We regard the situation of these people as being the consequence of the policy adopted by Her Majesty's Government.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said, however well-intentioned the policy—and obviously it was under-taken with the best of intentions; we know from the statements of Ministers that protection of British subjects was high on the list of the aims of that policy—surely it could have been foreseen that the Egyptian Government would react to the British policy. The Government must have forgotten the animal in the French natural history book which was so wicked because, when attacked, it defended itself. The Egyptian Government defended itself with the only weapons it had at hand, which were the hostages within its power belonging to the countries that had attacked it. This situation must have been foreseen, and we think Her Majesty's Government ought categorically, and publicly, to accept responsibility for remedying the hardships and injustices that have happened to all these people.
The noble Lord's Resolution is in two parts. The first part states that "the system for dealing with financial restitution…is inadequate."We know that the main instrument for giving financial restitution is the Resettlement Board, of which the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, is chairman. In the debate on February 28, the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, gave in some detail the powers and responsibilities of the Resettlement Board. I notice that he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 202 (No. 40), col. 161]:It is the Government's intention that the Board should be free to pursue a flexible policy in dealing with this human problem….The noble Earl said a little later:…the Board's hands are not tied in this matter, whether dealing with grants, loans or allowances.Further on (col. 162), the noble Earl said:These allowances will not be tied to any existing scale.927 I question very much whether those undertakings are being fulfilled.
We have heard from various speakers instances where the powers of the Resettlement Board stopped short at a completely illogical point. We had the case of the education of children. Fees are advanced for children who were already at school last autumn. They are advanced for one academic year only—that is to say, nothing is promised beyond next September. Why should not an educational loan be provided for children who were not old enough to go to school last October and who were due to go this year? And what about the future education of those children? Are they to be taken away from their schools or universities in July, 1957, with no further provision for their education at all? That is one of the directions in which I think we ought to hear that the limitations on the Resettlement Board have been relaxed.
There is also the case of payment of pensions, or the advance of pension money. That is restricted to former employees of the Egyptian Government; it is not permissible in the case of employees of any non-Governmental organisation. Just because people who have served a great part of their lives in Egypt and earned their pension were not Government servants, are Her Majesty's Government going to wash their hands of them and deny responsibility? Many of your Lordships have probably known people in these categories. I can remember two of the people I knew in Cairo. One was the headmaster of the English school at Heliopolis. I do not know what has happened to him, or whether he has been able to find another job. Another was an elderly man, retired after many years' service as a professor of medicine in the Cairo Medical School. He was living a retired life in a little house just outside Almaza. Those are the sorts and types of people, Englishmen, who are following in a tradition of many generations of Englishmen, who lived their lives in service in and for Egypt. Those are the people who have now lost everything.
There is yet another anomaly in the terms of the Resettlement Board, and that is in the scope of the resettlement 928 grants. The noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, mentioned a case that illustrates it. The limitation is that a resettlement grant, as I understand it, can be paid only to somebody who takes up employment in the United Kingdom, and not to anybody who wishes to go abroad, whether within the Commonwealth or to another country. That is a third case where we are entitled to ask for some relaxation.
On the wider question, the second part of the noble Lord's Resolution asking the Government toinstitute an effective system of graduated cash advances against claims ",without necessarily going the whole way with the suggested scale of advances that the noble Lord has given us (probably he would not expect us necessarily to agree with every detail of that, but on the general principle of assets that have been lost or of which people have lost the use) I am quite sure that the Government ought to accept responsibility. A lifetime's savings, as in many cases these are, have been lost. Surely that is a matter of hardship. On February 5 the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said that the whole purpose of the scheme was to avoid hardship. Surely a loss of savings and insurance policies amounts to hardship.
In fact, the details all support what the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, said, which was that one cannot distinguish between the two cases. It is impossible to have one category, consisting of those who need maintenance and resettlement and lodging in camps, and another category which must register claims with the Foreign Office. They are both cases of hardship. We hope to hear from the noble Marquess, when he winds up, what progress has been made by that branch of the Foreign Office which is collecting, receiving and registering claims. Perhaps he will be able to tell us something about that. In that connection, something mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, gives rise to a certain suspicion. I think he said that a pamphlet issued by the Foreign Office to people intending to register claims had a clause in it to the effect that registration of the claim would not be held to commit Her Majesty's Government. That is a typical phrase to see in a document of that kind, but I hope that it will not be used as an escape hatch by Her Majesty's Government in declining responsibility.
