HC Deb 14 December 1945 vol 417 cc799-800
The Secretary of State for War (Mr. J. J. Lawson)

As the House is probably aware, the Army is holding in a hostel near Chorley over 200 Spaniards. They were overrun by Allied troops at the time of our advance across France. They were either wearing German uniforms or were in German organisations. At the time of the German invasion of France they were refugees from Franco Spain. In the conditions as they were during the fighting in France in the summer of 1944, the Army had no option but to treat these men as prisoners of war, and they were brought to this country. To allow them to stay in this country would be to give them an advantage over the very many thousands of other aliens who are anxious to settle here. An approach was, therefore, made to the French Government to allow them to return to France. I am glad to say that the French Government have agreed. They will return in small parties. These men have hitherto been treated by the Army in the same way as Italian co-operators, except in one respect. Until quite recently they have not been given the pay of co-operators, but they have for the past week, and this will continue while they remain in this contury. They will now return to France as free men and I hope that they, and hon. Members who have interested themselves in their case, will consider this solution satisfactory.

Mr. Kenyon (Chorley)

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his statement on this very vexed question, which I am sure will give great satisfaction, I would like his definite assurance that these men are returning to France as free men, and not as prisoners of war.

Mr. Lawson

Yes. I am glad to give my hon. Friend that assurance. It is perfectly understood in the agreement that has been made between France and ourselves, that they are returning to that country as free men.

Mr. Driberg (Maldon)

Could my right hon. Friend say whether it is the case, as has been reported, that one of these men was a member of the Spanish Republican Cortes? If so, would this man be able to join.his colleagues in Mexico? Would my right hon. Friend look into that?

Mr. Lawson

I cannot say. I have no information to that effect.