HC Deb 03 August 1943 vol 391 cc2061-4
6. Mr. Thorne

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he can give any information in connection with four Italian prisoners of war who, for more than four weeks, rode by chauffeur-driven motor-car to work at a saw mill, have cost the employer £95 in hire charges and have used many gallons of petrol?

Major Lloyd George

I have no knowledge of any such incident and shall welcome any particulars which my hon. Friend can give me.

35. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War how German and Italian prisoners of war are occupied in Britain; and whether, in particular, any machinery exists for making use of prisoners in their peace-time occupation?

The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grigg)

The work on which it has been decided that prisoners of war can best be employed is forestry, agriculture, constructural work and quarrying, and prisoners who are known to be skilled at this work are employed at their own trades.

Sir A. Knox

Is it not possible to employ skilled bootmakers in cobbling, for instance, or carpenters or bricklayers at their own jobs; and is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that at any rate in the last war the Germans had every prisoner of war card-indexed and put him in his peace-time occupation?

Sir J. Grigg

The War Office compile lists of those tradesmen which the Ministry of Labour need.

36. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the possibility of sending parcels to prisoners of war in Japan via Russia has been considered?

Sir J. Grigg

Yes, Sir. The Soviet Government, while not able to undertake transport of parcels addressed to individual prisoners of war, have indicated their willingness, in principle, to transport relief supplies for the Fast East provided that prior agreement is reached with the Japanese Government regarding their onward transport. Though the latter have said that they would be willing to consider the matter, it has not yet been possible to secure from them any indication of their attitude to the practical problems of distribution. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that His Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States have under constant consideration the problems involved and every possible step open to them, or to the National Red Cross Societies in co-operation with the International Red Cross Committee, will be taken in order to bring to prisoners of war and internees in the Far East the succour they so greatly need. But I must remind my hon. and gallant Friend that no efforts on our part can succeed until the Japanese Government recognise their responsibilities for ensuring delivery of such supplies.

Sir A. Knox

Are mails sent to prisoners of war in the Far East viâ Siberia?

Sir J. Grigg

I must have notice of that Question. I cannot say offhand.

39. Mr. Mainwaring

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any information concerning the circumstances in which Rifleman Brynley Harcombe, 6846379 King's Royal Rifle Corps, was shot on 8th June, 1943, at Camp M. Stammlager VIII B?

Sir J. Grigg

I regret that I have no information at present about this tragic incident. Inquiries are being made, and I will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as I receive any information.

40. Mr. Mainwaring

asked the Secretary of State for War how many members of the British Armed Forces, being prisoners of war in Germany, have been shot to date?

Sir J. Grigg


Mr. Mainwaring

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether steps are being taken to protest to the German authorities about this sort of thing, which is causing widespread anxiety among our people in the country?

Sir J. Grigg

These cases fall into different categories. Some have been shot while attempting to escape, and that is usually regarded as legitimate. There are a number of cases which we consider unjustifiable, and we have protested against them, and we are keeping account of these cases from the point of view of any trials of war criminals after the war. In a certain number of cases which are still under investigation I cannot say yet into which category they fall.

69. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Secretary of State for War the cost of a camp for Italian prisoners recently constructed in a locality of which he has been informed; how the buildings compare with those provided for British troops; and the arrangements for guarding and maintaining discipline among these prisoners?

Sir J. Grigg

I understand that this hostel for Italian prisoners of war was built by the Ministry of Works for £3,550. In accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention, the scales of accommodation provided for prisoners of war is the same as for British troops. One corporal and a few privates are stationed at the hostel to ensure that the prisoners do not wander about at night and to receive any complaints about their idleness or lack of discipline. This is a satellite hostel administered by a parent camp and the authorities of the parent camp then take the necessary disciplinary action.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these Italians are treated too much as guests and too little as prisoners?

Sir J. Grigg

I would not accept that as an accurate statement of the facts.

Sir W. Davison

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in one prisoner of war camp which I have recently seen a long brick wall was built at a cost of many hundreds of pounds in order to protect the prisoners from being seen by the public, the rest of the protection being only barbed wire?

Sir J. Grigg

Not having seen that particular camp, I cannot say whether that work is justified, but I know that one of the provisions of the Convention is that prisoners of war shall be protected from prying and humiliating curiosity.