929 I have said enough. There is no doubt that there is strong feeling in this country. There is a category of our fellow country-men who have suffered great hardship and injustice. Her Majesty's Government say, of course, that they will hold the Egyptian Government to fulfil their obligations. We should all hope that that will be the case. Nobody can justify the action that the Egyptian Government have taken, but we should like to know that the responsibility is there, squarely on Her Majesty's Government. Regardless of whether reparations are obtained from Egypt, these claims which we consider just should be met by the Government.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, on the last occasion on which the noble Lord, Lord Killearn. raised this very important matter, your Lordships may remember that I intervened at the end of the debate and gave an assurance that I would transmit to the proper quarter the urgent and important points which had been made by noble Lords in the course of our discussion. It therefore seemed to me right that I should reply on behalf of the Government this evening In doing so, I do not want to go into some of the rather wider issues which were touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, at the beginning of his speech but I think in the interests of accuracy there is just one thing I should say. He suggested, or I understood him to suggest, that the Americans appear to have been warned of the impending military action and the British community had not. I hope he really did not mean that, because it would be a very serious accusation indeed. I do not know who, if anyone, warned the American community. I thought the complaint of the American Government was that they had not been warned soon enough.
But, in any case, it is not true that no warnings were given to the British community. There were general warnings—and that is all that could be given to them—on several occasions: on August 1, on August 30, on September 13, on October 29 and on October 30. I have a long note about exactly what was said, but I do not think the House wants to hear a great deal about it. Indeed, the only reason I have mentioned it is because I thought that, quite inadvertently, the 930 noble Lord, Lord Killearn, might have given to the House and to the country a wrong impression.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, if the noble Marquess would allow me to intervene, may I say that I certainly did not want to mislead the House—obviously not. But it is a fact that on that occasion—the House remembers that it was rather dramatic—when our Force was approaching Port Said or Suez and it crossed the American Sixth Fleet, the statement was that the American Sixth Fleet was convoying out the American people from Egypt; it was getting them out. Whether the fact is that our people were warned and did not go is another matter. From what the noble Marquess says, it sounds rather like it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It may have been intelligent anticipation on the part of the American Sixth Fleet, but it was not, I think, information. At any rate, I do not want to pursue that matter further. I will therefore return at once, if I may, to the more immediate questions raised by the Resolution. I quite recognise—indeed, we all must—that the Resolution that the noble Lord has put down to-day throws a greater emphasis on an aspect of the problem of British refugees from Egypt which is rather different from that which occupied a certain proportion, in fact a considerable proportion, of our attention last time. Then a substantial part of the debate was devoted to the measures devised by Her Majesty's Government for meeting immediate hardship—what I may call the Colyton aspect, if I may use such a term. That, of course, docs not find a place in the Resolution which the noble Lord has tabled for discussion to-day. At the same time, before I pass to the main theme of the debate, some of your Lordships at any rate might like to hear something of what has been going on in that sphere.
I have received from the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, what may be described as a progress report. I should have liked to read that report in full—it is an admirable document; but I think your Lordships would not wish me to prolong my speech too much. Therefore I will only quote from it to show that the Board are not dragging their feet or wasting their time, but are, in fact, proceeding with their work of assistance 931 with most commendable speed and zeal. One of the things that the report says is that the Board receives about 400 callers a week at its offices. It goes on to say that it helps them by paying allowances, giving them advice about education, accommodation, employment, emigration and the various other matters about which they inquire. The Board are paying maintenance allowances to about 400 families outside hostels and in need. The report adds that 3,000 people are at present in hostels. The main needs, which are, I think, known to all of us, are to find jobs and homes. The Board has introduced arrangements by which those who have prospects of work in London or other towns and need to attend interviews may receive the cost of the fares and subsistence and lodging allowances for a few days—that is, to give them absolute time to get round and see what work is available.
A further point is that the Board is working closely with the Ministry of Labour and National Service, who have so far registered 1,914 people for work and have placed 583. In addition, over 200 have found work through their own efforts, through those of former employers or through the help of voluntary bodies. I should imagine that that figure is not quite complete, because, of course, there are numerous individuals and bodies who are doing extremely good work in trying to find jobs for these people. This report is really mainly concerned with the work of the Board itself. Then 780 people await placing in jobs. But the Chairman (that is, the noble Lord, Lord Colyton) has written personally to the leaders of business, industry and banking and to the chairmen of public corporations, and I am glad to say has had a most hopeful response.
