§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Snow.]
§ 3.37 P.m.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
This afternoon I wish to raise with the Government a matter which I raised with the Foreign Secretary on 23rd October, 1946, relating to the death of a British subject, Dr. Chatterton-Hill. On 23rd October, 1946, in reply to a Question from me, the Foreign Secretary said:I am informed by the competent authorities that Mr. Chatterton-Hill's case has been reviewed and that it has been decided not to institute proceedings against him. He has been notified of this decision, and he and his wife will be afforded the usual facilities should they wish to return to this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1946; vol. 427, C. 362.]It is necessary for me to give a little of the background to show who this gentleman was—for he is now dead. He was of British nationality, supplied with a British passport which, in fact, was renewed twice during the war through the Swiss Embassy, and due to expire only on 7th November, 1945. He was an author and philosopher, married to a German lady, and lived in Germany for some time prior to the outbreak of war. When war broke out he was actually in hospital, suffering very acutely. He was allowed out of hospital by the Germans in January or February, 1940, but was immediately put into a concentration camp, where he was labelled as an undesirable alien. He was kept there until January, 1941, when, on account of 572 the very extreme state into which his health had got, I suppose it was thought that he would be better outside than in. He had no means of earning his livelihood, and engaged himself in translating the British news into German for the Germans in Berlin. This, presumably, went on, so far as I know, until the end of the war when we arrived in Berlin.
From 8th August, 1945, until 3rd March, 1946, he was allowed to live in a British camp at Ruhleben. On 6th September, 1945, although he had applied for repatriation, suddenly his passport and that of his wife were demanded and taken from them, and they were turned out on to the streets. It appears that this resulted, according to his wife's account, from a Home Office report that he had indulged in treasonable activities during the 1914–18 war, that he had worked for Germany in 1939 to 1945, that he had lived in Germany for so long that his repatriation was not now desirable, and that, probably, if he did return to England, he would be prosecuted. All that was cleared up by the answer which my right hon. Friend gave to me in October, 1946, when, the case having been fully investigated, it was decided that that cause did not lie at all.
At the same time, at this period in 1946, the Consul gave instructions to the P.W.X. Department in Berlin to confiscate his passport and to afford to him no facilities which would normally be afforded to a British subject. When Dr. Chatterton-Hill heard of this report—it was only read to him; he was never given a copy of it—he demanded to be brought home and tried. That was refused. He was not told by whom the charges were made, and it was suggested that the whole affair must have arisen because of his Sinn Fein activities from 1914 to 1918, which had been dealt with in October, 1928, when the whole thing was wiped off the slate and he and his wife were granted passports unconditionally.
If the security people were so anxious about him why, during the seven months during which he was in the Ruhleben Camp, in Germany, was no charge preferred against him there? The result of it all was that from September, 1945, he was left on the streets in Berlin, with no means of subsistence and a No. 5 ration card which, as anyone who knows about 573 these matters is aware, is near starvation. He and his wife had to pawn all their goods to keep alive at all and, when ill, he was refused entrance to the British hospital or British attendance of any kind. He was refused what I consider ought to be a proper ration card for a British subject, and also Red Cross parcels.
When I went to the British Red Cross, when the case first came to my notice,—even as late as January, 1947—the letter reached me after he had died, and despite the assurance given by the Foreign Secretary in October, 1946, that he could come back to this country, and that every facility would be afforded to him to return freely the authorities in Berlin, three months after that, still told the Red Cross that on no account should they give him any Red Cross parcels. That was a perfectly outrageous situation. The only man who came to Dr. Chatterton-Hill's assistance was Mr. Peter Burchett of the "Daily Express," who found out where he was. From that date until the time of Dr. Chatterton-Hill's death he nobly managed, somehow or other, to provide a little sustenance over and above Dr. Chatterton-Hill's appalling ration. I can only quote Mr. Burchett as giving a fair summary of his reaction to the whole situation in a letter which he wrote to me:I am personally not concerned with his background, nor wish to defend whatever actions may have brought him into conflict with the law, but I do contend that whatever he had done, whatever we have against him, it is no part of British justice to allow a man to starve and freeze to death. 'Pneumonia' on the death certificate was only a polite cover for 'death from starvation and cold.'That, indeed, is the case. Having struggled along, getting weaker and weaker as the winter got worse and worse—and we all know how bad that winter was—Dr. Chatterton-Hill eventually died on 12th January, 1947, in a German hospital. Even the day before the British Consul refused, despite a plea by Mr. Burchett, to allow a British doctor to have anything to do with him, or to help him in his distress.
