HC Deb 23 February 1944 vol 397 cc835-6
77. Mr. Bartle Bull

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will approach the Italian Government in that part of Italy already occupied by the Allies with a view to mobilising man-power for the purpose of road building and other work which is essential for the prosecution of the war in Italy and some of which is now done by British and American troops.

The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Arthur Henderson)

As no doubt my hon. Friend is aware, Italian territory occupied by the Allies falls into two parts, that portion which is under the control of Military Government and that portion which, since 11th February, 1944, has been administered by the Italian Government, and where the Allied Control Commission functions. In the area of Military Government, the head of the Allied Military Government has authority to make the necessary arrangements for the use of local labour for suitable military purposes. As regards the latter area, the Supreme Allied Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Theatre, is also the President of the Allied Control Commission and in that capacity he has authority to make the necessary arrangements with the Italian Government for the utilisation of Italian man-power for suitable military purposes. According to such information as has been received, labour is being so obtained.

Mr. Bull

Is the Minister aware that the troops are not fully cognisant of what he has just said because, to use an Army phrase, they see dozey idle Italians standing around while British and American soldiers do the work? Will he see that the Italians do a little more?

Mr. Rhys Davies

In view of the fact that we are supposed to bring freedom to the Italian people, may I take it that His Majesty's Government will not use powers of compulsory labour? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]

Mr. Henderson

I can assure my hon. Friend that anything that is being done by His Majesty's Government is justified by the provisions of international law.