§ 21. Mr. EVELYN CECIL
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has taken or proposes to take any steps, through the courtesy of the United States Ambassador, to call the attention of the German Government to their breach of The Hague Convention, of which Germany is a signatory, by the use of asphyxiating gases against the troops of the Allies; and whether His Majesty's Government intend to adopt any 951 special course of action in the event of no adequate explanation by the German Government?
§ Sir E. GREY
This breach of the rules of warfare and of international engagement has clearly been committed by the enemy with deliberate purpose and after careful preparation. The German authorities are evidently quite aware of what they are doing, and it is unnecessary to call their attention to it. Time will be more usefully spent in taking steps to counteract this practice.
§ 41. Mr. RONALD McNEILL
asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to a statement made by the official Eye-Witness with the British Army at the front on 6th April to the effect that it had been learnt from German prisoners that the enemy were preparing to asphyxiate our men by means of poisonous gas stored under pressure in steel cylinders; whether this form of attack was, in fact, adopted by the Germans on 22nd April; whether any, and what, steps had been taken in the interval to protect our men against the effects of poisonous gas; and whether it is intended to allow the enemy to pursue this mode of warfare without employing similar expedients against him, after due notice, by way of retaliation?
§ Mr. TENNANT
I regret to have to inform the hon. Gentleman that, notwithstanding their engagements under The Hague Convention, the Germans have on more than one occasion used poisonous gases in the manner described, and have caused the deaths of numbers of our men by poisoning. In spite of rumours to the contrary, it was not believed that any Power which had signed The Hague Convention could be guilty of so heinous a breach of its solemn undertaking as the violation of the fundamental principles of that agreement by the introduction into modern warfare of such a method as this, which may have far-reaching results. The latter part of the question is under consideration.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman kindly to answer that part of the question which inquires whether we were not warned of this intended procedure a fortnight before the occurrence, and whether any notice was taken of that warning?
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
Does the right hon. Gentleman not know that in the dispatch of "Eye Witness" on 6th April the announcement was made that prisoners had disclosed the intention of the enemy to use poisonous gas?