§ Mr. Stokes
This was very nearly three months after the Foreign Secretary had assured us that every possible facility would be given him to come home. Of 574 course, it is difficult to deal with all these things in retrospect, and time has gone on. I myself have seen Mrs. Chatterton-Hill. I saw her when she was in this country last year. She gave me an account of what had happened. She told me that in October, 1946, following my Question, she and her husband were summoned to the Consulate at Lancaster House in Berlin where they saw three gentlemen—Messrs. White, Fulham and Callender—all of whom were in uniform. As a result of the interview they hoped that very speedy arrangements would be made for their repatriation. But nothing of the sort happened. As the winter went on, and the doctor got weaker and weaker, he went to bed, and had to give up the little work he was doing on behalf of the French Occupying forces there.
On nth December, 1946, a month after they made formal application—which they did on 5th November—for repatriation, Mrs. Chatterton-Hill called at the Consulate and left a doctor's certificate to show how desperately her husband was in need of help. Still nothing happened, two months after my Question in the House. She called again at the Consulate on 27th January, after she had put her husband into his grave, and Mr. Fulham took a little more interest in her case, but kept the old lady waiting three hours before seeing her.
Then, days later, she was sent for and given a security interview. It is unbelievable to me. I cannot see how it could have happened at that late date. She was interviewed by the security authorities in Berlin. Her husband's body had scarcely become cold in the grave, when she was calmly told by the person who interviewed her that her case was a very difficult one; that her husband had been a traitor; and that he was likened to Lord Haw-Haw. That seems very odd behaviour on the part of the official.
She was flown back to England on 22nd February on the orders of the Foreign Office. She had no money and only two suit cases with her; that was all. Since then she has been in a Ministry of Health hostel, where, I think, she is provided with £1 a week, of which 15s. is taken back—no doubt, quite rightly—for the purpose of paying for her board and lodging. It is interesting that she makes this statement quite definitely at this stage. She says she is quite confident 575 that her husband would never have died but for the incompetence and inhumanity of the Control Commission's attitude to him. It would seem as though there was a good deal of political prejudice about the whole matter, but I do not propose to enter into that. Perhaps, those of my hon. Friends who know about this may care to deal with it. But what is to be done with the old lady? She is now something over 60. I am not quite sure of her actual age. She is completely friendless. I have made representations to the Foreign Office over the past year or more. Eventually the Foreign Secretary wrote to me—about a fortnight or three weeks ago—and told me that he was making an ex gratia payment of £1,054 to provide an annuity of 35s. a week. Whilst I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for having done something in the way of making a gesture, I do not think that that is nearly enough.
I should like to put the House in the right frame of mind about this matter by quoting an extract from a proposed broadcast which Major Anthony Irwin, M.C., a gallant serving officer in the last war, drafted for issue on the wireless. It was never put over. I suppose it was suppressed. He ended this proposed broadcast with these words:The facts of the case are long and tedious and too disheartening to enumerate. The letters that went back and forth, the pending files which were thrown into dusty cupboards, the personal spite of two officials, one of whom said, 'This man was a Sinn Feiner in 1915: therefore, he must be a traitor now, and should he come to England we should hound him,'—and that after he had been cleared in 1928 of Sinn Fein activities and granted a British passport, have no place in this broadcast. Those are for the official reports which will, one sincerely trusts, insist upon the thorough investigation of this case and all others.He goes on to say:My own feelings about this case are quite simple. For six years, I personally fought during the war in order to put an end to this form of individual or collective suffering, and I feel that I have been hoodwinked into risking my life if Dr. Chatterton-Hill's case is an example of the results of my labours.I hope that the House will endorse the views expressed by him in that proposed broadcast. To give this old lady 35s. a week after having murdered her husband is not sufficient. Here is a British subject allowed to die by the direct negligence of the Control Commission officials in Berlin. There is no doubt about that; it is 576 admitted on every side. It is not good enough for my right hon. Friend to say, "This man worked for the enemy." He should not be able to say that in April, 1948, when he tells me in October, 1946, that this man had been entirely exonerated from any such charge. He cannot have it both ways. If he was a traitor he ought to have been treated as a traitor. If he was not a traitor, it is a mean and despicable thing to say to this old lady, "Your husband was a traitor and ought to have been dealt with summarily, and it is just too bad if you are now in a bad way."
