HL Deb 15 November 1962 vol 244 cc726-86

3.22 p.m.

VISCOUNT ASTOR rose to call attention to the refugee problem in Europe, Asia and Africa; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it is appropriate that Parliament should consider the refugee problem as this moment because it is far enough from World Refugee Year for us to see and assess the result of that Year; and because this year the mandates of the two United Nations Commissioners who deal with refugees (Mr. Schnyder, who deals with the world refugees in general, and Dr. Davies, who deals with the refugees from Palestine) both come up for renewal in the General Assembly of the United Nations, and their future programmes and their future budgets have to be considered this year. Therefore, it is appropriate that, in looking back on the past, this country should express its opinion and, we hope, give a lead as it has done in the past on this matter.

World Refugee Year was a British initiative of which we can be proud of the British Government's having taken it up; we can be proud of the voluntary societies and, above all, of the response of the British public. The global result was £35 million raised in World Refugee Year, of which £9 million was raised in this country, and of that figure £3½ million was raised in the Central Fund and the rest by the voluntary societies. The result of that effort was that the solution of the refugee problem in Europe has been brought forward by at least five years, and that is something of which we can be very proud.

The main effort was concentrated in Europe because it was a definite, limited and attainable objective. There were at the beginning of World Refugee Year a quarter of a million refugees in Europe of whom 35,000 were in official camps, but the rest, living outside camps, were often very much worse off than those in the camps. I saw this year a family with six children living in one dark room at the end of a passage in an old barracks, two elderly people of seventy living in a cellar under a street in Munich where two or three inches of water came in when rain fell; I saw a family with children living in a dark room under a barn where animals were. Those were examples of the problem and we can say with pride that it has been 80 per cent, solved because of the World Refugee Year effort. Houses and flats have been built; in each case new and clean furniture has been put in so that families start right. They have been helped with businesses, with the tools of their trade, in getting shops. Homes have been built for old people, hospitals have been built and the result is a great tribute to all concerned.

They will, of course, need counselling for some time because when people have been living a more or less gipsy life in a camp and they have to move into a flat and pay regular rent, where there are all the usual temptations to indulge overmuch in hire purchase and so forth, they sometimes run into economic problems. Help and counselling is of vital importance for at least twelve months.

Of the rest there are at least 35,000, possibly 50,000—nobody quite knows. It is a matter of great pleasure that we understand that the German Government are now going to make a final detailed survey to find out exactly how many out-of-camp refugees are still left to be dealt with. The High Commissioner hopes to clear up the whole problem within the next eighteen months. It will require a sum of roughly 11 million dollars. There is still a shortfall in his budget of 4 million dollars and it has been asked that all the European countries should double their contribution for this year so as to finish this problem in eighteen months instead of letting it drag on. Because it is so much more economical, not only in financial terms but in human terms, to do these things quickly, we hope that Her Majesty's Government will respond to this appeal.

The High Commissioner is also suggesting a relatively painless way of raising money as he has persuaded leading "pop" singers of the world to join in making a record, which I am sure none of your Lordships will probably like but which apparently is what will be most popular. The money raised will depend on whether Her Majesty's Government will meet him on the matter of purchase tax on this record. Of course, the mere thought of it will make the Treasury feel they have suddenly been stung in the tail by a jellyfish. But, having said that, we hope they will take a generous attitude because in any case the Treasury will not be losing any money, since if they do not make this concession the record will not be sold at all. So there will be nothing lost. They will save what might otherwise have to be given to the High Commissioner out of general taxation. It will help the voluntary societies who, when they sell the record, will get the real profit. And, above all, if Great Britain gives an example other countries of the world follow. I hope it will be considered as favourably as possible.

I think we ought also to pay tribute to the German and Austrian Governments who have matched every contribution from international sources in the resettlement of refugees in spite of their problems with their own East Germans coming in. I think it is right we should express our appreciation of that.

Now, on the future, if this is done, there will be only what one calls the social cases of people in sickness, mentally deficients and so forth, which one can hope the countries concerned will be able to deal with with the aid of their own official services. There is still a steady trickle of refugees coming from Jugoslavia into Austria. They may be young people who want to go to the Dominions, and there is no difficulty in getting visas for them to go. The only bottleneck comes in the matter of fares, which is handled by the International Committee for European Migration (I.C.E.M. for short) and I think it is important for us to ensure that I.C.E.M. is maintained in funds. The Austrians take a very liberal view and allow these people to come in so long as they go on, but they cannot afford in a small country to have a large number of refugees coming in and piling up unless their onward journey can be facilitated. If in Europe the last 20 per cent, can be cleared, it is possible that the High Commissioner will be able to redeploy his very skilled and devoted staff in other parts of the would where the problems axe immense.

There are 150,000 Angolan refugees in the Congo and almost as many in Ruanda. Probably the most difficult immediate situation is that in Algeria, where this year 180,000 refugees have been brought back from Morocco and Tunis. There are still probably 3 million people in great need there, people who, as a result of seven years' fighting, in which their villages have been razed, of their agricultural land having gone back to virgin land and their whole economy of the country being left in chaos, will need help until the first harvest can be planted and reaped and they can get going again. It would be helpful if the French Government realised that sometimes local French people on the spot have been inclined to tear down buildings when they leave, and so forth, no doubt quite against the wishes of the French Government; and if the French Government give instructions for things to be left in the best possible situation it will help a very great deal.

There are also 80,000 Tibetan refugees in India, living in great poverty and distress on the fringes of the Himalayas. They are a special community with a great spiritual and religious background; and it is important for the world and its spiritual life, if one takes an œcumenical view beyond mere Christianity, that they should maintain their culture. Up to now, the Indian Government have not invited the High Commissioner to come in, but we hope that with changing circumstances they will consider this, because the High Commissioner's repre- sentative always acts as a catalyst for the work of the voluntary societies. One can always work round him and co-ordinate through him, which is difficult to do otherwise, and we sincerely hope that this will be considered.

Then, my Lords, there is the largest and most intractable question of the Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, where this country must have special responsibility because it was as a result of our policy that the situation happened. It was not through our wickedness but through our national habit of imprecision. When the phrase "a National Home for the Jews" was made, nobody really knew what a national home was. It was a phrase undefined; one side took it one way and the other side took it another and through that initial fault of lack of precision, which is a British trait sometimes, these events followed; and the end result was that one million people lost their homes and went, carrying nothing with them, into neighbouring countries, which were rather barren and in some cases overcrowded already. While in Europe it has been a question of integrating refugees into the rising economy of Europe, in the Middle East it is a question of trying to cope in a retarding economy of countries with few natural resources.

There are still about 1,200,000 Palestinian refugees. They have been kept alive by the United Nations. The Commissioner General has 30 American dollars, £11, per year per head with which to feed, house, clothe, keep alive and well from the health point of view and educate the Arab refugees. That it has been done on a budget of this nature shows the remarkable talent, devotion and skill of the High Commissioner's staff in that area. They have been kept alive on these dry rations, which are dietetically inadequate but can keep people alive, at a cost of six U.S. cents a day. There are no camps there now, in the sense of tents and barbed wire. Everybody is in some sort of hut, although some may be desperately primitive. I saw one barracks, built by the Turks in 1900 to hold 600 troops, which now holds 2,600 human beings, but they are kept alive and their health has been quite remarkable.

They are now getting six years of primary education and the High Commissioner has kept pushing on to vocational training, because unless people become accustomed to the habit of work, by the time they enter their early twenties they have become unemployable. In the terrible days of unemployment before the war we saw how difficult it was for a lad who never had had a job to start working properly when he was offered a job in his late twenties. It is desperately important that we should not breed a generation of unemployables. And this can be prevented only if we give them technical education. In the past, in the Middle East, people learned trades by working on their father's farm or in their father's Shop. Now, their fathers have no land, they have no shops. They take what casual labour they can, though some, naturally, are getting jobs wherever they can. But this project of vocational training is absolutely key, unless we are going to have a generation of unemployables, a prey to every danger, whether it is Communism or crime or whatever it may be. It is a real human tragedy. They are perfectly good human material. If your Lordships saw these young people working in vocational training centres, you would be proud to have them as your own sons, or daughters.

But the budgetary situation of the High Commissioner for Arab Refugees is such that he is facing all the time steadily rising costs—for obvious reasons. He cannot economise on this tiny ration, which is only enough to keep people alive. He cannot cut down on the health service and allow epidemics. Therefore, unless his contribution from the world is substantially increased, he will have to cut down on the bare education they are getting already. Even if Governments give merely what they are giving this year, in a year or two the education will be diminished. So we have to face the fact that we must spend more on the educational side of the Arab Palestinian refugees.

The hope for the future is not in a refugee debate, to mention politics. One can only hope that statesmanlike restraint will be shown by both sides over every question, to do with water and everything else. Meanwhile, we must concentrate on the general economic development of the area. It is not so much a question of schemes for employ- ing refugees. You cannot make refugees of a very poor country a privileged class. But if we can help to raise the economic level in countries like Jordan and Syria, then everybody in those countries will benefit from it. And the question that we must always put to ourselves is: Is what we are doing adequate?—not whether it is generous or good, but Does it do the job? How often before the war Governments would say that they were doing this and that on rearmament and so forth. It all sounded very nice; but unless it was sufficient to do the job of winning a war, it was useless. It is no use saying that you are giving a patient so much medicine and food unless you are giving him enough to keep him alive. That must be the only standard that we set ourselves—the standard of adequacy—for this area if we are to rid ourselves of the constant human tragedy of people who since 1948 have been living a life of misery.

Then I would refer briefly to the problem of Hong Kong, which I ventured to raise on the Address. There again over one million refugees came into an area of 400 square miles, barren, rocky, with no asset except its great harbour. In the space of one-and-a-half years in this small area there is a population greater than that of New Zealand. It has no raw materials. It has nothing but good government and, perhaps one might say, low taxation and the skill and enterprise of its population. Because this combination of Chinese and, very largely, Scots, has shown such enterprise that these people are being absorbed. There is no actual starvation. New blocks of flats containing 2,000 people are being opened every ten days, and a primary school is being opened every four days. It is an incredible effort, and as a nation we can be proud of what the British Government have done in this area.

No fewer than 102 voluntary societies are working there. But there are still 500.000 people to be housed, and still 50.000 living on rooftops. It is indeed a big problem. All hangs on the: markets for Hong Kong goods. If their goods are excluded and they cannot find markets for them no amount of charity, care parcels or effort by voluntary societies can save them from destitution and starvation. Therefore, we have no option. We cannot allow these people to starve, and we cannot possibly produce enough charity to keep them alive. This is a British responsibility. We know that the Government are aware of this, and accept it.

Those, shortly, are the problems with which we are faced in the world to-day, and I could not help comparing them with the problem of Ireland mentioned in the book, The Great Hunger, that has just been published. There was then a Liberal Government in this country. There was Lord John Russell, a great Liberal Prime Minister, and the honoured name of Trevelyan at the Treasury, both men of high uprightness, integrity and high Christian principles. Yet one million people died of starvation on our neighbouring isle, and a heritage of bitterness was left which poisoned the life of this country for at least half a century. Why did it happen? I suppose it was because people did not see for themselves, and did not think of it in human terms. There is a great tendency to alibi oneself by saying: "They are lazy people who do not work"; or "They are criminal people "; or "They are not grateful for what you give them". That was always being said about the Irish, and one sometimes hears the same thing said about refugees nowadays by people who want to close their eyes to this great human problem. It is not true, of course. Considering what they have gone through, I am always staggered at the way refugee families have kept together, usually led by the mother. We do not want a future generation to look at us as we are now looking back at our forefathers who were responsible for that great Irish tragedy, and to say that we did not see things in terms of human capacity and did not make sure that what was done was not merely good, efficient and generous, but adequate for the need.

