§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I beg to move, to reduce Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) by £100.
I move this Amendment in order to criticise the action of the Home Office in regard to the non-internment of alien enemies. This matter has had the consideration not merely of this House, but also of the country for the last twenty-three months, and I cannot help feeling that I am raising this because the Government seem to have lagged so far behind not merely public opinion, but the 1048 public opinion of this House. To put them in the order in which they seem to me to exist I should say the Government comes a long way last and then this House, but public opinion outside the House is very much stronger and more forcible with regard to the internment of aliens. I suggest that we here, who are presumably a democratic country, are entitled to have the wishes of the people of the country carried out provided there is no real reason against it. I do not wish to see any injustice done to any alien enemy, but I want that the Home Office should clearly realise that the desire of the people is that every alien enemy should be interned or repatriated unless there are some really stringent reasons in the public interest why he should be allowed to be free. I suggest that these are not the lines upon which the Government has acted up to the present moment. Nothing could have been better than the statement made by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when we first discussed this matter in November, 1914. Ho then said:All Departments of the State who have anything to do with the perils which undoubtedly exist in the presence of a large number of alien enemies in this country must be a" fully determined and as anxious as any Minister of the State to preserve us from these evils.In that statement a very large number of the present members of the Cabinet concurred. Before the Coalition Government came into existence I think I am entitled to call in aid the speeches of those who wore not then in the Cabinet, notably the Colonial Secretary and the President of the Local Government Board, who, when they sat on those benches, were as firm and as determined as my hon. Friend and myself are that all alien enemies should be interned except under very special circumstances indeed. I should like to appeal to them to know whether they have used their influence upon the Secretary of State, and whether they have put to him in the privacy of the Cabinet all those excellent strong speeches which they made when they were in Opposition.
Matters went along very slowly between November, 1914, and the riots in the East End of London in April of last year. There was a growing feeling against the large number of aliens who were uninterned. The Committee will remember how the present Chancellor of the Exchequer played almost the thimble trick with us on this side of the House. First 1049 it was the Home Office, then the War Office, and then it was the Board of Admiralty. We never could get any real decision as to who was responsible for leaving this large number of aliens un-interned. Now, however, thanks to the decision of the Prime Minister, the matter is in the hands of the Home Secretary. In May, 1915, the Prime Minister announced a new policy. At that time there were 24,000 alien men and 16,000 alien women uninterned after ten months of war, and 19,000 had been interned. The right hon. Gentleman, in one of those terse speeches which say, as we all hope, exactly what he means, laid down what he called a new policy in regard to the internment of aliens, and it is because in my view that new policy has not been properly and adequately carried out that I am raising this Debate and moving this reduction.We propose that in existing circumstances, prima facie, all adult males of this class should, (or their own safety and that of the community, be segregated and interned, or, if over military age, repatriated. This will not require fresh legislation. We recognise that there will be cases which call for exceptional treatment…We all recognise that.The women and children in suitable cases will be repatriated, but there will, no doubt, be many instances in which justice and humanity will require that they should be allowed to remain.Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say he had appointed a Committee by whom applications of exemption from the general rule of internment would be considered. It is perfectly clear from the Prime Minister's statement that his view was that, prima facie, and as general rule, all alien enemies should be interned. It was only the exceptional cases which were to come before this Committee, and if they satisfied the Committee on national grounds that their internment was undesirable, they should not be interned. After the Prime Minister had spoken the Colonial Secretary got up and, so to speak, dotted the i's and crossed the t's of the Prime Minister's speech. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bonar Law) said:The plan, as I understand it, is this: So far as alien enemies who are not naturalised are concerned, all of them of military age are to be interned, and the others are to be either interned or repatriated…. Nobody will desire to sec interned anybody who could safely be left at large in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th May, 1915, col. 1844, Vol. LXXI.]Afterwards the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil), who is now the Minister of Blockade and Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, made more clear what was his interpreta- 1050 tion of the Prime Minister's statement, and the Prime Minister accepted that interpretation. The Noble Lord said:I am going to put one or two points, in order that the matter may be quite clear. I understand that Germans of military age are to be interned as soon as possible.The Prime Minister: Yes.Lord Robert Cecil: … Any interned German, or any interned enemy, is to have the right of appeal to this tribunal that is to be set up, so that he can come out if he satisfies the tribunal that it is in the public interests and the public safety that he should be let Oct."—[OFFICIAL.REPORT, 13th May, 1915 col. 1848, Vol. LXXI.]There is what I may call our charter in-asking that all alien enemies shall be interned. It is contained in the Prime Minister's statement, amplified by the statements of two members of the present Government, the Colonial Secretary and the Minister of Blockade, that all alien enemies were to be interned, with the exception that some might be allowed out if it was in the public interest and consistent with national safety. I cannot help feeling that a very large number have been allowed to be uninterned, or to be let out in their own personal interests-and not at all in the public interest. Two months after the statements I have already quoted, namely on 27th July, 1915, we got several figures from the then Home Secretary (Sir J. Simon). There was a large accession of men who had been interned owing to the Prime Minister's statement. At that time an additional number of 9,325 had been interned, and there had been over 14,000 applications for exemption. Out of the 14,000 applications for exemption one would not have been surprised if a few scores of men, or if a few hundreds, had been allowed out in the public interest, consistent with national safety, but the Committee will be rather astonished to hear that out of these 14,000 cases no less-than 6,092 exemptions were granted. You are not going to ask me to believe that 6,092 enemy aliens out of 141,000 who applied for exemption were exempted in the public interest. The Committee-which considered the cases may have satisfied themselves that it was consistent with national safety—I shall have something to say on that later—but I think if we had particulars of these cases it would be found that in most of them the applicants wanted to be out for their own personal reasons—family reasons, business reasons, and so forth. There were then 6,000 cases remaining for internment, and the Home Secretary added that he had every reason to hope they would 1051 be completed by the Committee that was going through them by the end of August of last year. It is clear they were not so completed, because we find from the answers recently given in this House that 261 were only interned this year, in February and March. Apparently, for eighteen or nineteen months of the War, these 261 alien enemies had been allowed to carry on their business, doing all the harm they possibly could, and it was not until the War had been on for eighteen or nineteen months that they were actually interned.
I would like further figures from the Home Secretary. I got some yesterday and they are rather startling, even though they are qualified by the statement he made that a large proportion of them are Czechs, Poles, Italians, and people from Alsace-Lorraine. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not Italians!"] He mentioned Italians the day before yesterday. I suppose he means Italians who were in Austrian territory. I am told also that he mentioned Schlesweig - Holsteiners and Heligolanders. Clearly, not the bulk of these aliens are people of that kind. There are a very large number of Germans still uninterned. Of the Germans some few of them may be Poles, but I think a large number of them are Germans, pure and simple. According to the figures there are in London to-day, in the Metropolitan Police area, 4,931 German males and 3,796 Austrians. There are 9,000 enemy alien males and 7,000 enemy females in London to-day, and there are in the rest of the country 3,000 enemy alien males and 3,000 enemy alien females. Apparently the great bulk of these aliens appear to be congregating in London, the centre of the Empire, where one would think they would be likely to be the most dangerous. A very extraordinary fact came out in an answer given by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday to a question I put. There are prohibited areas all round our coast—all round the East Coast, the South Coast, near the Mouth of the Thames, near Hull, near Elswick, and near all the great important centres, which are more important to us in war than any other parts of the country. These are areas where aliens are not allowed to reside unless under very special circumstances. Will the Committee believe it possible that there are to-day 730 enemy alien men and 136 enemy alien women residing 1052 in these prohibited areas? The Prime Minister's statement was that the uninterned were only to be allowed to remain uninterned if it was in the public interest. What public interests can possibly be served by allowing Germans and Austrians to the number of 730 to remain in prohibited areas? What is the good of calling an area a prohibited area under such circumstances? Friendly aliens, such as American travellers, French people, and others of our Allies even, have the very greatest difficulty in getting into these prohibited areas, and yet there are 750 enemy aliens allowed to remain there. I suggest that there should be a clean sweep made of these people. They have no right to remain there. There is no reason whatever why they should remain there. Do you think that an Englishman would be allowed to remain at Wilhelmshavcn? However good his relations may be with the Germans, and however long he may have been there, he would be cleared out.
Every Englishman throughout the length and breadth of Germany, so far as I have been able to get information, is interned. They do not allow Englishmen to remain at large in Germany in the public interest; they are put into internment camps, and we know how they are treated, according to the information we had a few days ago, yet these people in this country are allowed to remain uninterned and to carry on their business. I would like to press the right hon. Gentleman for another figure. He would not give it to mo yesterday. What is the number of alien enemies who have been allowed out from interment camps? He said it would involve a mass of detail. I cannot help thinking that if the accounts of these internment camps are kept properly it would be a simple matter to put a clerk on to ascertain how many men from the interment camps had been allowed out to remain out. These are the most dangerous men. They are men who come out more bitter against the English than they were when they went in. These are the men who would be the most likely to be dangerous in connection with the possibilities of spying. What are these alien men doing? They are carrying on their business and competing with English businesses. We talk a good deal about capturing enemy trade, but what we are doing is to allow Germans to capture our trade. This is more serious since the Military Service Act was passed than 1053 it was before. Under the Military Ser-vice Act you are compelling every able-bodied Englishman of military age to go into the Army, and allowing able-bodied Germans to get into the Englishman's work, into his little business, and to step into his shoes. I put before the right hon. Gentleman a few weeks ago a case in my own Constituency of a small watchmaker in a small and humble way of business, which he had built up in the course of years. This man came to me and said, "I have got to go, because the tribunal will not give me relief." I pointed out that he was going for the honour of his country and so forth. I put the case before the right hon. Gentleman, because this man complained bitterly that there were two other watchmakers in the town who had been competing with him for years, and would compete with him, and these men were both aliens. They were both of them aliens of that nationality to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—Poles, but all the same we have got to remember that it is not merely enemy aliens in connection with whom this question arises, especially in the East End of London. There are powers at the disposal of the Home Office for dealing with it. It is a serious question whether it is right to take our men into the Army and leave their businesses in the hands of neutral aliens as well as of alien enemies. I would wish my right hon. Friend to consider that point, to see whether something cannot possibly be done. I did suggest to him two months ago that the whole of the decisions of this Committee allowing these disinternments should be gone through over again. My right hon. Friend promised that he would consider the suggestion; I wonder whether he has done so. I want the Committee to go through these cases with the Prime Minister's words burned into their minds that these people should be allowed out only if the national interests require it and not in their own personal interests. I think that if they went through all these cases with this before their minds the result would be totally different.
Having referred to the question generally, I may now deal with one or two cases. My right hon. Friend discussed with me yesterday at Question Time the question of the Deutsche Bank. That bank is the greatest German financial organisation and the greatest trade 1054 organisation which has been established in Germany for many years past. It has its ramifications and its sub-companies all over the world. That bank, the very head and centre of German finance, has in London been put under control. There are still ten alien enemies kept in that bank in order to assist the English controller, men who are remaining in England as outposts of German finance, in order that when the War is over they will go back to the Deutsche Bank in Berlin with all the information that they have acquired as to English trade and English finance even if they are not communicating with Germany to-day. Is this desirable? My right hon. Friend spoke yesterday of the interests of the Deutsche Bank. They have nothing to do with us. We are concerned only with the interests of our country while our country is at war. I had a letter this very morning written after questions had appeared in last night's papers from a banker in this country bitterly complaining that one of these men in one of the suburban portions of London should still be allowed out. This is quite unnecessary when the very astute and clever controller of this Deutsche Bank might put in some of his own clerks. He has got plenty who would be able to do all the work required in winding up the affairs of the Deutsche Bank.
I have given notice to the right hon. Gentleman that I should call his attention this afternoon to what I consider is one of the worst cases that have yet occurred—I refer to the case of the Voigt Restaurant. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking in the National Liberal Club on the 10th of May, two months ago, told the National Liberals that only within the last few weeks there has been discovered in the very heart of London a public-house kept by a naturalised German which might have become a most dangerous centre.The power in my hands, he said, enabled me promptly to intern all the men who were concerned.I should say that the man who was concerned was a naturalised German whose son is fighting in the English Army. You will find a large number of naturalised Germans who, when they want to be treasonable, put their sons into the English Army. My right hon. Friend, when asked fc, question on the subject suggesting 1055 that the police knew of this and had received information more than six months prior to the 10th of May with regard to this restaurant, said:The hon. Gentleman was mistaken in supposing that the police disregarded warnings about the Voight Restaurant being used as a treason club; it was only recently that evidence was obtained.Now let me give the facts: In August or September, 1915, a young Czech friend of my own, a young man about whom I made the most careful and adequate inquiries, about whom I have consulted one of the most eminent Czech members of the Austrian Parliament, who is now over here, and upon whose head a penalty has been put by the Austrian Government— it is well known that Czechs are fighting for Russia when they can, and that they are only too anxious to fight for us against the tyranny of Austria—and I find that reports with regard to this restaurant made by this young man were taken down to the police day after day in September of last year, more than seven months before the right hon. Gentleman spoke in the May of this year.
It is rather interesting that we should see what goes on in London in the heart of the Empire seven months before the police swoop down on this place, and I will read some of the reports. On the 9th of September, the day after a Zeppelin raid, my young friend reported: "V. had for dinner on the menu Zeppelin soup"—that was actually on the menu:—They told me they knew beforehand about last night's raid and were waiting for it at V., as this place was out of the danger zone. There was general rejoicing in the restaurant. One said 'it was the happiest day of his life.' Another one had a complete list of all the places where damage was done. He knew every house and mentioned the factories, warehouses and offices by their names. I seldom saw such a crowd of happy people. They were mocking the English, who, as they said, fled in panic at the Zeppelin raids.Sir George Makgill, secretary of the British Empire Union, took that report down to Scotland Yard on the following day. On the 11th of September this young man went again. He called again in the evening at 8.45. He says:They are expecting the Zeppelins this night as they have information of their arrival. About 11 p.m. there are still about fifteen customers there. Voigt is called to the telephone. He comes back from the telephone cabin, exclaiming, 'They are here. In an hour they will be in London.' The others shout, 'Long live Germany!'and are mad with joy.They came here that night. They were on the East Coast. I am not dealing with 1056 unknown raids or raids that were kept secret. This was made public. They were on the East Coast about that time. Fortunately they did not come to London. On the 12th of September he was there again. He met some Hungarians. They were more anti-English than the Germans. One of them, an old man, perhaps fifty-five years of age, said to someone who disapproved of their German sentiments, "Just wait! When the Germans come to London I will denounce you, and you wilt be one of the first to be shot as a traitor." That was reported to the police.
I will not weary the Committee with all these reports, but I will give a concluding episode. I have seen the young man and talked to him again and again. On the 21st of September he was there again, and the young son in our Army was back on furlough, and he was speaking in this restaurant, and he said—fortunately we know all these things to be fight—that there was great unrest amongst the English troops, and that there were complaints by the soldiers, and that they are all sick of this War. Then he makes remarks about the Canadians, which I will not read. One of the Germans said, "It is a shame that you have to be side by side with niggers and Indians. It is a disgrace to Britain." My young friend could not stand this any longer, as he was a loyal friend of the Allies, and he said something about German atrocities. They asked him what he meant, and he replied, "Read Lord Bryce's Report." This German said, "Lord Bryce's Report! Lord Bryce is a blank, blank liar! Wait until the Germans come to London, and then you will see that we do not commit atrocities." The proprietor called out, "People like you will be hanged for this. We will take good care. You dare to insult the German Army! You are a Czech; get out of this!" After some more language my young friend got outside. I should like to know whether the son is still in our Army. It may perhaps be said that those are very excited statements of my young friend. I do not think they are. At all events those statements Avere sent to Scotland Yard, and seven months afterwards their general accuracy was admitted in the Home Secretary's statement that he had discovered a public-house kept by a naturalised German which might become a most dangerous centre, and that he had interned practically the whole lot of them. Suppose that the case of that naturalised German had 1057 been considered by one of these remissions committees. Suppose that his position had been considered, or that Scotland Yard had been keeping an eye on these naturalised Germans who keep German restaurants, which are naturally German centres.
There are—my right hon. Friend has had a list of them—a dozen German restaurants in London to-day which are just as much German as if they were in Berlin itself where alien enemies congregate, naturalisd or unnaturalised, where, if you are not a Scotland Yard detective looking British all over, wearing British boots, and if you are a man who can pass himself oil as a German, you can go and hear most instructive statements. Here is a bill of fare for one of those German restaurants in London for the day before yesterday. It is written in German. I am not a good German scholar, and I do not understand everything here, but there are such things as gries suppe, wiener rostbraten, rindfleisch, wirsing kohl, kartoffeln, gurken salat, and pfan-kiichen. If you go into that German restaurant you will see notices on the wall in German, you will see that the waiters are German, and if you ask for an English bill of fare you will not get it. It does not exist. It is a German restaurant and might be in Berlin. There are a dozen of them in London to-day in the very heart of the Empire while we are lighting for our lives. In order that this might be confirmed I asked a great personal friend of my own to go to this restaurant yesterday. Two ladies went to lunch, and into this German restaurant for lunch yesterday an English soldier in uniform was brought in by German friends. There is no question about that. T will tell the right hon. Gentleman who the ladies were. It was in Kleinsch-marger's Restaurant. We do not want our soldiers to be taken into lunch by people speaking German. I do not say that it was a trap or that they were spies; I only say that we do not want the existence of Germans in the shops where our soldiers are brought in. We ought to be protected from it. There is only one remedy—sweep the whole lot of them away and then it will not exist. Night after night in these restaurants you will find German women of bad character congregating. One knows for what purpose—to worm things out of English soldiers. All the gossip of the German camps goes there. Men who come out go where they will get German 1058 food and meet fellow Germans, and all the gossip and news of the camp flies from mouth to mouth in these same restaurants. Another instance was brought to my notice only last week. In Manchester a man was arrested, whose name was William Sauter; ho was not a naturalised German at all; he was a German pure and simple, for he had served fourteen and a half years in the German army as lieutenant, and when the police raided his lodgings they found a German ordnance map of France and letters from Germans hostile to this country. The magistrate very rightly sent him to six months' imprisonment, and directed that he was to be interned as soon as he came out. If the police had received orders to intern all Germans, that man would not have been at large.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
Perhaps they did not know he was a German.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
You should have police who know Germans as well as the right hon. Gentleman does, and let the police realise that the Prime Minister was correct in what he said as to the internment of Germans. Then there was the case of Wilhelm Rodewald, interned on the 15th of this month. He was discovered through his son, who applied for exemption at West Kent Tribunal. He said ho was the son of a German, and was born in England. What was his ground in asking for exemption? He said, because his sympathies were naturally with Germany, and he felt he could not fight against his own friends. The result was that the father was interned next day, and I find that he was a very well known City man, director of a well-known City firm carrying on a lucrative business. Because his son would not fight for England, somebody woke up, and found the father was a German. He is now in an internment camp, and I do not know whether the mother, also a German, has been repatriated. You may say that he is an Englishman, having been born in England, but we do not want that class of Englishman during the War. Then one last case to which I wish to call attention: There is a German concern—I will not mention the name of it—that is doing a good deal of work for the Government at the present time, and a number of Germans are employed upon that work. There was a Czech, a Bohemian, who was also employed there, and the other day this 1059 workman was distributing handbills for the British Empire Union, with a view to getting men to join that organisation. A German, who is the managing director, said to this man who had distributed these pamphlets, that they could not have in their employment one who distributed anti-German pamphlets, and there and then this unfortunate man was dismissed. I saw him here at Westminster, and asked him what was the reason of his dismissal. He replied that he was a good workman, and that there was no reason, save the only reason given by the managing director, that he could not be allowed to distribute this literature. That only shows the kind of thing that is going on in our midst while we are yet at grips with Germany.
I have only given a few examples, and it must not be supposed for a moment that I know all the cases; but if we have these samples you may be perfectly certain that there are other cases. But the most important point is that these men are really the outposts of German trade after the War is over. I should like to see all the alien enemies of military age and alien women repatriated. We have now some 40,000 or 5000 interned, and at the end of the War these men will come out. In the meantime their businesses have been carried on by their wives or by managers, as far as they possibly can, as going concerns; they will be more bitter than ever against this country when they do come out, and they will go on with their businesses as the outposts of German trade. I want to call attention to a very wise observation made by the French Minister of Commerce when he said that:Germany is preparing for a trade war against us. She is getting ready to swamp the world's markets with dumped goods the moment the War is ended. The Allies must beware against employing Germans in any capacity in commerce and industry.I believe I am right in saying that while Russia has sequestrated a very large number of German establishments, France at once sequestrated every German business entirely. They know how to deal with this subject, and we might take a lesson from our Allies in this respect. At the end of the War these interned Germans will come out, and what reason is there for this feeling of kindness and tenderness to the German enemies in our midst. There is a very strong idea throughout the country—I do not want to make accusations, of course, against any member of the 1060 Government—that the Government do not really appreciate the determination of the people to stop this German menace in our midst, and, after the War is over, to see that England shall be for the English. We do not want these Germans; we do not want to be friends with men and women who are the relations of those who have so cruelly treated our men at Ruhleben and other camps in Germany. We do not want to encourage relations with men and women, cousins and uncles, and so forth, of the men who have treated Belgium and France as we know the Germans have treated those countries. We want to get rid of them. We want to see that the existing power with regard to internment is carried out much more stringently, and above all, that the power of repatriation shall be exercised in the case of every German man and German woman, where it can possibly be done without cruelty. We want to see them sent back to their own country, where they will receive a warmer welcome than they get here.
§ Sir RICHARD COOPER
My hon. Friend has made a very vigorous speech in favour of a more drastic policy on the part of the Government in dealing with the alien peril. I think he has said, perhaps, sufficient to show both the extent and the danger of this peril, unless some drastic steps are taken by the Government. I think the Committee ought not to forget that the Home Office itself in October, 1914, admitted the determination of Germany to use to the full the benefits of her spy system, which had been inaugurated here, as the Home Office said, six years ago. If the Government fails to realise the danger to this country, if it fails to realise the power these people do possess if they choose to exercise it—and I think we have been taught by the action of the Huns that they stick at nothing if it is necessary to win this War—if the Government fail to realise this danger which awaits us, the public outside are not doing so. There is, as my hon. Friend very properly said, the very strongest and widest indication from one end of the country to the other at the present time that there should be so much apparent tenderness on the part of the various Departments of the State, which, in some form, are concerned in dealing with alien enemies. It is very unusual in this country to find borough councils and urban district councils passing resolutions which are neither more nor less than a 1061 very strong condemnation of the policy of the Government, for these bodies throughout the country are generally composed of members of all schools of political thought, and are usually the very last to offer any opinion or discuss in any form any matter which is one of the general policy of the Government of the day. More than that, we have chambers of commerce throughout the country discussing this matter and passing similar resolutions. There is one part of the country where the public seem to have a little more backbone than the people in other parts. In Worcestershire the local authorities have dealt with the matter themselves, and they have cleared out every alien enemy, or taken charge of every alien enemy, in the county of Worcestershire. I want, in the first place, to refer to a little incident in this House yesterday in regard to a question which has been asked over and over again, and when I put it yesterday in this House, at Question Time, an observation was made by an hon. Member to the effect that the Government should intern them all. At once there was the remark from a Member of what to me is the Little England party, "Why not begin with the rich families?" My reply is this, and it is the answer which I have made in public, that when the safety of this country is at stake—and it is at stake at the present time—whatever may be the measures that are necessary, I would start at the top, and I would treat the rich people at the top identically as I would treat those at the bottom and who are poor. Do not forget that we have had cases in this House—the Duke of Albany and the Duke of Cumberland—but I will not go more deeply into that matter, because hon. Members will agree that sufficient is generally known.
Whatever the measures adopted, we have got to get rid of not only the poor Germans, but we must remember that there are rich Germans among us—Privy Councillors of German extraction, whose banking accounts would not stand investigation. I have in mind the German Athenaeum Club, and I think we should have a much stronger policy with regard to this matter, because apparently there are no bounds to British simplicity. I would like to draw attention to the fact which is firmly impressed upon the public mind, namely, that from the beginning of the War the Government have never followed a determined or proper policy in regard to this matter. My hon. Friend 1062 spoke with reference to the attitude of the Prime Minister in March of last year when he gave what was an undertaking that the Government were going to intern all alien enemies of military age in this country. They have not done it, they are not doing it, and we have no knowledge of their taking any active steps to do so. There followed the statement of the Prime Minister in November, 1914, in which he said:I am not at all ashamed to confess that, certainly in ray own mind, and probably in the mind's of many of my colleagues, there have been fluctuations of opinion and view from time to time, as to the best way of dealing with it.As far as one can judge the action of the Government, there are fluctuations of opinion going on at the present time. The new point more than once laid down by the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, in June of last year, which I believe was the last occasion on which this Committee discussed this subject, was that the principle of dealing with alien enemies was that they must, first of all, be proved to be dangerous to this country, and then the Home Office would take action. That might do in times of peace, but in time of war when everything is at stake, prevention is better than cure. There is only one policy for the Government to follow, and that is to assume that every alien enemy, and I would go further and say every alien, is dangerous to this country unless there are assurances or guarantees that it is safe to leave them at large. By way of illustration let me turn for a moment to the case of Baron von Bissing. I have all the quotations from Ministers, notably from the Under-Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, previous to last June. The Committee will remember that on several occasions during the first twelve months of the War questions were asked, notably by my hon. Friend, about Baron von Bissing. I have got here records where Ministers of the Crown assured the House that every investigation had been made, that everything that was to be known was known, and that there was no necessity whatever for taking any steps in the matter. Thirteen months after war has been on, the Government suddenly intern von Bissing, and I submit to the Committee that a I grave blunder in administration was made either, in the first place, in leaving him at large, or secondly, in interning him afterward. I would ask again, during those thirteen months in which this dangerous I man was at large, what dangers could he 1063 not commit and what did he not commit? In this connection, though it is not strictly concerned with the Home Office Vote, though it is intimately bound up with the question of the alien peril, I may refer to the enormous number of enemy reservists that were allowed to return to Germany, not only from America and other countries, but here from this country, men whom the Government ought to have taken charge of at the outbreak of war, and to have done something, at any rate, to reduce the potential power of the German fighting forces. Those men not only went back, but the Fleet had instructions to let them go back. I say a Government which follows a policy of that description cannot be looking after the best interests of this country. Take, again, the farce of the five-mile limit. I raised a question about a man named August Schmidt, of wakefield, an alien enemy who had a permit to motor over the whole of the North-East Coast of England, right up to Newcastle and beyond it. I was assured that his case was all right, and that this permit was given on sure knowledge that the man was loyal and safe—so safe, in fact, that about two months afterwards the Government took the proper step and interned him, so that he could not be a great danger. Take the case of the prohibited areas. Enough has been said to make hon. Members realise that, at any rate, our policy with regard to alien enemies and aliens in prohibited areas is excessively slack.
