Oral Answers to Questions — British Prisoners of War.

– in the House of Commons on 2nd June 1942.

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Miss Ward:

asked the Secretary" of State for War (1) to what extent, and in what way, his Department was connected with the decision to buy food from the American Continent to provide the parcels for prisoners of war;

(2) what part his Department played in the taking of the decision to use the reserve of parcels at Geneva, to bridge the gap to prisoners of war, when the change-over from supply from this country to the United States of America took place; and whether the War Office was a party to deciding the number of parcels to be packed here and the number from the American Continent?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I am not quite clear exactly what information the hon. Member requires. I understand, however, that I am to have the pleasure of a visit from her on Friday, when I shall be glad to place before her all the information at the disposal of the War Office. If after that she cares to repeat her Questions in more precise terms, I shall be glad to answer them.

Miss Ward:

While appreciating that reply, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will disclose all the private information at that interview?

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

Are they going to have a cup of tea together?

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

Why should there be any secret in this matter? Why cannot the whole House be told?

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

asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent a reorganisation of the Prisoners' Medical Comforts Department of the Red Cross is in contemplation, and what form these changes will take?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I am informed that there has been no reorganisation of the Department, but I understand that the nature and number of parcels to be despatched by it has recently been reviewed in the light of experience and certain improvements have been adopted.

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

Is there any truth in the report that this organisation is to be handed over to a private firm to carry out the work more efficiently?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

No, Sir, but a certain amount of extra packing which is involved in the improvement will be given to a private firm.

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

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that British prisoners of war in Stalag VIII B had received no parcels during the six weeks previous to 12th April and that they then only got one parcel to 11 men; also that parcels sent by next-of-kin in October had not reached the camp up till 12th April; and if he will make inquiries?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I cannot confirm the details given in the first part of the Question; but my hon. and gallant Friend will be glad to learn that in addition to a number of standard food parcels, the Red Cross Society despatched to this camp from Geneva, between the middle of February and the middle of April, four consignments of food in bulk approximately equivalent to four parcels a head, and that receipts for the first two consignments are known to have reached Geneva. As to the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General to his Question on 13th May.

Miss Ward:

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the shortage of parcels now being delivered to prisoners of war from the three Services, he will inquire whether it would not be more appropriate to have an Inter-Departmental Committee appointed responsible to the Foreign Office?

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Art-lee):

No, Sir. This matter has been very fully dealt with in the answer which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Membed for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) on the 5th November, 1940, and in the statement circulated by the then Secretary of State for War on 14th October, 1941. The recent temporary shortage of parcels was explained in an answer given on 17th February last.

Miss Ward:

In view of the fact that the next of kin have lost faith in the War Office and that in particular no statement as to Mr. Stanley Adams's resignation has yet been made, which appears to be due to the Secretary of State for War, will the right hon. Gentleman kindly look into the matter himself?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

Perhaps the hon. Lady will take that matter up with the Secretary of State for War if she has a particular complaint against him.

Miss Ward:

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my Question is directed to him? Have the Government ceased to have any interest in the prisoners of war?

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

Was not the Department more smoothly run in the last war, when it was under the Foreign Office?