HC Deb 17 July 1916 vol 84 cc648-50

The following question stood upon the Paper in the name of Mr. MALCOLM:—

11. To ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state what reply has been received from the American Embassy regarding the publication of their reports upon the condition and administration of those camps in France to which German prisoners were recently sent from England; and whether those reports will soon be made public?


I understand my right hon. Friend (Lord R. Cecil) wishes me to postpone this question. May I state they have had three weeks to say whether they shall give their permission or not.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps have been taken by the Prisoners of War Department of the Foreign Office, or by the Prisoners' Committee presided over by Lord Newton, to impress upon employers of labour and trades unions the economic and humanitarian advantage of engaging prisoners of war as workmen; and whether he can publish any correspondence that has passed on this subject?


The difficulty of finding employment for prisoners of war does not arise so much from the reluctance of employers to utilise their services as from the requirements of the military authorities for their safe custody. I will see, however, that the suggestion made by my hon. Friend is considered by Lord Newton's Committee.


asked how much money has been spent on behalf of or distributed among enemy military and civilian prisoners of war in this country since the beginning of the War by the Emergency Committee for the Assistance of Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians in Distress and by other philanthropic societies in Great Britain?


I have not yet been able to obtain the figures for the whole period of the War, but in the twelve months ended on 30th June a net sum of approximately £5,600 had been expended by the Emergency Committee. This does not include money spent on tools and industrial materials, which was recovered from the prisoners, nor the camp visiting expenses which have amounted to about £575. I have no information about the activities of any other philanthropic societies.


asked to what extent Dr. Marckel is permitted by the War Office to visit German prisoners of war in this country; what is the nationality of this gentleman; is he the accredited representative of the German Red Cross Society, and how much money is he allowed to distribute or to spend monthly on behalf of German prisoners; and whether any equivalent facilities were given, or was any similar person appointed, in Germany to minister to the wants of British prisoners?


Dr. Marckel, who has been a naturalised British subject for twenty-seven years, is not permitted to visit places of internment for prisoners of war in this country. It is known that he has relations with the German Bed Cross Society, and that he helps prisoners in this country, but the Army Council have no information as to the extent of his benefactions. He can only send money or articles to individual prisoners through the commandant of each camp, and the latter has full power to veto any article being sent or to withhold it if sent. The answer to the last part of the question is in the negative.


Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the commandant has not given this gentleman permission to visit the German prisoners in the camps in Great Britain? He has been in nearly all of them.


I am informed that he is not permitted to visit places where German prisoners are interned in this country.


When was that permission taken away?


I could not say without notice.

Sir J. D. REES

Has not the prohibition been enforced for some months?


I am afraid I cannot give the date.