I submit that it is intolerable that this should have happened. I think that another point is also intolerable. I wrote to the Foreign Secretary on 30th March, saying that I was grateful to him for what he had done in getting this ex gratia payment, but I did not think that it was enough. I thought that it ought to be doubled, or that this old lady should be given something equivalent to the pension of the widow of a captain or a colonel of up to £230 a year. I also want to know what has been done to the official responsible for this outrage. Judge of my surprise when yesterday morning I got a letter, which I have in my hand, dated 7th April, from the hostel in Scotland, from this old lady saying that a special person was sent to interview her on Wednesday of this week, inviting acceptance of the proposed settlement. I telegraphed to her not to do anything until she heard from me again. For a Department, knowing that this Debate was coming on, to go behind and try to get this old lady to accept something when she might get something better, is too despicable. I hope that the Under-Secretary will tell us how that happened, and assure us that he will deal very strongly with whoever was responsible for that action.
I think it is dreadful that on 22nd October, 1946, we should be assured that facilities would be immediately provided; that nothing should happen, and that this man should die on 4th January, 1947. In the meantime, he is refused all aid. He was given no extra food or Red Cross parcels and no assistance from a British doctor. Even on the day of his death, the Consul in Berlin refused to allow him to have any British doctor to attend him. I want to know from the Under-Secretary 577 what has been done to those officials to make them understand, in no uncertain manner, what this House and the British people think of the treatment of a British national in that manner in Berlin.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
We have heard a dreadful story. I am not at all certain that the worst part of this story is not the fact that what we did to Dr. Chatterton-Hill was to treat him as a German. Is that an example of how we treated Germans? It is a horrible picture of what has been happening in that zone where, in all conscience, we are responsible to God for the human beings there, under our government and rule. Is that the way we have treated them? Apart from the mean, despicable persecution and incredible behaviour which this story displays, there is something else which, I think, is of particular importance to Members of this House. It is something which is of importance from a Parliamentary point of view. An answer was given to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and an assurance. What steps does the Foreign Secretary take to see that assurances of this sort given in this House are implemented. Here was an assurance given by a political chief ignored by every one of his subordinates. It gives us very little confidence in our Ministers. I would say with a good deal of emphasis that if Ministers wish to be trusted by Parliament, they must see that signal action is taken to deal with people who let them down in this way. It gives us very little confidence indeed and I hope strong action will be taken.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Mayhew)
If we are to understand the position here it is necessary that we should draw close and careful distinction between the case of Dr. Chatterton-Hill and the case of his wife, Mrs. Chatterton-Hill. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) made several extremely grave and serious charges against His Majesty's Government in regard to our treatment of this case. It is necessary to distinguish between what he said with reference to the death of Dr. Chatterton-Hill and the subsequent treatment of his wife.
In regard to the death of Dr. Chatterton-Hill a great deal has already been 578 said in this House. A statement of the facts of the case has already been plainly and frankly made on behalf of the Government. Many of the facts which were put forward by my hon. Friend are true, though I cannot possibly accept all the implications which he has read into them. I will not go back into the early history of Dr. Chatterton-Hill. I will deal with the single point of the assistance which was denied to him by our consular authorities at a time when he lay very ill in Berlin in the period leading up to his death.
