HC Deb 21 March 1945 vol 409 cc783-4
1. Mr. Touche

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that there was a delay of some weeks before relatives in this country could obtain information regarding the names of British subjects released in the Philippines; and whether, in view of the anxiety caused to the relatives of such persons, steps can be taken to expedite the transmission of future lists of British subjects who may be released from other countries or colonies.

The Minister of State (Mr. Richard Law)

As the liberation of territory is usually accompanied by military operations, I regret that no guarantee can be given that arrangements could be made under which information regarding British subjects would become available earlier than in the case of the Philippine Islands. The internment camp at Santo Tomas University was reported to have been reached by the United States forces on 3rd-4th February, but the first partial list of British subjects released from this camp was not received in London until 20th February. Further lists have been coming in since and the information contained in them passed on to relatives as soon as possible. Every endeavour will, of course, be made to obtain and furnish all information about released British subjects at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. McGovern

Could the right hon. Gentleman make some statement in order to allay the fears of the relatives of people who are prisoners of war in the Far East and discourage any feeling there may be among them that the Government are not doing anything like enough to get proper information?

Mr. Law

I am fully aware that there is acute anxiety on the part of relatives of prisoners of war in the Far East, and I can well understand that anxiety, but I assure the hon. Member that we do pass on information as quickly as we get it and that we are doing everything that lies in our power to allay the anxiety; it is not much, because the anxiety is natural and inevitable.

Mr. Silverman

Has the right hon. Gentleman any information he can give the House and the country about the loss of British prisoners of war when a Japanese ship transporting them from Thailand to Japan was sunk by submarine or aircraft? I understand that certain information has been sent to some relatives. Can the right hon. Gentleman make any statement?

Mr. Law

I am afraid I cannot make a statement now. That is clearly another question.