I hope that the United Nations, under British leadership, will take measures which will be adequate, and that there will not be left a human tragedy, a legacy of bitterness, but something from which we can say that our civilisation has dealt with the problem adequately and properly. I beg to move for Papers.

3.46 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, for bringing this subject of refugees again before this House. It is a matter to which we have devoted a good deal of interest and to which certain noble Lords and noble Ladies have made their own special contribution. I think it is clear from what the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said that we can take some pride, not only in this country but in this House, for the individual efforts made by Members of the House in combating this problem; and this includes not only the Lords Temporal, but the Lords Spiritual, who have also taken an active part.

I should like to pay a special tribute to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, himself. I do not know whether it is realised how much work he does and how tactfully he does it. He tricked me last year, without my knowing it, into becoming chairman of the committee that dealt with the Nansen Centenary. He has himself travelled widely, and as chairman of the Standing Conference of Refugee Organisations he is making a continuous personal contribution. I hope noble Lords will appreciate just how much the noble Viscount has done and how well qualified he is to have given this interesting and comprehensive account of the present situation.

It is right that we should look at this matter again. Events change situations, and we have moved quite a long way from the position as it was at the time of World Refugee Year, which was, as the noble Viscount said, a very special British invention and one to which the British privately made such large contributions: indeed, of the contributions that went to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees the British private contribution amounted to 44 per cent. of all the private contributions throughout the world. There are great names in this—names of bodies like Inter-Church Aid, Oxfam, which always seems to be there whenever there is trouble and starvation, the Save the Children Fund and many others. It is, I think, satisfactory that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, is to make his maiden speech in relation to Algerian refugees, because he has been active in that field and has been in Algeria. So this is a matter upon which we can speak with some first-hand knowledge.

I am not so sure as to the record of the British Government as opposed to the British people. There was quite an eloquent defence by the British Government, who said: "Why should the taxpayer pay twice? If he does it through private contribution, is that not enough?" There is considerable force in that argument. But there are certain things that we expect our Government to do. We hope they will make this contribution to popular culture which the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, suggested in regard to purchase tax. There is no doubt that this will be received with absolute horror by the Treasury. It has been one of our difficulties, in dealing with Governments, that the official mind, for very good reasons, can always find difficulties. This was apparent in the attitude at one stage of the British Government— and I do not differentiate between Parties in this matter—as opposed to certain other Governments, in regard to the admission of handicapped refugees. We had to put on tremendous pressure before they were willing to consent to the admission of some of these particularly tragic people.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, was quite right to refer to the work done by the German and Austrian Governments. The Austrians, in particular, a small and impoverished country, have a record that can only be described as shining in the matter of refugees of all kinds, and in particular of the Hungarian refugees. It is satisfactory to-day, remembering the Hungarian refugee problem, to know that it is so largely solved. But it indicates, of course, the extent to which these refugee problems have a way of recurring, not exactly in the same form but in new forms. We have heard today of refugees who two or three years ago never realised—and we never realised—that there was to be an uprooting and that they would have to find new homes for themselves.

All this puts responsibilities primarily on the United Nations High Commissioner. I think the High Commission's responsibilities need to be recognised again. They are, of course, primarily concerned—and, indeed, this is their mandate—with the protection of refugees who are living outside their country of nationality. Of course, those refugees who have found a home, the Volksdeutsche who have gone to Germany, refugees from many of the great struggles such as Indian/Pakistan refugees at the time of the partition of India, have had to be helped by the countries who accepted them as their own people. None the less, the High Commissioner's mandate, while confined in certain respects, enables him to do extremely important co-ordination work. I should like to emphasise the point the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, made in regard to this, which was that the High Commissioner's Office is the office which provides the central organisation which is able to assist and co-ordinate and bring people together. They are concerned with problems such as the Algerian problem which, strictly speaking, are no longer their responsibility. Once they have helped to repatriate the Algerian refugees to Algeria, their work, in theory, is done. But, as they pointed out, you just cannot dump people in a country; they must be looked after. The size of the Algerian problem is still very great indeed. Quite apart from the work of the bodies like the Inter-Church Aid, Christian Action, the Friends of the Red Cross, and Oxfam, we expect the Government to make a rather bigger contribution.

I was taken to task—it may have been by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee—when I said that all the Government had done on a previous occasion was to send a little palm oil, and it was pointed out that this was none the less valuable. Now they have sent tents and a mobile canteen, and now we are asking them to give £100,000 towards the solution of the Algerian refugee problem. The other areas of the world who have recently thrown up refugees, particularly Africa, have not presented quite such intractable problems. It has been relatively easy to re-settle the refugees from Angola. It is appalling to think that there has been migration of this size. I think the actual numbers from Angola are somewhere around 150,000, and there are many refugees, again running into well over 100,000, from Ruanda. They are now in Tanganyika and Uganda, and even in the Congo. These are people who are being settled with the help once again of voluntary agents and the United Nations High Commissioner.

There are, of course, certain particularly intractable problems, and it is a desperate thing that we are no nearer solving the problem of the Arab refugees. At this moment I do not think it does any good blaming the Arab Governments, who preserve this problem, or Israel for perhaps not making some greater contribution towards solving it. But until these countries arrive at a political solution there will be no solution to the problem of the Arab refugee. While this goes on, U.N.R.W.A., which receives most of its finance from the United States (although the British Government makes a good contribution) also will have to go on, and I am sure that the Government will do all they can to see that this mandate is renewed for another five years. One could only wish that another five years would be enough to solve the problem, but I am afraid there is little hope of that.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, spoke feelingly of the problem of Hong Kong. I have seen something of the refugee situation in Hong Kong, and it is quite unthinkable that the economy of Hong Kong could be seriously disrupted. I am one of those who support our entry into the Common Market, but if there is one area we must provide for it is Hong Kong. They have produced a staggering achievement there. There is magnificent work going on, but it is important that Hong Kong itself should remain able to survive and to continue to make its own very large contribution from its own wealth which it creates towards settling these people.

There are certain problems which are of a more subtle and complicated nature. They do not relate, apparently, directly to the straight humanitarian work of raising funds and settling people, but, nevertheless, are of importance and concern to the High Commissioner's Office and should be, I would submit, of concern to this Government. We know that, thanks to World Refugee Year, we have gone a very long way towards solving the problem of the European refugees. The camps are in process of being closed, and although there are still a number of refugees waiting to foe settled we can help if the Government accept the suggestion of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and double their contribution to the High Commissioner. There is a very good prospect of solving that outstanding European problem.

I should like to say something about the High Commissioner's other responsibilities. He has the responsibility of providing legal protection, and it is likely that in some form or another the United Nations High Commission for Refugees will continue for many years. In his capacity he is, of course, not merely seeking to bring relief; he is concerned with negotiation with Governments and trying to achieve justice by methods other than simple charitable help. I should like to refer to the problem of indemnification of the victims of Nazi persecution. This is something for which the Allied Governments have a responsibility. Under the Allied-German Governments' Bonn Agreement they are directly involved. The German Government has done a great deal towards redressing the crimes committed by the Nazi Government. It has paid out a great deal in indemnification, particularly to those who have been persecuted on grounds of religion or political conviction. But there are still some people who have not been catered for as thoroughly and who have, in fact, an equal moral claim to help in this respect.

The High Commissioner negotiated with the German Government an agreement, which was signed in October, 1960, which provided that refugees Who were persecuted by reason of their nationality and not merely by reason of their religion or political conviction and suffered permanent injury to at least a 25 per cent. disablement would receive compensation; and these claims are all processing. I would say that they are processing rather slowly. It is not for us to ask questions of the Government directly on this point, but it would be a good thing if they could press the German Government to take rather more rapid action.

This Agreement also provided that for refugees who were persecuted for their nationality and who suffered permanent injury amounting to less than 25 per cent. something like £4 million was made available. The United Nations High Commission is processing this and has already dealt with a large number of cases. But although this Agreement represented a big step forward it concerns only persecutees who were refugees on October 1, 1953. One would say that if they were settled happily elsewhere, why should one worry about them? But, in fact, quite a number who suffered by virtue of their nationality as a result of Nazi persecution have, since 1953, become refugees. A Hungarian, for instance, who left Hungary in 1956 is not eligible at all, although morally, as a refugee who suffered at the hands of Nazi persecution, he ought to be brought within the ambit of the otherwise generous arrangements that the German Government nave made. There are about 10,000 to 15,000 such refugee persecutes, if one can use that phrase, in the world.

My Lords, there is a further point: that they do not receive compensation at the same rate; nor are the rules that affect the claims of dependants of those who died as favourable as for those who have been persecuted for political reasons. There are a number of other detailed points with which I will not weary the House. There are the problems of the non-Jewish forced labourers of Krupps and I.G. Farben, for instance, who have still not received compensation. I do not raise this matter in order to stimulate strong feelings against the German Government, but I raise it because we are becoming more closely associated with Europe. If we go into the Common Market we shall be even more closely associated, and this is a matter which I think we should now deal with: and the Government, with their special responsibility in this matter—and they have a responsibility in regard to indemnification under the Agreement I mentioned—will, I hope, make suitable representations in support of those which the United Nations High Commissioner has himself made; and we are asking the Government to give a little additional push towards achieving justice for these people.

I should like to sum up very briefly the position as I see it. Great advances have been made but many problems obviously still remain: problems which are none the less in process of being solved. We do not want to think of the problem of the refugee as something which will always be with us and that we cannot deal satisfactorily with it because, one way or another, there will always be refugees. In purely individual terms, enormous achievements have been chalked up, and we would now ask the Government to consider, in reply to the appeal of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and to the suggestions that have been made, doing certain things. We should honestly like them to increase the contribution to the Algerian refugees. This is a matter of survival for these people. Undoubtedly some will die from malnutrition and others will continue to live under appalling conditions. Then, as suggested by the Council of Europe, we should like our contribution to the High Commission doubled, and I think, in a way, it is right that the Government should do this. The voluntary bodies go on raising money, but, none the less, it is not possible, I think, to ask individual citizens to make the sort of effort that they made during World Refugee Year. So we hope that the Government will themselves step up their contribution.

There is only one other point I should like to make. We need to recognise that the High Commission is a very striking example of effective international co-operation, and its work has been studied by many people to see whether it is economically and wisely run. From my knowledge of it—and I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, would bear this out—there may be a little waste here and there, but generally it is an efficiently and economically run organisation. Their problems have been quite phenomenal. Suddenly to have responsibility for 100,000 or more people landed on you overnight, having to create an organisation to deal with them, and working with many countries and many organisations, is an appalling responsibility; and it is fortunate that we have been able—and this is an encouraging thing—not only to open our hearts and purses but also to take part in setting up intelligent machinery. Their writ runs all over the world, from places as far apart as Togo and Cambodia and many places that the noble Viscount has mentioned, and this is something which is a part—and I think we should recognise this—of a world effort to deal with misery and poverty wherever it may be.

