HC Deb 06 December 1944 vol 406 cc499-502
16. Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been called to the case of Mr. P. G. Wodehouse, a British subject formerly interned in Germany and now in France; if Mr. Wodehouse has been interned by the French authorities; and if he can make a statement.

18. Captain Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why Mr. P. G. Wodehouse, as a British subject, has not been brought to this country for internment or for trial.

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. The case is being closely watched by His Majesty's Ambassador in Paris. Mr. Wodehouse, who was arrested in Paris on 20th November on the ground that he had broadcast from Berlin, was released on 24th November on condition that he should reside in a hospital. I understand that he may be regarded as residing there under surveillance for the present. He has been visited by a member of His Majesty's Embassy and also, I understand, by relatives who report that he is in good health. So far as I am aware, Mr. Wodehouse has expressed no wish to come to this country, but I am taking steps to confirm this. I am also asking the French Government to state the legal grounds upon which this residence under surveillance is being maintained.

Sir J. Lucas

May I ask whether a British subject can be tried by Great Britain or France, for an offence in Germany?

Mr. Eden

My hon. and gallant Friend will see that there is no question of trial, and no question of a charge. What I am asking the French Government to tell us—and I have no doubt they will do so—are the grounds upon which residence under surveillance are being maintained.

Captain Gammans

Did not the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance some time ago that any British subject suspected of Quisling activities should be brought to this country for investigation, and, if necessary, trial? Did not the Foreign Secretary give that assurance two weeks ago?

Mr. Eden

Does my hon. and gallant Friend mean that we should take positive measures ourselves, to bring Mr. Wodehouse to England? If so, I can tell him—though it is not a matter for me, but for the Home Office—that that matter has been gone into, and, according to the advice given, there are no grounds upon which we could take action.

Captain Cunningham-Reid

Is it not a fact that had we made representations to the French and had Mr. Wodehouse been a Royal prince, he would not have been interned?

Mr. Quintin Hogg

Is it not obvious that a person who broadcasts on the enemy wireless and receives a fee, either in kind or money, is trading with the enemy, and is punishable under the Act which deals with that offence?

Mr. Eden

Really, that is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the Home Office.

21. Mr. Cluse

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make representations to the French Government that Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, detained in France on suspicion of having aided the enemy, should be handed over to the British authorities with a view to bringing him to this country for trial.

Mr. Eden

No, Sir. I understand that this case has been considered by the appropriate authorities here, who have advised that the information at present available affords no ground for legal proceedings in this country. The question of asking the French Government to hand Mr. Wodehouse over to the British authorities does not, therefore, arise.

Mr. Cluse

As the gentleman concerned is generally considered a British subject, surely any action taken with regard to what he has done during the war should come under our control?

Mr. Eden

I have explained that the question whether there are any grounds for legal proceedings against Mr. Wodehouse is not a matter for me, but I have answered the Question because the matter has been gone into, and it has been agreed that there are no legal grounds.

Mr. Vernon Bartlett

Is it not a fact that the French put this man under arrest because they thought that we wanted him to be put under arrest?

Mr. Eden

He is not under arrest, as I explained in my answer.

Mr. Bartlett

Is it not a fact that he was put under surveillance by the French Government because the French Government thought that we wanted it?

Mr. Eden

That I do not know; that I have not been told. I think the position is clear. Unless we had legal grounds for asking that a British subject should be repatriated, there is no case on which I could proceed.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Would it not be better if this gentleman was relegated to obscurity?

Mr. Quintin Hogg

As a serious legal principle is involved, will the right hon. Gentleman consult again with the appropriate authorities, with special reference to the question of trading with the enemy?

Mr. Eden

If my hon. Friend is sure that there are legal points involved in this case I ask him to be good enough to put a question to the appropriate Minister.