THURSDAY, 2nd APRIL, 1925.87
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Mr. Short (Chairman)
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel (Tiverton)
Ainsworth, Major (Bury)
Alexander, Mr. Albert (Hillsborough)
*Allen, Mr. Sandeman (West Derby)
Barker, Mr. (Abertillery)
*Batey, Mr. (Spennymoor)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral (Lewes)
Beckett, Mr. John (Gateshead)
*Bennett, Mr. (Nottingham, Central)
Bourne, Captain (Oxford)
Briggs, Mr. (Blackley)
Brown, Major Clifton (Hexham)
*Chadwick, Sir Burton (Wallasey)
Clayton, Mr. (Widnes)
Cluse, Mr. (Islington, South)
Craig, Mr. Ernest (Crewe)
*Crawfurd, Major (Walthamstow, West)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir Henry Page (Bournemouth)
Davies, Major George (Yeovil)
Dennison, Mr. (King's Norton)
*Duncan, Mr. (Clay Cross)
Edwards, Mr. Hugh (Accrington)
Fairfax, Captain (Norwich)
Falle, Sir Bertram (Portsmouth, North)
Gault, Lieut.-Colonel (Taunton)
Grenfell, Mr. David (Gower)
Grotrian, Mr. (Kingston-upon-Hull, S.W.)
Gunston, Captain (Thornbury)
Hall, Captain W. D'Arcy (Brecon and Radnor)
Hartington, Marquess of (Derbyshire, West)
*Henn, Sir Sydney (Blackburn)
Hirst, Mr. W. (Bradford, South)
*Hope, Captain Arthur (Nuneaton)
Hudson, Mr. Robert (Whitehaven)
Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander (Hull, Central)
*Lister, Sir Philip Cunliffe- (Hendon)
Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
*McLean, Major Alan (Norfolk, South West)
Makins, Brigadier-General (Knutsford)
March, Mr. (Poplar, South)
Milne, Mr. Wardlaw- (Kidderminster)
Morrison, Mr. Hugh (Salisbury)
Nuttall, Mr. (Birkenhead, W.)
Peto, Mr. Basil (Barnstaple)
Sandeman, Mr. (Middleton and Prestwich)
Scurr, Mr. (Mile End)
Simms, Mr. (Down)
Smith, Mr. Rennie (Penistone)
Smithers, Mr. (Chislehurst)
Somerville, Mr. Annesley (Windsor)
Taylor, Mr. (Lincoln)
Thompson, Mr. Luke (Sunderland)
Tinne, Mr. (Wavertree)
Waddington, Mr. (Rossendale)
Ward, Lieut.-Colonel John (Stoke-on-Trent)
Warner, Brigadier-General (Bedford, Mid.)
Watson, Sir Francis (Pudsey and Otley)
Watts, Dr. (Withington)
Williams, Commander Charles (Torquay)
Williams, Mr. John (Llanelly)
* Added in respect of the Former Enemy Aliens (Disabilities Removal) Bill.—2nd April, 1925.
Mr. WILLIAMS Committee Clerks.
Mr. KINGDOM Committee Clerks.88 89 STANDING COMMITTEE A Thursday, 2nd April, 1925.
[Mr. SHORT in the Chair.]
The enactments mentioned in the Second Schedule to this Act which impose disabilities on subjects, citizens and companies of former enemy countries in respect of the non-ferrous metal industry, service on board British ships registered in the United Kingdom, and the carrying on of banking business within the United Kingdom, shall, as from the commencement of this Act, be repealed to the extent specified in the third column of that schedule.
