Hon. T. A. CRERAR (Minister of Mines and Resources):
Mr. Speaker, a question was directed to Mr. Attlee, Lord Privy Seal, in the British House of Commons to-day touching the movement of British children overseas. I shall give the question and his answer. The question was whether he could give any further information about the progress of the children's overseas reception scheme, and he replied:
Yes, sir. The house has already been made aware of the extremely generous offers for the reception and maintenance of British children during the war that have been made from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa, and also from the United States of America. These offers were already sufficient to account for a very substantial number of children, and I have no doubt that they by no means indicate the limit of the hospitality which might ultimately be made available overseas.
As regards the response in this country, the number of children for whom applications were made exceeded the number for whom responsibility had been offered. The government ivould have no difficulty in providing shipping required as sufficient tonnage could be made available. On the other hand the government feel strongly the responsibility that rests upon them to see that any children who go overseas under the government scheme should have such naval protection as would reasonably ensure the safety of their passage during the voyage. The fate of the Arandora Star shows that even a fast passenger vessel cannot always rely for safety on her speed if she is unescorted.
Unfortunately a radical change in the situation since applications were first invited has occurred as a result of the loss of the services of a large part of the French fleet. It is, therefore, in the present circumstances essential to concentrate our whole naval forces on the task of meeting the overriding demands of national security. It is this consideration alone which has forced the government reluctantly to conclude that they must postpone the operation of the scheme for transference of the children overseas until the situation at sea enables them to provide naval escort for ships employed for this purpose.
Similarly the government feel there must be a postponement of special arrangements which they were prepared to make in eases where schools here had planned to transfer pupils to schools in Canada.
Ordinary fast passenger vessels are not escorted and if children are carried on such vessels outside any government scheme the responsibility for any risks on the voyage would not be on the government. In any case the numbers of such children must be limited, since I am bound to repeat that the imperative necessity of conserving our dollar resources to meet other essential demands makes it impossible to allow remittances of funds in any form for the purpose of their maintenance in Canada and the United States.
The government realize that postponement of their scheme, although inevitable, is bound to cause great disappointment amongst parents here and also among those who in the dominion have so whole-heartedly cooperated in making preparations for the reception of the children and their maintenance. I desire to assure them that we keenly appreciate their generosity and deeply regret the inconvenience which the postponement of our scheme is bound to cause them.
To those also in the United States of America who have spared no effort to find homes for the British children I would like to express on behalf of his majesty's government our warmest thanks. I hope that our scheme is only temporarily suspended and that we may yet be able to partake of that warm-hearted hospitality so spontaneously and readily offered.
Subtopic: STATEMENT OF MR. ATTLEE IN BRITISH HOUSE OF COMMONS ON OVERSEAS RECEPTION SCHEME