HC Deb 11 February 1947 vol 433 cc177-9
27. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that earnings credited to German prisoners for their work in Britain can be cashed by them, on repatriation, only at the prewar exchange rate of 13 marks to£1; and if he will make arangements to enable them to obtain at least the official occupation rate of 40 marks to £1.

Mr. Bellenger

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 17th December to my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy.

Mr. Stokes

As that reply was entirely unsatisfactory, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether this is not in fact a breach of the Geneva Convention, which insists that prisoners of war should be treated in exactly the same way as garrison troops, and if he is aware that no military officer I have met in the zone is satisfied with the present arrangements, which consist of sweating the people in this country, and swindling them over there?

Mr. Bellenger

I would not like to answer the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question unless I knew who the officers were.

Mr. Stokes

They were responsible officers.

Mr. Renton

Does not the present system mean that the Government are making a profit? Will the right hon. Gentleman say how he justifies that profit being made?

Mr. Bellenger

No, Sir, no profit at all is being made out of the rate of exchange.

Mr. Driberg

Even if no profit is made, how does my right hon. Friend justify the distinction between the two rates?

Mr. Bellenger

I think I have given the reply to that question in two previous answers.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Would it not be more courteous to the House if on these Questions, about which public opinion is so deeply moved, the right hon. Gentleman could be more specific, and not always refer to previous answers?

Mr. Bellenger

I do not think public opinion is deeply moved on this matter.

Mr. Stephen

Will the right hon. Gentleman not reconsider the whole matter?

Mr. Bellenger

I do not think it is in my power to reconsider the matter, which was agreed between our Government and the German Government.

Captain Crookshank

May I ask to what German Government the right hon. Gentleman is referring, because if there is one at the moment it has escaped most people's notice?

Mr. Bellenger

Unfortunately the right hon. Gentleman has not had an opportunity of looking at the answer to the previous Question. This arrangement was made between the British Government and the then German Government in relation to British prisoners of war and German prisoners of war.