Detainees' Letters to Members.

Oral Answers to Questions — Civil Defence. – in the House of Commons on 18th June 1942.

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Commander Bower:

asked the Home Secretary why two letters dated 25th and 31st May, respectively, and addressed to the hon. Member for Cleveland by Mr. A. Leuthardt, a detainee at Camp M, Peel, Isle of Man, were stopped by the camp police?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I have made inquiries and find that the question arising in this case was not whether the detainee should be allowed to write to my hon. and gallant Friend, but whether these two letters should be allowed as extra letters additional to the number which a detainee is normally allowed to write each week. The large number of letters written by some detainees—one man has sent 51 letters to Members of Parliament in the last three weeks—raised the question whether some limit ought not to be imposed, and the Camp Commandant took the view that having regard to the nature of these particular letters they ought not to be allowed as extra letters. I have now given instructions that no limit need be placed on the number of letters sent to Members of Parliament, and I am sending my hon. and gallant Friend copies of the letters in question.

Commander Bower:

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that on 18th November last the Prime Minister, in reply to a Question, gave an assurance to the House that detainees had the right of communicating with Members of Parliament, and that he regarded this as being sufficient to ensure that there was no abuse of the powers of my right hon. Friend under Regulation 18B? Surely communication with Members of Parliament must in all cases be unrestricted if it is to be any safeguard at all?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

That point comes in Question 46 on the Paper.

Commander Bower:

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that letters addressed to Members of Parliament by detainees at Camp M, Peel, Isle of Man, are being stopped by the police in charge of the camp; and, as the free right of communicating with Members of Parliament is a safeguard for the detainees against any possible abuse of the power of detention, will he move for a Select Committee to inquire into the reasons for these letters being stopped?

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the Answer already given to-day to Question No. 18 by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. In view of the explanation given by my right hon. Friend and of the instructions now issued, no useful purpose would, in my view, be served by setting up a committee such as is suggested.

Commander Bower:

Should not some form of inquiry be set up to find out why the police of this camp stop letters, in complete contradiction to the assurances given to this House by the Prime Minister on 18th November last? Surely, we ought to find out why that has happened. It is rather flouting the authority of this House.

Photo of Sir Stafford Cripps Sir Stafford Cripps , Bristol East

My hon. and gallant Friend will have heard from the Home Secretary that he has already made inquiries into the matter, and he has given the reasons. If my hon. and gallant Friend were aware of the contents of some of these letters, and of statements made as to the dishonest method of the British, and so on, he would no doubt feel that the matter had been properly inquired into and properly dealt with.

Photo of Mr Robert Morrison Mr Robert Morrison , Tottenham North

May I say that anything which can be done to diminish the number of circular letters sent to Members of Parliament will be appreciated?

Photo of Mr George Muff Mr George Muff , Kingston upon Hull East

Would it not be simpler if the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) went to live in the Isle of Man?