HC Deb 15 March 1917 vol 91 cc1267-8
56. Major HUNT

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that the amount of food supplied to our prisoners in Germany by the German Government is not sufficient to prevent them from being slowly starved to death; and whether, under these circumstances, the British Government will inform the German Government that unless our prisoners are proved to be decently fed in the future or released that the German prisoners in this country will be treated in the same manner, and only supplied with the same amount and quality of food as British prisoners in Germany?

Mr. JAMES HOPE (Lord of the Treasury)

The rations allowed by the German Government to British prisoners of war are undoubtedly insufficient, and the results would be serious were it not for the food parcels sent regularly from this country. It is, however, doubtful whether the rations are worse than the diet available for great masses of the German civil population. Reprisals in connection with a matter of this kind can only be justified if they are likely to prove effective; and, without prejudice to any future action that may be necessary, I am authorised to express the opinion that to enter now on a course of competitive ill-treatment of prisoners in the matter of feeding would be a policy for which the enemy are better adapted by temperament and tradition than ourselves.

Major HUNT

As it is quite clear that the enemy are starving our prisoners, would it not be better to try reprisals than do nothing at all?


I do not think, with the supplies which go from this country, that it can be said that our prisoners are starving. Certainly we must look at their interests first, and those who have been considering this question are clearly of opinion that to adopt any such suggestion as this would aggravate the situation in- stead of bettering it. As to reprisals, that is a game the Germans could play better than we could.


Are we sure, that the parcels which are sent are reaching the prisoners?


My information is that a very great majority of the parcels do-reach their destination. There have been complaints in individual cases which I am taking up with the chairman of the Central Prisoners of War Committee. On the other hand, there has been great delay in the case of some provisions that have been sent from Denmark, and I hope that will now be put on a proper footing.


May I ask whether the truth is that 45 lb. minimum and 60 lb. maximum of food is sent to every prisoner, and whether that is not sufficient?


That does not arise on this question, which relates to the supplies given by the Germans.


As reprisals are impossible, will the Government again consider the question of the exchange of prisoners?


Several proposals for exchange and internment of prisoners are under consideration.


Have representations been made to the German Government as to the starvation of their prisoners through any neutral Government; and, if so, with what result?


The hon. Member ought to give notice of that question.

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