HC Deb 01 March 1944 vol 397 cc1395-7
3. Sir John Wardlaw-Milne

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether a neutral commission to examine Japanese camps for prisoners of war and civilians has been proposed and definitely refused by the Japanese Government.

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

Representations have repeatedly been made to the Japanese Government for permission for representatives of the Protecting Power and of the International Red Cross Committee to visit all internment camps in Japanese and Japanese-occupied territories wherever they may be. As I told the House in the statement which I made on 28th January, the Japanese Government has hitherto refused permission to visit camps in the Southern occupied territories in which, as I pointed out, perhaps 80 to 90 per cent. of all our prisoners of war and civilian internees are confined.

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

May I ask whether it is the case—as I suppose it is—that my right hon. Friend is still pressing the Japanese Government in this matter, as there is much distress in this country about the position of these prisoners of war?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. We have been in constant communication about it; in fact, the latest communication I sent to the Protecting Power was on 26th January last.

Mr. Sorensen

Does the right hon. Gentleman know whether the Vatican representatives have been in contact with Japan, regarding the Southern camps? If so, can he give us any information in regard to their report?

Mr. Eden

I shall be grateful if my hon. Friend will give me notice of that question. The Vatican do keep us fully informed of their activities, but I would not like to give an answer without consideration.

Mr. Tinker

Has there been any refusal on the part of the Japanese to improve matters? Do they give any reason at all for the present state of affairs?

Mr. Eden

No reason which I think anybody would regard as satisfactory.

Mr. Mathers

Has there been any reaction from the Japanese, to the world exposure of the position?

Mr. Eden

Perhaps my hon. Friend would put that Question down, as I would rather not give an answer without notice.

38. Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

asked the Secretary of State for War if he can make a statement regarding the Red Cross conference in America to which Sir Ernest Burdon, Deputy Chairman of the War Organisation of the Red Cross, recently led a mission.

The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Arthur Henderson)

As the answer is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

I would refer my hon. Friend to the full statement on this subject which my right hon. Friend made on 19th October last in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for High Wycombe (Sir A. Knox). The British Red Cross Mission continued active discussions with the American and Canadian Red Cross Societies leading up to the final Session of the Conference on 1st December. This Session, which was attended by representatives of the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India, gave formal approval to joint action by the Red Cross Societies of the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada to secure a regular and common service of relief supplies for all prisoners of war and civilian internees in the Far East, belonging to the United States, the British Commonwealth of Nations or the Netherlands.

Following this meeting, Sir Ernest Bur-don returned to London and resumed his duties as Deputy Chairman of the War Organisation, his place at the Head of the British Red Cross Mission in Washington being taken by Sir Kerr Fraser-Tytler, who had arrived from England at the end of November. The work of the Conference has been followed by a continuous exchange of information and ideas between the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross Mission (whose offices are in the American Red Cross Headquarters) and the Canadian Red Cross; and I am assured that the collaboration which has been established is of the closest. The British Red Cross Mission visits Canada from time to time for discussions with the Canadian Government as well as the Canadian Red Cross. The permanent machinery set up in Washington ensures that any and every opportunity which may offer for the despatch of relief supplies to the Far East will be used to bring the maximum benefit to prisoners and internees.

My hon. Friend knows, however, that the work of the Red Cross Societies cannot become effective, so far as the prisoners and internees are concerned, unless the Japanese Government will permit facilities for the transport and distribution of relief supplies; but, despite all our efforts, those facilities are still withheld, except on the comparatively rare occasions when diplomatic or civilian exchange ships sail.