Let me give a case in point. In Portsmouth there is a man named Faass, who has been interned because he is dangerous to be at large. His wife and children live in a house at Landport, which is part of. Portsmouth. It is true the children were born in England, but remember that the father is sufficiently dangerous for a weak Government to intern him. One son and one daughter at the present time are working in Portsmouth Dockyard. I submit that that is a scandal to our administration to have a case like that. I do not hesitate to say that it is not an isolated case. I am sure there are other hon. Members who could bring up many others. Another illustration of the weakness of the Government policy is borne out by the reports which everybody has seen in the Press with regard to the tribunals, and the people who have claimed exemption because they said their sympathies were with Germany. There are a good many 1064 other points which were dealt with by my hon. Friend who opened the Debate. I would like to deal with this point. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford, of course, made reference to the necessity for taking stricter steps with regard to alien enemies at the present time, not only because they may be a danger to this country, in the administration of the War, but because now is the opportunity for dealing with German trade and British trade and for making Britain a country for the Britons. This is more strictly a matter for the Board of Trade, but it does concern the right hon. Gentleman in his policy of internment. What goes on at Siemens', which is a large electrical firm? We were told by the Financial Secretary to the War Office early in the War that they were a necessity to the Government because they could do work which they could not get done elsewhere. The point is this: The Commonwealth Government of Australia have scheduled this firm in Melbourne and Sydney as an enemy firm with which the people of Australia may not deal. If Australia is right in taking that step, how is it right not only for the British people to be dealing with this firm, but for the British Government itself to be placing very large orders with them? I submit it is a case in which the right hon. Gentleman might take stricter measures in connection with the internment of alien enemies, not that there is any suggestion that any of these people are a real danger, although they all ought to be interned, but at any rate the step is necessary in order to protect our trade when war is over, and to give to the people what is not only their citizenship and birthright, but what is their due reward for all the burdens that are being borne by them, and especially by those who are fighting our battles at the front.
I come to a much more serious matter. In Kensington there is a gentleman named Doctor Markel, whose name I am quite sure is familiar to the right hon. Gentleman. He lives at 20, Queensgate Terrace. He was naturalised thirty years ago, and he has got a pass from the Government to visit all the internment camps in the country. I quite recognise that if the Government is absolutely certain that that man is loyal, there may be no objection to giving the man a pass to visit the internment camps; but, at any rate, that is a policy which the Germans and Austrians would not adopt. I venture to suggest that no Englishman would get a pass to visit 1065 the internment camps in Germany. We have a great question on in this House with regard to the treatment of prisoners of war. We have to depend on the good offices of friends like the United States Consul, and we have no other means of knowing exactly what is going on; but Germany has got a person of German extraction, a German at heart, with a free pass travelling about the railways and visiting every camp in this country at the present time. He is working for the Bed Cross Society, and I think I am right in saying that all the correspondence of the Red Cross Society is not censored. I venture to throw out the suggestion that this Dr. Markel, if, as I suspect, he ought not to be at large at the present time, is able to correspond freely with Germany without his letters being censored. His ease is infinitely worse than that, because the Kensington police have instructions from the Government that this man is not to be watched or reported upon. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary possesses that privilege, but I am quite sure the police in the district where I live have not got instructions not to watch and report on me. If that man is loyal, there is no necessity for instructions to be given to the police not to report upon or watch him. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into this matter, and if he likes I will put a question down on the subject.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I wish the hon. Member would. I do not believe for a moment that any such instructions have been issued.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I know it is a very serious statement to make, but I am prepared to bring forward sworn evidence that it does exist. I tell the right hon. Gentleman, before he replies, that I state that the Kensington police have written instructions, signed duly by three people, instructing the police in Kensington that they are not to watch or report upon this man. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into it. If the man is loyal there is no need of such an instruction, and if I am right in the statement I have made it is prima facie evidence that the Government know that the man is wrong. If it is so, then I would ask what is the sinister influence at work that brings about such an instruction to the police in this country not to report upon or watch such a man as that? I am not going to weary the House by continuing these cases. [HON. 1066 MEMBERS: "Go on!"] I have got here a very large number. The public know and realise what the position is. I have been going a good deal lately to public meetings dealing with this subject, and I have heard the very uncomplimentary remarks to the Government made by the public at those meetings. I only wish the right hon. Gentleman would take the step of sending an inspector to report to the Government what things are said by the public at meetings held against alien enemies throughout the country. The position is a very serious one indeed. Let us remember that it has been brought to a climax this last month by the very tragic death of Lord Kitchener. The people are very suspicious of that, and I do not mind suggesting to the House that much more of that matter is going to be known before the end of next month. The Home Office is the Department responsible for the administration of the Press Bureau, and there are two little matters in connection with that which I wish to mention, and the right hon. Gentleman, I think, cannot know of their existence. The first is, that in the Press Bureau there is a typists' supervisor named Mr. A. V. Anderson, through whom all documents, however confidential they may be, are passing. This man's real name is Heydenreich, but with the permission of the Government he changed it three months ago to Anderson. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] Mr. Heydenreich three months ago changed his name to Anderson, and is typists' supervisor in the Press Bureau at the present moment.
§ Sir R. COOPER
That I cannot tell. His name is Heydenreich. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be glad to look into it, and if it is wrong, and he privately intimates to me, I will put a question down, so that he can give the necessary answer. I know nothing about the man; he may be perfectly honourable; but if he is, why change his name, and why do the Government allow him to do so at the present time? The right hon. Gentleman must know that in the Press Bureau representatives of neutral papers have permission to go into the bureau to receive advance notices of facts that the papers may or may not publish. Those are the instructions that are given by the Government. Dutch or American newspapers have the same freedom and rights 1067 as to instructions as are enjoyed by our own Press. This is a very, very important and serious matter. Previous to Lord Kitchener leaving London there were three facts given to the Press Bureau which they were not to publish. The first was that they were not to refer to the fact that Lord Kitchener was going to Russia, and the second was they were instructed not to publish the fact, and the fact was used in the instructions that Lord Kitchener would leave from King's Cross, and not Euston; and thirdly, they were instructed not to publish the fact that Lord Kitchener would embark on the "Hampshire" at a place four miles north of Stromness. Those are the instructions that were issued to the Press Bureau before Lord Kitchener left London. I say that if neutral countries have that information, there was nothing to prevent the fact that Lord Kitchener was going from a particular station and by a particular boat and the exact spot from which he was to embark being in possession of Germany a long time before that embarkation took place.
I will say no more upon that. What are the people asking at the present time? They are asking what is the sinister influence at work with regard to alien enemies? We find in three well-known widely-read London journals very strong references to the "unseen hand." Three of the leading and widely-read London journals are freely criticising the Government and asking where the "unseen hand" is. I can only suggest that if this is a fallacy, and I am sure every Member hopes and prays that it is, that the Government ought to deal with it, and the Government ought to crush such statements appearing as have appeared. I will mention the three papers. There is the "Financial News," "John Bull," and there is the "Daily Mail." [Laughter.] Yes, it does not matter what you think of the paper, these statements are being made, and there is no contradiction. The Government are not dealing with it, and what is the result? The people are becoming more and more satisfied every day that there is something very radically wrong with the administration of alien enemies in this country, and I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, first of all, to look into the statements I have made—he will do that I know—and to see whether they are perfectly true, or whether they are not. I do beg him to take this 1068 matter extremely seriously. The public are getting exasperated. The public are not going to stand this policy, unless, which is what I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do, he will make an unmistakable statement dealing with all these suggestions of the "unseen hand," and that sort of thing, and stating what his policy is. Let the public understand it, and let them know that their fears are groundless. This is what must be done, and if it is not done, with all humility I express my personal conviction that very serious consequences will in the near future follow any lack of action on the right hon. Gentleman's part.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I think the House will desire that I should make a full statement with regard to the attitude of the Government to alien enemies who are living in this country, and I will subsequently deal with several of the specific points that have been made by the hon. Members who have addressed the Committee. At the beginning of the War there were about 75,000 Germans and Austrians living in this country, not including British-born wives, of whom there were 10,000 or 11,000, and who do not enter into this question very largely, and not including children.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he means by children —by "not including children"?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Not over the age of fourteen. Of that total of 75,000 there have been repatriated, or in certain special cases, principally of women, allowed to go to other countries, 21,000 in round figures, leaving 54,000. There have been interned of that 54,000, 32,000, leaving, therefore, 22,000 uninterned still in this country, and those are the people with regard to whom the cry has been raised, "Intern them all." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Although some hon. Members applaud that sentiment, that is not the policy which has been advocated by the hon. Member who has moved this Motion. He admits that there is a proportion of special cases that must be considered. Of the 22,000, rather more than 10,000 are women, all of whose cases have been specially examined. Some of them are elderly women who have been in this country all their lives, and who are strongly vouched for by persons of repute, who have been given certificates of exemption from repatriation by the Advisory Committee which has examined their cases. Others are women who have 1069 families of children, the children being British born and British subjects. I do not know whether it is proposed that these mothers should be separated from their children. I imagine that probably no Member of this House would propose that—that the children, many of them being in only poor circumstances, should be left destitute and without their natural guardian while the mother is sent back to Germany or is interned. The alternative would be—
§ Mr. SAMUEL
These are British subjects, and I do not know that the Germans are under any obligation to admit them into Germany. They could, of course, be deported, but it is rather a strong order to take them, many of them British in sentiment, entirely British in sentiment, and compel them to go to another country oil which they are not subjects. The alternative would be to create some great internment camps for these women and children, perhaps 5,000 or 6,000 women and a large number of children to be collected together in some centre, with all the difficulties attendant on a large aggregation of women and children in winter, and so on; a policy which, I am certain, would only commend itself to this House, and to the country, if clear necessity were shown. In our view clear necessity has not been shown, and while a very large number of women have been repatriated, we have not thought it necessary in respect of those 10,000 women of whom I speak to send them back or to intern them.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Certainly. As a rule the fathers have been interned. There may be exceptions, and I shall come later to a certain number of men exempted; but the rule is to intern men male Germans, in all cases unless there is good reason to the contrary. If we deduct the 10,000 from the 22,000, there remain 12,000 men. Then we come to the class of friendly aliens who are technically of German or Austrian nationality, but who are not German and who are not Austrian in the ordinary sense of the word, and whose sentiments, so far from being German or Austrian, are, in the majority of cases, violently hostile to 1070 Germany and Austria. There are the Czechs, of whom there are a fairly considerable community in this country, a large proportion of whom have fled from Austria because they are in fact in revolt against the Austrian Government, and it would be absurd that after they had come to this country we should intern them because they are of Austrian nationality.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I will give figures in a moment. There was a case which came to my knowledge only two days ago, and I think it always enforces these arguments to give individual instances, of a local tribunal which informed me that they had exempted from military service an Englishman who was a motor car proprietor, for the reason that not far away there was a person whom they described as an Austrian who had been exempted from internment, and who was a competitor of the Englishman who appealed and appeared before them. I made instant inquiries into the case, as I always do, and I found this man was a Czech who had been in this country for over twenty years, who had a British wife, who was vouched for by the committee of Czech leaders in this country which informs us on this subject, and not only vouched for by them, but by a very important diplomatic source which I think it inexpedient to mention. He had been allowed to remain exempt from internment, and to continue his business on condition that he employed an English manager to look after his motor cars. If he had been interned it would not have meant that the Englishman would have been free from competition, because no doubt his English-born wife, or his English manager, would have continued the business the same as before, and the only result of this local tribunal's action has been that the British Army has lost a soldier. Then there are a certain number of Poles. There are Italians from the Trentino, with Italian names and speaking Italian, included in the 22,000 uninterned, because they are technically of Austrian nationality. There are Jugo Slavs, who are also technically Austrian, but who are perhaps as hostile to the Austrian Government as anybody in the whole of Europe. There are Alsatians, of French descent, speaking French, knowing no German, who have lived in this country, perhaps, for many years, and I do not think there is a single Member of this House who, when he 1071 says, "Intern them all," really means that we should intern these people. Yet they are all included in the 22,000, and the total of them is about 4,000. There are also a certain number of Armenians who have fled here from Turkish oppression, and it would be a monstrous thing to add to their sorrows when they come here by interning them on the ground that they are Turks.
We must, therefore, by common consent, deduct from the 12,000 males I previously mentioned this 4,000, all of whom have been carefully examined—because there are many people of these various races, about whose opinions or attitude there may be some doubt, who are interned. We do not by any means exempt them all. In a population of 75,000, the figure with which we began, there are necessarily a certain number of very aged and infirm people, suffering from incurable diseases, or seventy or eighty years old. The number of persons included in this total over seventy years of age is 1,500, and I think that hon. Members, if they consider, would regard it as a very great hardship, unless there is something definitely known to a man's detriment, that these people of seventy or eighty years of age, or who are really seriously ill, should be interned in one of these camps. I think, therefore, that hon. Members, when they say "Intern them all," would probably allow exemption in these cases. If we deduct these 1,500 aged people—I have no figures as to those exempted on the ground of serious disease —there remain 6,500, and that is the real figure to which I would ask the Committee to give their attention. When the country is told that there are 22,000 alien enemies at large, everyone imagines 22,000 able-bodied active German or Austrian men. [HON. MEMEERS: "Oh, no!"] That is the idea that the public has in its mind.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I know the hon. Gentleman did not say it, but he is not the only propagandist in this matter. Unquestionably the idea has been instilled into the mind of the public that there are 22,000 dangerous alien enemies at large, and I point out to the Committee that 10,000 are women whose cases have been specially 1072 examined, 4,000 are of friendly races, 1,500 are aged people, and there remains the figure of 6,500.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The Advisory Committee. I should like to give the Committee a certain number of typical cases which I have selected, in order to show the kind of reason why these 6,500 have been exempted, because, primâ facie, the rule is that all should be interned. I will take a few cases. Here is a German whose age is fifty. He is a butcher. He has a British-born wife and ten British-born children. He has three sons, two nephews, and two brothers-in-law, all of whom voluntarily enlisted in the Army. If there were anything known against that individual I should say certainly intern him; but when the information is that he is not in any way anti-British, that he has lived here all his life, and married an English wife, and has three sons who have voluntarily enlisted in the Army, as well as other relatives, that would appear to be a reason for exempting him from internment in a camp.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Those are all Germans. I am speaking now entirely of persons of German nationality. The next case is that of a German sixty-six years old, with a British wife. He has been here forty-three years. He is nearly blind, and is entirely supported by a British-born daughter. The next case is that of a German of fifty-seven, who came here when he was an infant of two and a half, and has lived here ever since. He has a British wife and six British-born children, one of whom is serving in the Army. There are a number of similar cases. For instance, there is a woman of sixty-nine, a widow and a German, who has lived fifty years here. She has ten children, all of them British subjects, and to say that she ought to be sent back to Germany and separated from her ten children, all of whom live in this country, and all of whom are British-born, seems to me to suggest an act of cruelty. There is another case of a German woman, aged fifty-seven, who has lived fourteen year?
1073 here. Twenty-eight years previously she had lived in Belgium as a domestic servant. This woman technically is a German, and she is suffering from an incurable disease. Again, there is a lady technically German, aged sixty, whose parents were Spanish. She has never been in Germany and cannot speak German. There is the case of a Hungarian widow of sixty-seven, who for twenty-seven years lived in Serbia and has been three years resident here. She has a son, two grandsons, and three sons-in-law serving in the Serbian Army. She lives with her youngest son, who is married to an English wife and who has five young children. If we were to adopt the simple policy of internment for all these cases they would all be swept into camps, and I do not think there is a single member of this House who would, reviewing these individual cases, not say that exemptions should be made in respect of them. Therefore, let us reject once and for all the simple, specious, and, at first sight, attractive policy of internment for all, and let us recognise that there must be a certain number of exemptions.
There is one other class of exemption I should like to mention. It is very small in number. The Ministry of Munitions and the War Office from time to time have asked the Home Office to exempt from internment workmen who are well-known, who are of special skill, and who are necessary, in their view, for carrying on certain industrial operations for the manufacture of munitions of war. There are only a very small number of such cases. Where they exist, and where the men are vouched for on the best authority by people who have known them long as being in no way dangerous, I think we should be more likely to damage ourselves than the enemy if we were to reject the requests of the Ministry of Munitions and the War Office and prevent these men using their high technical skill in the manufacture of prismatic glasses, electrical apparatus, or whatever it may be. The hon. Member opposite has mentioned those who have been exempted as employés of branches of German banks and who remain in this country. Those branches are not open for the conduct of any German business. They are still allowed to continue, in a sense, in order to wind up certain business, in order to pay off British creditors, and in order to secure the transfer of the securities to the public Trustee, to be dealt with after the War in such a manner as may be con- 1074 sidered desirable and necessary. They are all of them under British supervisors. They are under the general control of Sir W. Plender. There are a certain number of the original staff who have special knowledge of the intricacies of the business and of the personalities of the different clients of the banks. When the War broke out these banks employed 446 persons, who were all, I believe, of alien nationality. That number has now been reduced to thirty-four, who have been exempted from internment. The Home Office is continually making representations as to the desirability of dispensing with this class as speedily as possible, and I have every reason to hope that during the next few days the number may be reduced from thirty-four to about ten. I hope, as opportunity offers, and if the administrator thinks it possible to do so, the others, as far as may be, will also be dispensed with.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
They are to be interned, unless they fall within the small class to which exemption is given. The others who have been dispensed with, of course, have been interned in the normal course, unless they also come within one of the grounds for exemption which have been admitted.
§ Mr. G. FABER
What about the Deutsche Bank? When they are relieved from further work at the bank, will they be interned?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Oh, certainly, unless it is possible that there may be one or two cases—I do not know—who would be exempted in the ordinary course; otherwise they would certainly be interned. The majority of them are exempted solely for the reason that the administrator at the bank has asked for their services, and has hitherto regarded them as indispensable.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
No, no! We cannot say in the least that the 32,000 who are interned are all dangerous enemies.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
They may be interned for the same reason as the rest of the 32,000, namely, that it is the general policy of the Government, declared in this House 1075 by the Prime Minister, to intern all male Germans of military age, and some others as well. Unless there is a special reason to the contrary, they will be interned in the normal course. The question, then, is —if the Committee agrees that we cannot lay down a simple ruling to intern them all—how the exemptions are to be arrived at? The Committee is well aware of the constitution of the Advisory Committee, with whom this matter rests. It consists, as I will remind hon. Members of Mr. Justice Sankey, Mr. Justice Younger, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Epping Division (Colonel Lockwood), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Peebles Division, the Deputy-Chairman of the House (the right hon. D. Maclean), the hon. Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Baldwin) and the hon. Member for Newry (Mr. Mooney). These six Gentlemen form the Advisory Committee. There was no pressure upon them from the Home Office to exempt any class of persons or individual persons. They have acted freely on their own judgment. Although the Home Office sometimes interns on further evidence persons whose exemptions have been recommended, the cases are exceedingly few—and personally, since I have been at the Home Office, I know of no case—where we have not interned persons whose internment has been recommended.
§ Sir R. COOPER
Is the Advisory Committee working on instructions from the Home Office or the Government?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
It is working under the instruction to carry out the Prime Minister's policy—the policy that the Prime Minister declared in this House. These are the rules the Committee follow.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Whenever necessary. I think, as a rule, these Reports are forwarded almost invariably, but I should not like to say off-hand. I shall be very glad, however, to inquire into the matter. If there is some unseen band at work, as fantastic imaginations suppose, to protect Germans from internment, all I can say is that those who think so must select from amongst these 1076 two judges and the four Members of this House which of them possesses the unseen hand. With respect to prohibited areas, naturally, the public think that if 800 or 900 alien enemies are allowed to live in prohibited areas—that there are 800 or 900 potentially dangerous Germans or Austrians living at places like Plymouth or Portsmouth. Prohibited areas cover the greater part of Scotland, the whole of eleven counties in England and Wales, most of two other counties, and a strip around the coast from ten to forty miles deep—altogether between one-third and one-half of the whole area.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Yes, all the county of Cornwall is a prohibited area, and altogether between one-third and one-half of the whole of Great Britain is a prohibited area. If hon. Members think that that means, so to speak, that they are living in a small number of garrison towns like Plymouth and Portsmouth, then I say that these eight or nine hundred people are scattered over an area which is between one-third and one-half of the whole of this Island. These cases have been most carefully considered. I have had the figures given to me relating to Brighton. Four alien enemies are allowed to live at Brighton. Hon. Members may think that that is a very dangerous thing. Well, of the four, three are men of over eighty years of age, and the fourth is blind and an invalid. I examined the cases in the Liverpool area. Many of these are Armenians, for there is a small Armenian colony there well known to the police—not in any derogatory sense—and they have been allowed to remain there by the Chief Constable. All the persons who are allowed to live in prohibited areas have been individually exempted by the local Chief Constable, and are there on his permit, and not on the permit of the Home Office. These permits have all been granted in consultation with the military and naval authorities of the district. Those concerned have, of course, all been exempted from internment by the Advisory Committee, or they could not live either in the prohibited area or anywhere outside an internment camp. However, I do think it would be desirable to review these cases, 1077 because, although it may be based partly on some misunderstanding, there is a good deal of nervousness in the public mind on this matter. Therefore, I have appointed two Commissioners to review all the permits that have been given by the chief constables in prohibited areas. One of the Commissioners will be the hon. and gallant Member for the Knutsford Division (Colonel Alan Sykes), who has very kindly consented to undertake this difficult task, and the other will be a very distinguished Anglo-Indian administrator, Sir Louis Dane.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
They will make their recommendations to me and I shall be responsible. I should like to say a word in regard to the alleged releases from internment. The releases from internment are exceedingly few. Some months ago a certain number were released because they had been recommended for exemption by a Committee, and had been interned before the decision of the Committee was known. There are a few cases of those who have proved that they are neutral or of British nationality, and therefore they have had to be released because there is no legal power to retain them. There are one or two others. Out of the population of 32,000 persons interned, during the last two months five Germans and six Austrians have been released on special grounds, whilst for the three months previous there were seventeen Germans and twenty Austrians, a large proportion of the Austrians being men of friendly race; whilst, on the other hand, there is a steady influx of fresh internments.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
No, Sir. People have said he has been seen, but he has not been seen! I was going to mention to the Committee half a dozen cases of typical mistakes with regard to this matter, which, in their combined effect, have succeeded to some extent in inflaming public opinion. The hon. Member who moved this Motion to-day has said that public 1078 opinion is dissatisfied with what has been done by the Government in this regard. Public opinion has been grossly, and, in fact, I may say shamefully, misled in many cases. Take, for example, the case of Herr von Bissing. A paper which claims a circulation, I believe, of about a million, printed a paragraph not long ago in a style of innuendo, and asked whether it is not the case that Von Bissing has been seen jauntily going down Piccadilly, smoking a cigar. Herr von Bissing was interned a good many months ago, and he has not been out of the internment camp for an hour or a minute since he was first interned.
Another case which attracted a great deal of public attention is that of a British baker who applied in Wandsworth for an exemption for his son from military service, on the ground that he needed his assistance, and that he was being ruined by the competition of German bakers who had been released from internment, and who were on each side of him. Public opinion there was alarmed and indignant. The whole statement was totally unfounded. There was no released German baker in the whole of the man's neighbourhood. Notwithstanding that, the kind-hearted tribunal, on the strength of this plea, exempted the son from military service, although the was a music hall artist by trade, and knew nothing of baking. Again, hon. Members may have seen in their papers a few days ago a statement by a borough councillor. At a meeting of the Hackney Borough Council, a member of the council said he had received a telephone message from an official at the Home Office, asking him if he would employ an interned German. It was received with cries of "Shame!" and this feeling was re-echoed in the Press throughout the country. I made inquiries, as I do in all cases. I found, in the first place, that the alleged incident took place six months ago, in January; secondly, that no one in the Home Office had any knowledge of the matter whatsoever; thirdly, that the Home Office never makes inquiries by telephone, and that there is no record in the Home Office of any man with the name mentioned by this Hackney borough councillor having been employed by him, so that the Home Office could not have known of his having been employed by him. Although I do not suggest that the Hackney borough councillor did not receive a telephone message, I do suggest that he received it from some one not in 1079 the Home Office, but who might possibly have represented himself as being in the Home Office, and made inquiries on behalf of an interned alien so as to make an appeal for his release.
