HC Deb 30 May 1918 vol 106 cc948-51

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government has considered the Report of their Committee on the Treatment by the Enemy of British Prisoners of War; whether they are satisfied that British prisoners are no longer kept at work immediately behind the German lines; and, if not, what steps they are taking, or propose to take, to prevent a continuance of the cruelty to our men mentioned in such Report?

52. Major HUNT

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the starvation and cruelties inflicted on officers and men in some of the camps in Germany, he will at once give the German Government notice that, unless this treatment ceases, the treatment of German officers and men in this country will be very much altered and the most severe measures, short of cruelty, taken as reprisals for German barbarity?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)

My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to these questions. The treatment of prisoners of war generally will, no doubt, be discussed at the Conference which, it is hoped, may shortly be assembled at The Hague.

Major HUNT

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that British officers are being flogged, and that the same treatment has been meted out to the men?


Is my hon. Friend aware of the widespread anxiety in this country owing to the fact that prisoners recently taken by the Germans are now being employed immediately behind the German lines on what is actually combatant work?

Brigadier-General McCALMONT

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that something will be done before this Conference meets, or are we to understand that nothing is to be done before it is held?


I have just said that the most practical of all ways would be to discuss it at the Conference which is about to be held.

Major HUNT

Is not the Government yet aware that the Germans take no notice of anything except retaliation, and is the Government going to leave these wretched men to have this sort of treatment continually inflicted upon them without practically doing anything?


I have no doubt that the delegates sent by this Government will make the strongest possible representations.


Is not the Conference likely to last for weeks, and during all that time will not something be done to protect these men?


May I ask whether the scope of the Conference includes the use of these prisoners behind the lines, or whether it is simply restricted to the exchange of prisoners?


It includes the employment of prisoners.


Could not the hon. Gentleman lay down a general rule- that whatever treatment is meted out to our prisoners will be meted out to the German prisoners here?

46. Captain CARR-GOMM

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government have selected the persons to represent Great Britain in the forthcoming negotiations with Germany concerning prisoners of war; and, if not, whether they will appoint as one of the delegates a discharged or disabled soldier who has served in the ranks during the present war?


As I said in reply to a supplementary question on Tuesday last, I am not yet able to make a statement on this subject.


Would my hon. Friend seek some discharged soldier or someone who has been a prisoner and who may have a knowledge of German, in order to allay the feeling of annoyance about this matter and in order to strengthen the delegation?


The hon. Member is putting the same question again, and not so well worded.

48. Mr. G. FABER

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the treatment of our prisoners in Germany, the War Cabinet will forthwith endeavour to promote a direct exchange of prisoners, privates as well as officers and non-commissioned officers, with Germany and also with Turkey and Bulgaria; and whether some high official can at once be appointed whose sole duty it will be to carry such exchange into effect as soon as possible, and meanwhile to ameliorate the lot of our prisoners as much as possible?


The possibility of extending existing arrangements with Turkey and Bulgaria will, of course, be considered. As to the rest of the question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement made by the Leader of the House.


asked a question which was inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.


There is the greatest possibility that the extending of the existing arrangements would be considered by the Governments.