Prisoners of War.

Oral Answers to Questions — British Army. – in the House of Commons on 24th February 1942.

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

asked the Secretary of State for War how many ships are now engaged in carrying prisoner of war parcels from Lisbon to Marseilles; and what arrangements are being made for additional tonnage to clear the accumulation at Lisbon, owing to the accident which occurred to the steamship "Vega" on 26th December?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

Hitherto there have been three ships engaged in carrying Red Cross parcels from Lisbon to Marseilles. One of these, the "Vega," is temporarily disabled, but it is hoped that this vessel will again be available in two or three weeks' time. In order to clear the accumulation of parcels at Lisbon, the British Red Cross Society have chartered two additional ships.

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

Were not these arrangements in train last Tuesday, when the Secretary of State for War made a very misleading statement al to the position regarding parcels? What was the reason which led the Red Cross two days later to issue an official statement contradicting the statement by the Secretary of State for War?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

I am not aware of any statement contradicting the statement of the Secretary of State for War, which merely conveyed to the House the information he had received from the Chairman of the British Red Cross Society.

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

How was it that the situation in gard to parcels to prisoners of war completely changed in two days? On Thursday the Red Cross issued a statement in which they said that each prisoner would receive one parcel per week during February and March. Is my hon. Friend aware that relatives and friends of prisoners of war were frightened by the statement of the Secretary of State for War?

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

Does this not show that the liaison between the War Office and the Red Cross is by no means satisfactory, and cannot the arrangement be made at once for closer co-operation?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

The relations between the War Office and the Red Cross are close and cordial.

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

asked the Secretary of State for War what arrangements are being made for the provision of food and clothing parcels for the British, Australian and Indian prisoners taken in Malaya and Singapore?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

The consent of the Japanese Government is necessary before any parcel service to British prisoners in Japanese hands can be started. Active steps are being taken to secure this consent as quickly as possible.

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

Does not my hon. Friend agree that at a moment like this, when there are 60,000 or 70,000 new prisoners in the Far East, it is very wrong to change from one man to another, who cannot possibly have the foreign contacts or the business experience?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

It is not for the Government to concern themselves with the internal staff arrangements of an independent voluntary body. There is no reason to suppose that the organisation will be detrimentally affected by the change that has been made.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

Does my hon. Friend say that the relations between the Red Cross and the Government are so close when an important person who gave his services without pay to the Red Cross has to leave because he does not agree with the policy? Surely the Government ought to have something to say in the matter?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

The Red Cross should have something to say also.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

Do not Government realise that the House thinks it is a Government responsibility to look after these people?

Miss Ward:

Do the Government accept the responsibility?

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Lambeth Norwood

No, Sir, the Government do not accept responsibility for the services provided by the British Red Cross.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Does the hon. Gentleman say that the Government absolve themselves from responsibility for the care of prisoners of war?

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

I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.