HC Deb 11 February 1947 vol 433 cc174-7
9. Mr. Stokes

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is now able to make a statement with regard to the increased rate of repatriation of prisoners of war from the Middle East.

Mr. Bellenger

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 28th January to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge), of which I am sending him a copy.

Mr. Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that however good the conditions are, they must be unsatisfactory in a sub-tropical climate, and is he aware that many of these people have been separated from their families for five years or more and are badly needed as breadwinners in the British zone in Germany?

Mr. Bellenger

Yes, Sir, I am well aware of that. In relation to the first part of my hon. Friend's question, I caused a senior staff officer to go out and examine the conditions under which they are living, and the report I received indicated that they are living in very good conditions indeed.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

May I ask the Secretary of State whether he can give some sort of indication of the rate at which they are being repatriated? He referred me to this Question, but the answer refers to a previous one.

Mr. Bellenger

In the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford, I said that from the beginning of July the rate of repatriation will be accelerated to 5,000 a month.

Mr. Hogg

Can the right hon. Gentleman not tell us what is the principle underlying all this? What is the sense of this policy?

Mr. Bellenger

I do not think that arises under this Question. I was asked to give a reply as to rate of repatriation.

Major Bruce

Can my right hon. Friend give some idea of his difficulties?

Brigadier Low

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House some idea of what these men are doing?

Mr. Bellenger

They are helping in the preparation of camps in that part of the world.

24. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been drawn to the proposals now being discussed for the repatriation by 1st October of all German prisoners now in U.S. hands, and of all those in France who do not volunteer to remain there as free workers; and if he will consider making parallel arrangements for the repatriation of German prisoners in Great Britain.

Mr. Bellenger

My attention has been drawn to Press reports on this subject. As regards repatriation from this country, I can add nothing to the announcement made on 12th September, 1946.

Mr. Driberg

If there is a real prospect that the prisoners of the French and the Americans will be sent back by 1st October, will not the effect be very bad if this country lags far behind?

Mr. Bellenger

This is only a Press report, and I am not at all sure of its accuracy.

Mr. Driberg

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this was a very full "Times" report, based on official conversations between the French and American Governments? Has he not taken steps to ascertain whether it is accurate?

Mr. Bellenger

I have no information on the accuracy or otherwise of the Press report. All I am concerned with is dealing with our own prisoners.

25. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for War how many German prisoners were repatriated from Britain during November, December, and January; how many of these, in each month, were repatriated on compassionate grounds; how many were in categories A and B; and what percentages of A and B prisoners have now been repatriated.

Mr. Bellenger

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Driberg

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the target figure is approximately 15,000 a month, and if so, whether that is intended to include the number of compassionate cases?

Mr. Bellenger

As far as my memory serves me, 15,000 is the target with, I think, 500 compassionate cases as well. The target figure has been pretty well exceeded in the first few months.

Following is the answer:

The numbers repatriated were as follow:

November 15,429
December 14,236
January 16,932

No compassionate cases were repatriated in November. Fifty were repatriated in December, and 100 in January.

The numbers in categories A and B can only be estimated, because prisoners repatriated as sick or for economic and other reasons, are not selected by political categories. The estimated numbers are:

A 18,227
B 26,122
C unscreened 2,245 (included in sick who are repatriated irrespective of political category).

Screening has not yet been completed, but approximately 82 per cent. of the A's already screened and 11 per cent. of the B's have been repatriated.

44. Mr. Stokes

asked the Secretary of State for War how many prisoners of war were repatriated from Great Britain and the Middle East, respectively, during each of the two months December, 1946, and January, 1947.

Mr. Bellenger

From the United Kingdom 14,236 in December and 16,932 in January. From the Middle East 1,510 Germans and 4,513 Austrians in December and 3,880 Germans in January.

Mr. Stokes

How soon does my right hon. Friend expect to increase the rate to 30,000 a month, which is the rate at which the Control Commission in Germany would be glad to receive them?

Mr. Bellenger

That is another question. I have answered the Question on the Paper.

Major Legge-Bourke

Why is there a discrepancy between the rates of repatriation from the Middle East and from Britain?

Mr. Bellenger

I have given the answer to that question previously. The numbers in this country are much larger than those in the Middle East, which accounts for the larger repatriation here.

Mr. Driberg

I beg to give notice that I shall raise the whole question of repatriation of prisoners on the Motion for the Adjournment.

Mr. David Renton


Mr. Speaker

Notice having been given that this matter is to be raised on the Motion for the Adjournment, no further question can be asked upon it.