HC Deb 14 March 1945 vol 409 cc223-4
45. Sir Ralph Glyn

asked the Prime Minister if he will consider some means whereby the sympathy of this House may be conveyed to the Government of the Netherlands on the present sufferings and privations of the Dutch people; and what further practical steps are being taken by this country to relieve this distress.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

Yes, Sir. I am sure that the House would wish me to take this opportunity of expressing the deep concern and sympathy which we all feel for the Dutch people in their present ordeal and our admiration of the magnificent spirit shown by those in the still occupied areas in resisting the repeated efforts of the enemy to exploit their distress.

His Majesty's Government are well aware that expressions of sympathy are of little comfort unless followed by practical help. There is unfortunately little that we can do to bring immediate relief to the occupied areas. We have, however, already facilitated certain relief shipments through the blockade by the International Red Cross Committee and the Swedish Government, and we are urgently considering the possibility of extending such shipments. There has also been put by a considerable stock of essential foodstuffs which will be sent into Western Holland with all possible speed as soon as the Germans are driven out—or fly.

In the liberated areas conditions show signs of improvement. An interim civil import programme to meet the immediate needs of these areas has been prepared by the Netherlands Government and approved by His Majesty's Government, the United States Government and also the organisation known by the letters S.H.A.E.F.—the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Deliveries are already being made against this programme in addition to the regular imports of essential civilian supplies under the military programme.

Finally, I should like to mention what is being done for Dutch children evacuated from the battle areas for whom no suitable accommodation can be found in the confined space of liberated Holland. The Netherlands Government, with our willing co-operation, have worked out a scheme under which successive parties of up to 2,000 children will be brought here on visits of a few months, first in camps and later as the guests of private families. The first thousand have already arrived. This scheme will not only help to restore the health and strength of the undernourished younger generation but also gives us a welcome opportunity of demonstrating our sympathy with the Dutch people in a practical way.