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Polish Nationals (Military Service)

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 30 June 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that many Polish nationals have already joined the Polish Forces reluctantly; and whether he will ask the Polish authorities to allow all those men who wish to do so to transfer freely to the British Forces?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall the previous statements made on this subject, the advertisements that have appeared and the threats of dire penalties to these people; and is he also aware that there was no time for them to make any choice in the matter, that news items prepared for the B.B.C. and the Press were deleted that night and these peoples, who, under a misapprehension, joined these Forces have no chance now of correcting that mistake?

No, Sir. I think my hon. Friend will realise that it is impossible for us to take any action of that kind. Under the Allied Forces Act these Governments have certain powers, and once men have joined their Forces it would be creating an impossible position if they were allowed to option out if they wished to do so.

Have not the different authorities used persuasive powers in many cases, and cannot the right hon. Gentleman use his persuasive powers where great injustice is being done to these people?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether steps are taken to inform these nationals and the nationals of other countries in similar positions that they have the right to join British Forces in preference, if they so desire?

The position has been made clear many times in this House by the publicity which attends the Business in this House, and it is also clear from the Act itself. I do not know what more I can do.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that it is not likely to make for military efficiency to have men in the British Forces whose knowledge of English may easily not be sufficiently thorough to enable them to understand orders fully?

Is it not the case that the call-up notices printed in many British newspapers informed those who were called up that, if they did not respond to the notice, they would be treated as deserters under the law of this country?

And does it not follow on the free option which this House wanted to give to these men that there has now been put upon it the limitation that, if they exercise the option to join our Forces, they may be shot by the Poles for doing so?

I do not accept at all what the hon. Gentleman has said. I have seen no notice whatever that if these men do not join Forces of their own nationals they will be liable to penalties under the law of this country.

I listened to the hon. Gentleman, and he said, "under the law of this country" quite distinctly. The hon. Gentleman made a mistake—I heard very clearly all he said—" under the law of this country." They are liable to penalties under the laws of their own country, and that is a matter which, obviously, I cannot control.