The next instance I will give is from a newspaper with a vast circulation—one of the largest in the country. It printed a letter not long ago from a correspondent stating that "Germans are being encouraged to leave the Isle of Man to work in hotels," and this imaginative person, like a true artist, in order that his work should be as complete as possible, gave nil the details of the employment these men would get, and the terms of payment. They were to receive 15s. a week, and everything found, the only restriction being that they were to be indoors by 7 p.m. I have looked through the records, and find that in the last six months during which I have been at the Home Office, not a single waiter has been released from the internment camps, and no one has contemplated for a moment the release of any man for that purpose. At a meeting of the hop trade recently, a member of that business declared that the taxi-cab driver who had driven him to the gathering was, he had discovered, an alien enemy, an Austrian, and his statement was received with every sign of disapproval by his audience. That seemed to me very odd, because, as a matter of fact, all licences were withdrawn from alien enemy taxi-cab drivers at the beginning of the War. But the police, having received a letter the same day to the same effect, they made inquiries, and they found that the taxi-cab driver in question was a natural-born British subject of British parents, but that he had an impediment in his speech and a broad Yorkshire accent. The following statements were made in Scotland by a councillor and a justice of the peace:Our War Office seems to be under German influence.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Not on account of this.There are in Edinburgh German pork butchers, barbers, hotel-keepers, caterers, etc., dominating Edinburgh, and I am in possession of information which if known would stagger the country. I know for a fact that on the Saturday night previous to the raid on Edinburgh a considerable number of Germans left this city and went to country towns and returned again on the Monday after the raid was over. I have absolute proof that telegraph wires were cut and telephone wires were cut also.1080 This gentleman, having been challenged by the military authority under the Defence of the Realm Act to produce his evidence, signed the following statement:I regret that I have made these statements as they are not statements of facts.We have had another of these mare's nests here to-day given to the Committee by the hon. Member for Walsall, who told us with every air of conviction—I have no doubt he himself is personally convinced—that the Press Bureau had instructions, which anyone in the Bureau could get hold of, as to where Lord Kitchener was going on a certain day to Russia.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
That they were not to mention that Lord Kitchener was going to Russia, that he was travelling from King's Cross instead of Euston, and that he was going to leave from a port in the neighbourhood of Stromness. I telephoned at once to the Press Bureau, and they told me they had received no instructions whatever about Lord Kitchener, and that they did not know he was leaving the country; further, that they had no need to do so, because their general instruction as to the movements of Ministers covered the point. I have not had time yet to investigate the hon. Member's other allegations, but I very much think that they are all on the same footing. Certainly no instructions have been issued by the Home Office that Dr. Markel, who is an extremely well-known man, should not be observed by the police. Here is another illustration with regard to which I have information. It concerns a man named Heydenreich. His father was born at Bow. He was educated in London. His mother is the daughter of one of the Naval Knights of Windsor. The Admiralty gave approval to the change of name, and the name is not German at all, but Scandinavian, and he himself is a British-born son of a British subject.
§ Sir R. COOPER
Will the right hon. Gentleman point out to the Committee what word or expression in that statement contradicts a word I said on that subject?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
There is no need for the Home Office to give permission. He was employed in the Admiralty, and the Admiralty gave permission.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The Home Office have not given permission because there is no Government control at the present time over changes, of name by British subjects. With regard to certain individual cases which have been given to me on which I said I would give the Committee some information, there is the case of the Voigt Restaurant. The reason the police did not act on the information first given to them some months ago was that it was totally inadequate. Voigt being a naturalised British subject, it was necessary to show there was serious ground for suspicion. The information first given was not adequate. The police kept careful watch on the house, and, as soon as they obtained evidence, they interned a considerable number of the persons concerned. With regard to the other German restaurants, I am not acquainted with the facts, but will make inquiries. The hon. Member pointed out a case of a German recently arrested for not having registered and not previously interned. How could he be interned if we did not know he was a German? There are, of course, a certain number of persons who are able to evade registration. The moment they are detected they are arrested and prosecuted, and seat, not to internment, but to prison.
§ Colonel YATE
May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman will not take some steps to prevent those persons changing their names and so escaping?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
No German can change his name without permission, and permission is not given except in a very small number of cases—usually, I think, in the case of British born women who have taken German names with their marriage.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I will come to the question of naturalisation in a moment. Then there is the case of a man dismissed from a workshop. It is a very striking case. I may point out to the hon. Member for Brentford that his Czech friend who informed him, and whom he found to be completely reliable, would have been interned under a policy of "Intern them all." The facts are these, I believe: In 1082 this workshop were a small group of highly-skilled Germans conducting a very technical process, the men having been exempted from internment either at the request of the War Office or the Ministry of Munitions—I am not quite sure which. This man, in the ardour of his sentiments, went among these men pressing them to join the Anti-German Union, and a disturbance was caused in consequence, and the man was asked to find employment elsewhere. That is a very special case in peculiar circumstances which I should not think would be likely to occur again in any part of the whole country. Lastly, the hon. Member said that when all these aliens came out of their internment they would all resume their business, which had been kept alive, and continue in competition with British traders. I do not know why he should assume that should be so. It would be rather premature now to say what course will be adopted with the interned Germans, but I can tell him, so far as I am concerned, that is not at all the consummation present to my mind.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
This is the most important thing the right hon. Gentleman has said this afternoon. Perhaps he will go a little further and say what the policy of the Government is.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I cannot at the present time. With regard to naturalised Germans the position is more difficult. There is no doubt that there are a certain number of naturalised Germans who have retained the strongest sentiment of loyalty to their country of origin and who are a potential danger. It is also equally true that there are a very large number who have completely identified themselves with this country, and realise that our institutions are far preferable to those of Germany, who have sons who are voluntarily serving in the British Army, and who ought not to be interned merely because they were born in Germany many years ago. Those who raise the cry, "Intern them all!" and would extend it not only to Germans of German nationality, but also naturalised Germans, forget, I think, the terms of the Certificate of Naturalisation which is issued under the authority of Act of Parliament to those to whom letters of naturalisation are issued. It is a reciprocal obligation. The certificate signed by the Secretary of State personally says:Now, therefore, in pursuance of the powers conferred on me by the said Act, I grant to the said So-and-So this Certificate of Naturalisation, and declare that upon taking the Oath of Allegiance 1083 within the time and in the manner required by the regulations made in their behalf he shall, subject to the provisons of the said Act, be entitled to all political and other rights, powers and privileges, and be subject to all obligations, duties and liabilities, to which a natural-born British subject is entitled or subject, and have to all intents and purposes the status of a natural-born British subject.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Of course it was possible. This naturalisation form has been in existence for very many years. On the other side there is this reciprocal obligation imposed upon the alien who has been naturalised. He is required to take the following oath of allegiance:I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George the Fifth, his heirs and successors, according to law.If there is any reason to believe that that oath is not being fulfilled in the letter and the spirit, then the State is fully entitled to take steps to prevent that man becoming a danger to the State: but when there is no ground whatever for suspicion, and no reason for believing from any information obtained that the man is doing other than fulfilling the obligations of his naturalisation, I do not believe that this House of Commons will desire that this certificate, solemnly given under the powers of an Act of Parliament, should be treated as a mere scrap of paper, and that we should dishonour the signature of the State.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Will the right hon. Gentleman state on what grounds certificates of naturalisation can be withdrawn?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
They cannot be withdrawn, but in my opinion the matter certainly requires reconsideration before any further certificates of naturalisation are granted to Germans. Of course, none are being granted now. The matter requires and will receive the most careful consideration, and in my own view I do not think it is right that we should naturalise people as British subjects, while at the same time they retain their allegiance to a foreign State. Of course, a watch is being kept on these cases; but let me assure the Committee that the dangers of espionage would certainly not be removed if you were to intern not only all persons of German nationality, but also all persons who are naturalised Germans. I am told by those who are in a position to know, that the danger of espionage comes mostly at the present time from persons of neutral nationality who are in German pay. One other matter 1084 I wish to deal with, and it is the position of alien friends in relation to the Army. There are a considerable number of subjects of the Allied Governments living in this country who are of military age. Since the Compulsory Military Service Act has been passed there has been a growing feeling in the country that these men ought either to serve in the Army of the country of their birth, or in the Army of the country of their adoption. Arrangements were made with the French Government and the Belgian Government to the effect that their nationals living in England, of military age, and subject to military requirements, should return to France and Belgium to perform their military service. If they are engaged in munition work, as many Belgians are, of course they are serving the Allied cause as well as if they were in the Army. Similar arrangements have been made with Italy, but not with Russia, and at the present time there are a large number of able-bodied young men who are now walking the streets of London. Leeds, Manchester, and other towns who are not performing any military service, while the English people around them find themselves compelled by law to enter the Army. At the request of myself and others, the War Office, some time ago, agreed that such men should be made eligible for the British Army. Under the Army Act the British Army may recruit non-British subjects to the extent of 2 per cent, of the whole number. We cannot impose compulsion upon those who are not British subjects, but these men are being invited to enlist, and a not inconsiderable number are enlisting. Nevertheless, there still remains a very large number who do not show any willingness to serve the Allied cause, either in the Russian or the British Army. With regard to these men I propose that it should be intimated to them that if they do not belong to one of the classes exempted from military service, unless they are men who would in normal course be exempted under our Military Service Acts on one ground or another, they will be expected either to offer their service to the British Army or to return to Russia to fulfil their military obligations there. I propose to establish a special tribunal to examine the individual claims that may be made by these men.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I do not think many of them are, but the case of all political refugees will be sympathetically considered, and the tribunal will have instructions to that effect. I have now completed my survey of this question of alien enemies, naturalised aliens, and friendly aliens. I do not complain that this question has been raised. On the contrary, I have been very anxious for some time to have an opportunity of making a statement on the floor of the House with regard to many of these matters, and to remove some of the misapprehensions which are founded on misstatements, and which have been so largely prevalent in the mind of the public. Personally, I fully share the view which has been expressed by hon. Members who have spoken from the other side to the effect that the presence of a large number, or even of a small number, of alien enemies in this country may be a very grave danger. I have been deeply impressed by what has happened in the United States and in Canada, where outrages of various kinds have undoubtedly been plotted and executed under the guidance of officers of the enemy Government by belligerent subjects living in those countries. If adequate measures were not taken I am far from thinking that there is no possibility of similar occurrences taking place here, and the nation has a right to know that measures, and vigorous measures, are being taken by the Government to guard against these dangers. I rejoice to see, although there have been exaggerations, a spirit of vigilance on the part of the public itself, and I would far rather receive a hundred complaints that wore unfounded than miss one indication of real value coming from a member of the public with regard to possible dangers. So far from resenting or undervaluing those complaints, I am grateful for the cooperation of those who are willing to assist the Government in its prime duty of guarding the country from internal as well as external danger.
§ Mr. G. FABER
Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the figures of Germans and Austrians in this country of military ago?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I cannot give them at the moment. I will deal now with an entirely different matter, which I have promised to deal with, and I will treat it with the greatest possible brevity. While we are considering this danger from alien 1086 enemies there is another danger at home. While our Army and Navy are fighting the battles of this country and its Allies there are some—I am happy to think they are only a small minority—who make it their business to sap the sources from which our naval and military forces derive their strength. A propaganda has been proceeding in various parts of England and Wales which the Government regard in a serious spirit, and we have found it necessary to undertake prosecutions and make some seizures of pamphlets and leaflets with respect to which some Members of this House have made complaint. What has occurred? When the Military Service Acts were passed many of us profoundly regretted that it should be found necessary to establish compulsory military service here. We regretted it intensely, and it was with the utmost reluctance that many of us in the Cabinet and in this House came to the conclusion that the condition of the State was such that it was necessary to adopt this measure. We, nevertheless, supported it because we thought it was necessary; but, furthermore, we supported a provision in the Bill to enable men who were genuine conscientious objectors—we had in mind men who-were conscientious objectors on religious or ethical grounds—to be exempted from military service. Soon after the passing of those Acts there was set on foot a propaganda for the manufacture of conscientious objectors. Parliament having enacted compulsory military service—hon. Members may think it right or wrong, but the fact remains that it is upon the Statute Book —an organisation was set on foot by men who avowedly refused to obey the requirements of the Act of Parliament.
As I have said before, I can imagine an individual of deep religious convictions considering in an earnest spirit what his duty is in this crisis. I can imagine him saying, "I know that my country is engaged in a life-and-death struggle. I know she is calling upon all her manhood to fight for her. I know that the most fundamental principles of human welfare are at stake in this War, but, on the other hand, I am a man who all my life has held deep convictions against warfare, and against the taking of human life." I can imagine a man with agony of mind and much travail of soul being in this dilemma, not knowing on which side the balance should lie, and saying at last, "I cannot undertake military service." That man I can respect, but I cannot understand the 1087 mind of a man who by speech and by pamphlet and leaflet, by meetings and by conference, tries to stir up individuals to withdraw their service from the State, and to create and organise by all the methods of political propaganda a large body of recalcitrants. If all the nation had taken that course, and responded to such appeals, where would be our cause and the cause of the Allies now? When this propaganda oversteps the bounds of the law, I hold the view that the Government would be weakly abandoning its primary duty to Parliament and to the country if it failed to take action. Consequently proceedings have been taken in the Courts, and seizures have been made of propagandist material. I found when I came to the Home Office that in some cases where leaflets had been taken into Court and the publishers prosecuted and condemned, and the leaflets seized in order to be destroyed, that the same leaflets were being freely distributed throughout the country in many cases, and there was no regular uniform procedure for stopping that. It seemed to me absurd, when a leaflet had been condemned by a. Court in London, that its circulation should be permitted elsewhere. I issued a circular, therefore, on the 12th April, to the police, giving them a list of leaflets which had been condemned by the Courts, and asking them to take action to prevent their further circulation. On 24th May I sent out a supplementary list, and on 14th June a third list. But the local police forces are not under the control of the Home Secretary. He is the police authority for London, and the Metropolitan Police are under his orders, but the police elsewhere are under the control and act on the instructions of the local authorities.
It is the case that in some instances the police have, in the exercise of their discretion, gone beyond the suggestions which they received from the Home Office. They have also taken proceedings against local distributors of leaflets, in order to test the legality of particular pamphlets and leaflets. The view which I express to the House is that the right course in this matter is not to proceed against insignificant local distributors of leaflets, but rather to test the case by taking action against those who are primarily responsible, to take proceedings at the centre against the publishers, or the authors if they are known, of such leaflets, and only after that has been done and the leaflet 1088 has been condemned by a Court, only then is local action to be taken to stop any continued circulation if the necessity arises. With a view to securing greater uniformity and effectiveness of action by the authorities with respect to this propaganda, I have issued to the police a new circular, asking them, except in urgent circumstances, to refer to the military authority of their district before taking proceedings in regard to pamphlets and leaflets. The competent military authorities have received instructions from the War Office as to the course they are to pursue in order to secure uniformity of action in carrying out the policy I have just explained to the Committee. Further, I have pointed out to the police that in some cases they have seized innocent papers in making seizures on particular premises, and have taken not only leaflets which were clearly within the action contemplated by the Defence of the Realm Regulations, but have also seized innocent papers.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
No, it was not. Full information has been received with regard to the seizure of these papers. I have made specific inquiries and have ascertained from the police categorically that that book was not among the papers that were seized. It was presented to the inspector who went to the premises, and this fact was stated by the police in Court in their evidence yesterday when the proceedings were being heard, and it was not challenged. The Bishop of Oxford's book, "The Sermon on the Mount," was not seized by the police; it was presented to the police inspector with a request that he would read it and return it after he had done so. But however that may be, I am asking the police to make every effort to avoid anything in the nature of promiscuous seizures in the future, and where innocent documents are seized to return them with the least possible delay.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
No, of course when the leaflets are condemned by magistrates we 1089 proceed against them, but there have been special cases in which a leaflet or pamphlet condemned in a provincial or even a London Court has not been put on the Home Office list. There have been one or two seizures of particular pamphlets which the magistrates in some provincial locality have in fact condemned—I regret that in those cases no appeal has been taken—there have been one or two cases in which I should have regarded the leaflets condemned as absolutely innocuous—such, for instance, as a mere statement of the provisions of the Act of Parliament. In cases where such leaflets are concerned I should not put them on the Home Office list, and I would not suggest that action should be taken by the police in other localities with regard to them. I would make this appeal to my hon. Friends, if I may venture to do so, that in carrying on a propaganda which, I have no doubt, they quite seriously consider it their duty to carry on, they should remember that, after all, the country is engaged in the greatest War in its history, and that those hon. Members of this House and others elsewhere who may be holding back the country's striking arm when engaged in this conflict are taking upon themselves a very, very grave responsibility. Germany has committed many crimes in the conduct of this War, and the greatest of all those crimes has been the War itself. I cannot help feeling there is not a little truth in the saying of a French writer that he who does not join in seizing and punishing the criminal in some measure condones his crime and shares his guilt.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
I do not think it was quite the most convenient course for the right hon. Gentleman, after the reduction of the Vote had been moved for the purpose of calling attention to one very specific subject—one in all conscience quite big enough to be itself a matter of debate to-day—should have added to his reply a statement on a totally different subject by no means less deserving of full discussion. There is one ground on which I shall not complain of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and that is its character and the elaboration with which it has evidently been prepared. I think I may say that for the first time we have had a statement from his Department and from that bench which showed something approaching an adequate sense of the importance of the subject raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brentford 1090 (Mr. Joynson-Hicks). The right hon. Gentleman will not, after his statement, be accused of failing to recognise, at all events, that for some good reasons, or bad reasons, there does exist and there is still existent in the public mind a very widespread state of suspicion on the subject of aliens residing in this country. It is something to have it recognised as a fact with which any statesman must deal, and that the thing must be taken into account in any measures that may be adopted. What is the ground for the existence of that suspicion? We all know many grounds. I propose to instance only two or three. In September, 1914, the Home Office issued— not under the direction of the right hon. Gentleman, for he was not then the Secretary of State, but under the direction of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. McKenna)—a manifesto which was practically to the effect that it had rounded up all the spies in this country, and that no danger now existed in that connection. The whole tone of that circular was so ludicrously and fatuously optimistic that in many people's minds it created the impression that the departmental amour propre was affected to such a pitch that their esprit de corps rendered it necessary to make out that they had accomplished ail that was necessary, and that it was almost impossible for the public to expect any further action on their part. Then, later, Lord Crawford inquired about signalling on the coast of Fife, and the reply of the Home Secretary to Lord Crawford's serious statement was to the effect that the Noble Lord, as Lord Balcarres, when in the House of Commons, was rather regarded as a self-sufficient person. From that hour to this no inquiry has been made into the Noble Lord's statement, and no step taken to counteract the danger to which it pointed.
That brings me to another subject. The right hon. Gentleman admits that in prohibited areas in this country some 800 aliens are permitted to live. I agree it is a small number considering the size of the areas, but you must look not only at the quantity, but at the quality, and must remember that a few people with large means may do the greatest amount of damage. I want to know whether any of these 800 aliens are allowed to live in parts of the prohibited areas in sight of the coast, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, or the Under-Secretary, will give an answer to that question before the Debate comes to an end. There are all sorts of 1091 things which may fairly be evidenced as having given rise to the serious state of public suspicion which the Home Secretary, with greater wisdom than some of his predecessors, has made a real attempt to cope with. There is one incident which I confess I am not comfortable about. Some of us attended a deputation to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to a German colony in Libury Hall, in the neighbourhood of the town of Hull. The right hon. Gentleman was enabled to show us that it was largely composed of paralytic persons and persons physically disabled by incurable disease from doing harm. But I do not quite see why these persons should have a German commandant or manager of their camp.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
The person who manages these Germans is admittedly a German, and thereby you give a German—who may be a malevolent German— a jumping-off place, and you put him in a place in sight of one of our principal railway stations, which he might use as a base for taking measures which might be dangerous to our national safety. It is perfectly idle to say you could not find an Englishman capable of speaking German sufficiently and of a sufficiently humane disposition who would make a perfectly satisfactory farm manager for these few Germans. Then there is another case which gave rise to very grave suspicion. Why were German reservists either in this country or in foreign countries permitted by our Navy to return to Germany? Our Government were not required by international law to give that permission. To this day we have never had an explanation on that point.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
It is part of the general question, and much of the difficulty has arisen because of the failure to give rational explanations on matters when they are capable of being so explained. I have a few questions to ask the right hon. Gentleman before I sit down. An allusion has been made to the Clerkenwell case where some Germans 1092 were found rejoicing after a visit of Zeppelins to London in September last. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. His agents took the risk of not believing the Bohemian who gave the information on that subject, and they have been proved since to have been in the wrong. It is not open to them to say that they had not information about those goings-on in that camp, and we have some right to complain, in view of the fact that at that time a raid had just taken place, and that there was every reason to expect another raid the next change of the moon. When we reflect upon the amount of damage that was done, we have a right to complain that some preventive steps were not taken. I should like to know, in view of the widespread suspicion that exists and the many stories that one hears, whether it is or is not the case when the provincial police have reported adversely, as, for instance, in the case of Herr von Bissing, upon the disposition and loyalty of an individual that their adverse reports have been rejected from London and overruled on the plea of superior knowledge. That is the kind of case that gives rise to such suspicion, cases in which no regard is paid to the opinion of the persons among whom the suspected people live, and who, after all, have the best opportunities of observing their daily conduct and forming an idea as to their disposition towards the State whose hospitality they enjoy. Can the Department say that in no case has this kind of adverse report been overruled from London without adequate reason? Is it not a fact in regard to naturalised Germans that in many cases there is a failure by our naturalisation to discharge them from their allegiance to their own country? I admit if it exists that may be an evil which cannot be got rid of without legislation, the merits of which I cannot discuss on this occasion, but I am entitled to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman-has any statistics or information to show whether or not in the case of a great many of these naturalised Germans their status with regard to their own country is one of discharged allegiance. I hope that we shall possibly have a more satisfactory answer on that point than we have much reason to expect, but in the little that I have said I think I have shown that the-right hon. Gentleman has done well to-recognise the widespread suspicion that exists, and I hope we shall find our efforts 1093 to secure public security will not be so much belittled in the future as they have been in the past.
§ Mr. R. MACDONALD (indistinctly heard)
I desire to deal more particularly with the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I regretted that the greater part of that statement dealt with vague exaltations with which, in the main, so far as I am concerned, I have no disagreement. He told us that we ought to remember that the country is at war. Have we not always remembered that the country is at war? He does not advance anything by laying down copybook formulas. I might ask him and his colleagues if they have always remembered that the country is at war? Do they remember it at the present time? Are we going to have any guarantee that the conduct of the Cabinet during the next six months is going to be the conduct of men who seriously and solely are putting before themselves the fact that this country at the present time is engaged in a life and death struggle of a magnitude and intensity which has never faced this country in its previous existence? What is the use of talking in these vague generalities, that simply raise passion and flout reason and sentiment? Nobody now or ever did, or ever will, dispute them. It is all a question of applying them as our own conscience and intelligence guide us to practical problems, individual and social, which present themselves to us.
I am going to address the few observations I have to make to the Committee from that point of view. There is another point. He told us, for instance, that the literature which is being seized is being seized because, in somebody's opinion, it is softening the national fibre, or taking the steel out of the national will. A little later on, when laying down his scheme for future action, he talked about pamphlets and leaflets that had been condemned. I interrupted him, and asked him if that was going to include every pamphlet and leaflet condemned by every Court, and he immediately said that of course it would. Then I got out of him by further interjection that, of course, it would be impossible. He himself to-day has admitted that these justices of the peace and magistrates have given different decisions about the literature which has been seized, and that he cannot defend them in this House. I would ask the Committee to remember, putting aside prejudice, that up to now 1094 we have only got those decisions to go upon, and before I sit down I will read completely one of the leaflets that has been condemned for destruction by one of these Courts. I want to repeat to-day the challenge I made in the Debate on the Adjournment. The right hon. Gentleman comes and tells us that he is only doing this because of national security, and because he does not want to hurt the enemy, and so on. I repeat now, and I give him this challenge: Everything that he has said to-day was said by his predecessor in office regarding the Harmsworth Press a few months ago. He told us then that they were supporting the enemy, that they were publishing fabricated and groundless charges, that they were belittling our country, and that one of the greatest of Germany's assets at this moment was the encouragement given to her people and the concern created in the minds of our friends by these papers.
The language used by his predecessor regarding those papers was stronger and more specific than the language the right hon. Gentleman has used to-day. Why did not they prosecute those papers? Why, with a less serious accusation is he going about these extraordinary prosecutions? I said then, and I repeat now, that I am opposed to prosecutions altogether, unless under different conditions than those he is now pursuing. If he is moved by this high ideal of national security, national honour, and national power, then, in the name of everything that he holds true to Liberalism and honesty, let him prosecute all round and not select one small organisation for his police visits and magisterial treatment. I do not know whether he is frightened or not, but in any event he should be consistent and apply his rule for Ministerial and Cabinet conduct to Lord Northcliffe in the same way as he does to the No-Con-scriptionist Fellowship. It is no use talking to us grandiloquently of the crimes of no-conscriptionists. He told us that he sent a list to his police officers; and that they were visiting with that list in their hands and seizing the pamphlets mentioned in it. It is perfectly true that the very imperfect statement which he made on the Motion for the Adjournment has been supplemented to-day, but even now he is not accurate. I will read to the Committee a letter which I have received from a Mr. Beer, of Penarth, and this letter will include the story of the seizure—I use the word advisedly—of the book on the 1095 "Sermon on the Mount," by the Bishop of Oxford. At the same time I will indicate to the Committee the method of seizure. I get the same information from everybody. The police themselves regard the duty as most unpleasant. They do not like it. They apologise to the people whom they visit, and at the end of two minutes the raided persons and the police are more like friends in adversity than persecutors and victims of persecution. I will read what Mr. Beer says in that respect, because I think it ought to be known:In the first place the whole business was carried out in the best of feeling on both sides.Then he goes on to say:After the inspector had read out the warrant, I asked him what publications he wanted. He replied that he did not know, and he asked what I had there.That was in his own private house.I thereupon put upon the table all the publications of the Independent Labour Party, the Union of Democratic Control, and the No-Con-scriptionist Fellowship that I had in my possession. When I was about half way through explaining the works and authors and helping the inspector to decide what to take, he said to me, 'You know, Mr. Beer, what is seditious and what is not,' and I agreed with him.A very sensible agreement.The next book we looked at was 'The Sermon on the Mount.' I asked him if he had ever read it, and ho replied, 'No.'He means the book by the Bishop of Oxford.'Well,' I said, 'I consider this book the worst of the lot.'Oddly enough even Mr. Beer will agree with the peroration of the right hon. Gentleman about what would happen if we all believed in certain things, if we were all followers of the Sermon on the Mount, and if we had carried out those magnificent doctrines of Christianity during the last eighteen months. Of course, that applies as much to Germany as to us. I know perfectly well that we cannot do it, but it shows how very hollow all those general talks are. He said:This book is the worst of the lot, because if we all lived up to the principles as laid down in it, then we would all be conscientious objectors to the taking of human life. After the inspector had turned over a few of the pages he placed it in the bag with the rest, and, I took it, believed what I said of the book.That it was the worst of the lot.What I should like to make clear is that this book was not treated differently from the rest. All were seriously dealt with. The following is a few of those which were not taken.He simply gives numbers and names.Finally, I made up a list of what they took away and got the inspector to sign for them. I have sent a copy of the list to the Editor of the 1096 'Labour Leader' and to the Union of Democratic Control office. At the police-court this morning it was decided to destroy nearly the whole of the publications, and just a few they are going to return. I cannot say what they are until they are, in my possession. When asked by the magistrate why they should not be destroyed, I said, 'So far as I understand I do not think they ought to be, because they contained the same principles as the Prime Minister says we are at war and fighting for. If you destroy them, then you ought to destroy the book 'The Sermon on the Mount.' The whole proceedings seemed very tame, and I will let you have further particulars when to hand.That is the whole of the letter. That is the Penarth case and the case of the seizure of the "Sermon on the Mount."