There was a suggestion, I think, in one of the speeches to which we have listened, that no assistance was being given to those who wished to go overseas—I think the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, was worried about that matter. He might like to know that the Board is helping those who wish to emigrate to other countries by paying the cost of passages, in whole or in part. It has already helped 115 people to go.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My point was that there was no resettlement grant pay 932 able to people who were going to take up employment overseas.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I quite understand; but I think the point is that the people who are going overseas are all people who are sponsored already in the country to which they are going, and therefore the position at the other end is covered.
I think it was I who brought up this point. If a man in this country ought to go abroad for health reasons, the Board cannot pay him any allowance if he does go abroad—he is too old; he is 64. It is for a man who is going to work that they pay the passage money.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
That was not exactly the point I was covering. I was going to say to the noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, that I will look into the special point which he has raised and which is rather different from that with which I am concerned at the moment. About 1,400 people hope to go to Australia, and, in view of the large numbers involved, the Chairman had discussion with the Australian High Commissioner on their behalf. He says that he is most grateful for the understanding and good will shown by the High Commissioner and by the Australian Government, who have now decided that, provided these applicants can comply with the usual immigration formalities as to health and accommodation, they will be admitted. Indeed, the first party under this scheme left for Australia last night.
Finally, the report says that the Board is authorised to make advances to former pensioners of the Egyptian Government—which was one of the specific points raised last time—if necessary up to the full amount of the pension due, until arrangements are made for the Egyptian Government to discharge their contractual obligations; and the Board has got in touch with some 350 pensioners for this purpose. The Board has received many appreciative letters from pensioners who can now enjoy their pensions once more.
Those are the main points in the report, and I think it is a most encouraging one. It shows the great personal attention which is being given to these cases. But, of course, that is not, strictly speaking, the main aspect with which the Resolution 933 of the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, deals. What I think is concerning him is what is to be done to help those British subjects whose assets have been sequestrated by Colonel Nasser and who have claims against the Egyptian Government for their recovery. That is the main purpose of his Resolution. A number of cases have been quoted, both in our last debate and again to-day, to which, if I may say so, no one could listen without emotion—cases of men and women, often elderly, who have been in very comfortable cirsumstances and are now deprived of almost everything they possessed. As the noble Lord knows, I did what I said I would do and brought these cases and the other points which were made in the debate to the notice of the Departments concerned. I am sure that the noble Lord will accept my assurance that the Government are very much alive to the position of these British subjects.
I think someone suggested that it was a pity it was not considered directly by Ministers. I can assure the House that it has been considered again and again by Ministers personally. I have been one of those concerned. The noble Lord will also be aware that there is no lack in the Government of sympathy with the plight of these British subjects, or of desire to help them. That applies, I think, to all of us who sit here on the Front Bench. But, finally, I am sure he will also appreciate, as the House will appreciate, how great is the complexity of the wider considerations which must influence Government decisions in this matter, and which I suggest ought not to be absent from the minds of other noble Lords if they are to take an objective view of the extremely complex problem with which we are faced.
It is, I think, first of all necessary to take account of those principles which have always governed British policy in relation to debts owing to British subjects in somewhat similar circumstances in the past. I do not say that conditions can be absolutely identical as between former cases and this one.
§ LORD KILLEARN
The point I wanted to make was, has there ever been such a case before? To my knowledge, there has not.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think there have been cases where, as the result of the action of the British Government, 934 British subjects have personally suffered—numerous cases in British history. But as Dean Inge once wisely saidHistory never repeats itself, though it often resembles itself.I think that that is a fact which must be borne in mind. At the same time, although I am not going to suggest to your Lordships that what was done on a former occasion is necessarily an absolute guide to what we should do this time—I think that would be quite wrong—it certainly is a matter which has to be taken into account by any Government which happens to be in office at the time.
Then there is the question: what is the best way to tackle the broad problem of how to obtain from the Egyptian Government full satisfaction for their seizure of British funds and property in Egypt? That is particularly relevant to the steps we take now, for if by anything we did at present we prejudiced the final settlement of claims which might be owing, we should have done the refugees themselves no good at all.
I am not going to say that any of these considerations are conclusive by themselves for or against any particular line of action. I am very ready to agree that there are other powerful considerations which have been urged by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and others to-day, which must equally be taken into account and weighed in the balance. But I suggest that the most immediate objective to be obtained is to define as soon as possible the full nature and extent of the problem with which we have to deal. We are all apt (I do it myself) to talk in general terms of restitution, of what is owing to people, of advances against duly established claims, and so on, all of which very properly we have to consider. Yet even such simple concepts as those are not nearly so simple when they have to be put into practice. Nor would action on those lines, as I am sure noble Lords will appreciate, necessarily by itself produce an equitable solution of the problem, a solution satisfactory to all those concerned.