At that time in Berlin torrents of applications for assistance in food, medical supplies and such-like were reaching the British authorities from British subjects in all parts of Germany, from alleged British subjects and from Germans who felt they had some claim on British sympathy and help. It was a time when communications in Germany were bad, when transport was disrupted and when administration inevitably had not yet settled down and become efficient. Normally in such circumstances British consular officials are not responsible for the feeding of British subjects abroad. British subjects accept the same living conditions as those of the citizens of the country in which they find themselves, but naturally in these special circumstances our consular officials in difficult conditions undertook to do the best they could to help all British subjects in co-operation with the Red Cross. They did offer to help the Red Cross in the distribution of certain limited facilities, limited supplies of food and medical help.
Of course, supplies of food were far less than sufficient to meet all needs and it was, therefore, felt necessary in the circumstances of the time to give priority to those persons who had suffered in Germany on account of their British citizenship. There was considerable and understandable feeling at that time that those British subjects who had served the Germans during the war should not have the same treatment as those who had suffered as internees for their British citizenship. Rightly or wrongly, since at that time there was not sufficient food, and since someone had to go without, it was decided as a general principle to give priority to those British subjects who had suffered for their citizenship during the war.
§ Mr. Stokes
Really my hon. Friend is misleading the House. Does he not agree that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said on 22nd October, 1946, that these people should come home and should have every facility that could be offered to them?
§ It being Four o'Clock the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Snow.]
§ Mr. Stokes
I am talking about the period after that—not before. The Red Cross parcels were refused and the Red Cross were told that they were not to send them.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Yes, but that is not inconsistent with what I am saying. I agree that the Foreign Secretary said that if Dr. Chatterton-Hill returned to this country he would not be prosecuted. This is not a legal matter. This is a matter of administration in Germany at a time when there was not sufficient food to go round. In those circumstances, it was decided as an administrative matter to give priority to those who had suffered for their British citizenship, and that is not inconsistent with the assurance which was given, I understand, by my right hon. Friend that if Dr. Chatterton-Hill returned to Britain, he would not be prosecuted on his return here. Nor, incidentally, does that assurance by the Foreign Secretary amount to exoneration, in the sense that we deny in any way that Dr. Chatterton-Hill did work for the Germans during the war. I think I am correct in saying that. I would not call it exoneration in that sense, to say that we agreed that we would not prosecute Dr. Chatterton-Hill on his return to Britain.
§ Mr. Mayhew
No, but he would not qualify for the scheme which gave priority to those who had suffered during the war—
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but this is important. We are told that this man was refused Red Cross parcels; that he applied to come to England in 1945 and was refused; that he had been trying to come back to this country, and that if there was any charge pending he would have 580 faced it; that Red Cross parcels were available and that the Consul stopped them; that the man was slowly dying, and that within two or three days before he actually died there parcels were still stopped.
§ Mr. Mayhew
This is rather a long story, and I am trying to keep to the relevant points. What I am saying is that priority was given to a category of persons to which, I think justly, Dr. Chatterton-Hill was not at that time considered to belong—namely those who had suffered during the war for their British citizenship. At that time there were people interned, who had lost everything on account of their British citizenship, and it was felt that they should have priority for limited supplies of food over those who had worked for the Germans—for example, in the translation agency during the war. That being so, it is a fact, which I do not deny, that he was not granted this assistance. He was put on ration 5 consisting of about 1,500 calories.
§ Mr. Mayhew
It was honoured. I am coming to that point. This was in Berlin where, in that period, the food situation was a good deal better than in other parts of Germany. This ration was honoured at that time. We have no evidence whatever that Dr. Chatterton-Hill did not get his full ration. It was a ration which millions of people at that time were having, and some no doubt were having less in the worst parts of Germany. Therefore, the easy assumption that Dr. Chatterton-Hill died of starvation as a result of the denial of these food parcels is not one which we are prepared to accept.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The doctor said that he died of pneumonia, and that, of course, we do not deny. The cause of his condition was aggravated by bad nutrition. That is so, but he died of pneumonia after a prolonged illness and we would not in those circumstances admit the statement of my hon. Friend that he died of starvation. We certainly reject completely the grotesque assertion that he was murdered by the British authorities in Germany—
§ Mr. Mayhew
Having explained some of the circumstances, I will now say to the House that my right hon. Friend does not defend the action of our authorities in this case. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have tried to put as best I can the case from their point of view, because I want justice to be done, but the truth is that there should have been more flexibility and the men on the spot should have overruled the regulations in this respect and granted assistance to Dr. Chatterton-Hill. My hon. Friend asked me what action has been taken. I will say that it has been made known to the officials concerned that my right hon. Friend views with strong dissatisfaction the action they took in this case. I would add that immediately on Dr. Chatterton-Hill's death and before any matter was raised in this House, we called for an immediate report, took immediate steps to decentralise our consular administration in Germany, reduced the time concerned for security clearance to seven clays, and took the most vigorous and immediate steps as the result of this tragic occurrence.