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Perhaps the hon. Member attaches importance to this. No doubt much capital will be made of it, so perhaps he will allow me to read two or three sentences from the inspector's evidence at the police court yesterday. He said:I should like to make a statement as to how I came into possession of it. It was amongst other books I saw. I asked what it was about. He replied that it was the 'Sermon on the Mount,' and said, 'Have you ever read it?' Witness replied that he had not, thereupon he said: 'Take it and read it.' Witness took it with the intention of returning it after reading it. It was not seized as being seditious.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
Why did he seize anything? You must not get away with these fine words. Did the inspector seize anything? According to his own statement and according to this letter, all that happened was that everything was produced on the table and they together went through them, and the police inspector took away in a bag what he desired to bring before the authorities and signed the list. In those he took away and in the list the "Sermon on the Mount" was included. As a matter of fact, anyone who understands what took place will see that every statement made by Mr. Beer in his letter is borne out by the evidence read by the right hon. Gentleman. We will take another case. Among the things seized or taken away was a memorial asking the Government to enter into negotiations with the least possible delay in order to secure a lasting and an honourable peace. Why has that been taken? The right hon. Gentleman on the Thursday when we had the question before us told us that he did not object to that sort of thing.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I do indeed. I said I should not regard such propaganda as illegal, but I did not say I did not regard it as objectionable.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
If the right hon. Gentleman attached that technical meaning to the word "objectionable," I will not use it. What I meant to say was that he would not object to it as Home Secretary, that he would not prosecute those who were carrying on the work, that he would not seize the pamphlets, and would not prevent the documents being circulated. I understand the right hon. Gentleman agrees with that. He will not ignore his own words. He used words on that Thursday which bear out the interpretation he has put upon them. Then why has it been seized? Does the right hon. Gentleman say it has not been seized?
§ Mr. MACDONALD
Very well, if it has been seized, why has it been seized, and what redress can those whose property it was have? This thing has not only been seized but the police have gone into houses where it was, they have taken it away, and they have visited the houses of everybody who has signed it. Is that legal? Is that fair? If it is not, what redress are we going to have? What liberty now remains for a subject who does not agree not only with the vague generalities about the condition of the country, but who does not agree with the actual operations of individual conduct as practised by the Cabinet itself? We have no guarantee whatever now. We have simply to dot the i's and stoke the t's on the right hon. Gentleman, and even if we do not do so we may find ourselves brought before the magistrate and fined the average fine of £5, or be sent to two months' imprisonment. A fine of a hundred pounds has been imposed, but that is rather exceptional.
§ Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
What more does the hon. Gentleman want than to be brought before a magistrate?
§ Mr. MACDONALD
I am sure the hon. Baronet does not want to misunderstand me. What I said was that unless we dotted the i's and stroked the t's of everything the right hon. Gentleman said then we might be brought before a magistrate.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
Is the conception of British liberty held out by the hon. Baronet the conception that it is the duty of every Minister to bring everybody with whom he disagrees before a magistrate on that ground and with the assurance that if the right hon. Gentleman has made a mistake his victim is not penalised and punished? The hon. Baronet and I will certainly agree that it is not a pleasant thing to be brought before a magistrate unless there is some reason for it. It is part and parcel of British liberty that you should not be brought before a magistrate unless there is primâ facie evidence against you and the case is of a somewhat serious nature. This, however, is a digression. I want to go over a little more cursorily the eases I have to bring before the Committee. Let me take another case. The right hon. Gentleman made a special point in the Adjournment Debate that he sometimes took people and interned them without trial, and there was a complaint, and that he took some other people and sent them before a Court, and if the Court condemned them there were complaints about that. He asked what hon. Members wanted. We want ordinary British justice, the ordinary operation of the law, and ordinary fair play. If we get that we will be perfectly satisfied and shall have no complaints whatever to bring before the right hon. Gentleman. What happens here? I think I would carry every side of the Committee with me—certainly I shall carry the right hon. Gentleman with me in condemning the magistrates. If you have a case brought before the magistrates, and some of the decisions of those magistrates are so palpably absurd and wrong that nobody would ever uphold them, then it does cast a reflection upon the competence of that class of Court to deal with this class of business. We get 1099 the case in which certain leaflets are seized at Penarth. The right hon. Gentleman says he is not going to put this in his list. With all due reference to the right hon. Gentleman, I am not much concerned with the list. I am concerned, first of all, with the decisions given by the magistrates. If the Committee will allow me, I will read the whole of the leaflet I have in my hand. This leaflet has been condemned as being subversive of law and order at the present time, and of helping to soften the steel of the national will and all the other fine phrases which the hon. Gentleman used. It is headed:Help the Babies!This is word for word and every word of it:Secure the establishment of baby clinics in every district and obtain grants for their support from national funds.…This was issued three or four years ago.You can help us to do this (1) by getting resolutions sent at once by any organisation with which you are connected to the President of the Board of Education, urging the inclusion of medical treatment centres for babies and children under school age, as subjects for grants in the coming Education Bill.…I see the right hon. Gentleman laugh. He knew about it at the time, and gave us very substantial help. We now see the result of his handiwork.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
The right hon. Gentleman's work of four years ago is now condemned by his magistrates. The pamphlet proceeds:There is no time to lose over doing this. (2) By keeping the subject well before your local authorities responsible for the health of your district. (3) By distributing leaflets describing the baby clinic in North Kensington, which has been doing this work for two years, and is the only institution of the kind in the country.…Is not that true now?
§ Mr. MACDONALD
No, there is one other. I am going to read another. I am sure the British mind of the hon. Member will see that magistrates do not condemn things en, bloc. They read everything they condemn. If they do not read everything, they are not doing their business properly. The pamphlet proceeds:(4) By distributing leaflets describing the present conditions as to infantile mortality and sickness, and the reasons why baby clinics are necessary.(5) By getting organisations with which you have influence to hold meetings on this subject, with special speakers to deal with it, or to read and discuss a paper with which we can supply you.(6) By arranging meetings yourself, if it is possible for you to do so.(7) By starting a discussion in the local Press on the conditions of child life.(8) By talking about baby clinics wherever and whenever you can.The above-mentioned leaflets and any further information may be obtained from Women's Labour League, 3, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, W.C. Please send postage for reply.That has been condemned as being subversive of the national will at the present time and as something that ought not to be distributed.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
The documents were seized at Penarth, and I suppose the magistrates were the magistrates for Penarth. One need not go further. Seizures of this character are taking place from one end of the country to the other. The police come, without any list, without any instructions, and, I might say, without any knowledge. If they came to me now I could give them some-think like 500 or 600 books that are seditious. If any of these leaflets and pamphlets are seditious, one of them is the book quoted during the last Debate which was written by the right hon. Gentleman. The position we want to get at is this: I am the very last person to say that if the Home Secretary's legal adviser, the Attorney-General or the Public Prosecutor, having carefully considered the pamphlet in view of the national situation and of the law, comes to the conclusion that a prosecution ought to lie against that pamphlet, of course it is the duty of the Home Secretary to prosecute. There is no doubt about that. But the Home Secretary ought not to have waited months and months before deciding whether he was to prosecute. The police, using their local knowledge, their local prejudices and local opinions, know that they have got the power, and it is the same with the magistrates. Five 1101 or six out of the magistrates who condemn these pamphlets are very bitter partisans, yet are asked to give a decision upon a political matter. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman certainly prosecute the writers and publishers, but why will you not give them a good Court? Why do you send these things to the magistrates? Why do you not send them to the High Court, where we can get a real legal opinion and legal decision upon constitutional questions? This is not a small debt Court case. This is not a pettifogging piece of civil disturbance to be settled by a person with prejudices. Perhaps the more prejudiced he is in regard to the state of public opinion, the better will his decision be. These prosecutions affect the most fundamental liberties of British subjects. What can we say during the War? What can we do during the War? What can we publish during the War? May we, for instance, say, "You are fighting for your country, but do not forget that the great problems of peace are going to settle whether the War is successful or not." May I say, for instance, "You can put your troops into Berlin, you can crush the Germans underfoot, and then if you have not conducted your war on a statesmanlike way the victories which will follow your war will elude you, just as victory eluded Germany after it crushed France in 1871"? Can I say that? If I do, a fool can certainly go into a Police Court and say I depress recruiting. No doubt about it. I know it. I admit it. But am I not going to get a Court which will try me in such a way that I shall get a real, legal decision from a constitutionally minded man who is not mixed up in the passions, fears, hates and hopes which are so prevalent at the present moment? I appeal for a fair trial. Prosecute us as much as you like, bring us up as often as you like, ruin us by the expense of defending ourselves, even if we are successful, if you like, but do let us go before the High Court. Do let us have a jury. Do let us have an appeal to the House of Lords itself, so that, at any rate, we shall get a decision from a body which is constitutionally minded and which is not moved in the way these magistrates undoubtedly have been moved, as I have proved by the leaflet I have read this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman may talk as much as he likes about national security. I am thinking of the national honour. I am bound to say, looking back at the days 1102 which have gone by when this country was threatened once before, a hundred years ago, by the military power of a country which it is happily in alliance with now, the same sort of persecutions and prosecutions were indulged in and the same sort of speeches were made. If I was ever given to flattery I could have flattered in the most outrageous way the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon by saying he delivered a speech similar to that which Pitt delivered when defending his administration on precisely the same lines. What happened? Time judged, and the story of those persecutions and prosecutions is a blot upon the English history of the period. The right hon. Gentleman is blotting the pages of the history of his country by his prosecutions in precisely the same way as the pages of English history were blotted then. He must make up his mind about a much larger subject. What are we going to be allowed to say? I know we should not be allowed to say things which will be really detrimental to the interest of the country. I know that perfectly well. All I say about that is that the police magistrate, the justice of the peace, the member of the Carlton Club, as was the case of the magistrate I brought up in the previous Debate, is not a person to give a decision which will carry respect and weight in the country, and which is a decision that the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to enforce from one end of the country to another.
§ Mr. J. M. ROBERTSON
I am rather sorry my hon. Friend has not turned his attention to what seems to many of us the serious side of the problem dealing with the conscientious objector. He demurred to the use of general phrases by the Home Secretary, but he has indulged in a good many of his own. I think, after the speech in which he has shown that the grievances and wrongs inflicted are of a rather farcical kind, he has rather lost sense of proportion when he compared these rather blundering prosecutions, not causing any very terrible wrong, with the admittedly shocking kinds of persecutions that did go on a hundred years ago. What I wish the House to consider is the very serious point which was put by the Home Secretary in regard to the propaganda that is now going on in connection with the conscientious objector. The whole problem of the conscientious objector is to a good 1103 many of us a most painful one. I think we are agreed all round the House that some of the kinds of persecutions which have been inflicted on conscientious objectors are truly shocking. If my hon. Friend had directed his eloquence against them, he would have been better advised than in making a mountain out of a molehill in the matter of a ridiculous seizure of literature.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
My hon. Friend is defending a certain line of propaganda. He never at all went into details as to the propaganda save in so far as he read to us an obviously harmless, if not laudable, leaflet which had been seized apparently by some ridiculous mistake. My hon. Friend's argument has the effect of slurring over all that other propaganda of which the Home Secretary spoke, and with which I think the House ought seriously to concern itself. I have had that propaganda sent to me. I am asked to do my best to prevent persecution of those who are carrying on a propaganda which practically comes under the description the Home Secretary has given, that is to say, it is an attempt to multiply conscientious objectors. When I have pointed out that this is putting the whole question in a very bad light, and is making the very worst of the case of the conscientious objector, that it is creating new trouble, that it is tending to set up a resistance to this very propaganda and a hostile feeling towards them that should never have been set up, I get disingenuous answers. The trouble is that a lot of the propaganda which goes on is not ingenuous. I am not at all impeaching any of the literature which my hon. Friend has been speaking about; but would it not have been for the good of the cause that my hon. Friend has at heart if he had clearly drawn the line between this propaganda, which he is bound to disapprove of, and the propaganda that he is defending. No one in the House can for a moment be otherwise than sorry to hear of a ridiculous seizure of harmless literature, but that seizure has taken place in the course of an effort to put a stop to literature of a much more serious kind. My hon. Friend has said—he was pretty strong in his words—that anyone ought to be punished who took any course which was really to 1104 the disadvantage of the nation. [Interruption.] I will describe the stuff which was sent to me yesterday. It came before a tribunal, and in it there was printed in black type an extract from a sermon by Mr. Spurgeon.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The mention of the "Sermon on the Mount" is always received with mirth on those Benches, and perhaps Mr. Spurgeon's name is also. The purpose of this is to use words of Mr. Spurgeon by way of inducing all Christians to refuse to have anything to do with military work. Mr. Spurgeon had always mourned when he heard of any Christian becoming a soldier and the whole obvious purpose of the journal was to convey to all Christian readers that they ought to take Mr. Spurgeon's view. As a simple matter of common sense that obviously comes within the description of the Home Secretary. It is an effort to multiply conscientious objectors. It is an effort to induce men to refuse to have anything to do with military life. I wish my hon. Friends who, I am sure, are in this matter actuated by sympathy with the conscientious objector would do something to enable us to draw a line between this kind of literature, which obviously in a political sense is ill-intentioned, and the other literature of which my hon. Friend speaks.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I take it that if the Sermon on the Mount, or any other portion of any other sacred book, were used for the deliberate purpose of preventing men from enlisting or accepting enlistment, that would be a military offence. You could take extracts from a thousand books—it is not merely the Sermon on the Mount—which could be used for that purpose. The real question is what is the purpose for which the extract is used. I can incite a man to murder and back it up with an extract from a sacred book. I do not suppose my hon. Friend will defend that in that case, though he will go a good way perhaps. If you are not entitled to use an extract from a sacred book in order to incite a man to murder, however sacred you may hold the book, you are not entitled to use an extract from a sacred book to urge a man to break any law passed by the House.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I have been, but I never used juggles of this description in my life. Free Thought has been for me a serious matter. Joking about the Sermon on the Mount was never any part of it. We are in a great crisis in our national history. My hon. Friend indulges in generalities. It is perfectly true to say, as he says, that if you win this War and then do not manage your nation's affairs rightly afterwards it will not avail you for national salvation. A nation may go to destruction after victory as it might through defeat. That is all perfectly true. But is the future cause of the nation being furthered by practically trifling with an issue of this kind? My hon. Friend does not pretend to believe that the Home Secretary applauds absurd arrests and absurd seizures of literature He knows very well that these are blunders which take place entirely in spite of the wishes of the Home Office or the Government, and I think he can remember discussions in this House in which there was a good deal of debate about the liberty of the subject as it was affected by picketing. Picketing has often involved questions of liberty. They have been eloquently discussed in this House, and I think most of us took the view that while there might clearly be infringements of the principle of free play, while there might fairly be injustice, while, in fact, you could hardly hope that picketing could go on without injustice, we all agreed that that was no ground for making an attack on the organisation of trade unionism or on the practice of picketing. We recognised that the occurrence of accidental evils was no impeachment of the general working of a serious institution, and that, I think, is a sufficient answer to the attempt, if it be an attempt, to suggest that measures taken to seize this literature, designed to prevent the strengthening of the Army, may involve grievances, though I am bound to say most of the outrages my hon. Friend adduced were rather of the nature of absurdities, and his very good-natured correspondent who did or did not give to the police a copy of a book which he called "The Sermon on the Mount," but which was a book on the Sermon on the Mount, does not seem to have felt very much aggrieved by the treatment meted out to him. If the others concerned in the propaganda 1106 take the whole matter in the same spirits I think there is all the less reason why my hon. Friend should turn the discussion to that matter. My hon. Friend and those who join with him might render a very real service if they enabled us to draw the line, as we want to draw the line. My hon. Friend has not contributed to that end by his speech. I am prompted to express the hope that Members of this House who have any influence on those who are carrying on that propaganda, many of them undoubtedly well-meaning people, will induce them to abandon a false position and to content themselves with fighting the battle of the conscientious objector. If my hon. Friends will do that, they will be rendering service to the country at the present time. I would point out, however, from my own experience, that those who are carrying on this propaganda are not always ingenuous. They return disingenuous answers when facts are pointed out. They shuffle over such-and-such facts and say that they are the accidental results of the situation. They are not accidental results; they are the results of a deliberate desire to multiply conscientious or other objectors to the largest possible extent, and to prevent our getting men into the Army. Of course, if my hon. Friend lends himself to that view, he will frustrate the better objects which we must all have in view. It is quite impossible to carry on the administration of the Act which this House lately passed if deliberate, systematic attempts, whether in the name of religion, of ethics, or of duty, are made to get men who before never professed conscientious objection not only to acquire conscientious objection, but to resist the operation of the Act. In such a course we are not progressing towards that better view which my hon. Friend and I would like to see after the War. That good feeling after the War could surely be helped and cultivated now. I do not say that there may not be grounds of criticism against the way the military authorities seek to make the Act operative, because there is always much opening for that, but I do maintain that that better spirit he desires to bring about—a spirit which will bring the people of this country into something of real unity after the War is over— is not to be cultivated by polemics which simply confuse the different aspects of this propaganda, and practically have the effect of throwing the veil of defence over forms of that propaganda which my hon. 1107 Friend would not defend, but which are now being very vigorously performed by those who engage in that propaganda.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
The right hon. Gentleman seems to have missed very largely the significance of the speech which has been made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). I do not think that this is the occasion when we can tackle the problem of the conscientious objector. We have been trying to deal with an entirely different matter, and that is what I regard in certain parts of the country as the harsh and arbitrary interpretation and administration of the Defence of the Realm Acts. Therefore, I would like to bring the Committee back to that subject. We know very well that when those Acts were passed much of the phraseology was in the very widest and very vaguest terms. What we complain of is that in certain districts the wording of the Acts is being so stretched by some magistrates that they are beginning to punish any opinion they disapprove of, and not from the standpoint of the Defence of the Realm Act. Here is one of the Sections of the Defence of the Realm Act. It was quoted the other day in a very admirable speech by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt). I think it is almost a necessary starting point for a discussion of this kind. The Section runs as follows:No person shall by word of mouth, or in writing, or in any newspaper, periodical, book, circular or other printed publication, spread false reports or make false statements, or reports, or statements likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty, or to interfere with the success of His Majesty's Forces by land or sea, or to prejudice His Majesty's relations with foreign Powers, or spread reports or make statements, or commit any act intended to, or likely to, prejudice the recruiting, training, discipline, or administration of any of His Majesty's Forces; and if any person contravenes these provisions he shall be guilty of an offence under the Regulations.I do say that a Regulation of that kind does require a common-sense interpretation. When the matter was discussed in this House, we had a most explicit assurance by the then Attorney-General that it was no question of trying to penalise any opinion, however earnest that opinion might be, if it was honestly held, but that there must be some concrete act or some 1108 conduct intended to be an offence, either by the spreading of disaffection, or the making of a deliberately false report for the purpose of prejudicing recruiting, and so on. The Home Secretary this afternoon, when he was dealing with the question of aliens, gave case after case where absolutely false statements had been made. Does he deny for a minute that those false statements about those aliens are calculated to cause disaffection? Has any action been taken? Is any action going to be taken? I say that this is a question not of opinion, but that it is a matter of fact. Either those statements were right or they were wrong. If the statements were wrong, as I have no doubt they were, and if they were calculated to cause disaffection, surely that is the kind of thing that was intended to be dealt with under these Defence of the Realm Acts. That is the sort of thing, however, that is not going to be dealt with. I take it that the Home Secretary has absolutely no intention of dealing with that matter at all in that way. Therefore, from that standpoint, any false statement can be made provided it is made in a certain direction and for a certain purpose, but, on the other hand, the mildest statement of opinion, if it is against any point of Government policy, is liable at once to the most drastic action. There is always danger in time of war that the war may be used by reactionary people to advance their own reactionary purposes. It has always been in time of war that the liberties of speech and the liberties of writing have been apt to go by the board, and very big fights have had to be put up in order to maintain that liberty. I would recall to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman a speech made in this House by Charles James Fox at the time of the war with France. Practically every word of that speech could be repeated to-day and is equally true at this moment. This is what Fox said:I will not go into the unfortunate state of this country. It is too afflicting to the heart to see the strides which have been made by means of and under the miserable pretext of this War, against liberty of every kind, both of speech and of writing; and to observe in another kingdom the rapid approaches to that military despotism which we affect to make an argument against peace.On the one hand, liberty of speech and liberty of writing was being suppressed, and on the other hand, in order to fight the French military despotism of that date, we were more and more imposing a military despotism upon our own 1109 shoulders. Those were the points made by Charles James Fox. I maintain that many of the magistrates are stretching these Defence of the Realm Acts. They are using the Acts not for the defence of the realm, but to punish opinions which they think are unpopular, or which they personally disagree with. We are told that it is a very easy thing for a workman earning 30s. a week to carry an appeal up to the House of Lords. But the Home Secretary is not unaware of the fact that legal proceedings are always a costly matter, and he is not unaware of the fact that it is not an easy matter for a workman to give up the time and to spare the money that is needed in order to carry his appeal, and the workman has very little guarantee that if he does maintain his appeal that he is going to get any more favourable verdict than he did in the first instance.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
The point is now being reached where, if a speech is in the least of a critical character, it will have to be submitted before being delivered to the police, the military authorities, and the magistrates, and if they approve of it, it can then be delivered, perhaps without any fear of subsequent action, but not otherwise. South Wales, for some reason or other, seems to be selected as a special district for being dealt with in this matter. South Wales is famous for many things. It is famous for its Baptists, and in this matter famous also, if such a word can be applied, for repressive magistrates in certain districts. I want to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to certain concrete facts, as an illustration of what is taking place, and what will do more to cause disaffection than anything else that I can possibly imagine or conceive. There was a raid on the Cwmavon branch of the Independent Labour Party on 13th May, and the case was heard in camera.Why are these cases heard in cameral What is the need for secrecy in regard to trials of this kind? There are very important principles involved in these trials. It is not claimed that the matters that are going to be discussed, and that the literature in question is going to give information to the enemy. Some magistrates have openly said that the reason they hold these secret trials is because they do 1110 not want to advertise these people. That is no reason for having a secret trial. There ought to be the greatest State reasons before you resort to trials in camera. Various leaflets were seized, some issued by the Independent Labour Party and some by the Union of Democratic Control. One of the pamphlets was issued by the Independent Labour Party in 1913 in connection with our propaganda, and had the title, "The Coming of Age." The Independent Labour Party had celebrated their twenty-first anniversary, and this pamphlet was issued in connection therewith. They were pamphlets mostly about socialism and labour questions, and had no connection with the War in any shape or form. One pamphlet was entitled "Religion and the Labour Party," of which the Under-Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Brace) is so distinguished a member. This pamphlet was issued in 1904. In addition there were two pamphlets mentioned by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), "Clinics for Babies" and "Help for Babies," issued by the Women's Labour League. I will not read any of these leaflets, certainly not the long leaflet, "Religion and the Labour Party," which was issued in 1904, but I wish to say what happened in that trial. In reply to questions, the police refused to supply a list of publications they had been authorised to seize, and in the second place they refused to produce the evidence of any previous convictions against the leaflets with the exception of the Everet leaflet and the "Repeal the Act" leaflet, issued by the No-Conscription Fellowship. In reply to a direct question, the police witnesses held the following publications to be prejudicial to the Government and the prosecution of the War: the "Coming of Age" leaflets issued in 1913; "Religion and the Labour Party," issued in 1904, in reply to slanders which stated that the Labour party was made up wholly of Atheists and of the Atheistical party. Who could possibly say that "Religion and the Labour Party" was a seditious pamphlet? Who could possibly associate sedition with the Under-Secretary (Mr. Brace) or with any religion embraced by the Under-Secretary? We have "Help for Babies" and "Clinic for Babies." Why, we have got the President of the Local Government Board at this moment appealing for babies. I see today that he proposes to put a tax on 1111 bachelors in order apparently that they should rush into matrimony. And yet on the one hand where you have got the President of the Local Government Board appealing for more babies and more healthy babies, on the other hand you get a magisterial prosecution for the issue of pamphlets of this sort. The magistrates condemned the whole of these documents, and ordered them to be destroyed, and not one of them has been returned to that branch of the Independent Labour Party. The police inspector simply specified what he considered to be prejudicial to the Government, and the magistrates took his word for it. I do not believe that the magistrates had read a single one of these leaflets. Is that justice? I believe that it is simply making a farce of British justice. Yet that is what is happening. This is going on. These magistrates are acting vindictively against men to whom they are politically opposed.
The next case to which I want to direct attention is a prosecution under the Defence of the Realm Act at Port Talbot Police Court on 8th June, 1916, when a man named Mainwaring, who was a Socialist and was a local councillor, was charged with an offence under Section 27 of the Defence of the Realm Act at a meeting about conscription on 7th May, and three other men were charged with distributing leaflets. I have read the whole of this case, a whole page of it, every word that was said by the prosecuting counsel. The men were defended very brilliantly by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen Burghs (Mr. Llewelyn Williams). The Mainwaring speech, in my opinion, ought never to have been made the subject of a prosecution. But the magistrates were apparently determined to secure conviction, and apparently took every means to that end. The solicitor who undertook to defend these men is a Mr. Gibson Davies, a man of military age in the locality who had secured exemption from the tribunal under the Military Service Act before this trial took place. When it was known that Mr. Davies was going to speak for these men the military representative Mr. F. B. Smith, a local architect, called on Mr. Gibson Davies and told him that if he dared to speak a word in defence of these conscriptionists the certificates of exemption would be cancelled. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] I hope that the Home Secre- 1112 tary does take a serious view of a matter of this sort. I hope that there will be a public inquiry into the matter, because if that sort of thing is going on we are going to shake the whole foundation upon which British justice has rested in the past. [An HON. MEMBER: "They have shaken it!"] There is reason to believe, if the Home Secretary wants information on this point, that this matter was instigated not by the military authorities, not by any responsible military officer, but by Mr. Percy Jacob, the Mayor of Aberavon, who is chairman of the Aberavon Military Tribunal, and who that morning left his own Police Court in order to sit in judgment upon this case. He is said to have, in the past, in regard to the collieries, victimised men for their political opinion, and one of the men upon whom he sat in judgment this day, and upon whom he was going to inflict a heavy penalty, was a man who, according to local ideas, had been so victimised and certainly had been so dismissed.