It can be argued, and it should be recognised, that the refugees are not the only people who are living in appalling conditions. Obviously, there are conditions which may exist even in this country which for some individuals may be nearly as bad as for some refugees. But we are relatively privileged in this matter. There are, however, still 2,000 million people in the world who are in dire want. Of course, the voluntary agencies are heavily involved in trying to keep them alive, let alone to keep the refugees alive. But there is a special case for the refugee. He alone has been taken out of familiar surroundings which are so much more acceptable and to which people can become accustomed, and he has all the mental confusion and uncertainty and fear that the others to a great extent lack. I am sure that it would be the wish of this House that the Government and all of us should do, and continue to do, what we can for these tragic people.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships' House for the first time I would seek the indulgence Which, by custom, is so generously offered to newcomers like myself. I hope that any mistakes and errors that I may make on this first occasion will be forgiven. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for his very kind introduction. It is true that I have worked for a period with Oxfam, and I have been (particularly concerned with the Algerian refugees since 1958, but at a very much lower level than the two earlier speakers; so my remarks this afternoon will be principally concerned with affairs as I have seen them in the field and not as a very eminent authority on the subject.

The return of some 200,000 Algerian refugees to their native land during the summer of this year did not see the end of the problem. Mr. Schnyder, the High Commissioner, and his advisers recognised at once the urgent need to continue aid until after the harvest of 1963, at the earliest, because the refugees could not just be left, abandoned, in a country devastated after eight years of war. The refugees could not go back to their villages because they had ceased to exist; farms, homesteads had been destroyed; fields mined; water supplies poisoned or destroyed, and their herds, cattle, goats and poultry, were either dead or carried off. The few fortunate ones at once set to work to rebuild their villages, but the shortage of manpower and the fact that substantial areas are still covered with mines and unexploded bombs have greatly hindered the work.

It is estimated that one Algerian man in eight was killed, and many more were disabled. Sadly enough, many were disabled, due to these mines and unexploded bombs, on their return to their country. In one area of 150 family groups, for instance, there are only 20 able-bodied men. As your Lordships will readily imagine, this places a tremendous load on the women of Algeria, and it is to the women of Algeria that this newly independent State must look. There is one highly encouraging organisation with which I had personal contact in Morocco, the Foyer Feminin, an exile organisation of What is, if I may call it so, the Algerian Women's Institute. Algerian women are an extraordinarily practical and hard-working group, and they certainly will settle down to tackle these enormous problems with all the zeal and strength at their command.

A very large proportion of the 200,000 refugees are now swelling Algeria's uprooted population, the population which was pushed into the regroupment centres in the latter stage of the rebellion. Some of the refugees live on the fringes of the former regroupment centres, or drift off into urban areas in search of work. Reference has already been made to the fact that the Algerian economy is at a standstill, owing to the disappearance of foreign capital, and the unemployment problem is quite enormous. In brief, the assistance programme organised by the League of Red Cross Societies is a concentrated, in fact a highly concentrated, and very short-term one. It is hoped to supply a total of five million people. That is a curious statistic, because I have already mentioned the two million who were in the regroupment centres. But this assistance programme has been to some extent expanded, and it is hoped that it will cover nearly half the population of Algeria during these winter months. There are great difficulties of transport and communication, and with supervision and distribution. But, thanks to the work of the Algerian Red Crescent. I feel we may have confidence that they will overcome many of these problems.

The assistance programme is aimed primarily towards defeating the tremendously widespread malnutrition among young children, particularly those in the group between six months and a year. These children have had no milk at all, and it is therefore of tremendous importance that milk supplies and milk distribution centres, which are part of the programme, should be set up and that milk should flow freely throughout the winter. The supply of milk is an absolute life-saver, as is very well known and practised in many refugee spheres. It is the milk, no doubt, that will carry the Algerian children through these winter months.

The supply of milk will also help the measures against tuberculosis. There is a very high incidence of tuberculosis, particularly among children; and it is a sad comment that French doctors working in Algeria before 1954 said to themselves, "Why cure a tuberculosis child at the age of six if he may die at the age of 30 from starvation?" While that comment may be one with which we heartily disagree, nevertheless there is a great problem there. There is dysentery; and there are all the eye diseases which are familiar names in the Middle East— trachoma and so on. The field reports from Algeria have recently indicated that children are very unwilling, even at distributions, to take their hands away from their eyes, when offered a glass of milk, so great is the problem of trachoma. A State Registered Nurse, working in the Tlemcen area, states in a letter received last week: If only we had eyedrops and eye ointment we could do very much here. The primitive people cannot understand that tablets taken through the mouth could affect the eyes. In a population of 10 million there are estimated to-day to be only approximately 800 trained doctors; and despite urgent appeals for French-speaking doctors from other countries very few are now available, owing to the fact that they have been called to the Congo emergency. There is a tremendous need for mobile medical teams and dispensary teams, and for all forms of medical worker, whether nurses or semi-skilled medical staff. The lack of skilled Algerians is most keenly felt throughout all the professions, but particularly, I think, among the teachers. To go towards meeting this need of the teaching profession a British organisation, Voluntary Service Overseas, is arranging to send six young volunteers in the very near future, young men with the proper facilities and qualifications, who will go into the field; and their task will be an extremely important one. But of course many more are needed.

I feel that the whole of the assistance programme as outlined indicates the real need for international help, and for international help now. The two earlier speakers, far more eloquent than myself, will, I hope, have persuaded Her Majesty's Government to increase contributions. The earlier ones of palm oil and 500 tents, and the jeep, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shacklton, has referred, were greatly appreciated. But they are not enough. The League of Red Cross Societies says that the next six months in Algeria has become one of its greatest challenges, and I feel sure that the good wishes of this House will go out to the League and all its workers, with our hopes that their plans will be put into sound effect in the course of these winter months.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, the first thing I should like to do is, on your Lordships' behalf, to give our warmest congratulations to the noble Lord who has just sat down after making one of the most interesting maiden speeches which has been made in this House for a long time. Your Lordships are always extremely appreciative of people when they talk on a subject they really know about, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, has given good evidence of that. I am sure I am right in saying that we hope we shall hear a great deal more of him in future, not necessarily on the same rather tragic subject on which he has spoken to-day, but on other subjects, and that he will be a constant contributor to your Lordships' discussions.

We must be grateful to the noble Viscount for having put this Motion on the Order Paper. There are just one or two points I should like to raise in connection with what has already been said. I was reading the Report of the United Nations Commissioner on Refugees, and I was pleased to see that he feels now that the number of refugees dating from the time of the war has been reduced to such proportions that he can at last begin to see some way of coping with it in the comparatively near future. In spite of that, the figures that he quotes certainly seem large, and one trusts that he is not being too optimistic in the matter to which he is referring. When he deals with refugees in Europe I think that he is probably correct. But the position, as has already been pointed out by several noble Lords (I do not want to go into too much detail), has been further complicated by the addition of a large number of refugees who have taken refuge in countries in Africa during the past few months.

I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, went into the Algerian question at such great length. I should like, in a humble fashion, to support what he said about the need now not to feel that, because the war has finished and the refugees are going back home, the work is done. They are going back to a cold, poor, uncomfortable country, and they will want just as much done for them when they go back to their country—because their country will not be able to do much itself—as when they were refugees in Morocco or in Tunis. Indeed, by a curious irony of fate it looks almost as if some of them might have been better taken care of when they were refugees. I have read an account of what was done for these people by the United Nations and by the League of Red Cross Societies. They were at least given—I will not say a very good diet, but enough food to keep body and soul together; they were given clothing and shelter, and some of the children certainly got milk and some form of education. So I hope that the plight of these people will not be forgotten.

When one comes to the problem in Europe, one finds that the number of people in camps has fallen considerably during the last twelve months—it is now about 8,550. There were two comments by the Commissioner which I thought most constructive and interesting. One was that the fact that a large number of people had been returned to some kind of home, and therefore had left the camps, had had a most stimulating effect upon the refugees in the camps; it made them feel less apathetic than they were, and made them easier to rehabilitate and, to a certain extent, more willing to co-operate in their own resettlement. Supposing that can occur, surely that is a great encouragement to come in now and to get these camps completely and finally finished before that stimulation dies away, as I am sure it will if nothing is done to keep it alive. Furthermore, the Commissioner said that the amount of assistance required to restore the courage of these refugees was not really very great, particularly among those who came from some sort of professional class or had had some kind of education in their former life. It did not require a great deal to get them back into being co-operative people, provided that they were given the chance in the first place.

One question that I raised before, in the debate, I think in 1960, upon World Refugee Year, was what was to become of those few people who were disabled and handicapped by mental or physical sickness. In that connection, I commented, I think, possibly rather unkindly, about the smailness of the number of handicapped people who were being admitted not only into the United Kingdom but into other countries as well. It seems to me to be particularly unfortunate, when I think that the disease from which most of these people suffer is pulmonary tuberculosis, or, if not tuberculosis of the lungs, tuberculosis of some other part of their body. It seems such a tragedy that that should be held against them, when one has seen from the figures published over the last ten, fifteen or twenty years, that tuberculosis is a disease which can now be controlled far more easily than we thought was possible. It is not that terror that we thought it was in the nineteenth century. It is a serious disease, but it is one that we can cope with. It is one's hope that there will not be objection raised that, because some of these unfortunate, handicapped refugees are suffering from tuberculosis, it will count against them when the question of their resettlement arises.

The same point, I think, applies to the refugees coming from Hong Kong. I saw in the same Report that about 300 refugees coming from China were physically handicapped. They were sent to some other country from Hong Kong. I should like to join the two noble Lords who have spoken in paying a tribute to the enormous amount of work that the people of Hong Kong have done in taking care of this appalling influx of refugees. I did not know Hong Kong at the time of these refugees' arrival, but I was there in 1947, when the place was being rebuilt after the troubles of the Japanese occupation. It seemed to me then that the town was pretty full and that there was not a greait deal more room for a great many more people. It is astounding that they have been able to absorb so many people, and therefore anything one can possibly do to encourage them and to help them, from the point of view of trade and to keep their economy going, I am sure we should do.

My Lords, before I sit down I should like to refer to one sad thing that I saw in The Times newspaper this morning. It was that the Israeli Government had decided to refuse to admit into their country people from refugee camps. Whether or not that is true, I do not know; I am merely quoting from The Times. But I think that all this does show what a terrible burden of ill-will can be built up. I think I am right in saying that there was a time, some four or five years ago, when the Israeli Government offered to collaborate with the Arab countries in doing something about these refugee camps, and their offer was turned down with indignation and scorn. When one thinks that those unfortunate refugees were beguiled from their homes by tales that did not turn out to be correct, it makes one more sad to think that such a terrible state of affairs in the Middle East is still going on at the present moment.

My Lords, one body which is doing marvellous work in the care of refugees, both in this country and in foreign countries, is the Red Cross. I have been associated for a long time with the work of the Red Cross, and I should like to draw to your Lordships' attention what magnificent efforts they themselves put in when these crises occur. If it were not for a body such as the Red Cross, I do not know what would happen to these unfortunate people. What we must do now is to tidy up as much of the refugee problem as we possibly can, because as sure as I stand in front of your Lordships now more refugees will come in the future. They may be made homeless and desolate by act of God or the furies of nature—I do not know. More likely, they are going to be made refugees by the permanent imbecility of man, who does all he possibly can to make life uncomfortable for so many people living in this world. Unless we find some solution to that situation, we are not going to see the end of the refugee problem.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, before taking my seat in your Lordships' House I served for seventeen years as an officer in the Royal Navy, the Service renowned for its silence. As you see, I am now a minister in a profession that is sometimes dreaded for its verbosity. I hope your Lordships Will forgive me if I do not quite manage to keep my balance. I have broken my silence because I thought that it might be of interest and value for you to hear from someone who is not so much dealing with the great global figures and strategy about which we have heard this afternoon, but who has the duty of handling the concern and the compassion felt for refugees in quite an ordinary town of England with a population of just under 20,000 people, and of doing what he can to acknowledge this concern and compassion and turn it into effective action.

