HC Deb 08 June 1917 vol 94 cc504-5
18 and 21. Mr. HUME-WILLIAMS

asked the hon. Member for Sheffield (Central Division) (1) if he can state whether an agreement has been entered into between France and Germany for the mutual repatriation of prisoners interned in Switzerland; if so, what are the terms of the agreement; and are negotiations pending for the conclusion of a similar agreement between this country and Germany; and (2) whether any English prisoners in Switzerland have been examined by a board of Swiss doctors for the purpose of securing their return to this country under such arrangements as have been made; and, if so, when they may be expected to arrive and in what numbers?

Mr. J. HOPE (Lord of the Treasury)

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The agreement relates to prisoners of war who are found by a Swiss Medical Commission to be totally unfit for military service, the decision of this Commission must, however, be confirmed by another Commission of one military and two medical officers appointed by the captor Government. An agreement has been concluded between His Majesty's Government and the German Government on similar lines. This agreement is not yet actually operative as far as we know. I should explain that the number of British prisoners of war who will benefit by the agreement is not likely to be considerable, and/that a few men have already been repatriated from Switzerland on the ground that their health has deteriorated to such an extent since their transfer from Germany as to make them eligible for repatriation under the repatriation agreement already existing with Germany.


Can the hon. Gentleman say how soon the agreement will become actually operative?


I imagine at once.


asked whether any English and Turkish prisoners have yet been exchanged; if so, how many and when; and how soon may the English be expected to arrive in this country?


No exchange of British and Turkish prisoners of war has yet taken place, nor, unfortunately, is it likely that any can take place in the immediate future. In a Note which has just reached His Majesty's Government after a delay of over two months, the Turkish Government pass over the proposals made to them for the exchange of 100 or 600 invalid prisoners a side as a first instalment, and express the desire to revert to the arrangement reached last year according to which all prisoners were to be exchanged who came up to a certain standard of incapacity. As it appears that the Ottoman Government only considers that eleven of the British prisoners of war who were in their hands in December last reach that standard, it is clear that such an arrangement would prove wholly unsatisfactory. The Turkish Government is therefore now being pressed for a specific reply to the above-mentioned proposals for numerical exchange.


May I ask if the answer refers merely to British prisoners or includes Indians?


Speaking from memory, I think it includes both.


asked whether the American Ambassador has now left Constantinople; whether, before leaving or since, he has made a report as to the condition of the Turkish camps in which English prisoners are interned; who is now charged with the duty of visiting such camps; and what are the most recent reports?


The United States Ambassador has left Constantinople, and the protection of British interests in Turkey is now in the charge of the Netherlands Minister. The United States Ambassador was not able, so far as is known, before leaving to take advantage of the promised permission to cause internment camps to be visited by his representatives. As stated in the reply returned to my hon. Friend on the 10th May, the Netherlands Minister has been requested to cause the camps to be visited, but it is not known whether he has been able to do so, and no reports have yet been received.


Will the hon. Member exercise such pressure as he reasonably can to have somebody sent to those camps, a great number of which have not been seen at all?

. Mr. HOPE