Mr. TINNE: I beg to move, to leave out the words "service on board British ships registered in the United Kingdom." This Amendment has partly to do with the matter of sentiment and partly with expediency. The latest figures show that 24,221 seamen are unemployed and the number is steadily increasing. Of insured persons in the country 21·3 per cent. are unemployed. The disparity in wages will induce German seamen to flock to British ships, attracted by the higher rates. A number of foreign maritime countries, the United States, France, Sweden, Norway and Chile, will allow none but their own nationals to serve as masters and officers on their ships. Again, while the Home Secretary has powers enabling him to refuse permission to land in this country, it will not prevent British ships who call at German ports from discharging their British crews and then engaging new crews of Germans, provided the Master, Chief Officer and Chief Engineer are British subjects. Lastly, on the score of sentiment, those who have had relations with Germany, or in the case of seamen those who have personally experienced being submarined by a German, only escaping with their lives, rather resent the fact that in many cases they have not received any 90 form of compensation and reparation, and now, in addition to that, they are to have their calling attacked. Furthermore, every tradition of the seas was violated and outraged during the War, and now you propose to force our British seamen, who at all events have their feelings of patriotism and sentiment, to consort with people who have torpedoed hospital ships and sunk merchantmen without notice. Really, it is not good enough, and the wounds are too raw and fresh for a thing like that to pass without any protest.
The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister): I cannot accept the Amendment, and I think my hon. Friend will appreciate that if I were to accept it I should be rejecting the Treaty in its entirety. I want to make that quite plain and to say, with full responsibility, that the Treaty must stand or fall as a whole, and if we alter it in any way it goes by the board and the possibility of a Treaty vanishes. I do not think I need repeat what I said on the Second Reading as to the enormous importance of having a Treaty, the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles having run out, or as to the very great advantages which this country obtained under this Treaty, not only in the matter of the general most-favoured-nation treatment, which it had not before the War, but an application of it more detailed and more advantageous than has ever figured in any commercial treaty entered into by this country. Therefore, even if there were a strong ground for objection in the individual case mentioned by my hon. Friend, I should still appeal to him in the general interests of commerce and trade not to press this Amendment. But so far from inflicting any injury or injustice upon British seamen this Treaty will do nothing of the kind, and in saying that I think I am voicing the opinion of the great majority of the seamen of all ranks, because not only have I been, as the late President of the Board of Trade was, in pretty close consultation with both sides during the negotiation of this Treaty, but I have met the Joint Seafarers' Council, which represents officers, men, pilots and the wireless people, and they have passed a resolution endorsing this Treaty. What is done? No advantage is given to any alien as such in general which he does not possess to-day. All that this Treaty does is to treat ex- 91 enemy aliens in the same way as, and not worse than, other aliens are treated at present. That makes all the difference. I think that the people who have been against this Bill have believed that what we were doing was to give some facility to Germans which was not accorded to other aliens. It does not at all. The only Clauses that are repealed are those which say that, for a period, or till Parliament otherwise determines, an ex-enemy alien is not to have the same rights as another alien. Obviously you cannot have a most-favoured-nation Treaty if you are going to treat a national of the country with which you are contracting worse than that country treats your nationals. That would be a negation of most-favoured-nation treatment. We leave complete freedom to the Government of the day, or to the executive, so far as it lies in executive action, and to the Parliament of this country, to make any rule or regulation or statutory enactment they please as regards aliens in general, provided always that you treat aliens alike. With regard to the seamen themselves, it is only Clause 12, which is the Clause that differentiates as between ex-enemy and other aliens, and three words in Clause 5, which are merely consequential and not of substance. I am referring to the Aliens Act. Clause 12 says that no former enemy alien shall be employed or shall act as master, officer or member of the crew of a British ship registered in the United Kingdom. Clause 5, which is the seamen's charter in the matter on aliens, stands in its entirety. It says that no alien, enemy or otherwise, is to act as chief officer, chief engineer or master. That stands. There is an exception in the matter of special climatic circumstances where an alien is peculiarly suitable for particular employment, but that does not refer to Germans or Austrians, but to Asiatics. The great charter of the seamen is Sub-section (2) of Section 5, which provides that no alien shall be employed in any capacity on board a British ship registered in the United Kingdom at a rate less than the standard rate of pay for the time being given on British ships for his rating. That stands in its entirety. The real anxiety there used to be in the past was the fear that if aliens were taken in they would undercut the 92 British rate. So far from that being possible, it is prohibited by statute, and I am seeing that the administration is carried out strictly. Then the alien will not be admitted here. We are carrying out the administration we have always carried out, that we will not admit an alien to land in this country if a