My Lords, you hear and read only too much about the divisions in the Church and of the High and the Low parties in the Church of England. I myself believe that these controversies are dying, and I think most of us are now engaged in the more profitable occupation of reaching out towards unity with other denominations. However, here in the field of service to (refugees, the Church is united and can be seen to be united. I am, in fact, a curate in the church of England, but I am proud to be speaking to your Lordships now on behalf of the whole church of my town—on behalf of every single congregation in the place, combined and acting together in the service of refugees. I believe that there are a thousand or so other towns or villages in the country which are so organised and so united, and it is very encouraging to find the support which a united Church can command from the public, and the support which a united Church can offer to the needy—the refugees among them—throughout the world.

Five years ago the Christian Aid Service of the British Council of Churches decided to set aside one week each May, Christian Aid Week, with the object of focusing the attention of the public upon problems such as the needs of the refugees and the needs of the hungry. The first of these Weeks in 1958 evoked a response from the public at large, Christians and non-Christians alike, amounting to £80,000. The latest of these Weeks this year, in 1962, evoked a response of over £500,000—a sevenfold rate of increase in five years. I thought, as I listened last week to the economic debate in your Lordships' House, that this is a rate of growth which "Nick" and "Neddy" could quite well envy.

My Lords, the contribution to this £500,000 in my own town of Harpenden, in Hertfordshire, last May was £2,500. And I should like, by way of illustration, to try to set this figure in perspective. On the one hand, it is worth noting that it is a larger amount than all the other voluntary collections made over the year put together—almost double the Poppy Days, Red Cross collections, and so on. This both illustrates and reinforces what I have said as to the sort of support that a united and purposeful Church can command. On the other hand, we have to note that this town in which I serve, a town of just under 20,000 people, which offered £2,500 a year towards this particular cause (which in fact amounts to 3s. 6d. a head) is a town which is also at the same time raising £20 a head in rates for its own schools, swimming pools, fire engines, police, and so on—all of which are already of a very high standard. I quote this £20 a head in rates because this can be calculated fairly accurately. But, of course, rates are only a small proportion of what we are spending on ourselves, nationally and individually, year by year, and 3s. 6d. a head for this great problem of help to refugees and to the hungry all over the world is a really shameful and minute fraction of our total spending.

But, of course, what can be done, and what is being done, up and down the country to assist refugees is not confined to support by bulk funds of this sort alone. I should like to mention to your Lordships two other methods which are within my experience. First of all, there are the adoption groups for refugee families—by which I mean the adoption of a refugee family, where it exists, by a group of people in this country. To my knowledge we have within the whole Church in my own town, taking all denominations together, eleven such families that we have adopted, spread over Austria and Germany. These are being cared for by groups of people of different denominations all over the town, and by this means some small part of this great global problem can be brought down to dimensions which individual people can understand and handle. A personal relationship is built up here that is permanent. These refugee families, even when they have been set on their feet, have friends in England who I hope and trust will now be friends for life.

The second field I should like to commend especially from experience—and in this I would support what my noble friend Lord Sandys has already said—is the organisation already well known to many of your Lordships, Voluntary Service Overseas, an organisation which does a great deal for our young people, and which enables our young people to do a great deal for the rest of the world. At this moment we have three young people—we have had in the past many more—serving refugees overseas voluntarily. We have one girl from a secondary modern school working in a refugee camp in Austria; one boy, who has just left Lancing, working in a large resettlement camp for 5,000 Ruandan refugees; and another girl—this one from a grammar school—in Simla, where she is looking after a nursery of 20 four-year-old Tibetan orphan refugees. All this is valuable, my Lords, but the point is, how can we do more?—because I am sure it is not enough.

I should just like to make one or two suggestions. Where we can, let us try to reduce the appeal to the emotions. It is very easy to make people want to weep about these problems. But let us rather concentrate on publicising in the most effective way we can, not so much what the problem is but the way in which it is being solved, the projects that are actually in hand, to help people to see that the plight of these refugees is not one of hopeless despair but is one which can be solved. People are, quite rightly, much more prepared to put their weight behind a programme, however costly, once they are convinced that it is viable. I believe that the response to having a collecting box pushed at you with a pitiful poster on it is more often than not a response designed to stop oneself from being bothered with the problem any more. At any rate, fox what it is worth, the churches in my own town try to do without this appeal to the emotions. We concentrate on publicising this problem and trying to educate the public in the ways in which it can be solved. We need much more positive publicity and better education of the public in this matter, and I am very pleased to know, as I understand it, that the Freedom from Hunger Campaign is proceeding on this basis.

On publicity, I have nothing but praise for the local Press as I know it, but I must confess some disappointment at the national Press. I do not know very much about the Press, and perhaps some other noble Lord who does can say exactly what the difficulties are. I am thinking, for example, of the recent earthquakes in Iran, which created a large number of refugees overnight. The national Press covered the sensational features of this disaster very adequately, and they also covered the splendid and encouraging flow of aid that followed immediately afterwards. But what has happened since, though less sensational, I think in the long run is more significant. The Christian Church in Iran is a tiny minority group, constantly harried by its Moslem compaitriots and deprived of the full rights of citizenship. But now the Church there, this tiny, outlawed band, has, with the help of Christian aid from churches all over the world outside Persia, been able to undertake the complete rebuilding of Estamabad—one of the villages destroyed by this earthquake—and has been enabled to rehabilitate entirely the inhabitants, complete with all their pots and pans and possessions. The story Of this very significant and heartwarming outcome was, I believe, given to the Press, but so far as I know has not yet been published.

My Lords, I have taken up enough of your time. I would end only with the reflection that this debate, as well as previous debates on this subject, has shown that when we have learnt to create and to maintain prosperity for ourselves, we have only really just begun the job that challenges us, and that is of learning to share it properly when we have got it.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, it is my very pleasant duty and privilege on your behalf, and on my own, to congratulate the noble Lord on his maiden speech which he has just made. I congratulate him with two reasons specially in mind. I welcome his careful and thoughtful speech and his constructive proposals, and I am in a position to speak on his good work in the diocese of St. Albans. I know he speaks to us from his heart, and his heart is in this work of Christian aid and with the refugees. I hope, my Lords, that he will often address us again and make a constant contribution to this House.

I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, for a memorable speech and for bringing before us the needs of refugees in this post-World Refugee Year. It is not for me to go over the ground he has already covered about the position in Europe, but I should like to say something about work as I saw it earlier this year in the Middle East, in Jordan. I was in that country for a short time and saw some of the million refugees who are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. My Lords, we talk of the teen age problem in this country, and face the future with apprehension. In Persia there are about half a million Arab refugees under 18 years of age. Of the other half million, three out of four have grown up as refugees, and between 30,000 and 35,000 children are born to these refugees every year.

I spent some time visiting settlements, seeing the work of the Near East Christian Council Refugee Committee, and meeting just a few of the welfare workers. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, explained about the £11 a head from the United Nations High Commissioner. I could get only a quick first impression to see how this £11 per head per year was spent, but it was enough to see what could be done by intelligent planning and good co operation; to see a measure of hope kept alive and sustained among people uprooted from their homes, who would otherwise face a terribly bleak future. Children were being fed with powdered milk, medical skills were available on a limited scale, trained community advice was at hand, and communities were reorganising themselves in the villages I saw. I am not saying that this provision was adequate; I am saying that I saw heroic work being done by relief workers, and work done in that spirit does something to build up the community.

The position in Hong Kong has already been referred to. Remarkable work has been done at the receiving end; and I would add my tribute to the lead given by the Government and to the outstanding work of Christians in Hong Kong. Just how desperate is the position in Hong Kong may be illustrated by a story I heard a day or two ago of two Chinamen so determined to reach the Colony that one came down a water-pipe hoping to find a manhole for his escape before he was drowned, and the other travelled in a refrigerator van, trusting he would not be frozen to death before the van reached the Colony. I hope, my Lords, that on that journey there were no traffic jams.

Much has been said about the position in Algeria, and I am sure that the vivid picture painted by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, of the position in that land will remain with us. I want to go further South, and think of what I saw in Africa when I was there earlier this year. I visited Uganda and saw some of the 150,000 refugees driven from Ruanda Urundi owing to the unrest in that country since the Belgians left. I went into some of the camps, and I should like to pay my tribute to the speed, intelligence and imagination with which the Uganda Government has acted and made use of the powers put at its disposal by the United Nations. The Africans I met had been settled together. They came from a fail in Ruanda, and they had been found a settlement on the same plot of ground in a Uganda valley—and the difference it made to them to be surrounded by their neighbours was quite unmistakable. I do not forget going into an African hut, with its frame of poles and its thatch of grass, and wondering at the skill and delicacy of the Africans who had constructed it, for that workmanship compared with a wren's nest, and its design would have won it a place in the Design Centre in the Haymarket; and hut after hut was clean.

The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, has referred to the standard of subsistence provided for these refugees by that appeal. Meagre though it was for the refugees, it meant that their standard of living was almost above that of the surrounding tribes. But if these skills are are not to run to waste, if children are to be educated, if hospitals are to be provided and if there are to be churches where these Africans, the majority of them Christians, can worship, then their claim on us for our attention, to use the word in the noble Lord's Motion, and for our active support, must be pressed.

My Lords, I submit that this appeal, five weeks before Christmas, is very well timed, and I hope it will do something to rouse the people of this country once again to support the work of the chief voluntary relief agencies. By far the greatest amount of such help is being given by such agencies, and without them the work could hardly continue. I know some of those who are employed in these agencies as full-time workers, and I know the cost in terms of physical and nervous exhaustion, the spiritual demands made on them and the test of working too long hours in trying circumstances. I should like to pay my very warm tribute to these people, be they Christians or humanists, for their splendid services.

As a churchman, may I put in a special word of praise for Inter-Church Aid and its field representatives in every country all over the world where there is need; praise for its efforts in keeping our interest going, and at a time when church reunion is going forward but, for various reasons, moves slowly? I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has said. How encouraging it is when we find congregations working together; every congregation in a town united in support of this cause! Here Christians join and present a united front for the sake of those who are the world's outcasts, and here also all serve their brothers, regardless of race or creed.

Just two more points, my Lords. I wonder whether there is not some overlapping, some unnecessary competition, among these different agencies. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, is, I believe, chairman of a co-ordinating committee, and I have no doubt that such a committee does valuable work; but I wonder whether its terms of reference allow it to scrutinise and, where necessary, discourage new agencies when it has reason to believe they are crowding the field and their credentials are not all that they should be. I submit that someone should hold a watching brief, for this work among refugees is likely to continue for years and we should see that the money goes to the refugees and that none of it is used to maintain unnecessary persons and plant in England.

There is no mention of Her Majesty's Government in the noble Viscount's Motion, and I am glad he so worded it, for our appeal should be first to individuals, and thousands of individuals will, I know, respond this Christmas to the Inter-Church Aid appeal. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, when he was speaking in the debate in your Lordships' House on World Refugee Year in February, 1960, referred to the line that had often been taken by Government spokesmen. It was descriptive, appreciative, analytical, and gave little encouragement to those who hoped the Government would free as much money as we can afford, and not just sufficient to compare favourably with other countries. At present, the United Kingdom normally contributes the sum of £100,000 towards resettling European refugees. When we contrast this with the millions spent on space research and the millions spent, and the money sometimes wasted, on our independent nuclear deterrent, it seems to many of us an entirely unworthy contribution; and I endorse the appeal by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that it should be reconsidered.

