asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what machinery exists whereby the applications of individual prisoners of war to return home early on compassionate grounds can be considered.
Prisoners' relatives may apply to the German local authorities for compassionate repatriation of prisoners. The local authorities, if they approve, forward the application through the occupying authorities to the German Section of my Department, which authorises the return home of those prisoners who have the most urgent compassionate grounds for repatriation, up to a total of 500 a month.
Can my right hon. Friend say how many applications have been granted, and whether this is widely known among prisoners of war and their relatives?
I have not the figures immediately available. Perhaps the hon. Member will put that down.
The right hon. Gentleman said that relatives of prisoners of war can apply; are we to infer that prisoners of war cannot apply?
I think my hon. Friend has misunderstood the answer The relatives of prisoners of war may apply. I will inquire whether prisoners of war may also apply.
Why is there this maximum figure of 500, when there are urgent pleas beyond that figure for repatriation which cannot be granted?
We have to provide transport, and we have a lot of administration to do in handling these cases. It is a pretty big task.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the procedure he has outlined is very slow moving indeed, and will he take some steps to try to speed up things in really compassionate cases?
I will look into that