HC Deb 03 April 1941 vol 370 cc1149-51
24. Mr. Leach

asked the Home Secretary what authority has been granted to the Czecho-Slovak Government and its military representatives in this country to exercise conscription powers over Czech residents here, and punish disobedience under Czech military law?

Mr. H. Morrison

The Provisional Czecho-Slovak Government are empowered by the Allied Forces Act, 1940, to exercise, in matters affecting the discipline and internal administration of their armed forces, such powers as are conferred upon them by their own national law. The Allied Forces Act does not provide for the enforcement of conscription for the Allied Forces, but, as stated by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolver hampton (Mr. Mander) on 5th March, His Majesty's Government propose to introduce legislation as soon as possible to enable Allied nationals in this country to be called up compulsorily in the Allied Forces. Pending the passage of this legislation, the position remains that the Allied Governments have a right to call upon their nationals in this country for military service in accordance with their own national laws, but that our own courts and authorities have no power to assist the Allied Governments in enforcing such obligations for military service.

Mr. Leach

In these circumstances is it possible for a Czech citizen resident here, who does not wish to join the Czech Forces as such, to join the British Army?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid I should require notice of that question, which is, perhaps, a matter for the War Office rather than for me.

Mr. Silverman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in a great many cases since the Allied Forces Act was passed some of the Allied Governments concerned have systematically extended the scope of their authority beyond what this House gave to them, and will he see that they do not exceed the authority given to them until the House extends it?

Mr. Morrison

I cannot be answerable for the actions of Allied Governments, but I am sure that the House generally will sympathise with their desire to get the maximum number of military forces for the successful prosecution of the war. So far as I have come across cases where I think that they have gone over the line, I have made polite and suitable representations to them.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman call the attention of the Czech Government in this country to the fact that in the notice calling-up their nationals for their Army they include a provision that if they do not turn up, they will be imprisoned in a dark room?

Mr. Morrison

I should like to see evidence of that before I take action.

Mr. McGovern

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that certain persons have already been arrested by Allied Governments which are sitting in this country, and can he state whether they have power to arrest, imprison or to carry out any such operations while out of their own country?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

There is a Rule with regard to Questions reflecting on friendly Governments. When foreign Governments are resident in this country, there may be some possibility of raising questions of this kind in the House, but I think it is inadvisable that they should be raised by questions of this kind at the present time.

Mr. McGovern

I did not want to exceed that Rule. I only wanted to know whether these Governments have the power to arrest and imprison in this country.

Mr. Morrison

If the hon. Gentleman studies my answer, I think that he will find a reply to that question.

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