My Lords, we see this running sore of refugees weakening country after country; we see nation after nation where individuals respond to the need and year after year give more than they can afford; and we ask the Government to think again about their contribution, for if it were doubled, if £200,000 were available for Europe and more aid were given to Algeria and Hong Kong, then despair would surrender to hope in places where despair has too long been in power.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, it is with trepidation that I venture to speak to your Lordships this afternoon on a subject on which I am far from being as well informed or up to date as other noble Lords who are here to-day. But having had some slight experience of the problem of the plight of refugees in the Middle East, and in parts of Africa, I feel that it is worth while to make this venture, for which I pray your Lordships' indulgence.

Whether or not the existing pattern of the relief work of the United Nations is to continue unaltered, it is unthinkable that so great a work of humanity should be left aside when it is far from being complete: and I am sure that it will not be left aside, for there can be little doubt that this work is one of the greatest and most positive exemplifications of the workings of international conscience that history has provided. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Astor for giving me the opportunity of airing some thoughts to-day. I cannot speak with the deep and wide information which he possesses, and I wish to confine myself to some thoughts about the Palestine refugees in the Middle East, partly because I have some knowledge of their case at first hand and partly because theirs is a special problem. All the other refugee communities who are looked after by the United Nations come under the care of the High Commission for Refugees. As your Lordships know, it is the separate organisation of U.N.R.W.A. that looks after the special problem of the Palestine refugees.

Fifteen years ago these million people fled from their native Palestine and took refuge in the neighbouring countries of Syria, the Lebanon, Jordan and in the Gaza Strip. For the last thirteen of those years U.N.R.W.A. has been looking after them, giving them shelter, food and medical care; and now, in addition, it has taken on the educational task. U.N.R.W.A. set out to resettle these people and now, after fifteen years, it still has over one million people on its books. Naturally, these are not all the same people. A great many of them have found work and have become settled. A great many have died, but, as we have heard this afternoon, a great many have been born—in fact, over half the, number is made up of children under sixteen years of age who have known nothing but the inside of a refugee settlement.

The reasons for this are explained very lucidly in the Report of the Commissioner-General for U.N.R.W.A. for the present year, and it makes tragic reading. People ask, "Why are there still one million people relying on the bounty of the United Nations?" I have heard the question asked in the Middle East, and I have heard it asked in this country. Have the United Nations really done all they can to try to get the problem of resettlement solved? Have the host countries co-operated to the full? What of the refugees? Have they exerted themselves as much as they could to help themselves? It is good that some answer should be given to these questions. There is nothing so destroying for a man as to live endlessly on bounty, even if the bounty is only 1,500 calories a day and the drab circumstances of the camp which the United Nations is able to provide. So it is for the good of the refugee himself, apart from other considerations, that these questions should be asked.

It has been possible for refugees to be settled, and to play an active and useful part in the life of many host countries. But there are three factors Which must all militate together if this happy state of affairs is to be the outcome. The first is the refugees themselves: their nature and their ability, and, perhaps just as important, their attitude of mind. Secondly, there is the factor of politics, the circumstances, and the outlook of the host country and of neighbouring countries, and thirdly, there is the factor of resources, both natural and economic. Of the million Palestine refugees, approximately 30 per cent, were urban people with urban skills. The remaining 70 per cent. were mainly agricultural and peasant people. The urban people have found jobs, or launched out into businesses of their own, and many of them are very successful, and it is mainly the agricultural people and their progeny who are the present problem. In the meantime they are being affected by apathy and by the lowering of morale which is inevitable in the life they are leading. Further, there is throughout the Middle East a strong sense of injustice over the Palestine question, and this feeling is very much alive in the refugee settlements. It is also alive in the host countries themselves, a fact which militates strongly against finding a large-scale solution to the problem.

However, it is the third factor, the factor of resources, on which I should like to expand. Over half of these refugees are located in the very small kingdom of Jordan. Jordan is an extremely poor country, striving almost desperately to find ways and means of expanding her own economy. She has no oil deposits, or if she has oil, it has not yet been located. The two basic industries of the country are the exploitation of phosphate deposits, and potash deposits, used for fertiliser, but neither of these two could absorb labour on a scale that would make any significant impression on the refugee problem inside that country.

Jordan's agriculture could be expanded; and it is vital to her that it should be. This is the subject which is most suited to those refugees who are still unsettled, but all the land which is capable of dry or non-irrigated farming is already occupied by indigenous farmers. Much of the rest of the land of Jordan is extremely fertile chemically. I had an analysis carried out by an agricultural chemist in this country only the other day on behalf of a farmer in Jordan who was making a pioneering exploitation on the desert tundra. The analysis gave good results in all the chemical ingredients of the soil necessary for high farming, but all the land that is not as yet developed for agriculture needs irrigation. Under irrigation it would doubtless become highly productive, but not only is water scarce in that country, as everybody knows; it requires a great deal of capital and a lot of time to win it.

There are only two prominent water courses in Jordan, the rather small Yarmuk river, which is already being harnessed and will produce a useful irrigation scheme in the Jordan Valley, and there is the Jordan itself, but this is threatened with large-scale abstraction and even possibly diversion by the Israelis. There are other possible sources of water. There is underground water in plenty in some parts of the country and this can be tapped by boreholes, and a great deal could be done, I feel, about the conserving of surface water. At the moment, every time there is a storm of rain, the bulk of the water which falls runs headlong down the wadis, taking much of the soil of Jordan with it down to the sterile Dead Sea.

A start is being made by pioneering individuals and through Government agencies to do something about these two water supplies, but the start that has now been made is a long way behind where the Romans left off, some 2,000 years ago, and it will take a long time for any significant change to be brought about in the tundra which comprises the bulk of the country. Then there are the Bedouin, to whom that country belongs, and who are becoming aware of the twentieth century. They will be eager for taking over any developments that may be made. They are becoming aware of how outdated is their own precarious pastoral way of life.

I hope that I have suggested to your Lordships' minds that, whereas the bulk of refugees are of agricultural stock and whereas Jordan could do with her agriculture being expanded, the possibilities of getting these two projects tackled is not very easy and could not be done immediately. To contrast this with a simple example, not without its own tragedies, I was out in Africa last December just after several thousands of Ruanda refugees had crossed into the Tanganyika territory. These, too, are agricultural people and through the co-operation of the Tanganyika authorities and the United Nations, with the help of Oxfam, these refugees were being given not only relief but also bags of seed, homes and small plots of fertile land. By the end of the next growing season, these people will be self-supporting.

But there is no such simple solution for the Palestinian refugees. The Commissioner General's highly informed conclusion in his Report this year is that it is fruitless and impracticable for his organisation any further to pursue their original intent of sponsoring large-scale resettlement schemes for the refugees. What he says, in effect, is, "I cannot go on with the task of trying new settlement. Under the circumstances that prevail, it is useless. All I can do is to keep these people alive and to educate a few younger ones, pending the possibilities, as yet unforeseen, of an improvement in opportunities." That is a tragic conclusion for him to come to.

In Europe and in other parts of the world, as we have heard this afternoon, there are possibilities of some refugee problems being solved completely, and it is worth while to back up the task of the High Commissioner to the full, to redouble our efforts, for the satisfaction of getting these tasks completed. But let us not give up the task of supporting U.N.R.W.A. The Commissioner General, in pleading for an extension of U.N.R.W.A.'s mandate, gives the following figures. He wishes to budget in future years on 39 million dollars, of which 36 million, he hopes, will come from contributing Governments. That is about the level of expenditure as it has been running recently. Of that, 27½ million dollars has been contributed by the United States and about 6 million dollars, or £2.2 million, has been contributed by the United Kingdom Government. I hope that we shall have no hesitation in bearing our share of this continuing burden. We have our responsibility in the circumstances of the Palestinian refugees, and the remark able thing is that, despite the circumstances, we still have our friends among them.

I wish to return to one earlier point. I am convinced that there is room for expansion of agricultural practice and particularly of irrigation agriculture in Jordan. Much of the foreign aid money which is going into Jordan, including our own, is going into unproductive channels. By saying "unproductive", I do not mean that they are unworthy channels, but there is scope for productive work in the direction of agriculture, which I feel may contribute something towards the economy of Jordan itself and also contribute towards the eventual solution of the impasse described by the Commissioner General of U.N.R.W.A. I am grateful to your Lordships for bearing with me during these few minutes and for giving me this opportunity of saying what I sincerely believe.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, it is my pleasant duty to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dulverton, on his excellent maiden speech. I am near enough in time to my own maiden speech to remember what a frightening occasion it was, and I think we must all acknowledge that the noble Lord has come through this ordeal with flying colours. It is always agreeable, I think, for this House to listen to someone who is an acknowledged authority on his own subject, and I am sure that in future we shall at any rate occasionally hear him in our debates.

I think that we must all be very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, for initiating this debate. Of course, everybody knows how well and how successful he has worked in England in the cause of these unfortunate refugees and the great part he played in the extraordinary successful results of World Refugee Year. He has told us to-day of his recent experiences, and it is interesting to note that the situation in Europe is now much better; that it is at least no worse in the Middle East; and that it is, at any rate, provisionally under control in Hong Kong, thanks to the splendid efforts of the local administration.

I think that another person whom we certainly ought to congratulate is the High Commissioner for Refugees, the extension of whose mandate for another five years will shortly come up in the General Assembly of the United Nations. I sincerely hope—and in this I join other noble Lords who have voiced the wish—that this extension will be granted. From what I hear, the way in which the High Commissioner has conducted his work, and more especially perhaps the way in which he has grappled with refugee problems when they have reached a critical stage, is worthy of all praise. I am sure also that we should congratulate his very worthy predecessor, Mr. Lindt. We can only hope, therefore, that Mr. Schnyder's mandate will be renewed, and that by the end of his second term of five years the situation in other parts of the West will have been liquidated in the same way as the situation in Europe, which, after all, only a few years ago still seemed to be of quite alarming dimensions.

There is, I think, a tendency, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, for us to assume that the refugee question, like the poor, will aways be with us. It is said that there are new problems, as I understand it, in Angola, Uganda, Ruanda and as regards Tibet and India. But all these recent problems seem to me to be soluble. They are not on any tremendous scale, as I think we gathered from the remarks of the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Sand- ford, who also made an excellent maiden speech. We can also note with a certain amount of satisfaction that the Algerian problem has at least been temporarily solved as a problem of refugees, though obviously a vast amount of work still remains to be done for the simple relief of suffering in Algeria. But, in general, all refugee situations are the result of political earthquakes, and it certainly cannot be guaranteed that there will not be similar earthquakes in the next few years; at least, we shall be very lucky if there are not.

The Middle Eastern problem is, in theory at any rate, much more difficult to solve, because of the underlying political issue. But I understand (I think the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, told me this) that there is at least some prospect of integrating some of the refugees into the society in which they live, provided no attention is drawn to this process, and, more especially, perhaps, of allowing refugees unofficially to engage in some kind of remunerative and productive work.

I am told that the High Commissioner has adopted the very sound tactics of making a modest contribution to a given scheme in order to promote a larger contribution from international organisations or from voluntary agencies. I am told, also, that he has put forward admirable proposals for dealing with refugees in Europe, when the classical refugee problem, so to speak, has come to an end, as it has nearly come to an end at the moment. I believe that he is now expecting to close down all the refugee camps on the Continent and to resettle the remaining out-of-camp refugees (I heard that they amount to some 25,000, but the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, told me it is something like 35,000 or more) by the end of 1963, if, of course, he can get the necessary money. But it looks as if for this purpose he will need at least 6 million dollars, and quite possibly more; and if he is to get this sum, contributor Governments will have at least to double their normal contributions. This in our case, as I understand it, would mean another £100,000, making £200,000 in all.