British workman can do the job. That will be applied strictly to all aliens, irrespective of the trade in question. As a matter of fact under our regulations to-day if an alien, whatever his nationality, comes to this country, we do not let him land unless he is an alien who had a British domicile before the war and is to all intents and purposes English. If he is brought here he is not allowed to land, and he has to be shipped back at the owner's expense. Therefore the sailor is completely protected both in his wages and in the prevention of aliens coming here to compete, with him. Finally, so far from there being any likelihood of an influx of aliens under this Act and more British seamen being out of work, exactly the converse is likely to be the case. I do not want to go into the figures that my hon. Friend has given, but I could criticise them, because that figure of 24,000 includes a very large number of men who are not seafaring men at all. I am looking into the question whether you cannot get this adjusted so that we really see who is a genuine seafaring man and who is not. It will be very valuable from every point of view. So far from turning genuine seamen out of work who are now in work, what will happen is this. By this Treaty we get the most complete national rights to carry on emigrant traffic in Germany, which is of enormous value to our shipping companies and the seamen who are employed in them—the right to establish agencies to carry emigrants, or transmigrants, through Germany, on exactly the same terms as a German emigration agency or shipping company. That is of very great value, because it is the emigrant traffic which very often keeps the liner at sea. It has been found in practice that if you are carrying on a liner a number of emigrants who speak nothing but German you must have some people on board, stewards or a cook or two, who can speak to them in their own language, otherwise they will not travel by your ship, and in order to keep within the letter of the law ship- 93 owners were often driven to try to find people who, at any rate for the time being, were of some non-enemy nationality, per haps converted Czechs, in order that they might have someone on board who could talk the language. Actually, I believe arrangements have already been made between the companies principally concerned and the unions as to a very strict limit of the number of Germans who would be allowed to be taken on board, and the effect will be that supposing, in order to carry this emigrant traffic, you take a strictly limited number of Germans on to your ship, so far from turning British seamen adrift you will enable the ship to keep at sea, which is probably as to 90 per cent. manned by British. Therefore, on the actual merits of the case, so far from militating against the seamen, this Treaty and this provision are in their interests. I hope that I have given a full and satisfactory explanation. I entirely appreciate the motives of the Amendment and the necessity for making the matter clear, not only to this Committee but to the House, so that hon. Members who have to deal with these things among the great seafaring populations in their constituencies, may be able to make it abundantly plain to their constituents who, naturally, do not follow the intricacies of these matters as well as we do. I hope that after this explanation my hon. Friend will be content that we have served the purpose which he had at heart in moving the Amendment, and that we may now proceed with the Bill.
Mr. SANDEMAN ALLEN: It is important that we should be quite clear on this subject. The President of the Board of Trade has given us a very clear answer, but there are some difficulties in the minds of people, which may be easily swept away if we can get hold of the true facts. This question is clouded in two respects. There is the very natural prejudice which my friend and colleague, the hon. Member for the Wavertree division (Mr. Tinne) has spoken of this morning. That is a very natural prejudice. I do not know whether it is strictly in order, but in explaining the prejudice, we ought to point out that what is in the mind of the seamen who, as a class, are extraordinarily fair-minded and broad-minded, is the fact 94 that they, as a class, risked and sacrificed their lives as though they had been in the fighting forces, but, unfortunately, owing to circumstances over which I take it no-one has control, they have never been able to get reparation for their sufferings and their losses. Therefore, to them, and the ordinary public, who are not familiar with the technicalities of the law, one finds it rather hard to explain the matter. That has created a feeling of special bitterness on the part of seafaring people which, I think, would not otherwise have existed. Of course, there is normal and natural prejudice to accepting at close quarters an enemy who has behaved as such an enemy did; but we must all realise that the time has come when we must get the word "enemy" off the slate. We have to stand to-day for peace in this country and in the world. How can we have peace if we have the idea that enemies are still existing? That is the proper aspect of the situation which it is essential we should adopt. I would put it on the higher ground, which will appeal to every hon. Member here, of our broad duties as leaders of civilisation and humanity in the world, that it is essential that this country should continue to take the lead in everything that makes for peace and good-will. Apart from that, as the biggest trading country in the world, it is to our deepest interests that we should have stability and peace in every way as soon as possible. Therefore I hope that this Treaty, which is such a remarkable Treaty, covering in a comprehensive manner all the points which we consider to be vitally essential, will be accepted. Here I speak with a certain amount of knowledge of the feeling of the commercial community. I am speaking specially for the Association of Chambers of Commerce, when I say that we look upon this Treaty as a most admirable one, and a Treaty which is going to open up opportunities of trade and bring back trade