HC Deb 14 December 1939 vol 355 cc1311-2W
Mr. Fleming

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the British Red Cross headquarters are not forwarding parcels to British officers who are prisoners of war in Germany, but have notified the parents of the said officers that all such parcels are being opened, and the contents pooled in the shape of standard parcels, which are forwarded to the prisoners of war; and what steps he intends to take to remedy this pooling system?

The Prime Minister

I understand from the war organisation of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John that they have made arrangements to send three eleven-pound parcels every two weeks to prisoners of war, both officers and men, as well as to interned civilians and in addition what is termed a "personal parcel" once a quarter. Standard foodstuff parcels have been made up after consultation with medical authorities, and relatives who desire to send foodstuff parcels have been advised to send remittances rather than to make up their own parcels. Owing to censorship requirements all private parcels have to be opened and repacked at the Red Cross offices. Nevertheless private parcels are being forwarded within the above limits to the addressees after repacking. In some cases, however, relatives have sent such large quantities of gifts for individual officers that it has been impossible to forward them all. In a recent instance rather than return the surplus articles they were forwarded to other officers in the same camp for whom personal parcels had not been received, and the senders were so informed. If such cases should arise in the future, the Red Cross propose to inquire from the senders whether they desire the articles to be returned or sent on for the benefit of fellow prisoners of the addressees. The British Red Cross is performing with voluntary helpers a praiseworthy humanitarian work, and I hope that their efforts to organise the despatch of parcels to prisoners of war and others in accordance with the regulations which war-time necessities impose will receive the sympathetic co-operation of relatives.