I must say that I sincerely hope the Government will be able to take on this comparatively small liability. After all, we must consider that if the effort to liquidate the whole problem in Europe is successful, there will obviously be a tapering off of our financial liabilities. There are other claims, of course, on the Government in this sort of direction, such as the world food programme, the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, and the various United Nations programmes of technical co-operation and so on. But £200,000 is really not very much, and, in the long run, as I have said, it might even prove to be an economy.

Finally I should like to say a word or two about Hong Kong, here again with the object of reinforcing what the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said. The great thing about Hong Kong seems to me to be the extraordinary enterprise and self-reliance of the Colony itself. It is in the general interests of the Western world that this object lesson in the virtues which we like to think underlie our own society should continue. It seems to me that the essential thing here is for us to obtain terms for our entry into the European Economic Community which will give some assurance that this state of things will be likely to continue. The Six, for their part, surely, should seriously consider what would be the likely effect in the East if Hong Kong fell by the wayside, and, consequently, what repercussions this might have on European trade generally. I have no doubt that the Lord Privy Seal will argue strongly to this effect, but he might like to feel, as I am sure is the case, that he has this House firmly behind him in all the efforts he may make to this end. In any case, as I understand it, Hong Kong does not, and indeed could not, distinguish between refugees and the population of the Colony itself. Therefore, quite clearly, the refugee problem in Hong Kong depends on the ability of the Colony to remain self-supporting.

That is all I have to say on this most important problem, the treatment of which, on the whole, seems to me to be, so far as the Western world is concerned, rather on the credit side, chiefly perhaps because there is not in it, to any notice able extent, any element of cold war. It remains true, however, that a steady further effort is still necessary, and I can only hope that when and if we debate this subject next year there will be further signs of great improvement.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, for not being here when he opened this discussion, but he knows that he changed the date at rather short notice and I found it difficult to rearrange my engagements. I want to speak quite briefly and to ask a few questions. I can assure the noble Earl who is to reply that I shall not ask him to answer these questions in detail now, but will be quite happy if he will give the answer in writing if he has not the information with him at this moment. First of all, a noble Lord on the other side of the House said that we must not approach this subject in an emotional way. I think it is impossible to divest oneself of any emotion when discussing this tragic matter.

There are one or two practical questions which must arise. The whole country has been involved in what is known as Refugee Year, and I think all noble Lords here will agree that very fine men and women up and down the country have devoted their time and effort to collecting money. First of all, I want to ask a most practical question. The noble Earl may refer me to some book, but I cannot find this clearly set out. I should like to know exactly what percentage of the money collected and, indeed, of the money which is directed to refugee camps is used for administrative purposes. I should like to have these figures, if I could, set out in such a way that they deal with each camp separately. I think we should know that.

Secondly, I come to the question of the camp that has been mentioned before by the noble Lord, Lord Dulverton, and one which I know well, and that is the camp of Arab refugees in Jordan. I went there in 1957. What I should like to know is how the picture presented by the High Commissioner for Refugees to-day compares with the picture which I saw in 1957. I have listened to many of the speeches here, and I find it very difficult to understand why, if the position in Europe has improved so much, the conditions in, let us say, Jordan are still very much the same as they were in 1957. There are, I think, over 1 million Arab refugees, 500,000 of whom are in Jordan, in a place which is hundreds of feet below sea level; where the conditions for life can be regarded only as deplorable; and where one sees misery, hopelessness and a measure of destitution.

I have examined these figures, and I find that, when it comes to feeding these people, the amount of calories—it is calculated in calories—which they are given to-day is 1,500 per head per day in the summer, and 1,600 per head per day in the winter, precisely the same as in 1957. I should say that not one of your Lordships has to-day consumed less than 2,500 calories. This means that these people are living at subsistence level. I have the picture clear cut in my mind of that building in Jordan, where the ten and twelve year olds take their baby brothers and sisters to have supplementary rations. I always remember that those little nurses themselves looked as though they needed supplementary rations. Frankly, I cannot quite understand why these men and women and children are still under-nourished, when it would mean perhaps adding only a limited amount to the present income of the camp to raise their standard of nourishment.

I also have a vivid memory of the queue of children with incipient trachoma waiting for a doctor to evert their eyelids—a doctor who would not speak to me, who ignored me, who regarded me as beyond the pale because I had come from an outer world which allowed this appalling thing to exist. Looking at the Report, it seemed to me that the figures there are given in terms of treatment for trachoma. I should like to know how many cases of trachoma exist in these camps and compare the number with the figure for 1957.

We come to education. I went into rooms where there were children standing round one book. Some were looking at the book upside down. Here was, anyhow, a novelty in a camp which was marked by the fact that these people would even grasp at looking at a book upside down because there was so little to do. We are told that there is more education going on. I should like to know precisely whether there are sufficient books. I should have thought that enough old books from the host countries could have been collected for these camps so that the conditions I saw did not exist. We are told in the Report that training centres have been established for the girls but, of course, for only a few lucky girls. On education—I would be absolutely fair—I believe more arc being educated, but, again, only the lucky few.

It seems to me that the real tragedy lies, from the spiritual and mental point of view, in the number of untrained youths who must be becoming absolutely frustrated. Again I say: why is this problem not concentrated upon? Why is money that has been saved elsewhere not used here? I am hoping, when I get the figures, to learn that perhaps some of the large cost of administration can be channelled to the education of these boys who have been in the camps most of their lives, who are under-nourished, who are desperate, and for whom, we are told in the Report, little can be done. That is a policy of despair. Here we have young men who deserve our attention, who should have our attention and who, indeed, from the point of view of expediency, should be cared for.

Finally, I wish to say just a word on the political situation. The High Commissioner says that the political situation has not changed, and I think we all regret to read in our newspapers to-day that the Israeli Parliament decided not to implement the recommendation of the United Nations that refugees, or at least some refugees, should be allowed to return to their homes. I think every humanitarian will regret this decision, because it is opposed not only to the letter of the United Nations but to the spirit also. My final question to the Minister is this. Could we be told whether the other part of the recommendation of the United Nations has been implemented—namely, that the refugees should be offered full compensation for the homes which have been expropriated?

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lady has raised a number of most urgent questions which will clearly demand answers, even if they cannot be given fully to-day. This debate, begun so gracefully and yet so movingly by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, has been distinguished by three maiden speeches, all of which gripped the House in their different ways, and all of them marked by first-hand knowledge and understanding. I cannot myself remember an occasion when there were three maiden speakers in the first half-dozen or so speeches. If one is to look for a reason, I suppose it is that we have three noble Lords who might not otherwise have the desire to speak and who are far from being loquacious, and yet who felt forced to speak of their strong convictions and close relationships to these problems.

From our Benches the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said perhaps all, or nearly all, that needs to be said. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, was to have spoken but has had to leave the House. He was especially anxious that I should pay a tribute to the late noble Earl, Lord Winterton, for his labours in the field, spread over many years, which I gladly do and in which I am sure the House will join.

If I am asked why I have ventured to inflict myself on the House at all, I suppose the answer is that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, asked me to do so. He is entitled to that small favour, if it is a favour to the House, in view of all his own work for refugees. He is the holder, among other distinctions, of the Grand Cross of Merit, the sovereign military Order of Malta, given for his work for refugees. I suppose there is no other non-Roman Catholic, with the possible exception of the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, who holds that distinction, and I can only say that if the noble Viscount can do that without becoming a Roman Catholic, what he would have achieved from a Catholic base defies contemplation. He would certainly have become a Cardinal and possibly a Pope. It is an astonishing achievement for a Protestant. I am told that I do not know him well enough; but we have been friends for 40 years, and if I do not know him now perhaps I never shall in this life; and, of course, in the next world perhaps we may be parted. I think that, with his Grand Cross, he is likely to go into a higher sphere than any open to me. At any rate, he has earned a great reputation for his work here. He and his family, I suppose, might well take the motto: "To whom much has been given, from him much will be required." Certainly, the noble Viscount, like his father and so many of his family, has lived up to that motto superbly.

The main requests have been placed firmly before the noble Earl, Lord Dundee. I will not run over them all again, but we are all insistent—and here, indeed, I think we have him entirely with us—in demanding that the mandate shall be renewed for another five years when it runs out. A number of speakers have urged very strongly that our contribution in 1963 should be raised from £100,000 to £200,000, and that the Government should give at least £100,000 for the Algerian refugees. There has also been strong emphasis laid by the noble Lords, Lord Shacketon and Lord Gladwyn—both of whom have special credentials for saying this—on the absolute duty of this country to see that in any arrangements over the Common Market Hong Kong does not suffer.

I echo all these demands, and I echo something else that was said—and I echo it perhaps in possibly a slightly less benevolent frame of mind—by the right reverend Prelate who spoke so well about all these matters. He said he was glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, had not introduced the name of the Government into this Motion. I seldom read the Motions before speaking on them in this House, and I daresay that other noble Lords suffer from the same disability. I did not, in fact, realise that the Government had been omitted from this one until my attention was drawn to the fact by the right reverend Prelate. I do not know why the Government have been left out. I am sorry they have been left out and for a reason which I think will occur to most of those who, as I did, listened closely to the speech of the right reverend Prelate himself.

He did not give all the figures, and I should like to give several figures here which I believe are authoritative. I do not think they will be challenged by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, but these are the figures for the contributions to all the regular programmes—the Hungarian programme, the North African programme, and so on—in 1962. I will give the first seven: United States, £429,000; Germany, £157,000; Italy, £141,000; Canada, £104,000; United Kingdom, £103,000; France, £93,000; Belgium, £90,000. As the right reverend Prelate said, our total was about £100,000. So it is slightly less than that of Canada.

He said, in his gentle yet relentless way, that this total was unworthy of our country. I would say that it is a disgracefully small figure. Here I am perhaps a little sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, felt it was not discreet to labour this aspect of the matter. The noble Viscount pointed out what a great contribution we had made in initiating Would Refugee Year and in our own voluntary contributions during that Year. The noble Viscount, so to speak, tried to assess in the course of "his speech the merit or Otherwise of the Government's contribution—I Will stand corrected if I am wrong, and no doubt he will correct me. I think he left that to be judged by the House, possibly in the light of certain other observations that fell from him

He reminded us of the fact that during the Irish famine, which is not much more than 100 years ago, one million people died of starvation or its consequences and one million emigrated. I have not yet read what seems to foe the great book by Mrs. Woodham Smith, though I have read some of the extracts, but I know the story of the Irish famine fairly well. If one asks how it was possible that these things occurred at that time one finds one reason, no doubt, is that given by the noble Viscount: that people had not been there to look. But many people went to Ireland, including, I think, a good many Members of your Lordships' House. I do not think that could be the whole explanation. Even in those days of relatively old-fashioned transport; Ireland was not very far away. I would say that it was primarily because those who ruled at that time in this country still laboured under a theory that the State must not interfere in matters of this sort. Certainly, the State did a little, but very little—just as they are doing very little here.