The charge against Councillor Mainwaring was that he had made statements calculated to prejudice recruiting. That is under Section 27 of the Act. In point of fact, when that Section was passed, the system of recruiting in this country was a voluntary system and consequently it was important that statements should not be made which would dissuade men from volunteering to become members of His Majesty's Forces. But at the present time there is no longer any question of voluntary choice. The matter is settled by compulsion. It is settled by the tribunals, and consequently the danger of interfering with recruiting is entirely on a different footing at the present time from what it was then. But I do say that if the Home Secretary will care to look into this matter he will see that Councillor Mainwaring's speech had absolutely nothing to do with recruiting. It was never in his mind to influence recruiting, and if you are going to-stretch that Act so that you are going to bring a charge that a man in such a case is prejudicing recruiting, there is not one critical word spoken either in this House or outside that could not, by a stretching of this sort, be brought under the measure.
I myself have spoken both in this House and outside of it upon what I regard as the unfair treatment of some of our soldiers. I have drawn attention to the fact that men who had been in the Army and had contracted disease in the Army 1113 were sometimes discharged without receiving any sort of payment. I never brought that forward for the purpose of causing sedition, but to expose what I thought was a wrong thing, and to get that wrong thing put right. But I could easily have been charged with prejudicing recruiting by making statements of that kind. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh made a speech the other day—a very good speech, if I may say so—but a speech under which he could easily have been charged if he had happened to make it in Wales instead of in Edinburgh. I wish that they would charge Members of Parliament in place of these other men. Then that would bring the matter to a test, and we should find out how much liberty is left in this country and how much liberty is gone. But in regard to the speech which has been made by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, or the speeches in this House and outside by the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield, who has attacked the bungling of the Government and has referred to the waste of life involved in the bungling policy of the Government—is there anybody who could not say, if you are going to stretch Acts of Parliament in that way, that the hon. Baronet has not been guilty of sedition and has not been guilty of prejudicing recruiting, if you get magistrates in that mood? It was not his intention in the least. It was very far from being so; but where prejudice enters in anything of the kind can happen. I would ask the Home Secretary and the local magistrates if they are going to test this matter, let it be done with people who have some prominence. Let it be done against Members of Parliament and so on.
There is a Trade Union Congress going to be held in London to-morrow, and very imporant people will be present at this Congress. I think it quite likely, though I do not know, that the Under-Secretary will be present at this Conference, and I think it quite likely that the President of the Board of Education will be present. I want to read one or two of the resolutions which are going to be moved, and I want to suggest, both to the Under-Secretary and the President of the Board of Education, that they had best be very cautious in speaking to these resolutions, or else it may become the painful duty of the Home Secretary himself to put them on trial for an offence under the Defence of the Realm Act. Listen to what is going to be proposed, and remember that these resolutions are not going to be moved by 1114 wild, dangerous Socialistic people, but by the most cautious clement in the Trade Union movement. Here is one of them:That this Congress, recognising the danger to trade union organisations and administration involved in the calling rip of local officials of trade unions and the probability of employers using the Military Service Act as a means of discriminating unfairly against active trade unionists, and the inadequacy of the protection afforded by the tribunals, calls upon the Government—Is not that intended to cause sedition and disaffection and prejudice recruiting? Listen to this next one for a start. Some of us in this House, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, and others, have been condemned for saying the same thing which has now been said quite openly and quite frankly, and I would commend this to the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle), who has also addressed himself to this problem over and over again:That this Congress finding that in actual practice the Military Service Act and other measures passed by the Government, including the Munitions Acts, are being used for tile purpose of industrial conscription, registers its protest and calls upon the Government to deal either by Orders in Council or by immediate legislation with this grave menace to industrial labour.The next resolution deals with the question of the need for conscripting the wealth of the country, and the next with the position of boys of eighteen under the Military Service Act. Are there going to be police reporters at this Conference tomorrow? I think that speeches will be made in regard to these resolutions that certainly will be far stronger than those speeches in respect of which men are now serving terms of imprisonment. Going back to this speech made at Cwmavon, Mr. Mainwaring made no reference to recruiting, and it showed very clearly what the police attitude was. Just listen to this slight dialogue between the defending counsel and Inspector Rees, who warned the speakers before they started that if they did speak trouble would be likely to follow:
I had an idea what he would say."
In Germany, where everything is wrong, the police very often go to a meeting, and when something is said of which they do not approve they hold up a hand and the meeting is stopped. We have very often laughed at that and condemned it, and said how much better off we were in this 1115 country; but here the police, before a man opens his mouth, take it upon themselves to warn him that every word he is going to say is going to be taken down and that the man is likely to get into trouble. I will read the verdict as reported in the local paper:The Bench retired to consider their verdict. Returning the chairman said: The decision of the bench is that the defendant has been guilty of an offence against the Defence of the Realm Act. As you know the maximum penalty is £100 or six months' imprisonment. The magistrates have considered this matter very carefully and the points that have been made. We think that at this national crisis it is our duty to do everything we can in the interest of the nation, and that meetings of this kind should be discouraged as much as possible, and taking a lenient view the fine we impose is £25—(Cries of 'Shame!' in the Court)— or in default three months' imprisonment. This being the first offence we are taking the lenient view.I do submit to this Committee that the whole purpose of this penalty was to put down the meeting. There was no question of the defence of the realm involved in the matter. Councillor Mainwaring is a man of high character, respected locally, a man who has held meetings without a word of interruption, and he has gone for three months under this sentence. Another man, Dan Morris, a local postman, has not only gone to prison, but he loses his situation as well. I think that, if it is at all possible, the Home Secretary should cause some investigation to be made into this case, which I suggest is harsh and vindictive, and see what can be done in regard to what in my opinion is a grave public scandal. With regard to the charge afterwards made of distributing leaflets, those leaflets apparently had reference to the profits made by shipowners and food monopolists, and the prosecuting counsel asked whether this sort of thing helped recruiting. It was not the enormous profits made by monopolists which he was condemning as adverse to recruiting, but the men who distributed leaflets which referred to ugly facts in regard to profits and who were fined each £10 and a guinea costs, or two months' imprisonment. I do suggest very strongly that this sort of thing is a travesty of justice. It has happened in other places, and I want to see the Home Secretary himself personally take the matter into his own hands.
The cases to which I have called attention prove that there is need for his taking hold of the matter, and that there should not be prosecution and punishment of some workmen in a remote district, but 1116 that those who are in a responsible position and are willing to be responsible in proceedings of this kind should be proceeded against. I say in regard to the prosecution of opinion, it has often been tried in this country, but it has always failed. The prosecutor always loses in the long run when it comes to a question of liberty of speech and freedom of opinion. If opinion be right, you cannot suppress it by prosecution; and if opinion be wrong mistaken, and foolish, why confer dignity upon it by persecution, which nothing else could possibly gain for it? It is argument alone which is going to kill error and mistake; and if the Home Secretary is going to take the matter in hand, may I give him as a guiding principle the statement made by Lord Erskine when dealing with another prosecution? How silly these prosecutions seem to be when we look back upon them years after—the prosecution of Tom Paine's "Rights of Man," the great State prosecution, the only good feature of which was what was said by Lord Henry Erskine, who drew the line between action and opinion—action being held amenable and opinion being held free. Lord Erskine said:The proposition which I mean to maintain as the basis of the liberty of the Press, and without which it is an empty sound, is this: That every man not intending to mislead, but seeking to enlighten others with what his own reason and conscience, however erroneously, have dictated to him as truth, may address himself to the universal reason of a whole nation, either upon the subjects of Governments in general or upon that of our own particular country; that he may analyse the principle of its Constitution, point out its errors and defects, examine and publish its corruptions, warn his fellow citizens against their ruinous consequences, and exert his whole faculties in pointing out the most advantageous changes in establishments which he considers to be radically defective, or sliding from their object by abuse. All this every subject of this country has a right to do, if he contemplates only what he thinks for its advantage, and but seeks to change the public mind by the convictions which flows from reasonings dictated by conscience.That is a quotation which the Home Secretary might very well examine in connection with what is seditious matter and what is not, and I submit that the whole of that quotation, and the whole spirit behind it is daily being violated in regard to these prosecutions and what is behind those prosecutions. Milton said in a very memorable pamphlet:Give me liberty to know and to argue freely, according to conscience, above ail other liberties.It is true that we do not need to be reminded that this country is engaged in a great war; it is true that war brings additional restraints upon all, and it 1117 ought to do so; but I am quite sure of this, that the prosecution of honest opinion will not strengthen this country or any country, and that in the end it will cause far more disaffection than it can possibly remedy, and the whole process of prosecution on these lines is absolutely a vain and futile thing. A position is being created—I hope it is going to be changed now—in which we are going to have no criticism of the Executive Government on the one hand, and on the other the Executive Government can do anything it likes, pass any legislation it likes, but we must not attempt to criticise if we do not want to undergo the danger of being heavily fined or sent to prison. That is actually the position now being created, and I am quite sure that if it is allowed to go on this War, begun in the minds of so many British people for high purposes, is going to take us back to the days of Sidmouth and Castlereagh. We do not want that, nor, I am sure, does the Home Secretary. I believe the right hon. Gentleman must disapprove of something of what is going on. He must speak more strongly where he thinks mistakes are being made, and he must certainly increase his own hold over this matter. I do not want to attack the local police or magistrates, but liberty of opinion is not an easy question to deal with, and the local police and the local magistrates are not always the best persons to decide whether liberty has degenerated into licence. I say in all this we have got to protect frontiers at home, so that the men when they come back from the War shall return to an England which is not worse than that which they left. I think this kind of prosecution ought to be taken out of the hands of the local magistrates, and that there ought to be an attempt to restore a wider and a better kind of trial, the very fairest and most judicial, a trial where the passions of the moment and the antagonisms of the moment are going to enter as little as possible. I hope the Government and the Home Office are going to take a big view of this question, whilst legitimately guarding any danger, any real danger, of weakening the State. Unless that is done, we shall never gain a real victory over Prussia, because the best and highest victory of all, in the long run, will be the victory in the realm of ideas and conscience, the absence of coercion, and that common consent by which alone a country can be really great.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I desire to bring the attention of the Committee back to the question introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks). I do not desire to go over the ground which has already been covered to-a large extent, but I propose to confine myself mainly to one point, a very important point, I think, which was touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—I refer to the danger which arises from the fact that we allow such great liberty within this country to persons of enemy origin, who shelter themselves behind the fact, or alleged fact, that they are subjects of a neutral country. There are difficulties in connection with that point, but I submit that the danger is very great indeed. Of course, I have no intention of doing such a thing, but if I did embark upon a spy hunt I should begin by hunting for spies in this country among those persons who are of enemy origin and association, and who shelter themselves behind the alleged fact that they are subjects of a neutral country. I think there is far more danger in many cases among those men than among those who openly admit that they are enemy aliens. I do not think we have ever sufficiently investigated the cases of those who have claimed to be neutrals; I do not think we have ever combed out—to use a phrase which is-adopted in respect of other Government work—these men and thoroughly investigated their claims, their position, their antecedents, and their connection. I suggested that ought to be done. I am aware that the theory is that the onus of proof as to being a neutral subject devolves upon the man himself. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in answer to a question of mine on the 29th of February said:If any question arises as to the nationality of an alien, the onus of proving his claim lies upon him.He went on to say:And the necessary steps and the proper steps for enforcing this are taken.I entirely agree with the first part of the answer, but with all respect I submit that when he says the necessary steps and the proper steps are taken, that opens up the question: What are the necessary steps and what are the proper steps? It is rather a big question. I submit that the necessary steps and the proper steps to be taken, if an alien cannot prove satisfactorily his claim that he is a subject of a neutral country, are to intern that man 1119 until he does prove it. With that in view, I asked another question of the Home Secretary on the 8th March:If he has given or will he give instructions that all aliens who may reasonably be suspected—I call attention to the words "may reasonably"—who may reasonably be suspected of being of enemy birth and who have not conclusively proved that they are neutral subjects, shall be interned until their neutral nationality is proved beyond doubt.I expected at the time that the answer would be to this effect: "Certainly, if there is an alien who may reasonably be suspected to be of enemy birth and who cannot prove that he is a neutral subject, that man will be interned." But to my surprise, a surprise from which I have not yet recovered, the right hon. Gentleman replied:The answer is in the negative.I think that this is really a matter which ought to be considered very carefully. I can assure the Committee that I am not here going into mares' nests. I am speaking of something which I have proved and tested for myself of my own knowledge. I know of the case of a man who looks and speaks like a German, and whose real name is an unmistakable German name. He sheltered himself in this very City of London for a long time, and for all I know he is sheltering himself to-day, under an assumed English name and under an unsubstantiated claim that he was the subject of a neutral country. I drew this matter to the attention of the Home Office and of Scotland Yard. I received the thanks of the previous Home Secretary (Sir J. Simon) for having drawn his attention to the matter, and an acknowledgment from Scotland Yard that my information was perfectly correct. I have seen the solitary piece of paper upon which that man based his allegation that he was the subject of a neutral country. I say without hesitation, if that piece of paper was evidence of any sort it was not that he was the subject of a neutral country, but that he was not the subject of a neutral country. I merely give that case as an instance of what is going on. I think this matter is very important from the point of view of statistics. The right hon. Gentle man to-day and on previous occasions has given us statistics as to the number of un-interned enemy aliens in this country, but how can he or anybody else say what is the number until they have investigated 1120 the cases of these doubtful persons who are really enemy aliens, but who are endeavouring to disguise the fact. You cannot possibly say that there are so many uninterned enemy aliens until you have combed out and investigated all the cases of men who claim to be neutral subjects, and until you have ascertained whether they are bonâ fideneutral subjects or of enemy origin or association masquerading as neutral subjects. On the 29th February I asked the Home Secretary:If he could state the number of aliens in the United Kingdom who claimed to be subjects of neutral countries, and also if he could state the number of cases in which such claims have been investigated, and also the number of cases in which such claims have proved to be well founded, and the number of cases in which such claims have not proved to be well founded?The answer I obtained was that the statistics asked for are not available. I submit, if they are not, that it is impossible for the Home Office to say how many enemy aliens there are in this country. I do again urge that, broadly speaking, under present conditions of war the whole of this country is a war area. It is not merely a question that munitions are made in certain districts, and that in other districts you have shipping. An evil-disposed person here in London, which is supposed not to be a war area, can collect all the most valuable information which the enemy desires, and he can transmit it with greater ease from London than from any other place in the Kingdom. Yet we are told this is not a war area, and that it is not necessary to investigate the case of these men who simply allege that they are subjects of neutral countries. It has not been my desire to criticise or to make any imputation of want of faith. I have not the least doubt that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are as anxious as we all are to put this matter on a proper footing, but I do respectfully suggest that these matters have not been put on a proper footing yet, and that a great deal of investigation and a certain amount of change of policy must be entered upon by the Home Office before things are put on a satisfactory footing.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to a personal matter which, although it is personal, has, I think, a wider aspect, namely, the treatment which a certain article of mine that was going to be published in the Press received from the Press Bureau. I think the Committee will agree that, though it is quite immaterial how any individual person may be treated if he wants to publish anything 1121 in the papers, and that it is not very much more important if he is a Member of Parliament, yet, still, in the action of the Press Bureau lies a very important principle, namely, what things should be allowed to be published. Now I contend that my article contained nothing which could help the enemy in any way. It simply contained certain criticisms on financial expenditure of the Government which has been going on, as I consider, at an extraordinary and wasteful rate ever since the beginning of the War. About ten days ago I was approached by a certain paper called "The Sunday Pictorial," of which no doubt hon. Members have heard, with a request that I should write an article for them for last Sunday, dealing with wasteful expenditure, as they saw that I had taken an interest in what I considered to be the wasteful expenditure on the part of the Government, and naturally give instances in support of my contention that wasteful expenditure was going on. I wrote the article, which was agreed to by the proprietors of that journal, and sent in the ordinary course of business to the Press Bureau. It was returned with remarks or comments upon it which fall under two categories. The first is that you publish certain paragraphs at your peril—that is to say, if anything is found to be inaccurate in those paragraphs you are liable to prosecution. In the other category were certain things which were struck out altogether as not being allowed to be published by the high and mighty people who sit up in the Press Bureau.
I should like to read to the House certain selections from the paragraphs which wore taken exception to by the Press Bureau. I do this with absolute freedom from any thought that I can be in any way injuring the country by doing so, because the Home Secretary has privately gone into the matter and assures me that there is nothing in the article that can possibly be taken exception to. It does not matter to me personally whether my article is published or not. I was not going to get anything for it, but it might be a matter of bread-and-butter to the ordinary journalist or to the ordinary man in the street who is not a Member of Parliament and who has not access to the Home Secretary, that an irresponsible Press Bureau should be able to cut paragraphs out of an article and thus prevent publication because the publishers of 1122 these newspaper articles will not publish them under the conditions. Although permission has now been given by the Home Secretary to publish the article, the publishers know perfectly well in the course of business that the Press Bureau can hang up their articles, and can keep out other articles. Therefore I think that public attention should be drawn to the irresponsible work, the bungling work, of the Press Bureau, not for the sake of myself or other hon. Members, but so that humble journalists whose bread-and-butter it is shall not be subject to either tyranny or stupidity, or both. The actual words of the Press Bureau in those paragraphs which were marked "Publish at your peril" were as follows:The Press Bureau see no sufficient reason to stop the publication of this material, but the responsibility for its accuracy must rest with the publisher.It may be said by the Home Secretary that the Press Bureau only did that in order, if there was any trouble afterwards, the publishers might not shelter themselves behind the Press Bureau as having passed the matter for publication. That would be a very good defence indeed if they treated the whole of the article in that way, but, having chosen only two paragraphs damaging to the Government for this treatment, and having left five or six entirely untouched, that defence cannot be made out. I can hardly believe that the Press Bureau are acting on instructions from the Government in preventing legitimate criticism, but I do come to the conclusion that the Press Bureau think they are doing the right thing in stopping legitimate criticism on expenditure and accounts generally. I will read the paragraphs taken exception to and where they said publish at your peril:Some scandalous examples of appalling mismanagement have come under my notice. Take the case of the 'Aquitania'—a giant ship known the world over. When war broke out this famous liner was in the pasenger service. The Admiralty took her over by agreement, and turned her into an armed cruiser. Then they changed their minds about the 'Aquitania,' and had her reconstituted into a passenger ship. She was then handed over to her owners. Shortly afterwards the naval authorities requisitioned the 'Aquitania' again and turned her into a transport! But the list of changes is not yet complete. The Admiralty thought again and do! the 'Aquitania' was transformed into a hospital ship. And finally, once again, the 'Aquitania' was handed to her owners to undergo a second reconstitution into a passenger ship…Five times, the Committee will notice, this ship had been changed, and that is the 1123 article that the Press Bureau suppressed in order that the Government may not be shown up. It continues:The cost of reconversion each time was £40,000 and the hire paid to the owners was £30,000 a month. If a business firm conducted its affairs in that fashion it would be bankrupt in a month.I went on to say:And while on the subject of shipping, whoever heard of ships being used as warehouses when there was at the same time a shortage of ships? A ship at any time is unfitted to be used as a warehouse. What is needed at a given moment is generally at the bottom of the hold. So late as last month, however, ships with refrigerating space were being used as warehouses. We all know how much needed such ships are to bring meat to England, and I am told on good authority that quite recently two merchant ships were kept at Havre by the naval authorities for housing dock labourers. Why could these labourers not have been placed in billet, huts or tents? The cost would have been vastly less, and the ships could have been put to their proper use.I do think the Committee ought to be very chary of permitting the Press Bureau to deal with such articles as this. I do not bring the matter before the Committee because I happened to write the article, but because on the subject of economy I think the fullest criticism should be allowed in this country. It cannot hurt the prosecution of the War. I will give one part that was cut out altogether. The defence is that the publishers should not shelter themselves behind the sanction of the Press Bureau. But here is a part that was not criticised at all. It is in reference to the Army:In the same command another battalion has in the last five months had a new doctor on an average every sixteen days…That is perfectly true; I know the commanding officer.Each doctor manfully tried to examine the odd thousand men, but before he could finish he was moved on somewhere else. Consequently no one knows what men are fit for active service.May I now read to the Committee the paragraph that was struck out, either, I submit, from gross stupidity or from malice aforethought, in order that the Government should not be injured in any way. It deals with our old friend, the Royal Mail steamer "Arragon." It might have been left in, because everybody knows about it, and I was almost ashamed to put it into my article.I will not labour the case of the large Royal Mail steamer 'Arragon,' which was used last year, lying close to the Island of Mudros, as the headquarters of the Principal Naval Transport Officer, a Superintendent Transport Officer, and the Inspector-General of communications and their staffs. The cost to the country was no less than £25,000 a month. Could not these officers and 1124 their staffs have lived on shore, under canvas or in huts, at a tithe of the cost? How do we know that such mismanagement is not going on now?I think it was that last paragraph which really annoyed the Censor. I ask my hon. Friend not so much to investigate this case as to impress upon the Press Bureau that their duty is to prevent information getting to the enemy which may help them in prosecuting the War, and not to prevent the nation from knowing things which may enable them to compel the Government to economise. I am quite ready to submit to any reasonable criticism of anything I write dealing with the War. But I do not think my hon. Friend will endeavour to defend this conduct; in fact, I know that he will not, because the Home Secretary has already written to me privately on the matter. But do let us recognise that the living of many men is dependent on the whim and the will of the Press Bureau, who ought, therefore, to be more careful than anybody else as to the way in which they exercise their functions.
§ Mr. WING
I wish to call attention to a question connected with the police in Durham, amongst whom there is at the present time a great amount of unrest because, just previous to the outbreak of war, an increase of wages had been settled, but on the commencement of the War that increase was suspended, and the late Home Secretary substituted a sum less than the amount that was to have been conceded, and granted in place a war bonus. Owing to the extraordinary manner in which the police of Durham have enlisted, one-third of the men having become soldiers, the duties have to be discharged by the remaining two-thirds. The consequence is that there are many working seven thirteen hours' shifts a week, and one man covers two or three beats. As a result of this, there is grave distrust and a certain spirit of revolt among the police of Durham which is, I think, dangerous, and to which attention should be given lest it should break out into something more serious than at present exists.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir F. Banbury)
The hon. Member is alluding, I understand, to the police of Durham. They are not under the control of the Home Office.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think that is going a little too far. Only the London police are under the control of the Home Office. I do not think the hon. Member can bring into the Debate questions affecting police who are not under the control of the Department.
§ Mr. WING
I bow at once to your decision, but I am absolutely certain that the increase of wages was prevented by the late Home Secretary, who would not pass it. Passing from that, however, I wish to call attention to the administration of the Homo Office in relation to the great mining population. We all remember with pleasure what a stern critic my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was when he sat below the Gangway, and we have no reason to believe that he maintains any less strongly the views that he advocated in those happy days of peace. But circumstances have occurred which really make one feel that at times there has been a little white-washing, perhaps unintentionally and unconsciously. Some time back I raised the question of the absence of the necessaries for wounded men in a certain pit. The matter was brought up at an inquest, when the Coroner called attention to the fact and justified the statement of one of the witnesses. When I called for a report everything seemed to have been all right; everybody had been complimented all round. Either they were wrong at the inquest or the person on whom my hon. Friend relied for his report had been led somewhat astray. Something should have been done to remove the impression which prevailed in the district, but I was informed that there was no necessity for any such action.
Another question to which I wish to refer has reference to the fall of roofs and sides. I am speaking especially of the North. I was very much disturbed about this matter last year, and I called for a report from the late Home Secretary, who informed me that in 1915 there had been an increase of nine deaths as compared with 1914. During August and September, 1915, there were no less than fifteen deaths. That represented a serious increase. There were fewer men, but more accidents. I am speaking especially of Durham. The toll is exceedingly heavy. When you speak of the Northern Division, which includes Durham, Northumberland 1126 and Cumberland, you are referring to no less than 11,700 accidents. It is an enormous number. We are pleased that the number is gradually decreasing, but what I want to emphasise is the need of greater vigilance and the necessity for getting to know what is really the cause. Is it shortage of props? Is it that there are being brought into the pits a large number of men unaccustomed to mining? Is it want of inspection? Is it the neglect of the men? My point is that the matter should be brought home, if possible, in view of the large sacrifice of life occasioned by this particular form of accident. In 1915 there were, in the whole kingdom, 57,000 accidents and 600 deaths. In regard to haulage, the inspector of the Northern Division has called attention to the defective character of the rolling stock. There are a large number of private railways running from the pits to the railway and shipping termini, and there are a large number of surface accidents arising from the bad condition of the rolling stock. Is anything being done to prevent this carelessness? Taking haulage in its general sense, it is productive of an enormous number of accidents on the surface—some 34,000, involving 275 deaths. That is a number which seems to call for some explanation and attention.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Brace)
Is this in reference to haulage on the surface?
