HC Deb 28 June 1917 vol 95 cc508-10
19. Mr. WING

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if negotiations are in progress for exchange of prisoners of war, the same to be removed to neutral countries; and, if so, when is such likely to take place?

Mr. JAMES HOPE (Lord of the Treasury)

This question is one of those which are being discussed by the British and German delegates at The Hague.


asked the Prime Minister if he will state the instructions given to Lord Newton and others who are meeting the German officers at The Hague on the subject of the treatment of prisoners; whether they have any power to arrange terms as to release or treatment; and whether any agreement arrived at by them will be subject to the approval of the War Cabinet?


asked the Prime Minister whether Lord Newton, General Sir Henry Belfield, and Sir Robert Younger have gone to The Hague as representing the British Government for the purpose of conducting negotiations with General Friedrich, Major Draugt, and Dr. Eckhardt as representing the German Government; whether these six delegates will meet in one room; and if he will define the scope of the matters to be discussed?


The answer to the first and second parts of question No. 57 is in the affirmative. The British delegates are only empowered to discuss questions relating to prisoners of war. These include

  • The resumption of the repatriation of combatant and civilian prisoners under existing agreements.
  • The extension of the existing agreements for the repatriation of combatant and civilian prisoners.
  • The transfer of combatant prisoners of war to other neutral countries in addition to Switzerland.
  • The internment of civilian prisoners of war in neutral countries.
  • The more expeditious and satisfactory delivery of parcels to prisoners.
  • The punishment of prisoners.
  • Reprisals on prisoners.
  • The delay in reporting and failure to report the capture of prisoners.
  • The removal of British merchant officers from combatant officers' camps.
They are not debarred from discussing other questions relative to prisoners of war, which may be raised by the German delegates, but in any case such conclusions as may be arrived at will be subject to ratification by His Majesty's Government.


Is it the first example since the outbreak of the War of a direct Conference between representatives of the two Governments?


It is the first example of a direct meeting between representatives, not of the Government, but of our official staff and representatives of Germany.

Commander WEDGWOOD

Before these English gentlemen went to this Conference were they given detailed instructions as to how they should treat them or what the civil relations should be?


No; no such instructions were given, nor, in my opinion, were they necessary.

Commander WEDGWOOD

Were they to kiss them on both cheeks?