To give a very simple instance, there might be one case where, quite fortuitously, a claimant might be able to produce documents necessary to establish his claim, while in another there might be a claimant with an equally strong claim, who, equally fortuitously, could 935 produce no documents to justify it. If an advance or grant were made in one case and not in the other, a sense of unfairness would still persist on the part of the unsuccessful claimant. Yet it might be impossible to satisfy him out of public monies if there were no proof of his claim. I have gone into that at some length only to show your Lordships that the immediate task must be to register or tabulate all claims; and, as your Lordships know, this task is at present being undertaken by the Foreign Office.
I can to-day give the House some information on how the work is progressing. The Department of the Foreign Office concerned had by March 22 sent out forms to 2,842 private individuals and firms with regard to property and assets in Egypt. The total of resulting statements is expected to be about 3,500. By March 22—that is, five days ago—the Foreign Office had received 643 completed statements from private individuals and business concerns with property in Egypt; and details from 498 forms have been tabulated.
The noble Lord, Lord Killearn, suggested that Her Majesty's Government might speed things up if an organisation could be called in to help. Though the noble Lord did not mention the organisation by name, I believe he had in mind the British Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. He gave me the impression that all attempts by these organisations to offer assistance were still being rejected. I must confess that I was rather surprised to hear that, because my information is that Her Majesty's Government have warmly welcomed this suggestion, and that there have already been discussions between them and representatives of the Chamber on the method of submitting statements. To avoid unnecessary work the Foreign Office have agreed to accept statements of assets, or any statements, which are submitted through the British Chamber of Commerce from Egypt.
In all fairness, however, I ought to utter two words of caution. Her Majesty's Government cannot, without further check, be committed on any figures that may be put forward. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, would understand that it is really necessary that claims should be fully established.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Furthermore, Her Majesty's Government could not accept the British Chamber of Commerce in Egypt as the sole channel for these statements. Indeed, I do not suppose the Chamber themselves would wish to be accepted as such, for these statements inevitably come in from various quarters. Having made those two necessary provisos, I repeat that Her Majesty's Government warmly welcome the co-operation of the Chamber and believe it will be of great assistance to them in enabling details of property to be recorded under various headings for all the essential preliminary action before assessments can be made in connection with the policy which may finally be decided. In this particular way the co-operation between Her Majesty's Government and the Chamber may prove extremely fruitful.
It may be useful if at this point I give a reply, as far as I am able, to some of the many points of detail which have been raised during the debate. The noble Lords, Lord Middleton and Lord Gifford, raised the question of Egyptian notes which were brought by British nationals from Port Said. The noble Lord, Lord Middleton, said he had asked about this matter a month ago and had had no reply; but that does not necessarily mean that nothing was being done about it. In fact, most careful inquiries have been made. The authorities are satisfied that there was no explicit undertaking that the United Kingdom Government would buy Egyptian notes at par. The British Consul in Port Said who gave certificates to British subjects leaving Port Said with Egyptian notes said specifically in his certificate that the granting of the certificate in no way committed Her Majesty's Government to give sterling in exchange. Nevertheless, it is clear that there was a very widespread impression, shared by the unofficial committee of British residents in Port Said, that a promise had been given that these British notes could be exchanged here for sterling.
In these circumstances Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to give individuals who came to this country from Port Said pounds sterling for Egyptian pounds, where the individual concerned is in possession of a consul's certificate 937 showing the amount brought out in Egyptian notes. The persons affected should send the notes, together with the consul's certificate issued in respect of them, in a registered envelope to the Finance Officer, Foreign Office, 8, Carlton House Terrace, London, S.W.1. Acknowledgement of receipt will be made at once, and as soon as possible payment will be made by payable order. The noble Lord, Lord Killearn, mentioned the special case of a man who had written to the Foreign Office about changing 3,500 Egyptian pounds. I understand that this case will be covered by the decision which I have just announced.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Lord, Lord Killearn, mentioned two cases. I will deal with the other one in a moment. Provided this man has a certificate from the consul which he brought with him when he came out, he is covered by that decision. I should add, with regard to this particular case, that at no time has the British subject concerned asked the Resettlement Board for £500. I think the noble Lord was misinformed on that matter. He has asked for assistance for a Customs search fee in respect of thirty-three pieces of baggage which he says contain dutiable goods; and the Resettlement Board have told the Customs authorities to proceed with the search and that the Board will meet the bill.
