HC Deb 13 April 1948 vol 449 cc776-8
29. Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that many repatriated prisoners who by his permission are not being forced back to their original homes are being sent to the British zone of Germany where they have neither homes, relatives nor work; and whether, in these special cases, he will consider making such arrangements as will allow them to remain in this country in those categories of employment which will help our production drive and in no way penalise British workers.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Ness Edwards)

No, Sir. It is not proposed to allow repatriated German prisoners of war to return to this country for employment.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

That answer misunderstands the Question. Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the people of whom I am speaking are those who are not being forced back to the Russian zone, but are being sent instead to the British zone of Germany? Is it not much better to keep them here in useful employment than to send them over there to add to the number of displaced persons for whom we are financially responsible?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I should hope that my hon. Friend would spare some of his charity for the million displaced persons in Germany who are the victims of German soldiers. We ought not to allow German prisoners of war to stay here if it would prevent a single displaced person from being brought into a job.

Mr. Stokes

Is it not a fact that prisoners of war at the present time are only given the option to remain if they stay as agricultural workers? If this is so, how does my right hon. Friend reconcile it with the fact that at present his Department is engaged in getting more Germans to come over here for other purposes?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I am afraid my hon. Friend misunderstands the position. We are not bringing male Germans into this country at all.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Are we to understand from that reply that, as displaced persons are brought into this country, ex-prisoners of war are to be exchanged for them?

Mr. Ness Edwards

No, the repatriation scheme for prisoners of war has been announced in this House, and is not a matter for the Ministry of Labour. We are endeavouring to recruit as many displaced persons as we can for jobs in this country.

Mr. Driberg

When my right hon. Friend speaks, as he frequently does in these answers, of ordinary German soldiers as if they were convicted Nazi war criminals, will he cast his mind back to a visit to Germany, that I know he will never forget, when he learned, as many of us did, that the first victims of the Nazis were Germans?

Mr. Ness Edwards

I can never forget my visit to Buchenwald, and I hope I shall have the assistance of hon. Members of this House, who were members of that mission, in trying to give some consolation by rehabilitation to those who were the victims of these people.