HL Deb 06 February 1918 vol 28 cc398-9

My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government whether a statement can be made as to the number of German prisoners in the United Kingdom, the number employed, and nature of their employment, particularly of those engaged in agriculture.


My Lords, according to the latest figures supplied to me, there are now 49,817 combatant prisoners in the United Kingdom, and of this number 28,050 are at present employed and 3,491 have been allocated for various forms of labour, arrangements for which have not yet been completed. The balance consists of officers, non-commissioned officers, men in hospital, men who are unfit for work, and men who are entitled to exchange and repatriation. Under a recent arrangement the prisoners are employed on constructional and other work, such as road-making, under the Admiralty and the War Office. A large number are engaged in felling timber and 4,280 are employed in agriculture. Four thousand additional prisoners are expected shortly from France, and will be put on agricultural work. In addition to these combatant prisoners, as the noble Lord is probably aware, there are about 29,000 civilian interned prisoners here consisting of about 25,000 German and 4,000 Austrian subjects. Of these between 1,500 and 2,000 are out on licence for various forms of work, chiefly agriculture. I do not know whether my noble friend will be satisfied with the figures that I have given, but to my mind they are profoundly unsatisfactory, and it must be obvious to everybody that the Germans represent nothing but a useless and expensive incubus so far as we are concerned.