Oral Answers to Questions — Prisoners of War.

– in the House of Commons on 17th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

asked the Secretary of State for War what instructions have been issued about Italian prisoners of war, when not wearing head-dress, saluting British officers by giving the Fascist salute, or otherwise?

Photo of Mr David Margesson Mr David Margesson , Rugby

The instructions are that enemy prisoners of war will salute British officers in the same manner as they would salute their own officers.

Photo of Captain John McEwen Captain John McEwen , Berwickshire and Haddingtonshire

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any information to the effect that there are now Russian prisoners of war in Offlag VI B; and whether the German Government have notified their intention of reverting to the principal of mixed nationality camps in general?

Photo of Mr David Margesson Mr David Margesson , Rugby

According to my information, a number of Russian prisoners of war are accommodated in a separate part of Oflag VIB, which is wired off from the British quarters. No notification has been received from the German Government that they intend to adopt the principle of mixed nationality camps in general.

Photo of Major-General Sir Alfred Knox Major-General Sir Alfred Knox , Wycombe

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the general position as regards the despatch of parcels to prisoners of war to Germany and Italy at the present time, as compared with that of a year ago?

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

asked the Secretary of State for War what changes of policy are contemplated in connection with the distribution of parcels by the British Red Cross Society consequent on recent changes in the management of that department?

Photo of Mr David Margesson Mr David Margesson , Rugby

For the past 12 months or so there has been a regular distribution of Red Cross food parcels to British prisoner of war camps in Germany and Italy at a rate which has provided generally an issue of one parcel per man per week. In addition, in order to ensure an even flow, it was decided by the British Red Cross Society to build up a 12 weeks' reserve at Geneva. A few days ago, however the Chairman of the War Organisation of the British Red Cross Society informed me that it had very recently been brought to his notice that the reserve at Geneva which had previously been substantial had been steadily dwindling during the past few months and might not now amount to more than about one week's supply. This had, he said, been due in the main to two causes, first, to the fact that in anticipation of direct supplies from overseas which have not materialised the number of parcels packed by the Red Cross had been reduced and, secondly, to the fact that one of the Red Cross ships has been damaged. He assured me, however, that as soon as these facts became known to him steps had been taken to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.

In the circumstances I am afraid that some temporary diminution in deliveries is inevitable. Although there is in some camps a reserve of some two weeks' supply, all camp Leaders are being advised for the time being to reduce the issue of parcels. This unfortunate diminution in the reserve of parcels at Geneva has evidently been a gradual process extending over a number of months, and is, of course, in no way attributable to the change in the management of the Red Cross Prisoner of War Department, which occurred only last week.

Photo of Major-General Sir Alfred Knox Major-General Sir Alfred Knox , Wycombe

Is it not a fact that there has been a great improvement in the distribution of parcels during the past year, and is it not entirely due to the wonderful business ability and foreign connections of Mr. Stanley Adams? Does not the Minister consider it a Government responsibility not to let this public servant, who has done so much for our prisoners of war, leave his present employment?

Photo of Mr David Margesson Mr David Margesson , Rugby

It is not for me to interfere with the internal arrangements of the British Red Cross Society. I agree that there has been an improvement in the distribution of parcels, and I have no reason to believe that that improvement will not be maintained.

Photo of Major-General Sir Alfred Knox Major-General Sir Alfred Knox , Wycombe

Do not the Government subsidise the British Red Cross Society, and have they no control over the appointment of personnel? Does the Minister know that this resignation has been received with feelings of consternation?

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

Is the Minister aware that we give a subsidy from this House to the Red Cross Society for the benefit of our prisoners of war? Surely we are entitled to inquire why Mr. Adams, who has done so much for our prisoners of war, has suddenly resigned? We ought to know the reasons.

Photo of Mr David Margesson Mr David Margesson , Rugby

The British Red Cross Society are not under the control of His Majesty's Government. They have the right to make their own appointments in their own way.

Photo of Hon. Hugh O'Neill Hon. Hugh O'Neill , Antrim

Can the Minister say who is now doing the work which was previously performed by Mr. Adams?

Photo of Mr David Margesson Mr David Margesson , Rugby

The name has been published in the Press. He is a man of great experience of railway management, and his name is Mr. Eddy.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

Is not this attitude of the War Office, as to their not being directly responsible, a mere punctilio? Is it not their responsibility to see that everything possible is being done for our 90,000 British prisoners of war?