I now come to the question of Mrs. Chatterton-Hill, which I regard as a totally separate matter. Indeed, I am surprised that my hon. Friend has brought up this matter at all. Here he is on entirely different ground. He has brought forward no concrete evidence worth while, and I think that the very fact that he has brought the case up will do it no good and that it would have been better to leave the old lady in peace.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The case the hon. Gentleman put was exaggerated and highly coloured. He said that we acted in this case with inhumanity. That is certainly not so. Immediately on the death of Dr. Chatterton-Hill we telephoned urgently to Berlin and gave instructions for Mrs. Chatterton-Hill to be helped to this country. All arrangements were made for her journey—at public expense, of course. We made special arrangements to bring her luggage over here and the Ministry of Health arranged her reception. She was given a free issue of clothing when she arrived. Since she had no friends and no known relatives in this country, 582 she was lodged in a Ministry of Health hostel in Scotland with which, I have every reason to suppose, she is satisfied. So far the cost to the State has been £180. My hon. Friend may say that we have treated Mrs. Chatterton-Hill with inhumanity, but the truth is that the complaints on this matter which we have received at the Foreign Office are that we have been over-generous in our treatment of her and not too ungenerous as he suggested.
There was no legal obligation on us in this matter, but we have made an ex gratia payment of £1,084 to Mrs. Chatterton-Hill, enabling her to have an income of a 35s. a week annuity. It may seem meagre and a very thin sum to live on, especially if one has to pay for one's accommodation, food, laundry and everything else, but at the rate of 24s. 6d. at this hostel Mrs. Chatterton-Hill is getting those things—
§ Mr. Mayhew
She is perfectly at liberty not to if she does not want to, but I understand that it is a privilege which she prizes. She has no friends here and no known relatives and I understand that it is true that she has never been to this country before. She is German-born. She has not suggested to us that she wishes to move, and, indeed, when a suggestion was made that she might wish to move, she said that she would rather remain where she was. What my hon. Friend wants us to do is to have Mrs. Chatterton-Hill treated better than the widow of a private in this country. At the moment she is getting far more than the young widow of a private who fought for Britain during the war. Her annuity of 35s. a week would compare with the 25s. of the young widow of a Serviceman killed fighting for his country. I believe the exact figure for a young widow under 40 is 20s. and over 40 it is 35s.
We have had complaints already about the favourable treatment we have given to Mrs. Chatterton-Hill, and I would find it hard to defend a rate of pension for this woman higher than the rate of pension for the widow of a man who has fought for his country. It would be extremely hard to justify that. The facts are as I have stated. I would reiterate, because I 583 have been firm and somewhat controversial on this second point, and I do not want it to be said that I am not conscious that serious errors of judgment were made in the first case—
§ Mr. Paget
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point may I say that this has nothing to do with pension. If the Government had killed Dr. Chatterton-Hill because one of their drivers had driven a Post Office van carelessly, they would have had to pay for that neglect a far higher sum than this. They have killed him by much worse neglect. Why should they not pay the sort of sum which a court would award?