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WING
Yes. In Derbyshire the men on the surface equally with the men underground have an eight-hours shift, and there seems to be something in that which accounts for a large reduction in the number of accidents on the surface. The Northern Section of mines includes 200,000 men. The York and Midland section, in which is included the Derbyshire mines, represent some 210,000 men. Yet in the Northern section you have eighteen deaths as against eleven in the Midland section. I desire to point out that there is some reason for this. If you contrast the Northern section with the other in the matter of accidents, the number is 11,253; whilst in the York and Midland section, with 10,000 more men, you have 7,000 accidents. With an increased number of men you have a decreased number of accidents. The point is this: that this increased number of deaths and accidents in the Northern section may arise from the fact of the much longer hours of labour of 1127 enginemen, firemen and machinemen, who are kept there twelve hours without a single break, without any food hours, other men working on the surface work ten hours as against eight hours for all in the Derbyshire district. If the Government would pay some attention to the reduction of these hours in the Northern division they would very largely affect the number of accidents which happen and the deaths which occur. I also wish to call attention to another matter. We in this House are continually being urged to prepare for the future—to get ready for the time after the War. This would appear especially to refer to the mines. Take, for instance, the number of apprentices returned in 1914. In that year there were in Northumberland and Durham eighty-three apprentices; in 1915 the number was only fourteen. It was further stated that in a number of colleges in the counties I have named there were in 1914 students to the number of 194. In 1915 the number had been reduced to forty-eight. I would ask the Home Office to give special attention to the educational and technical side of this matter, and to give such facilities, or help, as will make for good the possible deficiency. The reduction, of course, in the number of students arises from the fact that a large number of men have gone straight from the colleges to the Army. In consequence their studies have been restricted and their examinations have fallen through. I would like the Home Office to give such facilities and opportunities that these men who have been so patriotic as to give of themselves, when they come home, shall not find themselves at a great disadvantage, and, further, that the country shall not lose on account of their patriotic action. I notice, too, that there has been a very great and increasing demand for juvenile labour. I trust the Home Office will resist that tendency.
§ Mr. WING
My hon. Friend speaks of this as being a matter for the education authorities. But I want to point out to him that the miners' leaders are dealing with it, and are calling attention to it. I therefore hope—and I press this point—that so far as his opinion and influence are concerned, they shall be in the direction of resisting an increase of juvenile labour. There is another question that has been a great dis- 1128 appointment to a number of reformers, that is in relation to the very slow advance of baths at the pit-heads. The life of the wife of the miner is a very hard one, especially as she advances in years and the number of her children increases, and they follow the avocation of their father. Take, for instance, Northumberland and Durham. We have there three shifts. Supposing the sons follow the occupation of their father, father and sons may be placed in different shifts, with the result that they are coming and going all hours of the day and night. There is no reason that I can see why the miner should not go from his house in his ordinary evening attire, and put on his pit clothes at the pit head, then go down to his work, come out, have his bath, change his clothes, and go home. That has been done in some parts of the country, and especially on the Continent. Such a procedure would save a very large amount of inconvenience, and the great labour which it entails on the wife and mother.
I would like also to call attention to the need for some action on the part of the chemical advisers of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know whether or not the £120 at the foot of the Vote I have in my hand represents the contribution of the Department of my hon. Friend, or of the Government Department, to chemical research. If so, it is a very small amount towards chemical research in relation to coal. We are complaining very largely of a shortage of oil. There are chemists in this country, eminent men, who believe that this great heritage of ours, the coal supply, is not being used in the very best interests of the country; that on acount of it being easily got we easily part with it, and that there is inherent in it not only light, heat and oil, but a thousand other possibilities. Might I suggest that outside chemistry should be encouraged as well as that inside the Government Department, with a view to the extension of chemical endeavour, so as to obtain a far larger number of results from our coal than we are obtaining at present? I do not think I am urging too much upon the right hon. Gentleman when I say, that I trust to increased inspection with a view to the protection of life, nor do I think that I am pressing what I say upon unwilling ears. The miners are worthy of the fullest attention of the Home Department. There is no department of industry which has given a larger proportion of its people to the War. We 1129 spend a lot of time in this House on the woes of the conscientious objector; here to-night we are paying attention to a large body of men who have freely given of themselves. I have instances of 50 per cent., not merely the members of military age, but 50 per cent, of the manhood of place after place. One-third of the miners of the whole kingdom have gone to the War. They are men whose technical knowledge has enabled them to be of immediate advantage. They have not all gone from the pit to the camp, but thousands have gone straight from the pit to the front. They have become tunnellers of which the nation has reason to be proud. Mining the enemy is a very ancient practice of war, but there is a novelty about this War in relation to tunnelling which is entirely different to any other—namely, that on both sides there have been most scientific and up-to-date methods. There have been underground combats, and many have been the victories that our miners have won. Many are the prisoners they have captured. I do, therefore, say that I feel proud to represent a constituency that has sent thousands of these brave men to the War. The women, too, are as brave as the men, keeping their homes together, caring for their children, and doing their duty, while their men are defending the hearths and homes of the country.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
There are one or two matters which I wish to impress upon the Home Secretary. One is the growing tendency in this country of aliens to change their names. The right hon. Gentleman has already told us it is not permissible at the present for any German to change his name, and I desire to press upon him the desirability of issuing, under the Defence of the Realm Act, an Order that during the period of the War no alien living in these Islands shall be allowed to change his name. I would put it in this way: There are fifty bad reasons why a man might want to change his name against one that can possibly be alleged as a good reason. The hon. Member for one of the Liverpool Divisions pointed out that it was difficult for the police to track aliens who change their residence if they are allowed also to change their names. The work of the various committees who are now looking into the desirability or otherwise of interning men would be done very much easier if it was impossible for them to change their names. There is a very strong feeling about this of taking English names. Many of us resent very 1130 much the idea of good old English names being taken by men who have no possible right whatever to use such names.
A gentleman came into my office only two or three days ago. His card preceded him. On it was the name of Forster. When he came in it occurred to me that I had seen him ten or eleven years ago. I said to him, "Your name is not Forster; it is Fuest." "Oh, well," he replied, "it is a very uncomfortable name. I am a Swiss, and it is most uncomfortable to be associated at the present time with such a name." As an Englishman, I strongly object to having aliens living in this country and without any trouble or cost changing their names to those of the good old English families, and I trust that this may be stopped during the period of the War. We may have time afterwards to discuss the question of the rights of aliens in a more deliberate way. Now we are doing things quickly, and I think one of the things that should be done is to stop this wholesale changing of names. One can in many ways understand men wishing to change their names, but all reasons, as I have said, except one, art bad, and the one is where, it may be, a man inherits money under a will on condition that he changes his name. If he cares to change it and take the money, well and good.
The other subject that I desire to mention is a much more difficult and delicate one. In business circles in this country there is a very strong feeling that business that has been obtained, and is being held, by German subjects who have been made Englishmen by their taking an oath of allegiance, which many of us believe they never intended to keep, and upon which we cannot really maintain any citizenship in these men. We ask that in some way these men shall be put through a further or second stage. The Home Secretary asked us whether we were prepared to tear up a scrap of paper? That is a difficult question, but it is a question as to what is our action towards these aliens.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
They are enemy aliens who have been converted into nominal Englishmen by taking a form of oath. Now, however, that we are at war, I consider that these men ought not to have all the rights and privileges of English citizenship. The Home Secretary asked if we were prepared to tear up a scrap of 1131 paper. As an Englishman, I say I am prepared to force these men to take a further oath or in some way to prove to authorities that may be appointed that it is right of them to call themselves Englishmen. There is a great deal of feeling that these men who obtained businesses as Germans in days gone by, and hold large businesses to-day, should have their rights and privileges restricted. To what extent those privileges should be restricted it is very difficult to say. On the Exchange in Liverpool on Saturday, when I was there, there were two firms brought to my attention who had been, as it were, struck off the roll with regard to the painting of ships, particularly ships belonging to His Majesty's Navy. Those two firms, which were German firms, have been reinstated, I understand, and, while it is not altogether within the position or right or power of the Home Office to take up this matter, it is in the Home Secretary's discrimination to represent to the Government that further action should be taken of a nature requiring legislation.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that is out of order. It is a well-known rule that no subject requiring legislation can be discussed in Committee of Supply.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Nothing that requires legislation. The hon. Member must not evade my ruling in that way. He cannot make suggestions on something which is out of order.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, and I quite recognise the difficulty; but the Home Secretary himself reads the oath that men of German birth take when they ask to become nominal Englishmen, and, in reply to the question he put, "Are we prepared to tear up this scrap of paper?" I say, under certain conditions, we are prepared to do it. I think he will find that the feeling of the country is very strong indeed that some change must be made, that that scrap of paper must be altered, and cannot be allowed to remain as it is as the final settlement of this issue.
§ Mr. NIELD
I make no apology for calling the attention of the Home Secretary again to the subject about which I questioned him to-day. I allude to the compilation of the jury lists, and I do urge 1132 upon the right hon. Gentleman, whatever his advisers around him may say, that this is a matter of very great concern. We have been exhorted from time to time since the War commenced to save in every conceivable way, and we see around us, notably on the other side of the river, large constructional works suspended, and we are about to inaugurate another week of war saving. Yet, with all that in front of us, with our experience of last year, the folly of allowing the list of voters to get in an advanced condition and Bills printed before the whole was suspended and rendered nugatory, we are apparently allowing the jury lists to be prepared this year at the present increased prices, though those lists when compiled will be absolutely nugatory. I called attention today in my question to the fact that the Juries Act, 1870, in terms compels the authorities to exempt all officers of His Majesty's Navy, Army, Yeomanry and other branches of the land forces from serving upon juries. Now that was in the days of a professional Army, and the auxiliary voluntary bodies were very-sparse by way of comparison. But to-day we have an enormous temporary Regular system, and to-day we are compelling all men between certain ages to take their part in discharging the responsibilities of nationality. By the Army Act every officer and man—it was an extension of the Juries Act—serving in His Majesty's Regular Forces was to be exempted from service on juries. By the Territorial Force Act, 1907, every officer and man in the Territorial Force was to be exempt from serving on a jury.
Every man who is now under military discipline as a soldier in His Majesty's Forces will, of necessity, be intended to be placed on the same footing as those men specially mentioned in the Juries Act or the Army and Territorial Force Acts, so that we have a vast majority of the manhood of the nation between the ages of twenty-one—because a man cannot serve on a jury until twenty-one—and forty-one being placed upon these lists. Not only is a waste of money going to be incurred, but we are going to get lists made up which are wholly illusory and of no real good at all. I want the right hon. Gentleman to remember that it is not only a question of expense, great and important as that is, but just think what is going to happen. The sheriffs and summoning officers for jurors of every class—Assize Courts, the Courts which sit continuously, 1133 County Courts, coroners inquests, every tribunal that has the right to summon a jury before it—will have to summon probably three times, if not quadruple, the number of people in order to get a proper panel, because so many will be absent upon military service. It is not beyond the wit of men either wholly to suspend—I venture to think it should be suspended—the preparation of the jury lists of this year, and let the authorities who are fairly familiar with the existing lists feel their way, because they can, of course, tell the men who have been summoned to serve and who are serving, or let them at once give directions that a canvass shall be made, and the name of every person who is on military service be struck off temporarily, so that they shall know who can be called upon to serve on juries.
That is the subject to which I wish to draw special attention; but I cannot sit down without again referring to the matter to which the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Bigland) has called attention. Persons of enemy origin—I will not hurt the susceptibilities of the hon. Member for Somerset, by calling them alien enemies— who have changed their names, are men who have come, of course, as aliens to this country and have received letters of naturalisation. As often as not they have been in the position when they took their oath of allegiance of those clever people who when taking the oath used to kiss their thumb and not the book. These eminently respectable German subjects of German origin and proclivities are only waiting here to perform their Imperial master's will, disguising themselves by taking this oath. They come here and obtain letters of naturalisation and more than that they alter their names, and as the last speaker said, assume time-honoured names of persons well known in this country. In the case of three brothers who obtained certificates of exemption on the ground of conscience I made some inquiries, and I found that their father was a German, that he had only in recent years become naturalised, and that since the War he had changed his name. I know of one case where the man adopted the historical name of Stoner for some unpronounceable name beginning with "S." These people should not be allowed to conceal their identity, although they possess a scrap of paper giving by a confiding nation to them in the belief that they were honourable men prepared to carry out their obliga- 1134 tions, and had really adopted this country as their home and wiped their hands altogether of their own country. We now find to our cost that all this is being abused every day, and we never know when we may turn round and find very considerable damage done to our country. I remember when I headed a deputation to the right hon. Gentleman he gave me leave to pay him a visit, and I am very glad that I was able to satisfy myself that a great deal of what had been told me was not really the fact.
I hear that these men of German origin who are here under the protection of the scrap of paper, are now taking advantage of the services that our own men are rendering either voluntarily or under the Military Service Act, men who have been sent from their homes and have had to give up their businesses. The most notorious case is that of the hairdressers, and there are cases in other trades, where naturalised subjects of German origin are waiting until these men are forced to go and sell their businesses, and these men of German origin are ready to buy up those businesses under assumed names, and they are being allowed to carry them on without let or hindrance. Why in the world we should give facilities for even naturalised Germans who are only technically British subjects and permit them to flourish upon the devastation of English homes, caused by a desire to serve their country, I cannot, for the life of me, understand. The Home Secretary has announced to-day his willingness and intention to appoint Commissioners for special areas in order that they may investigate these cases of naturalised aliens. That is a step in the right direction, and I am perfectly sure if these cases are properly put before the Commissioners and reported upon, the right hon. Gentleman will be so surprised at the result that he will extend the procedure to the whole country. It is absolutely necessary that this step should be taken, and taken now. People are suffering even here at home from unfair competition, even in time of war, with these men, who are only nominally British subjects. I ask the Home Office to change their demeanour towards these men, to regard them with more suspicion, and treat them more as we treat ticket-of-leave men, because, although they have sworn duty to the Sovereign of this realm, they are here for another purpose, and they are always prepared to be whitewashed by their Imperial master. I 1135 wish the Home Office would only appreciate the depth of public feeling on this subject, and then I am sure they would act more promptly and effectively. The British public are disturbed to their depths by the presence amongst them of these men, either under assumed names or permitted by certificates of naturalisation. Everyone of them ought to be interned, and if this were done we should go a long way towards protecting this country as it ought to be protected.
§ Colonel Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I wish to raise the case of the people who have been working very long hours. I wish to take this opportunity of entering a most emphatic caveat against the assumption that the long hours which have been worked recently have been at all commensurate with the very large output. The case I have in mind relates to a certain Government factory, where I hear that the workpeople have been working on an average about fifteen hours a day ever since the War broke out. I would like to know if the Home Secretary can tell us whether the authorities in that factory are taking any steps to find out whether the output is commensurate with the very long hours worked. The answer may be in the affirmative; it may be that the output has very greatly increased; but if, on the other hand, it has not, then I cannot see why these long hours should continue. There is also the question of Sunday labour, in regard to which the Chief Inspector of Factories has something very emphatic to say. In his Annual Report he says:Sunday labour has been found to be more and more unsatisfactory; apart from the ill effects which must follow from a long continued spell of working seven days a week, it too often results in loss of time on other days of the week, and in consequent disorganisation, and employers were perhaps the more ready therefore to accept the recommendations of the Health of Munition Workers' Committee that it should be abandoned.It is, of course, perfectly obvious to anyone who knows anything of this country that Sunday labour must be a great mistake, and must result in a diminution of output. All the same it does exist, and it exists in the Government factories. The Government factories are working thirteen days in the fortnight. It is a pure waste of money, it does not increase the output, and it ought to be stopped I saw a quotation in one of the Reports on the health of workers saying that Sun day labour meant seven days' pay for six days' work and five days' output.
1136 The Government have come in for a considerable amount of criticism because they have allowed Messrs. Vickers, at Erith, to increase the hours of labour of their work girls from eight to ten. There is an imposing array of welfare committees. There is the Workers' Welfare Committee, the Committee over which Mr. Rowntree presides, the Sunday Labour Committee, and a host of other welfare committees. I have never been able to understand how Messrs. Vickers managed to run the gauntlet of all these committees and get the consent of the Government, the Home Office and the Minister of Munitions to this extremely retrograde step. Everybody knows that the eight hours' shift, particularly for girls, is more economical than the ten hours' shift. In last year's Report one of the lady factory inspectors gives an instance of a Crown factory in which experience shows that the lengthening of the day beyond six and the total hours beyond eight and a half exhausts the workers and is of no advantage in increasing the output. How is it that the Home Office gave its sanction? Was it in the interests of the firm or in the interests of the girls themselves? As a matter of fact, the step was extremely unpopular among the girls. It resulted in great loss of health among them, and a very large proportion of them ceased working there and had to go elsewhere. Was the change made in the interests of output? I am told on very good authority that often in the early hours of the morning at the end of a night shift there are many girls completely beaten. I really would press upon the hon. Gentleman most urgently to look into this matter, to have a conference with the Minister of Munitions, and to put an end to that which is causing a very bad impression all over the country.
I would also urge upon the Home Office to use their powers more vigorously than they do at present to obtain the concessions for the work people. When a firm comes and asks for concessions and the lengthening of hours the Home Office ought to insist that adequate provision is made for meals by canteens and so forth before that permission is granted. I have in my mind a factory which I am told on very good authority has none of these things. It is a very crowded place, and there is not only not enough room for a canteen, but the girls are expected to feed in the factory, and there is not even a scat for them to sit upon. That is a matter which is well worth the attention of the 1137 Home Office. They ought to be more strict and see that these concessions which are really necessary for the health of the workers are made before permission is given to work these long hours. We hear a good deal of what the Government are doing for their welfare, and I should be the last to minimise their good intentions. I know that a great deal is being done, but there is a good deal to be done yet.
The Under-Secretary in an interruption just now seemed to think that the welfare of children was entirely a matter for the education authorities. The Home Office is the guardian of the children who are working in the factories. There are legal and there are illegal things, and I wish to point out that at the present moment there are children of fourteen working on the night shift. That is purely a matter for the Home Office. There are not only children of fourteen working on the night shift, but there are children of school age working at the present time in factories in the Birmingham area. That is a monstrous thing. This is a War of grown-ups. It is not a question in; which the children have had any voice at all, and it is a monstrous thing that they should be exploited in the name of patriotism by people who only want to get cheap labour and make money for themselves. The Home Office should be very careful to see that girls are not put on work which overstrains their strength. Messrs. Vickers, at Barrow, tried to get permission for one girl of eighteen to be allowed to manage two machines called "rough turning machines." It is agreed that is entirely beyond the strength of a girl of eighteen. The matter was sent to arbitration, and the arbitrator said that it might be left to the option of the girl. Of course, that was a safeguard wholly illusory. The point I want to make is that that is a Home Office matter. They have, under the Act of 1901, the power to forbid all operations performed by children under eighteen if they are unsuitable. It is not a matter to be sent to arbitration at all, but a matter for the Home Office to step in and to say that this shall not be done. There is one more point I wish to make before I sit down, and that is the use of poisonous dope in aeroplane factories. There have been, I believe, three deaths lately of people working on this poisonous dope. What I want the Home Office to do is to insist that a substitute should be used instead of this tetroclorethane, as it is called. I believe there is a substitute, but 1138 it is very sparingly used. Why I do not know. I want to know whether it is not used because it is very expensive or because it cannot be obtained. Perhaps it cannot be obtained in great quantities, but I would ask this: There is a process in the manufacture of aeroplanes called "taping"—that is to say, the seams of the wings are covered up by a strip of substance, and then this poisonous dope is smeared on top of it. It is just like making mackintoshes. That is a very dangerous process, because the girls have to stoop down over their work, and the lower they stoop the more dangerous it is, because this poisonous gas is heavier than the air. If this is very difficult stuff to get, I think it should be conceded that it should be used on this process and this process alone I should hope, however, that considering the dangerous nature of this poisonous gas, the Home Secretary will insist, if possible, that the substitute should be used throughout every process in the aeroplane factories. I venture to put these points knowing full well that they will receive the sympathetic consideration of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I do not propose to detain the Committee more than a very short time, but I should like to refer in a word or two to the mining industry, which is being carried on at the present time under conditions of disadvantage which have existed since the War began. I think the Committee will agree that the service which is being rendered to the country by the miners at the present time is a very great and important one, and that every effort should be made to meet the necessities of the moment in order to secure the greatest amount of production of coal for the needs of the country. Some time ago the Home Office appointed a Committee to consider the whole question of coal production during the War, and several very valuable suggestions were made in the Report which was issued as to the means which might be adopted to secure the largest possible output. I should be glad to receive an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the suggestions which were made have been carried out. In particular, having regard to the number of miners who joined the forces, it was considered desirable to take every possible method of speeding up production by providing additional facilities in regard to haulage and machinery generally, so that every means could be 1139 taken to secure as large a production as possible, notwithstanding the diminished number of the men engaged. While we recognise that the miners as a class have responded nobly to the call of the Services, one has also to keep in view the fact that many of them remain in this country at the call of duty in order that they may continue to take part in the great industrial army at home. Consequently, our responsibility to them to reduce as far as possible the casualties in the industrial armies in the mines remains a great and pressing one.
I should like to have some assurance with regard to the questions of haulage and of a sufficient number of wagons and tubs to remove the coal, and that arrangements are being made to prevent the mines being worked on short time. We have had certain complaints in different districts with regard to the short time the men were working—in almost every case not at their own desire—but, as a matter of fact, on account of difficulties of removal of the coal. I understand that it was suggested that an effort should be made to ascertain the causes for this short time where it was more noticeable in some of the pits, in order that, if possible, some rearrangement might be made. I understand that my hon. Friend who is going to reply may be able to give us some assurance that now sufficient provision is being made in every way in the pits throughout Scotland, as well as in other parts of the country, in order that the coal may be at once removed, and that there may be no delay through want of accommodation in that respect. I should also like to ask him, having regard to the responsibility which we owe to the men engaged in this industry, whether the work of the rescue stations in Scotland, and in Lanarkshire particularly, where a number of new stations have been erected, has been carried out with success. I should like to suggest that the ambulances available at those rescue stations may be made available for all ordinary cases of injury to miners, in order that they may reap the full advantage of the arrangements in regard to the rescue stations. They should be available not only for cases of serious explosions and disasters, but in cases of ordinary injury where men have to be removed from pits to some distance away in order that they may receive treatment. I should also like to know whether the rescue stations which have been recently 1140 erected are in full working order, as the need for them is as great in time of war, if not greater, as in time of peace.
I wish in only one word to refer to the question of aliens, and to take the opportunity of congratulating the Home Secretary upon the great public service he has rendered to-day by dissipating the cloud of misapprehension and misrepresentation with regard to the attitude of the Government and of the officials generally of the Home Office towards this question. I think he is to be congratulated on having exposed the many mares' nests which have been discovered—[An HON. MEMBER: "Invented!"]—or invented not only by hon. Members of this House, but in many districts beyond. I think his exposure was a thorough one, and that the country will highly appreciate it. He talked of a particular case in the course of his remarks which happens to be familiar with me, as it hails from Scotland, and I should like to say that I hope the lesson may have been learned in Scotland as well as through other parts of the United Kingdom that those who are circulating these reports are doing the country a great disservice at the present time, and that, what is more, that they are rendering themselves liable, I venture, humbly to suggest, to be severely dealt with if they should continue so to act. I trust that the result of the discussions in this House to-day may be that such individuals will be reminded that it is their duty, if they have any definite information on these matters, to lay the information at once before the authorities. In every case where these rumours have been recently considered and investigated it has been shown that they have had no foundation in fact whatever, and those who do not care to put themselves to the trouble of sifting the information which is brought to their notice ought, I think, to be regarded not only as doing the country an injury at this time, but as rendering themselves liable to severe treatment should they continue so to act. With regard to the position in the "country it will be generally accepted that the work done by the committees which were set up both in England and in Scotland has been very well done, and that those who have obtained exemption have only-been exempted where the case made for exemption has been a thorough one and justifiable upon every ground. I am sure that public opinion will now rest satisfied, after the explanation made to-day by 1141 the right hon. Gentleman, with what has been done, and that we shall remember, in dealing with this matter, great principles are at stake, and that we in this country do not desire to be driven by any action taken by our enemies to do anything which runs contrary to the highest principles of justice and fairness and humanity which we have always been careful to observe in the past.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. JOHN O'CONNOR
I rise to put a question which I hope will not be irrelevant. From the tone of the discussion it will probably appear that we have passed from the original Motion. If that be so, I only crave a little indulgence from the Chair and from the Committee in putting my question. It is well known that the Home Secretary has in his custody at the present time a number of Irish prisoners who have been taken, pretty generally, on suspicion of complicity in the recent rebellion in Ireland. I make no complaint whatever of the treatment that these men receive at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. I have taken the trouble to visit these men. They have made no complaints to me. I have taken the opportunity of saying, in provocative circumstances, that these men stated to me that they had no complaints. It has been stated by the Prime Minister that these men have an appeal, as no doubt they have, under the Regulations that have been made by the Home Office under the Defence of the Realm Acts. The Regulation that specially affects the question I want to ask is 14 (b), where there is an appeal to an Advisory Committee which has been set up. To that Advisory Committee is to be added, I believe, an Irish judge. To that I will not attach any importance whatever. I have the utmost reliance on the Committee as it is at present constituted, but if it is intended to attach an Irish judge to it, I make no objection whatever. I certainly take the opportunity of stating that with the Committee as it is now constituted, with a certain English judge at the head of it, and with Members of this House upon it, I believe they will examine the cases that will be brought before them with a firmness that distinguishes English committees and courts of justice. Therefore, I do not attach any importance whatever to the reinforcement, as I believe it is expected to be, of that Advisory Committee by an Irish judge. I do not wish to throw any disparagement upon the Irish Bench, still I 1142 must say that. What I want to elicit from the Home Secretary or any other official of the Home Office who may be empowered to answer my question, is when is the Advisory Committee going to act upon these cases?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Ah, yes! But what class of cases is the Committee investigating? Are they investigating the cases with which I am concerned? A number of my Constituents are interned all over the land. I cannot visit them all, because they are widely apart. Many of these men are wrongfully interned. I am only just back from my Constituency. I have gone to see the parents and relatives of these men. I have statements to make on their behalf that must appeal to this Committee. I believe it was stated by the Prime Minister that the Irish judge would be appointed before this Committee was brought into operation in the investigation of these cases. What I want is rapidity of action, because I am in receipt of letters every day of the most piteous character from mothers whose only sons are wrongfully interned, and from wives whose husbands are interned, husbands who were the sole support of them and their families. How long are these men going to be detained? I want an answer to that question. I have a portfolio in the corridor, and if I were to bring it into the Committee it would take me hours to read all the letters that it contains, all of them letters of appeal to me to send their sons and husbands home. How can I do so? I would rather call it a court of appeal than an Advisory Committee. I know the Committee well. I have made appeals to it already on behalf of other persons in this country who might have been wrongfully interned. I have appealed to it with success, and I have great confidence in it, but I think it ought to be put into operation at once upon the cases of these men. I do not know if any one of the cases of these men has been brought before it up to the present. That is the question I rise to ask. If I were to diverge from the path I have put before myself, it would be to follow all those bon. Members who have spoken so eloquently and so justly of the most admirable exposition of his case made by the right hon. Gentleman to-day. 1143 Probably he knows what I feel about the matter. I hope I shall get a satisfactory answer. I may say that I have put down a question to the Prime Minister for Monday next, which I hope he will be able to answer satisfactorily. No doubt he will get his information from the right hon. Gentleman, who, I hope, will now satisfy my question. If I can anticipate the answer which is to be given next Monday I shall be most happy to convey it to the numerous people who from all parts of Ireland are begging of me to bring forward the eases of their friends and relations who are unjustly interned.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The Irish judge, Mr. Justice Pim, was added to the Committee some time ago. The Committee had a formal sitting last week. It began to hear cases this week, and has already disposed of over 100 of them. It is engaged daily in hearing appeals, and it is prosecuting its inquiries with the utmost rapidity. If the hon. Member will communicate to the Secretary of the Committee any information he wishes it to consider, I have no doubt they will be grateful for it.
