§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask whether Her Majesty's Government are aware of the concern felt by factory and other workers in this country at the statement alleged to have been issued by the Roman Catholic Bishops of Austria, warning Austrian girls against accepting jobs in England, and expressing concern about the moral and religious state of 10,000 Austrian girls working in England; whether Her Majesty's Government will take steps to ascertain the accuracy of reports published and if such reports are accurate whether Her Majesty's Government will make representations with a view to ascertaining the alleged facts relied upon by those who issued this statement.]
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (THE EARL OF MUNSTER)
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are aware of the Press reports to which the noble Lord refers. Whilst it is possible that the statement alleged to have been issued by the Roman Catholic Bishops in Austria may have caused concern to people in this country, I am not aware that any representations have been made. There was only a brief reference to this matter in a communiqué covering all the topics of spiritual welfare within Austria discussed by the Austrian Bishops at their autumn conference. I understand 726 that the reference has not been the subject of any Press comment in Austria.
Reports which appeared in certain newspapers in this country seem to have their origin in a misunderstanding of the context in which the Bishops made their reference to the moral and spiritual welfare of Austrian women employed in this country. It seems to have been the intention of the Bishops to draw attention to the shortage of priests which has so far not made it possible to assign a suitable priest to attend to the religious needs of Austrian nationals in this country. In Austria there is increasing unemployment among women, and it is understood that neither the Austrian authorities nor, indeed, the Bishops wish the recruitment of Austrian women for employment in the United Kingdom to cease. The circumstances do not seem to call for representations on the part of Her Majesty's Government.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, may I thank the noble Earl for his reply and the general statement which he has made, which will give great satisfaction to many Roman Catholics and others who were worried about this matter? May I urge that, to the extent it is possible, representations will be made to secure Press statements in other parts of Europe, in order that there may be no discouragement of recruitment for jobs? It is reported in the morning Press that the recruitment of nurses from Italy for the hospitals at St. Albans is necessary to the interests of this country.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend. When I read the statement in our papers, it struck me that it was a serious slur upon what was going on in this country, and I am very glad to hear that that was not intended. I wish it could be withdrawn from the quarter which made it.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I certainly hope that the observations that I have made this afternoon may receive full publicity. I think it may be of use to the noble Lord if I read the official communiqué which was issued after the autumn conference of the Austrian Bishops, which took place at the beginning of October. This is what it said:Alarming news constantly reaches the Bishops of the moral and religious distress of 727 Austrian women who have found employment in England in great numbers—probably considerably more than 10,000"—which is an exaggerated figure—in households and the textile industry. The great shortage of priests renders it difficult to make suitable clergymen available, rather, welfare efforts will be increased in the near future. Moreover, warnings should be issued by the Church against a hasty and ill-advised acceptance of foreign employment.