asked the Secretary of State for War whether German prisoners are allowed a cigarette ration; if so, how many; and whether he has made inquiries to ensure that this does not contribute to the shortage in this country.
German prisoners are not given any cigarettes free. If they have enough credit they may buy up to 50 a week in their canteens at the normal commercial prices. If each one buys his full amount the total number of cigarettes involved is, I am informed, considerably less than half of one per cent. of the cigarettes smoked by civilians.
asked the Secretary of State for War, if, in view of the imminent necessity for reductions in the civilian food rations, he has any further statement to make regarding the rations to be issued to German prisoners of war in future; and how they will compare with civilian rations.
In view of misunderstandings which are still prevalent I should like to repeat what I have already stated more than once in this House—that non-working German prisoners of war have never received more of the nationally rationed items of food than civilians in this country. But in view of the world wide shortage of food it has been decided that the normal scale for these prisoners held by His Majesty's Government must be further reduced, and instructions have been issued for a new scale providing approximately 2,000 calories of all items, that is irrespective of whether they are rationed for civilians in this country or not. Two thousand calories is, of course, substantially less than the average civilian consumption in this country. Suitable additions of non-rationed foods, mainly bread and potatoes, will be made to cover the minimum extra needs of working prisoners, but otherwise they will receive the same scale as non-working prisoners.
Will the right hon. Gentleman publish figures showing the difference between the civilian rations and the rations issued to prisoners of war; and will he ensure that certain commodities such as rice which are unobtainable, are made available for civilians, because there is a great deal of feeling about it?
I do not think I can answer without notice the second part of my hon. and gallant Friend's supplementary question, but I will certainly consider publishing the comparative ration scales now prevailing.
May I ask when these reductions will be brought about, in view of the reduction of the civilian ration which took place a few days ago?
The instructions have already been issued.
Cannot the Secretary of State for War ask the very large number of public relations officers in his Department to get busy with the newspapers, in order that Members of Parliament might be saved the necessity of answering a very large correspondence on this subject?
I will certainly consider that suggestion, but I would like to add, as a sort of codicil to my hon. Friend's question, that there are none so blind as those who will not see.
Is my right hon. Friend not aware that all Members of Parliament are receiving a large number of letters on this subject, because his Department has failed to make the matter clear to the general public?
My answer was intended to apply to certain newspapers, which continue to disseminate inaccurate information in spite of the fact that the truth has been made clear over and over again.
Does not the Secretary of State for War think that a little courtesy would be much better?
Will not the Minister make it clear that his remarks do not apply to—[Interruption.]
May I ask whether the Minister was referring to the newspaper of Lord Beaverbrook, one of his colleagues in the Government?
I was not referring to the Press generally but to some elements of it.