to this country. It is truly in the interests of the shipping community that trade should be developed and that we should have more ships running. From the broad international point of view and the point of view of trade generally, this Treaty is essential and admirable, but I go further and maintain that in the 95 interests of the seamen themselves this arrangement is desirable. It is, however, important to clear away the difficulties that exist. First of all, there is a natural tendency for people who have not much to do with the seafaring side of our country, to think that a ship stands exactly in the same position as this country. It is true that a man on board a British ship is on British territory, but a British ship is a moving machine of commerce which goes to every port in the world and has to link itself up with various nations. One end of the ship may be or may not be, but generally it is, connected with this country through its ports, or connected with the Empire through the ports of the Empire; but the other end is connected with foreign countries. It is not in the same category as, say, the question of preventing aliens from entering this country and competing directly with our own people, because the ship moves about and we are competing with them. Therefore, we must not confuse the two ideas. Apart from that, if we are going to trade in these foreign countries it is essential that we should have some members of the crew, here and there, who can speak the language of the former enemy aliens whom we carry as passengers on our ships. The President of the Board of Trade has spoken of the development of this German emigrant trade. I do not know whether the Committee is familiar with the fact that the British passenger liners were practically frozen out of Germany. The President of the Board of Trade referred to that point. The German shipping lines had their frontier stations, and they practically transferred or pushed everybody into German steamers. The Treaty of Versailles has dealt with that question, and those stations no longer exist. Happily, this Treaty has also dealt with the matter in the fairest way possible, so that our own people are not to be prejudiced. They are to be in the same position as the others. In the last two or three years we have been setting ourselves to get our own proper share of passenger trade from Germany. The emigrant traffic in the intermediate ships pays a very fair proportion of the costs of working our passenger lines. Our passenger lines have been trying to establish this 96 trade and they got on very well, but they were up against the question of which the President of the Board of Trade has spoken, namely, that the stewards could not speak a word of German and, consequently, the German passengers were in a hopeless position. I am not now talking about the prejudice, but I am talking of the actual impossibility of working under these conditions. The cooks on the ships are English. We have cooking schools, and we do not take anyone without a certificate, which certificate is given by people who judge by English methods and English good taste. What is wanted by these German passengers is something that appeals to the Teutonic appetite, and we were very good in supplying that necessity, but we have found that this trade has been falling off and that the German steamers have been capturing this passenger traffic. It is not fair that we should be handicapped in this way. In round figures, I understand that last year there were some 200,000 tons of shipping employed in this trade. It is now anticipated that, as things are falling off, we shall only have 100,000 tons employed, because of these handicaps. If we are allowed to have two or three German stewards and two or three German cooks, we are advised that that will make all the difference. We shall then get back the 100,000 tons of shipping formerly employed, and we shall keep what we have got. Instead of laying up ships and rendering whole crews unemployed, we shall have a few of these Germans employed, and we hope to be able to develop our trade accordingly. It is essential, in the interests of the seamen themselves, that instead of laying up our tonnage everywhere and discharging our crews, we should have this small percentage of Germans employed, and be able to get our share of the trade. We can do that by reasonably and carefully watching the situation. As far as shipping is concerned, in general, as far as the seamen are concerned, and as far as the Board of Trade and the Government Departments are concerned, I am sure that the matter will be very carefully watched, if we are going to develop our trade in this way. The steamship owners dealing with this trade have asked me—I did not have an opportunity of saying so on the Second 97 Reading of the Bill—to give an assurance to the House, that they have no intention of including Germans in the crews of steamers maintaining the service, beyond a proportion in the catering department—cooks and stewards, and perhaps one or, at most, two deck-hands engaged on the passenger decks. Those of us who have travelled know perfectly well that a couple of deck-hands are always engaged looking after passengers' games and chairs. Therefore, these are the men the steamship owners want; but they are prepared to guarantee that the number will not be more than two. On the general question—it sounds more serious but it is not—they give this further guarantee. In practice, they do not sign British members of the crew on or off in Germany, and they give this guarantee that they have no intention of doing so. They will sign them on or off in British ports, as before. British ship-owners—I am not a ship-owner and have no axe of any kind to grind—are thoroughly alive to the difficulty and to the necessity of there being proper safeguards, in their own interests, in the interests of the country, and in the interests of the seamen. It is necessary that we should carry out these proposals. It is our national duty to do so, and it is to the national advantage that we should do so, because they will operate to the betterment of the parties who are most materially interested.
