HC Deb 03 December 1946 vol 431 cc203-4
44. Mr. Yates

asked the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been drawn to the statement made at a court martial held at 151 German Prisoners-of-War Working Camp at Coven, on Friday, 18th October, to the effect that a British detective struck Erwin Maiwald, a German prisoner of war, several times and that the prisoner collapsed; if he is aware that the charge brought against the prisoner was dismissed; and, in view of the death by hanging of Walter Shatka, German prisoner of war, in the Drakelow camp, near Kidderminster, if he will inquire into and report upon the general conduct of German prisoner-of-war camps in this country.

Mr. Bellenger

The prisoner of war to whom the Question refers was tried by a military court on two charges. To one charge he pleaded guilty and on the second he was acquitted. The detective referred to in the statement made at the trial is a member of a civil police force, and the allegation has been reported to the competent civil authority. An inquest on prisoner-of-war Walter Schatka was held on 22nd October, and the verdict of the coroner was that he committed suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed. I understand that he had recently had bad news about his family. I am satisfied that the general conduct of camps in this country is of a high standard, as will I am sure be agreed by hon. Members who have visited them

Mr. Yates

In view of the fact that at the trial of Maiwald five men gave evidence, but an English lance-corporal as well as the Germans emphasised the fact that Maiwald had been struck down, and struck in the stomach, and that these incidents are the cause of very grave concern to both Germans and Englishmen, does not my right hon. Friend think there ought to be some inquiry into this kind of thing?

Mr. Bellenger

I do not know what evidence my hon. Friend has. I only know that my information is that the prisoner in question was charged with assaulting a police officer, found guilty and sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

Mr. Tiffany

Are the conditions in these camps the cause of the instruction which has been given recently, that no Member of Parliament shall visit these camps without previous permission from the War Office?

Mr. Bellenger

No, Sir, not at all. I have done everything possible to ensure that any hon. Member of this House who wants to visit prisoner-of-war camps shall do so, but at least I expect him to tell me when he is going.