HC Deb 27 October 1943 vol 393 cc158-60
3. Mr. Stokes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the United States Government are in complete agreement with the present British policy of refusing all requests for further measures of controlled relief in occupied territory; and, if not, what extensions of relief do they favour?

Mr. Law

The answer to the first part of the Question is: "Yes, Sir." The second part of the Question accordingly does not arise.

Mr. Stokes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a considerable body of opinion in America which favours the increased control of relief, and if representations are made to that effect what attitude are His Majesty's Government going to take?

Mr. Law

The hon. Member asked me about the attitude of the United States Government, and I have answered him on that point.

13. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the second United Nations Food Conference, to be held at the Hot Springs in the near future, will consider questions of immediate controlled relief as distinct from post-invasion relief and rehabilitation; and whether the British Government's policy will be determined in accordance with the recommendations of that conference or whether the present refusal of navicerts for milk and vitamins for Belgium is to be taken as final?

Mr. Law

No second United Nations Food Conference is in contemplation. The hon. Member may, however, have in mind the conference which will be held next month in the United States for the purposes of setting up the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. The draft agreement setting up this body looks to the provision of relief in the period following the liberation of any area and does not relate to relief through the blockade. As regards the last part of the Question, no change in the declared policy of His Majesty's Government is contemplated.

Mr. Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the statement made by the Minister of Food last Saturday, that the whole of the human race is marching towards universal famine, and will he see that our delegates at the next Food Conference in America will not make glowing promises to provide food that they all know will not be there to give?

Mr. Law

I do not think our delegates in America ever made glowing promises of food. At the recent Hot Springs Conference the United Kingdom delegation went out of its way to make the point that there would be an acute shortage after the war, whatever we did.

Mr. Leach

Will the Minister take into consideration, in view of the present distressed condition of Germany, the taking of food into the whole of occupied Europe?

77. Mr. Stokes

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare under which International Convention the Axis is responsible for making good deficiencies in the food supply of the civilian population of occupied countries even where such shortages are caused by our blockade?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare (Mr. Dingle Foot)

The legal obligations of occupying authorities are governed by articles 42–56 of Hague Convention No. IV concerning the laws and customs of war on land, drawn up at the Conference of 1907. Article 47 formally prohibits pillaging, while Article 52 states that requisitions in kind cannot be demanded except for the necessities of the armies of occupation, and that they must be in proportion to the resources of the country. These obligations which have been wholly ignored by the Axis, are not affected by the circumstance that the other belligerents are preventing supplies reaching the occupied territories in question. In their administration of the occupied countries the German and other Axis Governments have in a number of ways exceeded the rights permitted by the Hague Convention to military occupants. They have imposed the closest and most detailed control over every department of their national life, and have exploited the resources of these countries in every way for their own war effort. It follows that they should assume corresponding obligations and see that adequate provision is made for the peoples concerned.

Mr. Stokes

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he has not really answered my Question at all but has answered another one? Is he further aware that 70 per cent. of the foodstuffs going to Belgium and 60 per cent. going to Greece prior to the war came from outside the blockade area, and will he explain whether it is the responsibility of the occupying Power to replace that quantity?

Mr. Foot

I have already stated what the legal responsibilities of the occupying Power are under international law and in the circumstances which now prevail in Europe. With regard to the earlier part of the hon. Member's Supplementary Question, I cannot accept the accuracy of his figures.

Mr. Stokes

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that these figures are given by the Governments of the countries concerned? In view of the most unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.