I want to clear up a point in the Home Secretary's speech earlier in the afternoon. There seems to be a little bit of confusion, in the cases where literature is being seized in various parts of the country, as to what authority is acting. The Home Secretary said in one part of his speech that he had no real control over the local police, and yet in the plan which he proposed to take he seems to indicate that he has sufficient control over the local police to prevent them ever from prosecuting, should he undertake a prosecution against the central body, the organisation responsible for the distribution of these leaflets and pamphlets. That is really where the confusion arises. By the new suggestion of the Home Secretary are we to understand that while he may or may not prosecute the central body, the local police will continue if they think fit, or, as he suggested, at the instigation of the military authorities, to initiate prosecutions on their own authority? I do not think we shall, be better off, in fact, we shall be rather worse off by the suggestion which the Home Secretary made. The truth is that what is happening is that in all these localities small petty authorities are get- 1144 ting power into their hands and exercising it indiscriminately and in a very arbitrary way. Many cases were quoted by the hon. Member (Mr. Macdonald) and brother hon. Members, but I can assure the Home Secretary that there are many more up and down the country. For instance, this peace memorial in itself is not the least bit contrary to law, and there are numberless cases of police visiting the houses of people who have signed it, and numberless cases of the memorial sheets being taken and the signatories being visited. All that has given an impression of persecution to the country, and, not only inconveniencing, but doing a great deal more in the way of raising discontent.
But I would ask the Home Secretary to make absolutely clear this question of authority. Let me give an instance of what happened the other day. The entire contents of the office of the National Council against Conscription was seized. It was a very impressive function, I am told. The Provost Marshal appeared with a captain and two or three policemen and detectives, and the entire contents of the office were removed, down to the blotting paper and note paper. A few days afterwards the entire contents of the office were returned in a van, without the assistance of the military authorities, this time, and much to the chagrin of the police, who had to do all the dirty work. I think one leaflet was kept. A question was asked in this House, but it was very difficult to find out on whose initiative all this was done. I think the War Office and the Home Office repudiated having anything to do with it, and we can never get at what authority is at the back of this class of raid. The Home Secretary to-day certainly mentioned the military authorities in localities as being capable of initiating prosecutions under the Defence of the Realm Act in these cases. So we are still going to have a duplication of authority. In fact, we are going to have three. We are going to have the Home Secretary acting on his own initiative against the central association, we are going to have the local police, who are still not under the complete control of the Home Secretary, acting when they think fit, and now we are going to have the local military authorities turning up in various localities. I can assure the Home Secretary that all this want of uniformity and simplicity in the organisation creates an enormous amount of irritation and does not really carry out what he and we all desire, which is to prevent 1145 anything being circulated which would really be detrimental to the cause of this country in the War. A number of the pamphlets which were seized at Cwmavon and other places in Wales were seized in August last in Manchester and in London, and were all returned to the organisation responsible for them with an intimation from the Home Office that there was nothing that was in any way in contravention of the Defence of the Realm Act. They have been seized in another locality, and I do not know if they have been destroyed, but the authorities have refused to return them. It gives a feeling of uncertainty to everyone, and when you get a verdict which clearly defines a particular publication as being harmless and then in another part of the country that publication is seized and destroyed, it is very natural that people should feel that the same sort of inefficient and arbitrary method is being adopted as in the case of the Military Tribunals, and that want of uniformity is defeating the object which the authorities have in view. I would really impress on the Home Secretary that these matters are more serious than he considers them, judging by the tone of his speech. It is not difference of opinion about the object, but the method adopted of inconveniencing and persecuting private individuals in their houses all over the country in such an arbitrary way is likely to create a spirit which is the exact contrary to that which he and all of us have in view.
§ Mr. KING
The discussion to-night has ranged over a large variety of subjects. Some of them have been unworthy, even ludicrous, in my opinion, but some of them have been serious and worthy of the greatest attention, and though we are indebted to the Home Secretary for the admirable way in which he treated the ridiculous alien stories which have been going the rounds of the papers, and have afforded the stock in trade of a number of feather-brained Members of this House, still I am very disappointed that the Under-Secretary for the Home Department was not here when we had a most important and impressive speech from the Noble Lord (Colonel Lord H. Cavendish Bentinck). He went out immediately afterwards, instead of rising to reply at once. I think that was an unworthy action on his part. If he is coming back after dinner, and if lie will rise then to reply, I shall be only too glad to withdraw my remarks, but I am almost inclined to think that the 1146 Debate would have dropped had I risen. I am very glad that we are to have a reply, because there are important questions of administration which ought to be attended to in war time, even more than in peace time, such as the employment of children of tender age in factories on night shifts, and the questions that arise in connection with colony administration, which was brought up by the hon. Member for North-East Lanark (Mr. Pringle), and which ought to have a speedy reply from the Front Bench.
As the question of aliens has been raised, I want to enter my protest against the remarks made by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Bigland) in a speech which, in my opinion, was utterly unworthy of this House and of this occasion. I should say this in the presence of the hon. Member if he were here. I protest against the suggestion made repeatedly, as it has been made in this House, that those members of nationalities which are now enemies of ours, who are now naturalised British subjects, are all disloyal and deceitful and ought to be put in prison. When we have an hon. Member like the hon. Member for Birkenhead getting up and in so many words advocating that the letters of nationalisation granted to them should be treated as scraps of paper, I think it is time that someone should protest against treating in that way promises made to our own fellow-citizens, who have done nothing whatever for which they may be chargeable, and treating them worse than the Germans have treated the Belgians. I think it is a disgrace, and a disgrace to the party that has such a Member. I hope that there will be no further proceeding of that kind. A suggestion has been made by the hon. Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield) that all these persons who bear German names ought to be brought before some new Court. I should think he is about the only man in the House who is unworthy enough to sit at the head of it, and to ask them to take some solemn oath, while in the very same, breath he tells these men of German name that he does not believe the oath they have taken already. That is a ridiculous and unworthy proposal, and it is a pity that the time of the Committee is wasted in bringing forward such suggestons. Therefore, I feel that a passing word of protest from me is not out of place.
I want to refer to the way in which our internment camps are administered. We have heard a great deal about aliens out- 1147 side the camps, and I want to say a few words about aliens inside the camps. I should like to tell the Home Secretary that some of the camps are well administered. The alien enemies there are contented, and they wall come out at the end of the War feeling that they have been justly and fairly treated, and anything they say, whether they remain in this country or go back to their own country, will redound to the credit of this country. In other camps, however, the administration, I am afraid, is not so good. There have been difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman knows that in some camps under his control there have been serious difficulties. He knows perfectly well that in one case the commandant has had to be removed, and he knows that in another case there have been gross irregularities. I will not go into them, but I would impress upon the Committee and the right hon. Gentleman this fact, that the success and smooth-working of the camps, and the contentment of those who are in the camps, depend largely upon the commandant, upon his tact and his ability, upon his not relying upon a superior position or upon a hard and unbending form of treatment, but upon a generous form of treatment, and upon tact and kindness towards these people, though they may be unhappy enough to be German prisoners at the present time. It depends upon these qualities whether the camps are successful or not. This is a matter of very great importance. We want at the end of this War that these people who have been in our care and keeping as prisoners, should come out and say, "Well, at any rate, we were well treated. We cannot bring any accusations of injustice against those who put us into the internment camps, and kept us there," it may be for months and possibly it may have to be for years.
I want to say something about the treatment of prisoners in the internment camps under Regulation 14 B. As far as I can make out, these are much more severely treated. In some cases they are there as British citizens, and in some cases they are there as citizens of our Allies, and they are treated with a much greater severity than the alien enemies. They are not allowed to go out under any circumstances. I have a case in my mind, in regard to which I have made representations to the right hon. Gentleman, of an alien who is a citizen of an allied State in one of these internment camps. He makes 1148 application to write, and he is told that he must write to the Home Office. The commandant will not put forward any application. He has to write to the Home Office, but his letters from the Home Office never receive an answer. He is not allowed to correspond with his friends. He is suffering from the ordinary human malady of toothache, and he is not allowed to go out to a dentist. You allow alien enemies to go out to a dentist, but you will not allow a citizen who is interned under Regulation 14 B to go out to a dentist. This poor man is suffering, and will continue to suffer, so long as this heartless treatment under Regulation 14 B goes on. In regard to business, the alien enemies are actually allowed in some cases to go out on patrol to do business. I think it is quite right that they should be allowed to do so in certain cases, and I do not believe there has been any abuse of it, because there is careful examination before these privileges are granted. I support the Home Secretary generally in his treatment of alien enemies, but I cannot understand why it should be made so much harder for those who are in prison under Regulation 14 B, as they are cases which I have brought before the notice of my right hon. Friend. There are cases in which the prisoners are agents between firms in this country and firms in Russia and France. They are the channels, and have been the channels of business, genuine business, between this country and our Allies. The right hon. Gentleman puts the agent into prison on mere suspicion, and will not give him practically any statement of the charge against him, and prevents business which might be going on between us and our Allies from being carried through, owing to the heart-lessness and the unbending rigidity of these regulations. It is not a wise thing; it is a foolish thing, and is doing no good to anyone. I must appeal to the Home Office that in these things it should quicken its organisation, because I believe that it is not from stupidity that such results arise. It is partly from a certain modicum of suspicion, but very largely because the Home Office at the present time is understaffed, and this is true pretty well of other Departments. You send a lot of men to the War instead of getting capable men who could do the work. You might get a lot better men than myself, but I am perfectly certain that, incompetent as I am in many directions, I could do good work for the Home 1149 Office. But you might get a lot better men. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] But you could get men from outside to take the place of clerks who have gone, and to control the large new Departments of extra work which have been necessarily imposed on the Home Office at the present time, instead of calling in young ladies as typewriters, by the hundred, and putting them under the control of one man who dictates one letter to one and another letter to another of a score of young ladies, and sends them all to different rooms and then gets the letters back and signs them. That is the way, I am told—I do not know whether it applies to the Home Office—the work of some Government Departments is carried on at the present.
§ Mr. KING
I did not say your Department, but that is the principle on which work in Government Departments is being done. There are few men of ability, judgment and capacity ready to grasp the work, and any number of extra people of inferior class "who can simply typewrite. The result is that many important and difficult cases are put off day after day and week after week, and there is a sense of friction and injustice which might easily be avoided. I attribute it to this policy of starving the intellectual resources of our Departments. I know that the Home Secretary has got a great deal of intellect. I do not wish to say that his intellect could possibly be starved. It is too great. Anything like overstrain or the ordinary starvation of intellectual resources to which some of us might be subject is impossible in his case. But at this time we do not want to reduce the brain power of any of our Departments. Yet that is the policy which is advocated in this precious document, the Final Report of the Committee on Retrenchment in the Public Expenditure. This is a ridiculous document. I see that a right hon. Gentleman opposite has had a little to do with it, but if it were left to him rather than to men of many angles, like Mr. Harold Cox, who was very active in connection with that Report, we should have got a much more capable and sensible Report. Generally, the whole tendency of retrenchment has taken the form of reducing the number of men of ability and brains, to whom you naturally have to pay a high salary. They 1150 are worth it, and cheap at the price. Even a Home Secretary, if he is a good one, may be cheap at £5,000 a year. We have had a good many of that kind. But the whole tendency of this precious Retrenchment Report is to carry on the War without brains, to get cheap labour and to do it badly.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
I do not know whether the hon. Member is directing his remarks solely to the Home Office Department, because that is the only Department concerned in this Vote to-night.
§ Mr. KING
I have got here the Report of the Retrenchment Committee. It has a great deal to do with the Home Office, as you will see if you look at pages 8, 9, and the following pages. I will not trouble the Committee with all these points. I will take briefly one or two. It deals here with the question of police. Has any economy been effected in the police of the country? We have got much less drunkenness and much less crime connected with drunkenness. We have got all the dangerous aliens interned. Why do we want so many police as before? People go to bed early, and when they do not go to bed early it is broad daylight, so there is no danger of committing any serious crime in the dark. Why, then, do we need so many police? I never see a policeman even in the quiet and rural district in which I live but I see two. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I do not "see double," but what I find is that if there is a policeman round the corner there is another just within sight. That is partly because of the ridiculous practice they have got of going about when it is not dark looking at people's windows to see if there is a shining light. For even the magistrates whose ridiculous carryings on we have been treated to to-night are not willing to convict persons of showing lights on the testimony of fewer than two policemen. There might be immense economy in the police of the country at the present time and hundreds and thousands of young policemen who are vigorous —and I will say even pugnacious in their character—might be released for the Army if only we carried out proper economies in the police department. Again, take the Board of Control, which is another matter mentioned in the Report of the Retrenchment Committee. Great economies have no doubt been effected in connection with lunatic asylums.
§ Mr. KING
Very well. There are plenty of other subjects to which I can refer, so that I will reserve that for another occasion. I wish to say a word or two upon a question about which we have had a great deal already. I. will not say much, but what I do say I shall say strongly, because I feel strongly. I refer to the question of interference with the rights of free speech. In my opinion there are certain things which are likely, if they go on, deeply to impress the temper, unity, and determination of our people, and if more and more in increasing measure we are not allowed to say what we believe, if we are not allowed to discuss openly and freely great questions which are discussed here but which may not be discussed outside, then I believe the result will, be that before the end of the War there will be many men who have joined in recruiting, who have made great sacrifices, who may be who have sent their sons and have sacrificed them in the country's cause, who will feel far less enthusiastic about the War than they did at the beginning. Instead of being united and determined and ready to sacrifice themselves for the cause in which they felt they were fighting for the country, which they understood was to preserve their treasured liberty, they will wonder whether, after all, they have not misunderstood the men under whom they served, whom they looked upon as great statesmen, but whom they find are perhaps little better in their Prussian ideas than Prussian statesmen themselves. I adhere to what I said when I see the police, uncultured men, going in and out of houses and sweeping up the whole of the books, pamphlets, and papers of innocent people simply because they are Socialists. One thing is particularly obvious at the present time: it is that if a 1152 man is known to be, and has been for a length of time, a member of the Socialist party, he is suspect, and is liable to domiciliary visits; anything that he repeats or says is handed on to the police, and in many cases men are suffering now for their Socialist opinions in a way that men have not suffered before, even in country villages, for being Nonconformists—which is saying a good deal. I want to protest against the persecution of anything like Socialism at the present time. I believe it will only spread Socialism; I believe that our people, as a race, are so generous, especially to the oppressed, especially to those who are unjustly treated, and so determined to preserve liberty, that when they see a special set of doctrines; persecuted and unjustly treated and prejudiced, as they are at the present time, they will only say, "We will join all those who are oppressed; we had not sympathy with them before, but we will throw our lot in with them, and we, too, will be against their oppressors."
§ Mr. BRACE
I apologise to my hon. Friend who has just addressed the House, because I did not rise to speak, after the Debate, at the particular moment which he thought was the most opportune. He made a very serious endeavour to meet your eye, Sir, and I thought it would be unfortunate for me to give a cause of grievance, and that he should not have an opportunity of speaking then.
§ Mr. BRACE
My hon. Friend has dwelt particularly on the question of the police, and he was very anxious that something should be done to reduce the expenditure upon the force under the control of the Home Office. I notice he spoke particularly about the police who thought it part of their duty to look after the lights, and I gather that the hon. Gentleman had been caught by the police. [An HON. MEMBER: "Twice!"] Apparently he has been taken to task upon two occasions; he must, therefore, really have a grievance against the police. As a matter of fact the London police, under the control of the Home Office, have been very largely re-released for national service, so much so that we have 20,000 special constables giving of their time and leisure to serve this city and the nation in this time of stress, and they are doing that, I must point out, without any remuneration whatsoever. I think we are indebted to the 1153 special constables who have placed their services on the altar of their country and are giving of the best that is in them for the nation.
I listened with extreme interest to the eloquent and powerful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. R. Macdonald), and that of the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Anderson). They have presented to the House a series of cases which would lead one to believe that all the documents seized in connection with them are documents of the kind of which they spoke.
My hon. Friends are astute debaters, and they know their business thoroughly, and consequently—I make no complaint— they come with very strong cases to the House of Commons. If all the documents had been of the kind and character to which they referred, no action would lie; but it was because other documents were involved that commitals took place, and I am authorised by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to say that, so far as he is concerned, and the Home Office is concerned, we shall be prepared to most carefully survey the situation, and see in what direction we may move to prevent any recurrence of cases of that character. I should be trespassing on the generosity of the House of Commons if I attempted to go over the ground covered so eloquently and powerfully in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but he did not mention to the House of Commons that a few days ago he issued a circular to the chief constables, calling their attention to what may be called this grievance, to which my hon. Friends have referred. If allowed to do so, I would like to read one of the clauses of the circular, so that it may be seen what has been done by my right hon. Friend. The circular says, referring to the Secretary of State for the Home Department:His attention has, however, been drawn to several cases in which action has been taken by the police, under Regulation 51 or Regulation 51A with regard to pamphlets not included in the Home Office circulars, and which did not, in fact, in any way contravene Regulation 27. In order to secure proper and uniform action in this matter, the Secretary of State desires that in future, except in a serious case where immediate action is necessary, you should not proceed under Regulation 51 or 51A against pamphlets not included in the Home Office circulars without referring first to the competent military authority, who have received instructions in the matter from the War Office, and you will, if necessary, refer to the War Office for decision as to what action should be taken in any particular case. As you are aware, it is already necessary for the police to refer to the competent military authority before prosecuting the publishers or distributors of pamphlets.1154 My right hon. Friend has sent that out, and I am authorised to state to the House of Commons that this problem will be carefully surveyed by him and the Home Office, and anything he can do to redress a real grievance will be done; but the House of Commons must not take it that I am entering into any covenant to protect people who are making use of the liberty of British citizenship to violate the law passed by this House and by Parliament, and to make it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to carry on the nation's business in the way in which it should be carried on to win this war. If my hon. Friends feel that they have cases of grievance, and if they will either personally or by letter communicate with my right hon. Friend, then I am certain that they will find that the Home Office will be very disposed indeed to see what can be done to meet cases of real grievance to which they feel they have the right to call the attention of the House.
I leave that subject and I turn to the questions to which I desire to address myself, namely, the industrial section of the Home Office. My hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Wing) called our attention to the claims the miners have to the consideration of the House of Commons and of the country. Speaking as a mining man, I should like to make use of this opportunity to say that not only have the mining community given of their young manhood for the Army and for the collieries, but they have been sympathetic to a degree in every appeal made to them to settle their grievances by negotiation rather than by stoppage, so that the nation might have a full supply of the coal necessary for the nation's business during war. Therefore it is pushing an open door for my hon. Friend to appeal to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and myself to have regard to the claims of the miners.
It is very difficult to compare like with like in these days of war. Therefore the schedule of accidents is not a reasonable, comparable basis at all. So far as we can gather from this year, the accidents in mines show a decrease, but mining will always be a dangerous occupation. Let the mining engineers never be more scientific, let the miners never be more careful, and yet we shall have at the end of a year, when we come to survey the work of the mines, to regret that life has been taken and men have been injured. 1155 I am glad to say that in accidents from falls from roofs and sides we have a diminution. I approached this phase of mining life with the greatest apprehension, because of the difficulty of finding pit timber. I am glad to be able to bear public testimony that the nation, the coal owners, and the traders have been able to provide a sufficiency of timber, and consequently in these days, when we might from that shortage have been placed in a very serious position, in case of accidents from falls of roofs and sides, we find that there is a reduction. My hon. Friend claims special consideration for the mining students who are at the War. The Home Office has given this matter its consideration, and a Bill has been introduced, and will shortly come up for Second Reading, which will give effect to the desire expressed in the speech of my hon. Friend that students who are at the War should have special consideration for the taking of their examinations. As to the appeal made by my hon. Friend for the establishment of pit baths, that is a matter upon which the Home Office has no power whatsoever. By the Act of Parliament the matter is left entirely to the workmen. When that Act was a Bill before this House, both in Grand Committee and in the House, I very strongly supported the Clause dealing with pit baths. Unfortunately, it requires a good deal of propaganda work before miners as a whole will be persuaded that it is to their advantage that they should leave dirt at the pit and go home clean. If the Home Office had the power, I think I should be tempted to use some of that power, but the Statute makes it entirely optional on the vote of the workmen for those baths to be established. I hope that the fact that my hon. Friend has called attention to this subject will help forward the idea, and that collieries will have pit baths in the very near future. The Home Office have no power to bring any pressure to bear either on coal owners or on workmen. The point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North-Fast Lanark (Mr. Millar) as to rescue stations is a very difficult problem. There has been a shortage of material, but, despite that, real progress has been made since the last Home Office Vote in connection with rescue stations in Scotland.
§ Mr. MILLAR
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would also reply to the question I 1156 put as to what is being done in carrying out the recommendations of the Home Office Committee on Coal Production.
§ Mr. BRACE
If the hon. Gentleman will put down a question on the subject, I will give him an answer, but I do not carry it in my mind. Turning to the question raised by the Noble Lord (Lord H. Caven-dish-Bentinck), may I be allowed to say that I was pleased to hear him intervene in Debate upon these matters, because he has done so much for social service, and has been so ready to help forward any movement for the advancement of the position of the masses of the people. As to the cases dealt with by him of long hours in factories, unfortunately, of course, we are in a state of war. It is difficult for the Home Office to move, without having regard to the other Departments of the State, and in this matter the Munitions Department not only were consulted, but were given a substantial voice in determining the position. Therefore the long hours in Vickers' works, which the Noble Lord mentioned, were arranged in conjunction with the Munitions Department, and were arranged to meet a particular set of conditions. The change was made on the recommendation of the Ministry of Munitions, with a view to an increase of the output, and the release and employment elsewhere in the works of a number of men. It was also to meet the case of the three shift system, which usually works satisfactorily but was not working well in this particular case. The question of continuing the present hours is now under consideration, and the Home Office is reviewing the case in conjunction with the Munitions Department, and we shall have regard to the very strong appeal put forward by the Noble Lord in connection with this particular question. The Noble Lord said that in a large number of works there was no accommodation for food—no canteen accommodation. If he will pay me the compliment of citing the cases he has in mind, I will undertake to see that individual investigation shall take place, and that reform is at once enforced with all the powers we possess in that direction. The Home Office have been working for a very long time in this direction. When we have been asked to agree to regulations either for young people, or for overtime, or for an alteration of shifts, we have always, where necessary, made it part of our conditions that proper provision must be made in the factories for the workers to 1157 have warm food under proper conditions. Therefore, if the Noble Lord will report to me the case that he has in mind, I shall be very pleased to give it my personal attention, and I think I may assure him and the Committee that it is the intention of the Home Office to remedy any grievance in this direction.
The troublesome question of a non-poisonous dope is a matter upon which the Home Office have been very disturbed. We have had to answer questions in this House in regard to women and men whose lives have been taken because of their having to work this poisonous dope. The dope question affects not only the Home Office, but also—and, indeed, more particularly—the Admiralty and the War Office. I am glad to be able to say that, as a result of communications between my right hon. Friend and the Ministers of those Departments, we at last see our way to having a non-poisonous dope sufficient and effective for all purposes for aircraft, whether for sea work or for work on land. I am hoping that within a few weeks from now the poisonous dope which has been in use, and has been so deadly to the workers, will be a thing of the past. The Home Office have been continually pressing for the best ventilation, for greater precautions, and for everything in the shape of precautionary measures that would make work upon this poisonous dope less dangerous. But we have felt all along that the real solution of the question was a non-poisonous dope. It has been a very difficult problem. The three Departments have been working together, and, as a result, I think the Noble Lord may take it for certain that within a short times all this danger will be removed, and the workers in our aircraft factories will be able to go about their employment with infinitely less danger to life and health than has hitherto been the case. I do not know that there is any other matter for me to deal with, unless it be the question—
§ Mr. BRACE
I was about to say unless it be the question raised by the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. Ashley). I understand that my hon. Friend has no grievance for the moment. His personal grievance has been rectified by the interposition of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. What my hon. Friend really 1158 desires is that some arrangement should be made under which the Press Pureau will be much more careful in its handling of articles, because the rejection of an article, as my hon. Friend said, while a very small matter in his case, might be a very serious matter for a man who had to make his living in that way. My right hon. Friend has given an earnest of his sympathy with that view, and my hon. Friend may rely upon his taking the matter in hand in his usual thorough manner, so that neither the House nor my hon. Friend will have cause for complaint in future. I have ventured to trespass for some time on the patience of the House, but I think I have dealt with all the points that have been raised. I hope that my hon. Friends will agree that we have had a very good discussion, and that they will now give us our Vote, reserving for another occasion any further points that they may wish to bring forward.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Major HUNT
I wish to ask the Home Secretary whether he has found out anything about the German named Max Kuhn, who was chairman of the German Emperor's Reception Committee the last time the Kaiser was in this country? I gave the right hon. Gentleman the address of this man, and the right hon. Gentleman's reply to me is that he knows nothing about him. If this man is a German, it is the right hon. Gentleman's business to find out.
