asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is in a position to state the number of refugees who have been driven out of their homes in Ireland and landed in this country: and whether the Government have a satisfactory organisation to see that all these unfortunate people are properly housed and fed?
I regret that I have no accurate information as to the number of refugees from Ireland; the number of those who have applied for assistance to the Committee presided over by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) was given by me on Thursday last in reply to the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham South. As to the latter part of the question, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the full statement which I have just made in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea.
The Committee presided over by my hon. and gallant Friend was originally instituted for the purpose of dealing with the cases of persons compelled temporarily to leave Ireland, and in consequence in immediate want. Subsequently, it appeared that another class of person should be considered, namely, Irish refugees unable to return from England to Ireland owing to the conditions of that country. These also will be entitled to make application to the Committee, and in order to deal with both classes of applicants the Committee has been enlarged by the inclusion of representatives of the War Office and the Ministry of Labour, the secretariat of the Committee by the addition of an assistant to the secretary, and any further addition to the clerical staff which may be found necessary will be made.
It is proposed that the Committee thus reconstituted and strengthened should act in the first instance as a clearing house for refugees and compensation questions, and a statement is being issued to the Press accordingly, in order that full publicity may be obtained. Cases outside the scope of the Committee will be referred by it to the appropriate Departments, and every effort will be made to secure prompt payment where payment is due from British funds. These arrangements are, of course, entirely without prejudice to the responsibility of compensation which rests on the Provisional or Free State Government. His Majesty's Government do not and will not forego their right and their duty to ensure that proper compensation is paid in due course by them. The situation has, however, altered and become more complicated during the last few weeks. When the present compensation arrangements were discussed with the Provisional Government last January, it was hoped that the damage and hardship inflicted in the post-Truce period would be small, and attention was therefore concentrated almost exclusively on the pre-Truce damage. Now, however, the damage done in the post-Truce period is evidently going to be very extensive, and I have addressed a communication to the Provisional Government upon the subject. This communication will be laid before the Table of the House as soon as it is in the hands of the Provisional Government.
Will refugees from the 26 counties who go to Ulster also be able to apply to the Committee presided over by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that people from the 26 counties, who have very small funds, have gone to the Ulster Government, and surely they are equally entitled to get compensation, whether they go to England or to Ulster?
A number of refugees have gone from the 26 counties into the six northern counties. There are also a number who have gone from Belfast into the rest of Ireland. I should think that the best method would be for each Government to be responsible for ultimately reimbursing those who take care of their own refugees in the interval during which they are forced to live away from their homes.
I am not prepared to admit that there is no possibility of getting compensation for the decrees of Lord Shaw's Committee from the Provisional Government. That remains to be seen, and it must be seen very shortly. So far as the day-to-day relief of the temporary situation and the urgent need of those refugees—who apparently are not a very great number at the present time—are concerned, the Provisional Government have declared their intention of reimbursing His Majesty's Government for any reasonable expenditure. Meantime, the money is being found by the Treasury.
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that, in order to obtain any assistance from the funds at the disposal of the Committee presided over by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea, it is necessary that these refugees should come to London? Are we to take that literally, because the right hon. Gentleman said London, or should it be England?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are dealing with a great number of cases outside London? I think these cases of refugees, both in Ulster and Dublin, would be, in my opinion, best taken up by direct negotiations with the two Governments concerned.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea of the number of these refugees? He says he has no idea of the number, although the other day we were told that a watch was kept at the ports. Can a record not be kept of the number of the refugees?