§ 17. Colonel Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
asked the hon. Member for Sheffield (Central Division) how many British prisoners are in the hands of the Turks; and whether, in view of the high death-rate prevailing among them and the hardships which they have to suffer, the Government will at once arrange with the Turkish Government a complete exchange of all British prisoners?
§ Mr. J. HOPE (Lord of the Treasury)
In regard to the first part of the question, I am informed that, there are at present in the hands of the Turks 8,762 British and native prisoners of war, of whom 541 are officers. In addition to these, there is one officer and 3,079 rank and file still untraced. In regard to the second part of the question, a proposal is at present before the Cabinet for the exchange of 600 British and native prisoners of war in the hands of the Turks as a preliminary to a wider exchange subsequently.
§ 18. Colonel Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
asked the hon. Member for Sheffield (Central Division) how many 15 British prisoners of war are in the hands of the Austrians; and if the Government is taking any steps to effect an exchange of prisoners with the Austrian Government?
§ Mr. HOPE
I am informed that the number of British civilians of military age who are interned or held under conditions approximating to internment in Austria-Hungary is about 200. The number of military prisoners is negligible. The Austro-Hungarian Government have accepted in principle the proposal made by His Majesty's Government to reduce the, military age limit to fifty-one years and to render males between the age of forty-five and fifty-one who are unfit for service in the field eligible for repatriation. There are, however, one or two points still awaiting settlement before the agreement is definitely concluded.
§ Sir C. HENRY
Could the hon. Gentleman say how many civilian Austrian prisoners there are in this country?
§ 19. Colonel Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
asked the hon. Member for Sheffield (Central Division) whether the Government is prepared to take steps to bring about an exchange, irrespective of age, of those civilian prisoners who, from ill-health or other disabilities, are incapacitated from military service?
§ Mr. HOPE
An agreement for the mutual repatriation of British and German civilian prisoners of war, irrespective of age, who were regarded by their respective Governments as unfit for military service, came into operation in the summer of 1915. Nearly 500 British civilian prisoners of war have been repatriated from Germany under this agreement. On 6th November, 1916, His Majesty's Government made a proposal to the German Government which it was hoped would lead to the repatriation of a large number of British and German invalid civilian prisoners of war, but no reply to that proposal has been received. A similar agreement was concluded with the Austro-Hungarian Government in October, 1914, but hitherto very few British civilian prisoners of war have been repatriated under it.
§ 46. Commander WEDGWOOD
asked the Prime Minister the total number of German, Austrian, Bulgarian, and 16 Turkish prisoners now in our hands, and also the total number of British. Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and Indian troops, now known to be prisoners in the hands of Germans. Turks, or Bulgarians?
§ Mr. HOPE
In regard to the first part of the question, I am informed that there are in our hands throughout the Empire 55,.397 German, 16 Austrian, 763 Bulgarian, and 15,512 Turkish combatant prisoners of war. As to the last figure, that is according to the latest returns, but I have no doubt that they are very much under the mark at the present moment. In regard to the second part of the question, the reply involves so many categories and cross divisions that I propose to publish the answer in the OFFTCIAL REPOKT.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
(by Private Notice) asked the hon. Member for Sheffield whether the attention of His Majesty's Government has been called to the announcement by the International Red Cross Committee at Geneva that the German Government has actually sent a large number of prisoners from the camps to the zone of the Armies; whether the Government has any further information on this point; and what steps they propose to take?