HC Deb 03 July 1916 vol 83 cc1186-8
60. Mr. KING

asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the statement made on 28th June by General Child, Director of Personal Services at the War Office, that he would favour the elimination of all conscientious objectors by the powers given in Section 9 (1) of the Army Act; whether he is aware that that Section allows the death penalty for wilful defiance of authority; and whether General Child, as Director of Personal Services, will be the chief official at the War Office concerned with carrying out the policy announced in this House on 29th June?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)

As it was never the intention that any official in the War Office should be concerned with carrying out the policy announced in this House on the 29th June, but that the final decision as to the genuineness of a conscientious objector should rest solely and wholly with the Central Appeal Tribunal, the question does not arise.


Did not the right hon. Gentleman state last week that the preliminary sifting would be done by the military authorities, and, in that case, are they not responsible?


That is done in order to get rid of obvious cases.


Even then will not General Child have a very real power to prevent these cases coming before the Central Tribunal?


No, Sir, he will not.


May we take the Prime Minister's assurance of that, because there is a good deal of anxiety on that point?

62. Mr. HARVEY

asked the Prime Minister whether the proposals for the treatment of conscientious objectors to military service in the Army take account of the number of such men who have not been sentenced to imprisonment, but are under detention in military barracks and camps in consequence of declining to obey military orders; and what steps he proposes to take to deal with such cases?


Yes, Sir. Men who during or after their sentence of detention refuse to obey orders on grounds of conscientious objection will, I have no doubt, be tried by court-martial and thus come under the scheme which I outlined to the House on Thursday.

64. Mr. KING

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether there have been cases of conscientious objectors practising the hunger strike, either in Wandsworth Detention Barracks or elsewhere; if so, whether such men are forcibly fed; and how many men were so fed during the months of May and June?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)

I learn that soldiers who have practised hunger strike have been forcibly fed. I am not prepared to make the necessary inquiries with the view of ascertaining how many men have been so fed.

67. Mr. KING

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he has inquired into the cases of J. Clinch and G. Glasscock who, on 29th May, were fetched by an escort from Croydon to Kingston-on-Thames, being conscientious objectors; whether they were handcuffed together on this occasion; if so, why, seeing that they offered no resistance; of how many men did the escort consist; why was that number considered necessary; whether J. Clinch is now in Maidstone Civil Prison; and what action is intended when his sentence is completed?


In view of the fact that no ill-treatment is alleged, no useful purpose would be served by making inquiry.

68. Mr. KING

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he has inquired into the case of Philip H. Sleep, of the 10th Border Regiment, Non-Combatant Corps, who was granted absolute exemption from military service by the Croydon Local Tribunal on 25th March, 1916; whether his exemption was after wards reviewed by the Surrey Appeal Tribunal, who were misled by Sir Lewis Dibden's advice that a conscientious objector could not obtain absolute exemption; whether this man, who was originally granted absolute exemption, is now in Maidstone Civil Prison; and what is it intended to do in this case on Sleep finishing his imprisonment?


This case will be dealt with under the arrangements announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last week.


Are not the facts correctly stated here?

77. Sir W. BYLES

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War, having regard to the natural anxiety of his parents, will he say what is the sentence passed by court-martial on H. F. Brewster, a conscientious objector, sent from Lowestoft to Boulogne on 8th May, and where he is now?


As I have often stated, I cannot undertake to give information in this House about the situation from day to day of individual soldiers. Proper official machinery for making such inquiries is in existence, and I would recommend that my hon. Friend should address his inquiry to the Record Office of the soldier concerned. If, as my hon. Friend states, this man has been sent to France, it is not possible to disclose his whereabouts.

78. Sir W. BYLES

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he can give information of Alfred Evans who, a conscientious objector of taking life, offered himself for the Royal Army Medical Corps, was recommended by his local tribunal for non-combatant service, but by the Ealing Tribunal was turned down, sent to Houns-low, then to Felixstowe, and placed in the Non-Combatant Corps, refusing to obey military orders, he was sentenced to twenty-eight days' imprisonment in the Harwich Circular Redoubt, and from thence was shipped to France; has he been sentenced to death; and why may he not be attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps, for which service he has offered himself?


On the information contained in this question I cannot find that the enlistment and posting of Evans to the Non-Combatant Corps was otherwise than in order. No report has been received that he was sentenced to death.