§ Major HUNT
Whether Mr. Max Kuhn was chairman of the German Emperor's Reception Committee. The right hon. Gentleman says that he does not know anything about it. Well, he ought to know. He has had plenty of time to find out. What does he think he is paid £5,000 a year for if he does not find out whether this man is a dangerous spy or not? If he was so high in the German Emperor's confidence the probability is that he is working for Germany now. Once a German always a German. As has come to be pretty well known now, this man has a great turret in his house which since the War he has kept locked up and never allows anybody to enter. He may keep all sorts of things there. It overlooks a 1159 large portion of the country. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into this matter. I understand that this man is seriously suspected of being a friend of Germany when he gets the chance. An hon. Member who spoke from the Irish Benches said that he had a portfolio full of letters asking him to get people let out of the internment camps. I am afraid my experience is the other way on. I have not a portfolio, but I have had a good many letters asking me to get German people put into internment camps. I had a very strong request only the other day to try and get a German family interned. The hon. Member for North Somerset seemed to be tremendously in favour of the naturalised German. Personally I think, as a rule, certainly in a good many cases, that the naturalised German is by no means safer than an unnaturalised one. When I was on the East Coast of Norfolk for nearly a year it was perfectly well known that the coast was full of spies. A certain number of them, I believe, have been attended to, but a good many are still left. I hope that the present Home Secretary will "buck up" and do his best to get as many of these spies as he can. I am quite aware that they take a lot of catching. They are very cunning. I gave the late Home Secretary a very good case, but so far as I can tell he will not even try. It was perfectly easy for him to send down detectives, but he declined to do so. This time, therefore, I thought the better plan was to put a question in the House.
This matter of German spies is, I think, a very serious one. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman understands how very strong the feeling is in very many parts of the country, and that it is a very serious thing for this country that there should be so many Germans still allowed their freedom. The country wants to know not only whether Germans are going to be prevented coming in after the War, but whether we can get rid for good of the Germans that are in this country, so that we shall be able to keep our work and wages for our own people. I do not think we have had any information at all on that subject. I think that nobody who is a naturalised German, at all events during the War, ought to be allowed to change his name to an English name. I understand he has a right now. That is where you get piqued, because you cannot keep track of them. If a German in England changes 1160 his name to Jones or Robinson it does not change his nature, for though he may have a Christian name he is really German bred. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh at people being German bred, but we know enough about Germans now to know that once a German, always a German, in nearly every case. Whether naturalised or not, it does not make any difference so far as I can see. Added to that, we know that such a German can still remain a German subject. I do not now know how that can be managed. I think the Home Secretary said there was some difficulty about it, but I think, if I were he, I should have a good try to see if something could not be done to find out whether people who are naturalised here, and who are supposed to be British subjects, are not German subjects as well.
There is one point to which I wish to refer, after having listened to this Debate for hours, but, before doing so, may I congratulate the Under-Secretary for the Home Depart-Departmcnt on one statement in his speech? I understood from him that a dope of a non-poisonous character has been discovered which can be produced in sufficient quantities to allow the elimination of the old poisonous dopes. That announcement will be received with considerable satisfaction throughout the country, and I congratulate him upon it. I understood him also to say that the Home Secretary was about to issue a circular instructing the police who are confiscating circulars and other literature before doing so to go to the local competent military authorities. Have they ever done anything else? Have they ever acted except undr instructions from the local military authorities? If they have not, I want to know what difference this new instruction will make? Is it going to eliminate these stupid and wicked attacks upon free speech of which we have had an illustration this afternoon, or is it simply going to renew the old condition of things? But the question to which I want to refer is that of public meetings. We were given to understand some time ago that certain things were certainly not illegal. It was not to be illegal to attack the principle of Conscription to which some of us are very strongly opposed. It was not to be illegal to criticise the Compulsion Act. We were to be allowed certain rights in regard to the expression of our views in reference to that matter, and some others.
1161 If we were to be allowed to do this, surely it is our right—those of us who desire to criticise the administraton of the Act—to criticise the Act itself, and to advocate its repeal, as many people in the country are desirous of doing? We, being assured that our action is legal, legitimate, and not improper, are entitled to the proper protection of the police when we hold meetings for the purpose. My reason for referring to this matter is an experience of my own. Two or three Sundays ago I was asked to make an appearance on the platform of a meeting which was to be held for the purpose of discussing this question of Conscription. I had never taken part in the agitation before, strongly as I felt in the matter. May I say I am not one of those who can be accused of in any way appearing to hinder recruiting, or desiring to prevent it. I have spoken at hundreds of recruiting meetings, and I think I have been the means of inducing a large number of persons to recruit; so that any accusation of that kind cannot lie upon one who is at present as strongly opposed to Conscription as before the Act was passed. Here was a meeting arranged for the purpose beforehand and allowed to take place in a park. A conveyance for the purpose of using as a platform was provided, with only one policeman to enable those concerned to keep order. I found other meetings were constantly held on the Sundays. One was held frequently under the auspices of a newspaper whose editor possesses the strongly pronounced Anglo-Saxon name of Blumenfeld. As soon as our meeting began the other meeting broke up with "God Save the King," and the audience came over in a mass to the meeting which I later intended to address. Only the one policeman was there, and he must have known the conditions. The speeches were not allowed to be delivered; in other words, free speech was suppressed by the organised action of certain people, whose action must have been anticipated by the police, whilst no provision whatever was made for protection. It was in Brockwell Park, and even at the end of the time only four policemen put in an appearance, although there must have been a great many more available.
All I ask is that the Home Secretary, in administering his office as the guardian of public liberty, and a believer in free speech and public liberty, where a perfectly legal meeting is held, when there is no reason to antici- 1162 pate that illegalities will be the result, shall see to it that the police under his charge are so administered that proper protection shall be afforded to those who are conducting those perfectly legal meetings. After all, free speech is a tradition that we will not part with very readily, even in time of war. I believe it is against the interests of the country to suppress public opinion which may happen to take a temporarily unpopular form, and if the Government were less jumpy, if the authorities were less nervous, if instead of the state of hysteria into which we appear to have got, they would allow free speech more freely than they have during the last few weeks, I believe that a great deal of the harm that has been done would cease to be done, and a great deal of the unpopularity that the War is lately getting among many classes of the people would not arise. The best way possible to make people hate the War will be to cause it to be an instrument for the undermining and destruction of the liberties they have enjoyed in times past, and to take little piffling pamphlets which here and there may appear to have a sentence which might affect recruiting here and there, at a time when recruiting cannot be stopped because you have a compulsory measure that forces every man of military age into the Army, is unworthy. It is indicative of a state of mind of which the country ought to be ashamed, because, after all, we are not afraid of the Germans, and I am quite sure we can discuss our differences, and those who hold unpopular opinions can be allowed to express those opinions, without any fear of the result that the expression of those opinions will cause us to lose this war against our foreign enemies. We are supposed to be righting this war for a great idea, and that idea is the negation of the denial of liberty which is the system of government in Germany. The idea underlying our action all through has been the establishment of public liberty everywhere, and if the effect of carrying on operations is to destroy the liberties we have at home, then many of us will feel hopeless who hitherto have been enthusiastically urging forward the conduct of the War, and as desirous as the biggest jingo amongst us to bring it to a successful conclusion.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I confess I have a little difficulty in appreciating the exact 1163 attitude of mind of the hon. Member who has just sat down, because I understood him to say that the people of the country were becoming so exasperated or infuriated by the attacks made by the Government on free speech, that the popularity of the War was becoming in danger, and yet that great desire for free speech is combined with an inability on the part of the hon. Member to go and express his opinions without the protection of the police force. In one respect, I confess, I am in agreement with the hon. Member. I do not agree with him on what, after all, underlies his main contention because of the expression of his opinions. I say quite frankly that, at a time of war such as we are in, if I were in the position of the Government, I would make it illegal to express opinions which were dangerous from the point of view of winning the War. That is, at any rate, a frank and intelligible position. The hon. Member takes a different position.
§ Mr. McNEILL
But I do not understand now that the hon. Member would be in favour of suppressing those opinions if he thought they were dangerous from the point of view of the War. I understand his position to be that there should be free expression of opinion whether dangerous or not.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I understood the hon. Member to say so, at all events. I agree with him to this extent, that if it is legal to express the opinions to which he refers, then I quite agree that hon. Members who hold those views ought to be able to look to the Government for sufficient police protection to make them safe against their own infuriated constituents.
Those who are not hon. Members I want to protect, and it was not my own Constituents.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I imagined that it was the hon. Member's constituency. None of those who have read the papers can fail to have observed that some hon. Members have great difficulty in addressing their constituencies—
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The hon. Member has been asked to give an instance, and he cannot do it. His statement is totally untrue. He has slandered certain hon. Members of this House, and I throw the slander back in his teeth.
§ Mr. McNEILL
My teeth will stand it. I intend to leave the question of free speech altogether, and exercise my freedom in another direction. I want to draw attention to a matter which does not appear to have been referred to in the course of the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that there is a system of identity books given to aliens who are registered to enable them to move about the country. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman saw in the public Press the other day a criticism published on the subject of these identity books by the President of the Foreign Press in London. The point he made is that the right hon. Gentleman has quite rightly drawn a distinction between friendly aliens and unfriendly aliens, but he has not drawn a distinction between aliens who belong to neutral States and those who belong to Allied States. The point I wish to suggest is that that distinction might very fairly and properly be drawn. The gentleman I referred to the other day makes that suggestion in the case of a journalist belonging to an Allied nation like France. There are many of those individuals who have been for many years in this country who are perfectly well known in the journalistic world and probably to Government officials, because they are public men of notoriously good faith and trustworthiness from our point of view. What I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman is that in a good many cases where he is in a position to satisfy himself that journalists and others who belong to Allied States, and are individually undoubtedly trustworthy, might receive a different form of identity book to the ordinary one which would enable them to move much more freely about the country or as freely as we do ourselves. This gentleman who has himself procured an identity book tells us that it is numbered 85433. I want to know: Does that represent the maximum—perhaps the number may be even greater—of the people who are supplied with these books, because, if 1165 so, it appears to me that they are issued wholesale, and that there can be very little discrimination in the issue of them? I notice that the writer to whom I refer says:—I am convinced that any foreign spies who may be left in this country possess an identity book and use it for some purpose.The protest which this gentleman makes is that he, who has been for many years, fifteen years or so, working in England in a public position of honourable trust, should be compelled to take out exactly the same sort of passport in this country as almost any alien can obtain, no distinction being made, and he gets no greater privileges than they. He says, for example, that to tell a man who for fifteen years has worked to the best of his ability for England and for France that he is nothing but an ordinary alien, to furnish him with an identity book which any alien can get for the asking, and to refuse him any special privileges for the exercise of his profession, is not to recognise the laws of hospitality which, even in a time of war, are extended in invaded France to foreign correspondents and envoys of the British Press. My own belief is that this is a point which has escaped the notice of the right hon. Gentleman. I believe he will think it a reasonable one, and I ask him whether, in such a case, ho will not consider the issuing in different colour or form, or some way best known to himself, an identity book for correspondents who are absolutely and entirely trustworthy. At the same time, I must say that I think the facts I have mentioned show that the identity book which is issued ought to be more carefully guarded. It is far too indiscriminately issued. If the Home Office exercised a little more discrimination in withholding the one which is now current and in offering one which gives greater freedom of movement and privileges to those who can be trusted, he would be getting over a difficulty which at the present time is causing a certain amount of dissatisfaction among a class of men whom we have no wish to exasperate and every desire to honour. At the same time, he would be doing something to safeguard the country from the too free movement of others who may very likely be less worthy to be trusted.
§ Mr. R. LAMBERT
I am afraid that I must ask the Committee to allow me to swing the pendulum once again and to come back from the question of aliens to 1166 the question of domiciliary visits. I really think that the Home Office should consider very carefully whether these domiciliary visits which are being carried out all over the country are doing any good to the cause which they have at heart. I want to bring to the notice of the Home Secretary one instance which I think he will admit to be rather an extreme case. On 15th June two plain clothes detectives called at a house in Westgate Terrace, Redcliffe Square, and informed the lady who lived there that they had been informed that the mother of the lady who occupied the House had informed a sister of the person who had informed them that somebody else had put into the house several documents relating, either to the Sinn Fein movement or to the suffragette cause. They did not seem to know which.
The lady, of course, knew nothing about either the Sinn Fein movement or was not interested in it particularly. I believe she was interested formerly in what is called the Suffragist movement. However, the detectives were invited in. They made a thorough search, and they found nothing, on their own admission, which could be associated in any way with "the Sinn Fein movement. What they did find, and what they seized, were several documents of the following description: Records of the arrest and subsequent movements of individual conscientious objectors, in the form of letters and newspaper cuttings; letters and cuttings referring to the arrest and subsequent movements of groups of conscientious objectors which had not yet been sorted; letters from conscientious objectors while in camp or in prisons; letters from conscientious objectors, private persons, and officials of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, of the I.L.P., and of the No-Conscription Fellowship, relating to cases of alleged bad treatment; reports of investigations into cases of alleged bad treatment, and a few notes of questions asked in the House; and there were also a number of private books, and one or two pamphlets which had been issued before the War and bought before the War.
The first point I want to make is this. It does seem, to me to be altogether an improper thing that detectives should go to a house ostensibly to look for incriminating matter on one subject and should use the opportunity to search for and to seize something quite different. Secondly, when I say that this material 1167 was being collected by this lady in order that Members of Parliament might be enabled to do what they are constantly being asked to do—that is to say, sift these cases, and when they bring them to the notice either of the Under-Secretary for War or of the Home Secretary take care that the cases they bring up are really bonâ fide cases, which can only be done by sifting them beforehand— when I say these documents were being collected for that purpose, then I really think it is rather a strong order if we are to be told that the persons who collect this material are to have their houses raided and to have these documents seized. It seems to me to be altogether a farce if we are to be told that we must be very careful, indeed, to see that nothing that we bring before the notice of the authorities is anything but bonâ fide and thoroughly investigated, and then, at the same time, very good care is taken that the material which will enable us to come to a decision on that matter is denied us. I do hope that a little more discretion will be used in these domiciliary visits, and I do ask that in this particular case the documents which have been seized should be returned forthwith. There can, surely, be nothing which would militate against the interests of this country or prevent the vigorous prosecution of the War, or turn people's minds away from recruiting, in records of that description. I should like to emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Haggerston (Mr. Chancellor) said just now. I believe myself that if only we could look at things a little more calmly, and get rid of some of this panicky action which seems to dominate, from time to time, the minds of the Government, we should be much more likely to prosecute this War to a successful issue than we shall be if we give way, and give vent, to these absurd ideas of repression and panic. You are not going, after all—and I speak as one who, like my hon. Friend, has done a good deal in the way of recruiting, and who is in no sense opposed to this War; and I resent very strongly any suggestion that we are any whit the less patriotic than any Member of the House, or any inhabitant of this country. We are as anxious as anybody to see this country carry this War to a successful issue. We do feel very deeply indeed the great heritage of freedom—freedom of speech and the liberty of the subject—which has been 1168 handed down to us from our forefathers, and we shall consider that even a victory over Prussianism may be very dearly won if we are asked to sacrifice these great principles, which were, after all, the very cause of the War and the reason why we entered the War, in order to obtain what would be a perfectly futile victory over the Prussian elements which we are, as far as I can see, prepared to adopt at the present time. I hope we have heard the last of these domiciliary visits, and that the Government, if they must repress free speech and must in some measure repress and prevent the expression of free thought in this country, will see to it that the police are very careful as to the lengths to which they go in the matter.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
It was a very curious doctrine to come from the hon. Member opposite (Mr. K, McNeill) that it is the duty of the Government in these times to suppress any unpalatable opinion—
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
That is, any opinion which, in his opinion, might be prejudicial to the successful prosecution of the War.
§ Mr. McNEILL
It did not. On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member entitled, after my contradiction across the floor, to go on imputing to me something I have never said?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that is a proposition which the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) was putting before the Committee. I have not followed it sufficiently. There was no accusation of mala fides that I heard. It seemed to me an argument in opposition to what the hon. Member (Mr. McNeill) had said.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I was about to say that it was a curious doctrine to come from one who less than two years ago was actively engaged in trying to foment insurrection within His Majesty's Dominions.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
It is a time hon. Members use in order to further their own party aims. The hon. Member (Mr. McNeill) was a conscientious objector less than two years ago, because it suited his purpose to be one. He seizes the opportunity now of refusing the right of conscience to anyone who chooses to differ from him. The hon. Member made certain observations called forth by some remarks made by my hon. Friend who spoke from this seat about public meetings. I have had no experience during this War similar to the experience related by my hon. Friend. I have addressed as many public meetings as any Member of the House during the last eighteen months, and I have had no meeting where order has not been perfect. I have had an experience this weekend which I think it will be quite proper to bring forward when the Home Office Vote is under consideration, seeing that the action of the police is involved. I had been announced to address a number of meetings extending from Friday to Sunday. I had been advertised to speak in a place which is either in the constituency represented by my hon. Friend or in the constituency he is to represent in the next Parliament—Abertillery. The police inspector there, seeing the announcement of the meetings, which were to be held In a public hall, visited the proprietors and informed them that if any improper statements were made at the meeting they would be held liable and would be prosecuted under the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act. That, of course, was tantamount to the cancelling of the meeting, as the proprietors of the hall were not prepared to take the responsibility of permitting the meeting to be held. The borough council, however, placed the park at our disposal, and we had an audience of certainly not fewer than 1,500 people which listened for more than an hour to my address without the slightest interruption, but with great bursts of applause. I had in another town in South Wales on Sunday afternoon an audience of 4,000 people, who unanimously, I do not say nem, con., passed a peace negotiation resolution, petitions in favour of which have been suppressed by the police within the last few weeks. Adverting to a statement made by the hon. Member opposite, which he 1170 had neither the courage nor the evidence to support when he was challenged, I know of no Member of Parliament taking unpopular views upon this War who has ever been refused a hearing in his constituency. I certainly have never had, during the fifteen years I have been connected with my Constituency as candidate and Member, had larger, more enthusiastic or more unanimous meetings than I have had during the last eighteen months. I have never hidden my opinions upon the War. Unlike some hon. Members who have spoken, I have never taken part in recruiting. I was away from the country when the War broke out. When I arrived in this country I went straight from the boat to my Constituency and arranged a public meeting there at the earliest possible moment, and there I frankly stated my position upon the War and told my Constituents that under no circumstances should I take part in any recruiting meetings. These opinions are not so unpopular as some Members of this House appear to think.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The police in my Constituency have always been extremely kind. If the Government want to know what the state of opinion really is in this country, let them withdraw or suspend for a few weeks the Regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act. Let us have freedom of opinion and then they will get the real expression of the opinion of the people of this country upon this war.
I rose mainly to reply to certain observations made by the Under-Secretary. He seemed to think that my hon. Friends (Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Anderson) tried to put the very best face upon their case by ignoring pamphlets and leaflets of a more serious character than those to which they had referred. Even if that were so, it does not alter the fact which has been established by their speeches that the police in different parts of the country have been seizing, and the magistrates have been ordering for destruction, pamphlets and leaflets of a most innocent and unobjectionable character. But I do not accept the point made by my hon. Friend. I do not admit for a moment that any leaflets of a seditious character have been seized 1171 by the police or have ever been brought forward by the police into a Court of Justice. The simple fact of the matter is that to-day our Police Courts are not Courts of Justice when a case of this character is brought before them. The very moment that a Socialist comes forward, or the very moment that they have to consider a case which is alleged to be a case of prejudicing recruiting, or a case of alleged sedition, these benches of magistrates cease to be judicial bodies and simply become the tools of the Executive Government or of the military authorities. They simply become partisans. On what other ground are you to explain such a decision, for instance, as the one given by the magistrates at Briton Ferry? Even the Home Secretary did not attempt this afernoon to defend the action of the bench of magistrates. What are the pamphlets which they have destroyed? The police seized twenty-six different pamphlets and leaflets, and among them were twenty-three copies of the "Labour Leader." These were ordered to be destroyed. If these copies of the "Labour Leader" contained matter likely to be prejudicial to recruiting or to the successful prosecution of the War, why were the proprietors of the "Labour Leader" not prosecuted. The same thing applies to "The Tribunal. "The Home Secretary this afternoon said that the No-Conscription Fellowship had been carrying on an illegal propaganda for the creation of conscientious objectors. I deny that. The No-Conscription Fellowship have been doing no such thing. What the No-Conscription Fellowship have done is to get rights which conscientious objectors are entitled to have under the law. Unless there be some organisation to secure those rights, and to protect those who are treated unjustly by the tribunals, these individual conscientious objectors will suffer. That has been the whole function of the No-Conscription Fellowship. A few weeks ago—I believe about the 5th or 6th June—a raid was made upon the offices of the No-Conscription Fellowship, evidently with the approval of the Home Office, because the police took part in it, and on the same day a raid was made on the offices of the National Council against Conscription. Three weeks or so have gone by, and there has been no prosecution against either of those bodies. As a matter of fact, about two weeks after the raid, everything which had been taken away from the 1172 offices of the National Council against Conscription was returned to them, but the papers taken away from the offices of the No-Conscription Fellowship have not yet been returned. Nothing has been heard of them; the organisation has not been prosecuted and the leaders have not been prosecuted for conspiracy or sedition. With respect to the pamphlets taken from the branch of the I.L.P. I have mentioned, and condemned by the magistrates, I may point out that, although the case was heard in camera, I have a report from the solicitor who acted on behalf of our friends there, and he tells me that the magistrate, in giving his decision, said that the pamphlets would have been quite unobjectionable at other times, but that at a time like this possibly they might do harm and might upset somebody's opinions. As a matter of fact, the magistrates never read any of these pamphlets. They condemned them holus-bolus without knowing anything about their contents. They condemned them solely because they came from a branch of the Independent Labour Party.
Among the pamphlets were three written by myself. One was an exposition of the Military Service Act. The right hon. Gentleman has seen the pamphlet. He knows that there is not a word in that pamphlet which is not contained in the Act or in the Regulations. Yet the pamphlet was condemned by this bench of magistrates as likely to prejudice recruiting and as being seditious. Another pamphlet of mine that was condemned was, "Who is to pay for the War?" That is a report of a speech delivered, by me in this House in the Budget Debates last year, and it also contains a report of a speech by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. His speech and mine have been condemned as being seditious, as being prejudicial to the successful prosecution of the War. The third pamphlet, which contained a report of a speech of mine, was issued not by the Independent Labour Party, but by a colleague of the Home Secretary, the present Minister for Education. He, as secretary of the Labour party, was responsible for the publication of that pamphlet. This is perfectly ridiculous. We want to know if this sort of thing is to go on, what is the use of going about the country, sending policemen to poke their noses into stuffy branches of the Independent Labour Party and take these pamphlets, when they have not the courage to go to the source 1173 from which these pamphlets come? If these pamphlets are seditious, if my pamphlet is seditious, then prosecute me. My name is on the pamphlet. Prosecute the printer. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, who has a reputation in this House as a debater, which certainly he did not sustain by the contribution he made to the Debate this afternoon, spoke of a pamphlet which he had read. If that pamphlet be seditious, as the right hon. Gentleman appears to consider it—and he certainly ought to be an authority on sedition—why do they prosecute humble, insignificant individuals here and there in the country and leave free those who issue it? That is the ground of our complaint.
There is another matter to which I wish to refer. The Home Secretary this afternoon mentioned that aliens of friendly countries of military age are going to be given the option either to enlist in the British Army or be deported to the country to which they originally belonged. I ask the attention of the Home Secretary to this point, because I know that it is causing the greatest concern among Jews, Russians, Poles, and others. Nobody knows better than the Home Secretary that a great, many of these men have come to this country as a political asylum, and if they are sent back to Russia it is certain that they will be shot. I do hope that in administering this new Regulation the utmost care will be taken that these men who have come to this country, in some cases because of opposition to compulsory military service, in some cases because they were concerned with political agitation, should not be sent back to Russia, and I urge that most strongly.
The case to which I want to call the attention of the Home Secretary is about a Dutch subject, I told Mr. Whitley that I had a letter which I had received from the Government Department about it—I had it a few minutes ago—but I think I remember its contents quite well. In this matter the Home Office and the War Office are involved. It is the case of a Dutch subject called up last March, who had
§ attested under a misapprehension. He was under the impression that aliens were compelled to be taken. When he pointed out to the authorities that he was a Dutchman he was told to go to the Home Office. He went, and the Department gave him a certificate as an alien. He went to the recruiting office for a registration card, and informed them that he was a Dutchman. Notwithstanding, that, he was called up by the military-authorities and brought before the magistrates. The case was adjourned for three weeks in order that the decision of the Home Office might be taken on the question; and then, when the case came up again, the decision of the Home Office evidently had not been received. This, man was handed over to the military authorities, but he refused to conform to military law, and he is now undergoing 112 days' imprisonment in Winchester Gaol. The serious matter is this: The Dutch Minister, on 8th May, made a representation to the Foreign Office demanding the release of this man as a Dutch subject. I wrote to the Dutch Minister on 30th May, and I had an immediate reply from him, in which he said that although his request had been before the Foreign Office for twenty-one days yet he had never had so much as an acknowledgment from the Foreign Office. That man a Dutch soldier, and admitted to be a Dutch: subject, is now undergoing imprisonment in a British military prison. I want to ask the Home Secretary, and I would put the same question to the Foreign Secretary if he were here, whether the Government think that this is the way in which we are going to retain neutral sympathy in this War—neutral sympathy that we need so much? There is a great deal more I might say, but I understand that some of my Friends are anxious to take a Division, so I do not propose to say more.
§ Question put, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100."
§ The Committee divided; Ayes, 16; Noes, 56.1175
|Division No. 29.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Anderson, W. C.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Snowden, Philip|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Morrell, Philip||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Hogge, James Myles||Pringle, William M. R|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Radford, Sir George Heynes||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushclifte)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Fonsonby and Mr. Jowett.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hinds, John||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick Burghs)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Rowlands, James|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Illingworth, Albert H.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Boyton, James||Mackinder, H. J.||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Brace, William||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Donald||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Millar, James Duncan||Watt, Henry A.|
|Currie, George W.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Morgan, George Hay||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Finney, Samuel||Raffan, Peter Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Gulland and Lord Edmund Talbot.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Mr. Speaker, I beg to say that I was in the Lobby and came through the door, but the Tellers had gone.
It being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further proceeding, the Chairman left the Chair, to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.