HC Deb 09 February 1944 vol 396 cc1739-40
1. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has approached the Government of Soviet Russia with a view to the enlistment of their good offices regarding prisoners of war in Japan.

8. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what neutral representatives are now allowed to visit prisoners of war in Japanese hands; under what circumstances they are permitted to make inquiries and give reports; whether the good offices of the Government of the U.S.S.R. have been sought in this respect; and the approximate number of prisoners of war who are receiving reasonable treatment.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

As I stated in the House on 28th January the Japanese Government have hitherto withheld permission for any neutral inspection of any prisoners of war camps in the southern area, where some nine-tenths of our prisoners are held, but they have allowed visits by neutral inspectors (though on a scale which we cannot regard as adequate) to camps in the northern area, where the remainder are interned. The inspectors are representatives of the Protecting Power or of the International Red Cross Committee. They can only make inquiries and give reports with the full knowledge and approval of the Japanese authorities. The approximate number of prisoners of war from the British Commonwealth who are in Japanese hands is estimated to be 140,000. As regards reasonable treatment, I regret that on the information at present in the Government's possession I cannot go beyond what I said in the earlier statement. The good offices of the Soviet Government have been sought, and have been forthcoming in connection with the despatch of prisoner of war correspondence and also the forwarding of relief supplies through their territory.

Sir A. Knox

Will my right hon. Friend assure us that he will continue to take every possible step to help our people out there?

Mr. Eden

I can gladly give that assurance. I only wish we could do more.

Mr. Sorensen

Has the right hon. Gentleman any information to show that our prisoners of war in the Southern part are now being transferred to the Northern part?

Mr. Eden

Perhaps the hon. Member will put that question down.

Mr. Shinwell

When the right hon. Gentleman said the Russian Government's good offices were forthcoming, did that mean they were doing everything possible in the matter?

Mr. Eden

I have described what they have done in respect of transmitting correspondence and forwarding relief supplies. Of course, our representations have to go through the Protecting Power.

Captain Gammans

Could not the Russian Government be asked to be Protecting Power so far as these prisoners are concerned?

Mr. Leach

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the total of 140,000, includes civilian prisoners and, if so, what are the respective numbers?

Mr. Eden

I cannot give the detailed figures without notice. If the hon. Member will put down a Question I will give him an answer.