Mr. MARCH: I have a great deal of sympathy with the Amendment, because I raised this question on the Second Reading. I was asked to do so by an organisation of seamen which primarily caters for cooks and stewards; but having had an explanation from the President of the Board of Trade my opposition is considerably relieved. We have also heard the statement of the hon. Member for West Derby (Mr. Allen), and I was glad to hear that the ship-owners intend to restrict the numbers of former enemy alien seamen on British ships to the extent that the hon. Member mentioned. He was unable to give to the Committee, or if he gave it I did not quite understand him, a statement as to whether the ship-owners have made any regulation regarding the number of cooks and stewards they will engage on British ships. The branch of cooks and stewards in my division is fairly strong, and they are very much concerned with regard to what is 98 going to be done to them in their particular trade. I should like to know from the hon. Member whether the ship-owners have taken into consideration the question of limiting the number of ex-enemy alien cooks and stewards on British ships. Some arrangements might very well be made in that direction, so as to relieve the anxiety of a good number of these people, who live not only in my division but in all seaport divisions. Naturally, they do not want to be left out any more than is necessary.
Mr. NUTTALL: I can only say, as representing a seafaring community, that there is a genuine fear that their unemployment will be increased by allowing German seamen on our ships; but after the explanation given by the President of the Board of Trade there is, obviously, a very strong other side to the question. Without fear of contradiction, we can say that one of the fears of the seamen has arisen because their claims for compensation for loss of kit and so forth have been met so very niggardly. The mercantile marine were just as much combatants as any soldier in the Army or sailor in the Navy, and it seems rather hard that when they have lost all their kit they cannot get fair compensation. We all know, and the President of the Board of Trade will tell us, that their claim is a just one against Germany. It would relieve the situation enormously if the President of the Board of Trade could make some sort of representation to the Treasury, in order to see whether more money could not be provided to satisfy these very just and very fair claims.
Commander WILLIAMS: This Debate has served a very good purpose. I have always looked on this section of the Bill with some suspicion, from many points of view. I congratulate the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Allen) on having got some sort of guarantee from the shipowners in this particular respect. I would suggest that by the time this Bill comes to the House of Commons, he should get that guarantee in a very clear and definite form, so that it can receive general publicity in the House of Commons, and be generally known and understood throughout the country. That in itself, and his speech this morning, will do a great deal to ease the position so far as the ordinary seafaring men are con- 99 cerned, and I thank him sincerely for it. The only other point which I would like to bring out is in connection with the whole of this principle. There is no doubt that we are getting, under this Treaty, a very considerable number of assets, but I do not want the President of the Board of Trade to run away with the idea that we are getting anything beyond our deserts. I think that under the Treaty we might have got a great deal more one way or another. We have got a great deal, but we never get our deserts in this world. We should keep a very careful eye on the whole alien position, so far as shipping is concerned at the present time. As we have the pleasure of having the Financial Secretary to the Treasury present, perhaps I might allude to the question of reparation. The seafaring men do feel very deeply—
The CHAIRMAN: The hon. Member is going very wide of the question under discussion. I am afraid that I cannot allow him to raise this matter.
Commander WILLIAMS: I will not go into the matter further. I think that I have got my point fairly well. I would not like to press for too much, because sometimes importunity does not get us what we want. I thank the President of the Board of Trade for the courtesy with which he has dealt with this question, and I would urge on all Government departments to keep a very careful watch on this matter.