The other case, to which the noble Lord has just referred, was that of a British resident in Egypt who before he left lent £2,000 to the Consul-General in Egypt. I have made very careful inquiries about that matter, and I understand that this claim in respect of a loan of £2,000 to the Consul-General was received from the Consul-General only the day before yesterday, and the citizen in question will now be paid. So in both those cases the inquiries have, I think, proved satisfactory.
Then there was the statement of Lord Gifford, I think, about the stiffer attitude which was now being adopted by Barclays Bank, D.C. & O. towards some of the refugees from Egypt. The noble Lord let me know just before the debate that he proposed to ask this question. I am most grateful. I have instituted 938 inquiries which are now, I understand, going on, and I cannot say any more today. Perhaps I might let the noble Lord know what the result is.
The noble Lord, Lord Winster, asked about Maltese and Cypriots. Of course, Maltese and Cypriots are British subjects, just the same as any one of us; and they are treated in exactly the same way as any other British subject in the same position. I understand that the Maltese do at present form the greater part of those now being looked after in the hostels. A large number of them want to emigrate, to get back, so I am told, "into the sun," possibly to join relatives who are already there. This they are being helped to do. Cypriots are being looked after and helped to resettle. I gather that the vast majority of the Cypriot population in Egypt stayed there and did not come out when other refugees left the country.
§ LORD WINSTER
Can the noble Marquess tell us if these Cypriots in Egypt are being subjected to any penalties or disabilities?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I believe not. So far as I know, they appear to be all right. If that should prove to be incorrect, I will let the noble Lord know.
Then there was the point—a very difficult one—raised by Lord Middleton with regard to school fees. He is quite right in saying (this is the information I have received) that at present payment is being made only for commitments which have already been entered into up to the end of this academic year. An immediate decision, it is suggested, is required for the future. I think Ministers must face the fact of the difficulties with which these arrangements face parents, and this is a matter which will require very careful consideration. Quite a lot is being done to help the children's education in other ways—with technological education, higher education and so on. There, I understand, the Board is getting excellent co-operation from local educational authorities and technical colleges and other bodies. I do not pretend that I think the situation is entirely satisfactory in this way. Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to go further into that question. I hope that parents may be able to look further ahead than they can do at the present time.
939 A much wider question was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Winster. He asked what would be the action of the Government in the event of the Egyptian Government rejecting claims altogether. There will, of course, come a time when the Government must decide on that point, which is, for the moment, an entirely hypothetical one. I hope the noble Lord will not expect me to answer now. If I said to-day that if the Egyptian Government refused to pay the debts, Her Majesty's Government would shoulder them all, it would just be asking the Egyptian Government to repudiate all debts; and that is the last thing that any of us wants to do.
A number of other points have been raised which I am afraid that time will not allow me to answer to-day. I can assure noble Lords that they will all be looked into, and, where an answer is required, I will see that it is sent to the noble Lord concerned. I have tried to show, for the benefit of the House, so far as I have been able, the immediate position. If noble Lords will believe me, no time is being lost in getting ahead with the work. It is hoped that the tabulation of the claims which is going on in the Foreign Office will be completed in from six to eight weeks. Then, when the nature and extent of the problem is known, it will be possible to decide finally on our policy, in the light of the position that the tabulation of the claims exposed.
The noble Lord, Lord Killearn, in his Resolution, described the policy of the Government up to now as "inadequate". That was the word he used. If he will allow me to suggest an amendment, I would prefer the word "incomplete", which I think is more accurate. That, the Government policy certainly is.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
But "incomplete" is the more accurate word, I think. That it certainly is; and that, at the present stage, which is just over four months from the event which gave rise to this problem, I am afraid it is bound to be, to some extent. What the Government have to do to rectify that situation is to press ahead as fast as they can; and that they certainly intend to do. If the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, as the second part of his Resolution seems to indicate, asks Ministers to go further, 940 and to pin themselves strictly to his particular plan before the full picture has been exposed, before the facts and figures are known, that is a thing (I am sure he will appreciate this) that no Government could, in fact, do. And I do not believe that this House, in its wisdom, would ask it of them. What we can do, and what I am very ready to do this afternoon—without, of course, any commitment of any kind—is to assure him that in the Government's consideration of the policy to be adopted, following on the completion of the tabulation of these claims, the noble Lord's own plan will be carefully examined, along with all others, in the context of the general policy which the Government decide to follow. In virtue of that assurance, which I am very ready to give, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his Resolution.
