HC Deb 05 November 1940 vol 365 cc1213-5W
Mr. J. Morgan

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that an official German news agency reports that 37,000 British prisoners of war are held by the Nazis; and if it is the practice of the Nazi authorities to notify the individual identity of such prisoners through the usual channels before announcing a selected list of such names over the radio in English at frequent intervals with a view to ensuring an audience for their propaganda?

Sir E. Grigg

The names of approximately 44,000 British prisoners of war have been received from the International Red Cross and the Protecting Power. The German Prisoner of War Information Bureau in accordance with Article 77 of the Convention furnishes the Protecting Power and the International Red Cross with lists of prisoners of war without undue delay. The names which are broadcast in English at frequent intervals appear to be taken at random, and often give us the first information about prisoners of war. The official lists sent through the Protecting Power take some time in transit, but the International Red Cross at Geneva send on the names and particulars by telegraph as soon as they receive them from Berlin.

Dr. Little

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the approach of winter, arrangements have been made through the Red Cross, or otherwise, to get suitable undergarments and warm clothing conveyed to prisoners of war in Germany, especially as some were taken prisoners without their kits, and friends have found great difficulty in getting such garments forwarded to them?

Sir E. Grigg

Large quantities of undergarments, battle dress and greatcoats supplied from War Office stocks have been sent by the British Red Cross Society to the International Red Cross at Geneva for despatch to all camps in Germany where British prisoners of war are detained. By Article 12 of the Geneva Convention, captor states contract to supply clothing, underwear and footwear to prisoners of war and assure their regular replacement and repair. The United States authorities have been asked to press the German Government to carry out their obligations in this respect.

Sir W. Edge

asked the Postmaster-General whether Radio Swiss forwards, without charge, the lists of British prisoners of war received from Germany; and why no facility or reduction in ordinary rates has been obtained from the British side?

Captain Waterhouse

The wireless telegraph service with Switzerland is operated at the Swiss end by Radio-Suisse and in this country by Cable and Wireless Ltd. I am informed that Radio-Suisse does not forward lists of prisoners of war free of charge, but transmits them as European letter telegrams which are chargeable at half the rate applicable to ordinary telegrams, and the British company and the Swiss company each receives the appropriate proportion of the reduced rate.

Sir J. Mellor

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the diffusion of responsibility between the Foreign Office, the Service Departments. and the British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John in matters relating to the welfare of British prisoners of war in enemy hands, he will appoint one body to be invested, if necessary by Parliament, with statutory authority to promote their interests so far as may be practicable?

The Prime Minister

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I have given to-day to a Question addressed to me by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), of which I am sending him a copy.