HC Deb 30 November 1943 vol 395 cc182-5
14. Mr. Linstead

asked the Secretary of State for War Whether a second-lieutenant who is promoted lieutenant while a prisoner of war is able to draw from the German authorities an increased allowance proportionate to his increase in pay; and, if not, whether representations can be made to enable this to be done?

Sir J. Grigg

Promotions of officer prisoners of war are notified to the German Government who recognise such promotions and adjust pay accordingly.

46. Mr. Bowles

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider making a Minister exclusively responsible for the welfare of our prisoners of war still in enemy hands?

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

My hon. Friend's suggestion has been considered on a number of occasions. I have no reason to believe that anything would be gained by it.

Mr. Bowles

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a good deal of anxiety in the country among the families of prisoners of war, particularly of those in Japanese hands, whether the Ministers at present concerned, those of the War Office and the Foreign Office and the Minister of state, deal with the matter in a way that results in its being dealt with piecemeal, and that, so far as Japanese prisoners are concerned, very little success seems to have been attained?

Mr. Attlee

I hope that my hon. Friend will disabuse anxious relatives of any idea that the matter is being dealt with piece-meal. I am sure that he will realise the great difficulty in dealing with people like the Japanese.

18. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War the sentences to which Ordinary Signalman D. J. Kitson, R. N., and other naval ratings and merchant seamen prisoners of war in Germany were sentenced for attempted escape in 1941; whether these men are in solitary confinement and not allowed to receive parcels; and whether he can ask the Protecting Power to visit their camps and report?

Sir J. Grigg

As the answer is rather long, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Sir A. Knox

Is it true that these men do not get any parcels from home now?

Sir J. Grigg

I will be grateful if my hon. and gallant Friend will read the answer as a whole and if he wishes to put down other Questions.

Following is the answer:

A prisoner of war is subject to the laws and regulations in force in the Armed Forces of the detaining Power and the prisoners of war concerned in this case were charged not with an attempt to escape but with arson and mutiny as a result of an attempt to seize and set fire to the ship in which they were being conveyed to Germany. The merchant seaman who was alleged to be the ring-leader was sentenced to death. Ordinary Signalman Kitson was sentenced to 10 years' penal servitude. Five other merchant seamen and naval ratings were sentenced to varying terms of penal servitude and the remaining 23 to terms of imprisonment ranging from three to eight months.

Representations were made to the German Government against the sentence of death and the long sentences of penal servitude. It was pointed out that the motive for the men's action was to liberate themselves from captivity, to inflict losses on the enemy and to benefit their own country and that the punishment should not be assessed according to the standard which would have applied if the alleged offences had been committed by German subjects. The Protecting Power have been informed that the sentence of death will not be carried out but no formal decision has been notified by the Germans as to the sentence which has been substituted. This prisoner is in a cell by himself; he was given the chance of sharing a cell but preferred to remain alone.

No reply has been received to the representations on the other sentences, although reminders have been sent. All the men have been visited by the representative of the Protecting Power. The men undergoing sentences of penal servitude are not in solitary confinement and the treatment is, on the whole, satisfactory, although some are suffering from loss of weight owing to prison diet. Whilst serving their sentences these men are subject to prison regulations, and it is understood that these do not permit the receipt of parcels. The Protecting Power have been asked to visit these men at regular intervals and report on their treatment.