I would press the noble Earl, Lord Dundee—I will not bother with figures, as I am afraid that I have not given notice of them, but they are very well known—to justify, if he can (and I do mot think he can) a contribution of this negligible size. How can one defend it for a moment? The right reverend Prelate compared it with sums involved in space research, and there are many other large expenditures which will occur to us. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, is as humane as anybody in this House, and I put it to him that it would be impossible for a country that really considered this matter, really understood how far below the needs this figure fell, to justify it at all through its representatives. So I put it to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, that when we talk about £200,000 instead of £100,000, that can be only a beginning. I realise that this is a problem, and I hope it will not last for ever. A figure of this sort ought to foe multiplied many times before one can regard it as a contribution in any way worthy of our wealthy British people. So I would ask the noble Earl specifically, when he replies, whether he can justify in any way this wretched little figure of £100,000 as our total contribution to all these appalling sufferings.

My Lords, I end on a happier note, and one on which I do not think anybody will wish to dissent. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and the right reverend Prelate all laid stress on a point that had been in my mind very much when thinking of something I might say this afternoon. It was suggested to me that I might perhaps offer a few thoughts on what was called the Catholic point of view. That was originally in my mind. Certainly one would like to point to what Catholics have tried to do, just as one would like to point to what has been done by all the other denominations. I do not think that, on the whole, there can be said to be a specifically Catholic point of view here. The essence of this story is that there has been no specifically denominational point of view. There has been a tremendous united Christian effort in which, as the right reverend Prelate said, many humanists have joined very strenuously and earnestly.

Ever since 1944, when plans were being laid for the period of emancipation, the co-operation between the Churches has been one of the most edifying features imaginable. There has been no suspicion—and I have taken a good deal of trouble to go into this story—no trying to take advantage or to get more than one's share, and certainly no back-biting. By and large, there has been since the war a desire among the Churches to work together in the common cause and relieve the suffering of these human beings. Particularly at this time, while the Vatican Council is meeting and while the idea of unity is in many Christian minds, certainly in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, it is possible to look beyond the work for refugees and find in this work an example of how Christians in the years ahead could combine in still wider causes. I wish to press on the noble Earl the point of Governmental responsibility, but I am sure that he and all others who have spoken are at one in seeing here the prototype of a magnificent spirit of Christian unity; and while one cannot take pleasure in the story of the refugees, because it is by and large a story of human suffering, even if that suffering is relieved by human endeavour, one can find this amount of consolation: that it has enabled the Churches to work together in a degree that holds out great hope for the future.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, it is very seldom, I think, that we have the pleasure of listening to three maiden speeches in the course of one short debate, and I should like to extend your Lordships' congratulations to all three noble Lords who have so much pleased us this afternoon.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandys, spoke with very close personal knowledge of the Algerian problem. His speech was extremely informative to your Lordships. It was, I think we all agree, very well delivered; it had the great merit of being short but packed with useful information. Since the noble Lord devoted himself entirely to the question of Algeria, which a few other of your Lordships have also touched upon, including the noble Lord who followed him, Lord Amulree, perhaps I might just take this opportunity of saying a word on Algeria now.

I will not go into comparative figures about financial contributions; and I do not think Algeria was included in the figures which the noble Earl opposite has just quoted. The Government have made special contributions to the High Commissioner's programme for the relief of the refugees from Algeria. £50,000 of our contribution to the United Kingdom Committee for World Refugee Year was earmarked for them. Last year, 1961, in response to an urgent appeal from the High Commissioner on their behalf, the British Government agreed to match up 10 per cent. of contributions made by the other 24 member Governments of the High Commissioners' Executive Committee up to a ceiling of £30,000, and almost all this offer was taken up. Mainly due, I think, to this promise of contributions on a matching basis, enough funds became available to enable the joint operation on behalf of these refugees to be continued until June this year. At that time repatriation arrangements were begun, and the High Commissioner issued an urgent appeal for tents to house the homeless Algerians on their return to their native country. Once again the Government made a contribution of £8,500 very speedily to the British Red Cross Society, who purchased and despatched tents to Algeria for this operation.

Last July—July of this year—the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was able to announce that the repatriation of all the refugees from Algeria had been finished. After three and a half years, this joint operation which he had been carrying out with the League of Red Cross Societies was successfully brought to a close; and I should like to thank the voluntary societies in this country who played a very great part, either in direct assistance or through their contributions in cash and kind, to keep these Algerian refugees alive—over half of them are children—and to enable repatriation to be carried out speedily and in good condition. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, pointed out, although the operation has been completed, the refugees who have been repatriated may still need a great deal of further help; and we are aware of that. And although many of them are no longer refugees in the technical sense, but simply people in very great need, like the victims of an earthquake and like many other unfortunate people all over the world, we do remain conscious of that need. I am glad to say that the Government have recently given to the Algerian Government a fully equipped and fully staffed mobile nursing unit which is now operating in Algeria under the League of Red Cross Societies, and we are certainly ready to consider any further action in this field which might be taken. I thought it might be convenient to deal with this point in congratulating the noble Lord on his excellent maiden speech.

The next maiden speech was that of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. I think many of your Lordships will remember with affection his father, whom so many of us knew in another place as Sir James Edmondson, who was one of the Government Whips for a long time, and we are most glad to welcome his successor here. The noble Lord told us—we knew already—of his gallant and distinguished career in the Royal Navy. As he put it, he said he had been formerly in a Service which is known to be silent, although I think perhaps some of your Lordships have known some sailors who are pretty loquacious, and he has now transferred himself, to a profession which he thought was accused of verbosity: I should think that was a very unjustifiable accusation myself. I have always thought the great advantage clergymen enjoy is that they are able to speak in public without fear of interruption, as a general rule.


And without applause.


Without applause and without contradiction. That is a privilege which applies equally to those who speak in the pulpit and maiden speakers in your Lordships' House, and I hope therefore the noble Lord will give us many future opportunities of interrupting him and contradicting him before long. We are most grateful for his very interesting and eloquent account of what his own parish at Harpenden is doing, under the inspiration largely of the Church, towards this question. And here may I take the opportunity of saying, on behalf of the Government, how much we welcomed the speech by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, about the unity of Christian endeavour in this matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Dulverton, spoke, again with great knowledge, almost entirely, I think, about the Arab refugee problem in Palestine. His speech, I thought, was extremely interesting. Your Lordships are grateful for it. I will say a little more a little later on about the question of Arab refugees in Palestine. Meanwhile, I would thank the noble Lord for his maiden speech and hope that we shall very often hear him again.

We have had two speeches from the Front Bench opposite, from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Earl, Long Longford. I think no Government ought ever to expect that any songs of praise sung to them by their opponents will be in anything but a minor key, with perhaps a suggestion that they ought to have done a great deal better, but I whole-heartedly agree with what Lord Shackleton said about individual effort apart from the Government. It is nearly always true, and it is a pretty safe thing for any critic or supporter to say, that the Government have not done nearly so well as they should. Usually they have not. But I agree with what the noble Lord said about private effort, especially by Members of your Lordships' House; and I feel that it should be a source of gratification to your Lordships that so many Members of the House have done so much fine work in this humane cause. It is not something which gets much publicity, but I think we ought to recognise it here.

First, of course, there is my noble friend who moved the Motion, and to whom we are all so grateful for enabling us to discuss the subject. I could not help but wonder whether there are many Parliamentary bodies in the world which would devote so much time and attention to this subject as have your Lordships. My noble friend Lord Astor has given many years of public service to this cause. He has inspired or led most of the excellent organisations in the United Kingdom who are dedicated to helping refugees, and he has spent much of his own time in recent months finding out for himself exactly what is the position in various parts of the world. He has been to Europe, to the Middle East, lately to Hong Kong, and we all remember the occasion, I think it was six years ago, at the time of the Hungarian oppression, when the noble Viscount did so much active and personal work in himself helping refugees from Hungary through barbed wire and other obstacles in their flight to freedom.

Although my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood is at this moment abroad and not able to attend this debate, I do not think your Lordships would like me to reply for the Government without mentioning the fine work which she has done and her record of public service, particularly during World Refugee Year when she led the voluntary organisations in raising the unprecedented total of £9 million to aid the refugees—far the largest total of any of the 97 countries who took part in it.

At the time when my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood spoke in the last debate on this subject in 1960, it was stated that there were some 20,000 refugees living in the wretched squalor of camps on the Continent of Europe; and it was estimated that outside the camps, suffering in many different degrees from different kinds of mental and physical incapacity, there were another 90,000. At that time the noble Baroness told us that the first aim of her World Refugee Year Committee was to close all these camps and to resettle their inhabitants elsewhere. Now the noble Baroness's ambition will soon be realised, because we have the assurance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that, as a consequence of the World Refugee Year, enough funds are now available to finance the clearing of all the camps, and he estimates that by the end of next year all the refugee camps for which he is responsible will be a thing of the past. As I think my noble friend Lord Astor mentioned, the previous High Commissioner said that he had saved something like five years' work in the struggle towards a final ending of refugee problems as the result of this activity in the World Refugee Year.

So much for the camps. But as for the others, the 90,000 who are outside the camps, the United Nations Commissioner tells us that as a result of surveys recently carried out he thinks that at the beginning of this year 65,000 of them were still unsettled. Of these, he estimates that 20,000 are now in the process of being settled under existing programmes; that another 20,000 are expected to settle themselves without the need for international assistance, owing to the favourable economic conditions in Europe, and that of the remainder 20,000 are expected to be settled under his (that is, the High Commissioner's) major aid programme next year. That leaves 5,000 new refugees, who have arrived since 1961, to be taken care of, and the parallel complementary assistance programme of the High Commissioner for 1963 is designed to meet this.

I should just like to mention that, so far as this country's part is concerned, four resettlement missions were sent to the Continent in connection with World Refugee Year, the final operation being completed only in the last few months. These missions interviewed over 3,000 people, about 1,200 of whom were accepted for resettlement in this country. Of course, a few of them—and they often get more publicity in the Press than the others—thought, for various reasons, that they would not like to resettle here; but the vast majority of them have gladly seized the opportunity to start life afresh, in spite of the difficulties of a strange environment and an unfamiliar language. Your Lordships may be interested to know that since they arrived here 22 babies have been born to them, and they are the first ones to be born outside a refugee camp.

As my noble friend Lord Astor said, there are still some refugees coming from various places—he mentioned Yugoslavia. We have not come to an end of the problem by clearing up these camps and the existing refugee population outside the camps. He asked what we shall do, or were doing, to help the work of the Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration. This organisation has made a great contribution to the refugee problem in its twelve years of life. In conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, it has moved upwards of 400,000 people from the Continent to Canada, the United States, Australia and other parts of the free world. Although in the past we have made only ad hoc contributions to this Committee to help with its refugee work, the Government decided last year to give more support. We became a member of the Committee, and we are now contributing £76,000 a year to its budget. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, must forgive me for not having comparable figures in regard to other countries. I do not think I should have time to go into them now. But that contribution was not, I think, included in the particular set the noble Lord quoted.

In commenting on a few of the particular points your Lordships have raised in this debate, I should like to take first the one which may seem to many of your Lordships—and probably is—one of the more trivial or least important; but it is the one which, I confess, gives me the greatest difficulty in knowing how to answer. Both my noble friend behind me and the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, strongly pressed the Government to remove purchase tax on the gramophone record which is going to be used to raise money for the refugee cause. All I can say is that I will represent What your Lordships have said to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I will certainly not weary your Lordships by reciting the various possible objections which I think might be raised—as, for example, that other charities might make the same claim.

I think your Lordships may remember that a similar kind of proposal was refused for exempting from tax the U.N.I.C.E.F. (United Nations Children's Fund) Christmas card a year or two ago. A good few years ago the last Chancellor of the Exchequer but two told me that, although your Lordships' House was supposed no longer to have any control at all over financial policy, the House of Lords was very much more troublesome to him than the House of Commons in pressing him to spend more money than he could afford to do, and sometimes more effective. I certainly do not want to discourage my noble friend or Lord Shackleton from putting forward these ingenious and imaginative proposals, however unsuccessful they are likely to be.

