HC Deb 31 May 1916 vol 82 cc2703-4
77. Mr. KING

asked, in reference to the Army Order published on 26th May, under which conscientious objectors when sentenced by courts-martial are to be handed over to the nearest public civilian prison, how many prisoners have come within its operation; whether it is retrospective and applies to cases already heard in which detention in military prisons has resulted; and, if not, whether it will shortly be made retrospective?


As the Order was only issued on the 26th May, it is impossible to say how many prisoners have come within its operation. The Order is not retrospective, and it would be illegal to commute a sentence of detention to one of imprisonment.


Is the policy of making it much more retrospective, so as to give fairplay and an equal chance to those who have first come under the operation of this Act, under consideration?


Yes. I made a statement on this subject last night. I am engaged in considering it.

79. Mr. HARVEY

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he will say why, in the case of the seventeen conscientious objectors who were removed under escort to France while still refusing to obey military orders, permission has not been allowed to communicate their regimental postal addresses and the state of their health to their families; whether he is aware that anxiety has been caused to their parents by this absence of news; and whether he will give instructions that these men may at least be allowed to send news of their health and of their regimental addresses to their relatives, and may be permitted to receive letters from their families?


I am afraid the facts as stated are not sufficient to enable me to express any opinion as to what took place in these cases, but I know of no instruction which would prevent these men from communicating the state of their health.


Seeing that parents have not heard for weeks and are naturally anxious about their sons, cannot instructions be given that the state of their sons' health should be communicated to them?


There is no reason why it should not be communicated to them.


Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the letters are delivered?


Is there any reason why these men should not be sent home?