Mr. BASIL PETO: A great deal has been said with regard to seamen, particularly cooks and stewards. Though I am quite in agreement with the President of the Board of Trade that this Amendment cannot possibly be accepted, yet the officers on British ships are in a rather different position under Clause 12 and Clause 5 of the Aliens Restrictions (Amendment) Act, 1919, from the men. Clause 12 provides that no former enemy alien should be employed or act as master, officer, or member of the crew. Clause 5 says that no alien shall act as master, chief officer of chief engineer. Coming to the practical result, as long as that Act was in force it meant that no alien would be employed as an officer, and, if an alien officer were employed, I do not think that 100 I should be exaggerating in saying that in nine cases out of ten he would be of German origin.
Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER: That is not so. There are very few alien officers. The number is steadily diminishing. I gave the figures on Second Reading, and the men are much more likely, in present circumstances, to be Norwegians or Swedes, or of some nationality other than German.
Mr. PETO: I withdraw the nine-tenths, but a very considerable proportion would at any rate be likely to be of German origin. Therefore, Clause 12 was a charter so far as the officers were concerned. This is rigidly restricted to master, chief officer and chief engineer. It would have been easy to have pressed for the elimination of that word "chief" and to have got something, so far as officers are concerned, but I appreciate that this would not be an appropriate time to try to get something. I would press on the President of the Board of Trade that Clause 5 does not need to be the last word. I do not want to perpetuate the enemy alien part of the business for a moment, but, so far as British ships are concerned, we ought seriously to consider why should we allow all the junior ranks of officers on our ships to be open to aliens of all kinds, and why should we exclude them only when they become master or chief officer or chief engineer? It would also be a great advantage to those for whom I am particularly speaking, the Officers' Guild, if the President of the Board of Trade—now that my hon. Friend has made a statement which will bring comfort to the cooks and stewards, I hope, showing that they are not going to be swamped altogether by aliens being employed instead of British men—would at least tell us that when this Bill goes down to the House he will do more than keep an open mind on the question of Clause 5. I do not see why we should not do something to increase the protection for British officers by eliminating the word "chief."
Mr. R. HUDSON: I happen to have spent a considerable number of years in the diplomatic service abroad, and I have a vivid recollection of the difficulties I was up against regarding the German Government, even in seeing that the privileges obtained under the Treaty of 101 Versailles in regard to frontier stations were carried out. It is very easy to work out provisions, and to say that we shall enjoy certain rights in this territory or the other. It is more difficult to see that those privileges are carried out in practice, owing to innumerable subterfuges which it is very easy for the officials of the country concerned to practise. I would like to know to what extent the President of the Board of Trade thinks that we should be in a position to see whether those privileges are of a permanent and enduring character.
Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER: The right hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) and myself had something to do with the early negotiations of this Treaty, and I support what the President of the Board of Trade has said as to the negotiations with the representatives of the seamen. I think that he has made a very full explanation. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Peto) is raising a very wide issue which is outside this Bill.
The CHAIRMAN: I would suggest to the hon. Member that he should not follow his example.
Mr. ALEXANDER: Except to point out that we are getting the most-favoured-nation treatment under this Treaty with Germany, by doing away with discrimination, and the suggestion that the President of the Board of Trade, when he takes this Bill to the House, should raise the whole question of Clause 5 of the Act of 1919 would raise the question of the most-favoured-nation Clause with nation after nation, which is outside this matter of dealing with the commercial Treaty.
The CHAIRMAN: Perhaps the hon. Member will not desire to persist with his Amendment?