§ Mr. Mayhew
We are under no legal obligation to pay anything at all in this matter, as my hon. and learned Friend appreciates and, therefore, his analogy is in no way applicable. On the other hand, there is, as he says, a moral obligation, and we have to judge the amount of the pension by our own standard of what is fair and just. My own standard of what is fair and just would be that the German-born widow of a man who worked for the Germans in the war should not have a higher pension than the widow of a British Serviceman.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I repeat that on this first point of the death of Dr. Chatterton-Hill I agree that a serious error of judgment was made which is greatly deplored by the Government and, as I have tried to show the House, we took steps immediately to see that nothing of the kind should happen again. On the subject of Mrs. Chatterton-Hill, I feel that my hon. Friend has no case and that there we have acted with justice, and indeed with generosity.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
In January of 1947 a British subject lay dying. He lay dying in a room 13 feet by eight feet. He had by him his food, which consisted of grass soup, and the room was lit by half a candle. That may be one of the dreadful tragedies which almost inevit- 584 ably follow a war, but in this case that British subject had applied to the competent authorities in the proper form to return to this country in September, 1945. When he had received no consideration of that application and when, indeed, he was being denied even the elementary amenities of life—Red Cross parcels, and so on—and when he was being given a special food ration card, No. 5, which is the lowest calorie card available in Germany—and I still do not understand why there is this differentiation, how it is calculated, on what grounds it is applied or to whom it is allocated—the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), who is always to the forefront in bringing to the notice of this House cases of this kind, raised the matter in the House of Commons.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave an undertaking that Dr. Chatterton-Hill would be told at once that the question of investigation had now been abandoned, that any question of proceeding against him on some allegation of co-operation or otherwise had been forgotten, and that he would be given facilities to come to this country. That was in October, three months passed, and we are now told by the hon. Member for Ipswich that even two or three days before he died he was still being denied, in what the Under-Secretary himself admits was a condition of acute malnutrition if nothing worse, even his ordinary food ration.
I rise only to ask the Under-Secretary to answer two or three simple questions. I would like to know what a No. 5 ration card is, why there is such a card, and to whom it is allocated? I would like to know what communications passed from the Foreign Office to Germany, following the reply given in October, 1946. What action was taken, what instructions were given, and to whom were they given? I would like to know what disciplinary action has been taken, because, after all, this is a case which because of the Question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich, was focused in the public attention and attracted a good deal of public notoriety, indeed so much that representatives of the Press communicated with Dr. Chatterton-Hill and did their best to help. There was no question about the Consul not knowing what was happening, nor of British authorities not being fully informed that here was a British subject in the extreme of 585 neglect and misery and due to die in a few weeks' time in the circumstances I have described. It would not be right for this House to leave the matter without having fuller information of what transpired and what disciplinary action has been taken against the persons responsible.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)
The Parliamentary Secretary made a very good case at the end of his treatment of the facts regarding the death of Dr. Chatterton-Hill, but he arrived at his conclusions, which were good conclusions, in an extremely unfortunate way, and, by implication, in the way he made out his case, seemed to be speaking excusingly of the officials in Berlin who had been responsible for this state of things. I object very much indeed to that attitude and it gives special point to our demand that there should be reconsideration by the Foreign Office of the steps which should yet be taken regarding the discipline of those who have been responsible for what is now admitted—and rightly admitted—to have been a very disgraceful and deplorable episode.
There is the point in regard to this act of mercy, organised effectively as it is by the Red Cross Society, for the sending of parcels to help in difficult cases, of the letter, dated 14th January, 1947—pretty late in this matter—in which the Red Cross were assured by our authorities in Berlin that nothing would be done and no parcels delivered to this man until satisfactory arrangements had been made about clearing up his case.
§ Mr. Hudson
I agree that the hon. Gentleman has said that the whole matter was most deplorable, but there is an act described there for which our authorities were responsible, regarding which action has not yet been taken, and which ought to be considered, driven home, and driven home effectively. In regard to Mrs. Chatterton-Hill, I observe that no reply has been made to the charge and this week—
§ Mr. Hudson
—the Foreign Office shows it has a guilty conscience and despatches someone at the last minute to try to effect some alteration, or at any rate make some 586 agreement regarding the amount of money to be paid to Mrs. Chatterton-Hill. It is a very curious fact that notice of this Debate has been down for a number of days, and something happens this week. I am the more insistent because I have been struggling for some time with the fact that when Questions are due to be asked, or Debates are due to take place with reference to things happening in Germany, something happens, in order to prevent a point being made in the Debate, which otherwise might be made. But that is a different issue. Here is a case where justice still has to be done, and I am disappointed with the hon. Gentleman's justification of trying to make this woman's pension adequate because it is similar to the pension that would have been given to the widow of a private. It has nothing to do with it. He has not referred to the efforts made to get the woman quietly to accept this sum and settle on that basis. I feel there is a very unsavoury part of the subject still left to be dealt with, and I should like something further to be said about it.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon) rose—
§ Mr. Driberg
I merely got up, because it seemed to me that the Under-Secretary was not going to get up. Is he going to reply?
