HC Deb 21 February 1916 vol 80 cc424-5
49. Commander BELLAIRS

asked the Prime Minister, in regard to the system and control of the arrangements for feeding the population of Belgium now occupied by the enemy, whether the Government are satisfied with them; whether he can state how much is contributed by the British Empire; and whether any discrimination is used in this relief to the enemy of his own obligations so as to prevent food being given to those who are working directly or indirectly through their labour in the interests of the enemy?


His Majesty's Government are satisfied with the manner in which the Relief Commission has carried on its work, and have exacted guarantees from the German authorities who might otherwise have taken advantage of the supplies. I cannot state the amount of the charitable contributions from private persons in the British Empire, but the exact figures can, I believe, be obtained from the British National Committee. The Government contribution is made by the Belgian Government out of the Allied loan to them and amounts to 1,000,000 a month. In regard to the last part of the question, His Majesty's Government have exacted a guarantee, as against the German authorities, that the Commission shall be free to distribute relief to any person irrespective of whether such person has refused remunerative work offered by the enemy, and I believe the Commission has at all times exerted the utmost vigilance to see that this principle is adhered to. If at any time it is violated. His Majesty's Government will certainly regard such violation as cutting at the root of the whole arrangement. In so far as remunerative work is accepted by a Belgian workman from the enemy such a workman will naturally no longer receive the relief given by the Commission to the destitute or semi-destitute, and he consequently only benefits by such parts of the Commission's imports as are spread over the whole population. In future all the Commission's imports, except flour, will probably be reserved exclusively for the destitute. I should add that the patriotism of the Belgian workmen has hitherto prevented any but a comparatively small number from working for the enemy, in spite of the inducements offered.