§ LORD CLITHEROE
My Lords, before the noble Marquess finally resumes his seat, I wonder whether he would mind expanding one of the points in his answer, which seems to me a very important one. He said, if I took him aright, that he did not think it would be reasonable to make an advance to one section of claimants who had been able to establish their claims, however strong the claim was on humanitarian grounds, because it was not possible to meet all other claims on humanitarian grounds. I find it difficult to accept that.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I did not say it was not possible. I said that it would not remove a sense of unfairness. That I believe to be true.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ LORD KILLEARN
The noble Marquess is very persuasive. He marshals his arguments with immense skill, and we know that normally we follow his lead without cavil. I would not wish to fight about the difference between the words "inadequate" and "incomplete". I think "inadequate" is the word: the noble Marquess seems to think that 'incomplete" is better. I think that probably both adjectives apply. On the second part of the noble Marquess's reply I am not persuaded. I was wondering whether some such words as "initiating an effective system, such as graduated cash payments" would be acceptable.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
What I have said to the noble Lord, in 941 effect, is this: that we are doing our best to get ahead with the tabulation, and when we have completed the tabulation we will study possible alternative methods of dealing with this difficult problem. I do not think I can go any further than that in the way of assurance. If I did accept the noble Lord's wording, it really would not mean any more than that. That is the furthest we can go. What I mean by the difference between "incomplete" and "inadequate" is that when somebody has an inadequate scheme, when it is completed it still will be inadequate. I hope and think that our plan will not be inadequate; but it is still incomplete. I beg the noble Lord not to press this matter any further, because I have gone a long way to meet him. I assure the noble Lord that his scheme will be considered fully, along with all other possible schemes
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, in regard to the first part of my Resolution, I readily yield to the noble Marquess's view—"incomplete" let it be. But what I am not clear about (it may be very dense of me) is the second part, which is the pith of the whole thing, asking the Government toinstitute an effective system of graduated cash advances.I should not mind putting in the words "such as"—my Motion is not cast iron—but I am not quite sure how that stands. I am afraid that I get the impression that that proposal has been turned down.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
No, my Lords. What I have said to the noble Lord is that his proposal will be considered with all others. If the noble Lord got the impression he mentions, it is erroneous; but I am not going to commit myself to saying that it would be accepted. Obviously, I cannot do that at this stage, but I have already said several times that it will be considered.
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, decides on his final course, may I ask the noble Marquess the Leader of the House for clarification on one point? He was good enough to tell me that he would let me know about Barclays Bank but he has not replied on what action the 942 Treasury are going to take with regard to war loans and war savings certificates in these blocked accounts. I think that these are on a different basis. Could the noble Marquess say something on that point?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, will not all property, whatever it is, come under the same scheme? We cannot have one scheme for one form of property and another scheme for another form of property. The scheme applies to all assets. I take it that people who put in a claim to the Foreign Office are not all claiming for orange plantations and things of that kind, but also for securities deposited in banks.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I am not sure where we end up after that exchange, but I am afraid I have not really got what I wanted. I said that we could have "a system such as", but if I cannot get that, I am afraid that I must divide the House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, what is the noble Lord going to get by "such as"? Either it means something very like a cash advance or it does not mean anything. What the noble Lord is asking the Government to do is to accept either his scheme or something very like it. That is what he does mean. Personally, I have the greatest sympathy for the noble Lord, but I do not think that at this stage any Government, not having the facts and figures, could agree to that. If the noble Lord wishes to divide, he must divide. I cannot help that.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I am a new hand at this as your Lordships know, but I feel very strongly about this matter. These people are getting no money and the cases are piling up, one worse than the other. I see no option. I must divide the House.
§ On Question, Whether the Resolution shall be agreed to?943
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 19; Non-Contents, 22.
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Conesford, L.||Middleton, L.|
|Congleton, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V. [Teller.]||Gifford, L.||Rennell, L.|
|De L'Isle, V.||Haden-Guest, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Killearn, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Layton, L.||Williams, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Mathers, L.||Winster, L.|
|Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Gosford, E.||Hailsham, V.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. President.)||Morley, E.||Brand, L.|
|Munster, E.||Croft, L.|
|Lothian, M.||Onslow, E. [Teller.]||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Perth, E.||Hawke, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||St. Aldwyn, E.||Merthyr, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Selkirk, E.||Mills, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||St. Oswald, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and Resolution disagreed to accordingly.