HC Deb 07 December 1943 vol 395 cc765-7
27. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give a Report on the condition and treatment of the British men and women who are war prisoners of the Japanese; what recent action has been taken to try and make arrangements for the prisoners to receive parcels and to improve the postal service; and has a full list now been received of the British prisoners of the Japanese?

28. Mr. Burke

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that there is a shortage of drugs and medical supplies for prisoners of war in the Far East; that many relatives have received only one postcard in nearly two years; and can he take any action to improve the lot of the prisoners and ease the minds of relatives?

Sir J. Grigg

I am aware of the general anxiety about these matters, which I fully share. I very much regret, however, that there is nothing which I can at present add to previous replies.

Mr. Smith

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that all steps possible have been taken through neutral sources to bring about a change of the right type?

Sir J. Grigg

I can assure the House that I have satisfied myself that all possible steps open to us are being taken. The only indubitably successful step is to beat the Japanese, who have little right to be a civilised nation.

Mr. Burke

Has the right hon. Gentleman a special department which is constantly looking after this particular problem?

Sir J. Grigg

Yes, Sir, indeed I have.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the relations of prisoners of war in Japanese hands need to be satisfied that His Majesty's Government are doing everything that is absolutely possible, and will he consider making an announcement which will give greater publicity on this matter?

Sir J. Grigg

I will consider that. I have certainly dealt with this matter at very great length in this House, but I will consider whether it is possible to give wider publicity to the answer which has been given.

Sir Joseph Lamb

Can we be assured that the other members of the Allies are making equal representations, not only to Japan, but also to the other nations?

Sir J. Grigg

If I understand my hon. Friend's question aright, I can assure him that there is the completest collaboration in this matter between us and our Allies.

Mr. Bowles

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall that in the last war there was a Minister whose job was exclusively that of looking after prisoners of war?

Sir J. Grigg

Yes, Sir, and I recall also that through Allied or neutral countries there were means of getting into communication with the places where our prisoners were confined. We were not fighting a nation which has been so completely impervious to the ordinary requirements of civilised practices as the Japanese.

Captain Gammans

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a statement was recently made that the reason why the Japanese would not allow the Red Cross to operate was a suggestion that they had something to hide? Has he considered the effect of a statement of that sort upon relatives of men in this country? Therefore, would he consider issuing a general statement from one Department of the Government only on the condition of these camps as information is received?

Sir J. Grigg

I will certainly consider that and consult my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary about it.

Sir J. Lamb

May we assume from what the Minister has said that Russia is looked upon as neutral in this connection and has taken what steps she could?