HC Deb 12 April 1921 vol 140 cc917-9

asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been called to the plight of many of the British subjects who were brought over from Russia by the Government, and who hitherto have been helped by the relief fund which is now exhausted; and will he consider granting some assistance to these unfortunate people, and particularly to those with children and the old and infirm?


Yes, Sir. Government assistance has been given to the voluntary committee undertaking the care of these refugees. In view of the general need for economy, it has been necessary to place a limit upon this assistance and to revise the lists of those assisted. The present difficulties are increased by the fact that a number of the older refugees have, to the committee's regret, refused to accept an offer of hospitality made to them.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these refugees were promised good treatment if they would leave Russia and come here? Will the right hon. Gentleman see that that pledge is kept in regard to these unfortunate people and that no question of the small sum of money involved will permit him to dishonour our promise?


I am not aware that any promise was given in the form expressed by the hon. and gallant Member's question, but perhaps he will be good enough to send me the terms of the pledge to which he alludes. I understood that British subjects who wished to leave Russia under the circumstances would be given an opportunity of doing so, but I certainly heard of no understanding that anyone was pressed to do so against his will. I should be glad if the hon. and gallant Member would furnish me with the terms of the pledge to which he refers.

Captain O'GRADY

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the amount of money already given to these refugees?


Not without notice.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these people who are absolutely penniless and on the borders of starvation have only been kept from starving by Poor Law relief?


That is why Government assistance has been given to the committee which is dealing with these cases. The difficulties of dealing with them have been aggravated by the refusal of many of these older people to accept the relief in the form in which it is available.


Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire into the small number of cases of real hardship, and see whether some further assistance cannot be given?


While I was Chancellor of the Exchequer I did look into this question, and very considerable sums have been provided by the British taxpayer for the relief of refugees in various places. I do not think, however, in view of the general criticism in this House of expenditure and the obvious need for enonomy we could undertake an unlimited liability in regard to these or any other refugees.

Back to
Forward to