Mr. TINNE: I have no desire to obstruct, and, if I have leave to withdraw the Amendment. I shall be glad to do so.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and question proposed "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Commander WILLIAMS: I would like some explanation of the exact position of the non-ferrous metal industry. I will be glad to have some assurance on this matter.102
Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER: I expect that the point to which my hon. Friend refers is the premature abolition of the Act. In the first place this Act, when it was pased, was only to last five years after the termination of the war. Owing to a pure technicality, the delay in the signature of the Treaty of Peace with Hungary for about a year and a half, that fictional war continued for a year and a half longer than Parliament contemplated. But for that position this Act by now would have lapsed. The Act was not in the least concerned with the employment of people in the non-ferrous metal mines. It did not deal with that. That would be dealt with under the ordinary alien regulations, which would allow no alien of any kind to come into any mine as long as there was a Britisher to take his place. It only related to people acquiring an interest in the business of a non-ferrous metal undertaking, and it provided that for the period of five years an enemy alien should not have any interest in the business. All those concerned in the matter, who have advised me, state that it would not make the faintest difference now to the success of Britishers in this sphere whether the Act concluded in six months or nine months or at once. The point raised by the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. R. Hudson) refers to old difficulties. I had experience in another capacity of getting some of those Clauses under the Treaty of Versailles enforced. He would agree with me that there is all the difference in getting a Clause enforced under the provisions of that Treaty and under the provisions of a Treaty which is a voluntary agreement between the parties concerned. In the second place, if it should be found that the provisions are not carried out, then there is in the Protocol a provision, new to commercial treaties, that the matter would be taken up between the parties and in default of agreement go to the Court of International Arbitration at The Hague. It would be out of order to raise the question of Clause 5 of the Act of 1919. It is not within the title or purpose of this Bill. As regards officers generally, the officers already are in a better position than the men, because the express limitation about chief officers and so on stands. In the second place, if the hon. Member would do me the favour of 103 looking at the figures which I gave on the Second Reading of the Bill, he would see that, so far from there being an influx of aliens among the officers, out of four thousand certificates given over a considerable number of years only about fourteen were given to aliens, and so far from there being any sort of influx of alien officers the proportion has been steadily and progressively decreasing; and that is by the goodwill and the desire of the shipowners. Some of the suggestions that were to be heard with regard to aliens on our ships rather underrated the great capacity of Britain to man her own mercantile marine. I think that the real safeguard that exists, apart from Parliament looking after it, is the fact that we can on our own coasts and in our own island produce the best officers, the best engineers and the best men.
Question put, and agreed to.
(1) This Act may be cited as the Former Enemy Aliens (Disabilities Removal) Act, 1925.
(2) This Act shall extend to Northern Ireland.
(3) This Act shall come into operation on such date as may be certified by a Secretary of State, by notice published in the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes, to be the date on which ratifications of the said Treaty are exchanged.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER: I would like to put a question about sub-section (3), in regard to the date when the Bill is to come into operation. Can the President of the Board of Trade give us any idea as to the date, if this Bill is got through quickly. I understand that there have been some difficulties with regard to the execution of some contract with Germany, because this Bill is not passed. If he could tell us when the Bill is likely to receive the Royal Assent and final arrangements are to be made for the Treaty, I should be glad.104
Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER: I cannot give a definite date for two obvious reasons. In the first place, Ministers, though they might wish to do so, do not entirely control the proceedings of the House, and therefore the speed with which we can get the ratification from our side depends upon the time taken in this House and in another place to get the Bill through. I very much hope, after the full discussion we have had to-day, that the Report and Third Reading stages will be, if I may say so, a formality. We are very anxious to proceed quickly. The provision is made that this Bill shall come into force on a date to be fixed by Order in Council, which is the date of exchange of ratification. Germany has to take statutory action also to ratify, and I cannot say when the German Act will be through. There is a Presidential election in Germany which has delayed these proceedings in the Reichstag, but I am confident that the German Government are not less anxious than we are to press forward the ratification in the Reichstag. There would be no holding up when the statutory provisions, have been passed both in our Parliament and in the Reichstag. Ratifications can then be exchanged and the Order in Council will bring the Treaty into operation.
Question put, and agreed to.
The CHAIRMAN: The hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Tinne) has on the Paper Amendments to the Schedules. I assume that he does not now intend to move them?
Mr. TINNE: In view of what has been said I do not move them.
Schedules agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported, without Amendment, to the House.
The Committee rose at Ten Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.105
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—
Short, Mr. (Chairman)
Alexander, Mr. Albert
Allen, Mr. Sandeman
Chadwick, Sir Burton
Davies, Major George
Grenfell, Mr. David
Hall, Captain W. D'Arcy
Henn, Sir Sydney
Hirst, Mr. W.
Hudson, Mr. Robert
Lister, Sir Philip Cunliffe-
McLean, Major Alan
Morrison, Mr. Hugh
Peto, Mr. Basil
Thompson, Mr. Luke
Watson, Sir Francis
Williams, Commander Charles
Williams, Mr. John106