I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who asked about our attitude towards the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which expires next year. The General Assembly of the United Nations will soon debate whether or not his office should be continued. In reply to those of your Lordships who have asked about it, I should like to take the opportunity of reaffirming the Government's wholehearted support of the High Commissioner. In the last eighteen

months a great many new refugee situations have arisen elsewhere, particularly in Africa, to which some of your Lord ships have referred—the Angolan refugees, the Ghana refugees in Togo, and so on; and with the small resources at hi" command the High Commissioner ha; already done a great deal in dealing with these situations. We feel that it is clear, having regard to the unsettled state of the world to-day, that similar situations may arise from time to time and that the High Commissioner still has a part to play in the future. The Government have therefore decided to support an extension of the High Commissioner's mandate for a further period of five years from 1963 on the basis of the Statute of his Office.

Without going into financial details, I would just acknowledge shortly the request which has been made by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that we should double our contribution to the High Commission next year. I know that the High Commissioner has called for something like 6 million dollars to enable him to bring the residual European problem to an end. We are very sympathetic towards this aim, and we are anxious that he should succeed in his bold attempt to liquidate this problem once and for all. I cannot to-day anticipate to what extent the Government may be able to make a larger financial contribution in respect of the High Commissioner's 1963 programme. I can only say to the noble Earl and to my noble friend behind me that the Government have over the years maintained at a high level financial contributions towards the solution of refugee problems, and I can assure your Lordships that we shall have your deliberations this afternoon very much in mind in considering what the Government can do to help. I can also assure your Lordships that the Government are by no means unresponsive either to the appeals which have been made or to the needs of the refugees.

My Lords, I said that I would make a few more remarks about the Arab refugee problem, which is one of the most longstanding and intractable—as well as one of the most politically dangerous and mischievous—of all the refugee problems. I do not think I can give any of the figures for which the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, asked, certainly not the proportion of money which goes to the administrative expenses. But I will see whether it is possible to get any figures on those lines from the United Nations, or from whoever can supply them. Neither could I make a comparison, or at least a measurable comparison, between the position in 1957 and the position to-day, although I think that in many respects there has been an improvement. But, my Lords, there still are about 1,200,000 refugees, of whom, as the noble Lady said, about 500,000 are in Jordan, and 700,000 distributed between the Gaza Strip, Syria and the Lebanon.

The Government agree that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency—U.N.R.W.A.—in the Near East, is doing particularly valuable work. I think it has made very considerable progress, particularly, as Lord Astor pointed out, in the fields of education and vocational training. The United Nations General Assembly authorised the operations of this Agency for a three-year period ending June 31, 1963. During its present session, therefore, the Assembly will have to renew the Agency's mandate, or make alternative arrangements for the care of the refugees; and in voting on this question the British Government will have in mind the need for continued care of these unfortunate people.

My noble friend also referred to the financial problems of the Agency. From its establishment in 1950 to the end of 1961 the United Kingdom contribution to the Agency's expenses was nearly £25 million, and this is by far the largest payment made by any country except the United States. I would just ask the noble Earl, Lord Longford, to set that against the other set of figures he quoted, because it is a very much larger affair altogether. The cost of U.N.R.W.A. continues to rise as the Agency expands its educational programme, and the Government believe that this programme is one of the most important contributions U.N.R.W.A. can make towards the welfare of the refugees.

We have pledged ourselves in the current year to pay a total of £1,928,000 towards U.N.R.W.A.'s budget, which totals just over £14 million, and this contribution is again larger than that of any other country except the United States. I can assure your Lordships that the Government's interest in helping these Arab refugees will continue. We feel—and I am sure those who know far more about the question than I do will agree—that the long-term solution of the Arab refugee problem must lie in the economic development of the Middle East. I doubt whether anyone who is familiar with the problem thinks that putting them back into Palestine can be an immediate solution. Meanwhile, we hope—and I think it is right that I should say this—that other countries, which at the moment are supporting U.N.R.W.A. with only token sums, will be prepared to make more substantial gifts to this most deserving cause.

My Lords, I do not want to take up any great length of time, but I feel I must say a word about Hong Kong, in view of the interest which so many of your Lordships have expressed in it, particularly my noble friend Lord Astor, who has been there lately. His praise for the way in which, the people and the Government of Hong Kong have tackled their vast problem is a sentiment which I would strongly echo on the part of the Government. The Chinese refugees are now estimated to number over a million. That is about one in three of the whole present population of Hong Kong, and this huge spate of refugees has never been formally recognised as being within the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner.

There is, of course, one General Assembly resolution, by which the High Commissioner can use his good offices to encourage arrangements to be made to help them, but the response to this resolution has been negligible. Practically the entire burden of supporting these people and caring for them has fallen upon the Hong Kong Government. As the Governor of the Colony has pointed out, we ought to look at the problem as one of refugee integration, rather than of refugee relief. They are not treated in Hong Kong as a separate class of people, but their integration with the population that was there before does present a great many problems. They have to be provided with work and with medical care; their children must be educated, and they must be rehoused.

The Government of the Colony has put in hand a very large building programme, in an effort to do away with the shanty towns which these refugees first of all built in the Colony. A great many multi-storey apartments are being built very quickly, and by the end of last year about 200 of these large blocks of houses were finished and occupied, at a cost of over £11½ million. This year, in March, more than 453,000 of the new arrivals had been resettled in eleven multi-storey estates and cottage resettlement areas. The programme has now been accelerated, and during this year the cost of the programme to the Hong Kong Government has been over £3 million. And of course, your Lordships will be aware that medical care and education are available to everybody in the Colony of Hong Kong, whether they are refugees or not. A third of the Government's total expenditure of over £76 million budgeted for this year will be spent on these services alone; and that does not include capital sums of £1 million for new schools, and £2 million for hospitals and clinics.

All these great achievements Hong Kong has undertaken willingly, and without external aid of any kind. It is a burden upon an economy which is stretched to the limit. The Government entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said about the importance of enabling Hong Kong to earn money by exports. I am sure your Lordships will agree with the Government in expressing the highest admiration for the manner in which the Colony has faced up to this colossal problem.

My Lords, there was one question which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked, of which I took a note, although he acknowledged that it was not the responsibility of the Government; it concerned the position of refugees in Germany—What are called Nazi "persecutees"—who ceased to qualify for treatment as refugees after 1953. As the noble Lord said, it would not be appropriate for us to make representations to the German Government on behalf of refugee victims in general, and although we are fully alive to the problem of the refugees this is more properly the direct concern of the United Nations High Commissioner. He has already been informed of the concern felt in this country, and by the British Government, over the exclusion of persecutees who became refugees after 1953.


My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves that point, he has in fact put into my mouth (unless I am misinterpreting him) words which are the exact opposite of what I said. I said that it would be appropriate for the British Government to make representations and that, indeed, they had an obligation under the Bonn Agreements to make representations direct to Germany.


I apologise, if I have misunderstood the noble Lord. It is, of course, not the responsibility of the Government, but our representations have been made to the High Commissioner for Refugees, which seemed to us the most appropriate channel.


May I go on pressing?


I do not——


I should like to press the noble Earl on this, if he will allow me to do so. Does the noble Earl deny that the Government have any responsibility under the Bonn Agreements on this matter?—because, in fact, they have a responsibility in this. They are a party, particularly on this question of indemnification.


I would rather the noble Lord put down a further Question about that. I have rather gone out of any way to reply to this slightly extraneous point which he raised, and perhaps he will forgive me for not pursuing it further at the moment. But I am grateful both to him and to the noble Earl, Lord Longford for their contributions, on behalf of the Party opposite, to this debate.

To my mind one of the most hornible things about this refugee problem is that it seems to have revealed an increase in human cruelty, in some respects greater than that which has existed in any previous age. In the Middle Ages and in modem history there have been refugees, some individual fugitives from tyranny, and some mass refugees from religious persecution—principally, of course, the Jews. But I do not think there has ever been anything like this rabid nationalism, which in our own century and in our own lifetime has sought to justify the Wholesale removal of millions of people from their homes; and, in some cases, the practice of genocide. There have often been conquest, oppression, tyranny and subjection in the past, but it is only in our own time that people seem to have got this idea that people of a different nationality or race must be lifted up and removed bodily from the territories which some other nationality wishes to occupy; and the amount of cruelty and misery which that involves is almost unspeakable.

I think, my Lords that for many centuries our own country has had a good record in affording asylum to the victims of persecution. Since the middle of the seventeenth century when we decided to admit Jews, very large number of Jews have come here, in my view to the great social land economic benefit of this country. Also, of course, we took large numbers of Huguenot refugees who were the victims of the French King's decision to revoke the Edict of Nantes and who also brought many benefits to us. We have taken many individual fugitives, including, oddly enough, Karl Marx, whose disciples have in our own times provided so many more millions of refugees than have ever existed before in the history of Europe.

Since the war, my Lords, the British Government have spent, in all, some £200 million on this cause, on helping refugees, and we ourselves have received into this country nearly a quarter of a million people, including of course about 100,000 Poles and about 20,000 Hungarians. If other countries had received refugees on the same scale as we have done, the problem in Europe would not have existed as it has existed for more than fifteen years now. I think, my Lords, that we have no cause to be ashamed of what we have done, either publicly as a Government or privately as individuals, to serve the cause of humanity in this way.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, may I, with the permission of the House, first thank those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, especially the three noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches? Their modesty did not hide their deep knowledge of the subject, though it may have hidden to some something about which I possibly know better, and that is the long, strenuous, devoted, personal work that each of them has given in this field.

It is, of course, a great point that this subject has brought all the religions together. We have had help from the Catholics, the Protestants and the Jews, who not only have made great efforts for their own community in this world but have been extremely generous in helping other problems as well, and one should pay tribute to that. We have had Moslems, Buddhists and non-denominational bodies like the Save the Children Fund all collaborating. I am so glad that the noble Earl paid tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, because if it had not been for her strenuous chairmanship, her absolutely bulldozing efforts, we should never have had that wonderful co-operation of all the societies which is existing now and which, we hope, will always continue. If I may say so to the right reverend Prelate, it is of course impossible to stop any society from setting itself up and calling itself a refugee society, but what we do is this: we admit to the Standing Conference only those who can show a balance sheet which is a proper and a good one, and a record of work which shows that they are serious and are not merely money-raising their own salaries.

As regards what my former honourable colleague of Fulham, Baroness Summerskill, said, I can assure her that the administrative costs of the High Commissioner are not great. In the first place, it is terribly hard to see actually where the administrative and the operational sides end in these finings. The other thing is that, even if everybody working under U.N.R.W.A. were working for no salary, the problem is so great that it would not begin to affect the further efforts we must make in education and in providing work in that area.

As to the Government, although the Opposition may have felt that by not mentioning the Government in my Motion I did not mean to ask them to do things, I have in previous talks left the noble Earl under no misapprehension whatsoever. I have not asked for exact figures—it cannot be done in this House. But what we can do here is to accept the fact that we have a total moral commitment in this matter. Once we have that and we have decided that in this century we will give the right answer to the question "Who is my neighbour?", then, if that is done by us as a nation we can be sure that in the years ahead the Government representing us will play their full part not only to do well but to make the thing adequate to cover the problems, so that future generations can look back with pride rather than with shame at what this generation has tried to do. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-four minutes before seven o'clock.