HC Deb 11 June 1874 vol 219 cc1405-6

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether his attention has been called to a paragraph which has lately appeared in the daily papers, stating that a Congress of the European Powers is, at the instance of the Russian Government, about shortly to be held at Brussels; whether Her Majesty's Government have received any official notification on the subject; and, if so, what is to be the object of the Congress, and what the subjects to be considered thereat; and, whether Her Majesty's Government have been invited, and whether they intend to send representatives thereto?


Sir, a proposal was made in April last by a French Society, called "The Society for the Amelioration of the Condition of Prisoners of War," for Her Majesty's Government to send a representative to a conference which the Society desired to hold at Brussels. Before Her Majesty's Government could come to any decision on this request an intimation was received that the Russian Government intended to bring before the Governments of other Powers a more comprehensive scheme for discussion. This project has since been received, and invites Her Majesty's Government to appoint a representative or delegate to attend an International Congress to be held at Brussels for the purpose of considering a Code which the Russian Government has prepared for the guidance of commanders in the conduct of military operations, and the relations between belligerents in the field. This project contains three sections and 18 chapters, deals with a variety of questions, among others, the exercise of military authority in the enemy's country, the distinction between combatants and non-combatants, the modes of warfare, reprisals, the treatment of prisoners of war, and other similar subjects. Her Majesty's Government have not yet determined whether it would be useful for them to take any part in this Conference, but are in communication with other Governments with the view of ascertaining what are their intentions in the matter.

In reply to Mr. Serjeant SIMON,


said, that there would be no objection to lay the proposal of the Russian Government on the Table of the House as soon as it became the property of the Government. At present, it was not the property of Her Majesty's Government.