§ Mr. Mayhew
I am prepared to reply, by leave of the House. I hope I shall be entitled at some stage to make a final reply and not be asked, each time I sit down, to get up and repeat myself. The simplest question, among the many questions I have been asked, is about ration card No. 5. That is the ordinary consumer's card. It is the lowest ration scale in Germany. Heavy workers are on other ration scales, but No. 5 is the ordinary consumer's ration scale, which applied to millions of Germans at this time.
I was also asked about the visit paid to Mrs. Chatterton-Hill. I am bound to say that I do not know of this visit, but I would point out that this is an ex gratia payment and has only just been made. It has only just been decided by us and at some point someone would have to go to Mrs. Chatterton-Hill and discuss with her 587 whether she wanted a lump sum or an annuity, or something of that kind. There is nothing whatever sinister about it and if the visit occurred it would be a normal time for it to take place.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I should like notice of that. I think it is jumping to conclusions to suppose that there is anything sinister about it, or that anyone is trying to persuade her to alter—
§ Mr. Stokes
Does not my hon. Friend think it strange that this should happen 10 days after the letter which I wrote to the Foreign Secretary saying I was completely dissatisfied and would not recommend Mrs. Chatterton-Hill to accept it?
§ Mr. Mayhew
It may have been 10 days after that letter from the hon. Member; if so, it would have been 11 days after the letter we wrote to him announcing that we were making the grant. I would say that it would be more likely to relate to our letter to him than to his letter to us.
There was the point about what is called the exoneration of the doctor which was raised by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale). I have spoken about that already, and tried to explain my view as to the difference between telling the doctor we did not intend to prosecute on his return to this country and exonerating him in the sense of a class of person getting priority—
§ Mr. Mayhew
As I have said, the views of the Foreign Secretary were made known to the officials concerned and his dissatisfaction with the handling of the affair. It was a deplorable error of judgment. The hon. Member also accused me of speaking excusingly—
§ Mr. Mayhew
They were not dismissed from their posts, but they are not in the same jobs. I would defend my attitude in speaking excusingly of the officials at the beginning of my remarks about Dr. Chatterton-Hill's death. The men who made this error cannot speak for themselves. There is a side of this case which should be put, and although I do not attempt to defend their action, it is only fair to them to explain, in detail, the circumstances in which they had to carry out their work. I make no apology for putting the position as it must have looked to them in the chaotic days in which they were working. These men treated, altogether, 2,500 British subjects, either by way of repatriation or by means of food parcels, and so on. Their work was much appreciated by these British subjects. Apart from this one deplorable case no serious complaint whatever was made about the work of our consuls there. I think I was justified in explaining to the House the broad picture as it appeared to these consular officials.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I have here the terms of the promise:I am informed by the competent authorities that Dr. Chatterton-Hill's case has been reviewed, and that it has been decided not to institute proceedings against him. He has been notified of this decision, and he and his wife will be afforded the usual facilities, should they wish to return to this country.I have a note of 22nd October, when Dr. Chatterton-Hill was told that there was no intention to prosecute him. At the beginning of November he made a formal application for repatriation. In accordance with the procedure laid down the Consul-General in Hamburg on 4th November consulted the Intelligence Division on their present attitude.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to finish. In an inquiry of this kind a thorough investigation has to be made. This had to be done by the Intelligence Division in Germany, at a time when communications were not restored to their peace-time standard.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Parcels were accorded to those who could claim priority under our system, which was that priority should go to British citizens who suffered during the war. I hope I have made that clear.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The facts are as I have stated. I do not think I can make them any plainer. I am not denying that there was a great lack of flexibility in the system. I have tried to explain the principles on which it works.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge
There is only one thing I wish to say: the Government's reply is thoroughly unsatisfactory.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Half-past Four o'Clock.