HC Deb 12 November 1928 vol 222 cc497-8
66. Colonel WOODCOCK

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the case of Frederick Robert Burns, of New South Wales, who was detained at the Belgian Government's labour colony at Wortel, near the Dutch frontier, and subjected to improper treatment; whether he is aware that in this labour colony there were Englishmen, Canadians and another Australian; and will he ascertain whether these Englishmen and Colonials have yet been released?


My attention was called to this case, and I at once instructed His Majesty's Consul-General at Antwerp to investigate. The British Vice-Consul at Antwerp inspected the labour colonies at Wortel and Hoog-straeten, and found conditions there satisfactory in every respect, and I was unable to obtain any corroboration whatever of the statement that Mr. Burns had been improperly treated. Of the three British subjects in the colonies at the time of the Vice-Consul's inspection, two, who were Maltese, have now left, and I am in communication with the Consul-General regarding the question of repatriating the third, a native of Newfoundland. There is another man in the colony who claims to have been born in Australia, but it has been impossible to verify his claim to treatment as a British subject, as he refuses to give any evidence in support of his statement.


Has my right hon. Friend been in communication with the High Commissioner for Australia in reference to the matter?


I cannot say off-hand, but we have made inquiries.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say what was the nationality of the Vice-Consul whose report was so satisfactory? Was he a Belgian?


I am afraid I should have to have notice of that question.