HC Deb 12 February 1951 vol 484 cc25-6
46. Air Commodore Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been made to the Russian and Peking Governments regarding British prisoners-of-war taken prisoner in Korea.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Davies)

On 5th February the Soviet Government were requested to use their good offices to obtain permission for a delegation of the International Red Cross Committee to enter North Korea. The Soviet Government were also requested to explore with the North Korean authorities the possibility of transmitting relief supplies and correspondence to prisoners-of-war in North Korea. The Central People's Government are also aware of the efforts of the International Red Cross Committee to this end, and discussions, which at the moment do not involve His Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires, are now taking place in Peking.

Air Commodore Harvey

Does the Under-Secretary mean by that that no representations were made until 5th February? Will he confirm that the Allies have made available information about Chinese prisoners to the Chinese Government?

Mr. Davies

Representations were made prior to 5th February. Informal approaches were made, although the first officially to be made were made on 5th February.

Mr. Eric Fletcher

Can my hon. Friend say whether there is any news of British civilians in Korea, including our representative, Captain Holt?

Mr. Davies

That is another question, but I am glad to be able to inform the House that the Soviet Government have suggested that we should transmit a letter through them to Captain Holt. A letter has been sent, including a request that Captain Holt should endeavour to find out about Bishop Cooper and other British prisoners.

Mr. Henry Hopkinson

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether a request has been addressed to the Peking Government, or an assurance received from them, with regard to the application of the Geneva Convention to British prisoners-of-war captured by Chinese forces in Korea?

Mr. Davies

The Geneva Convention has not been accepted by the North Korean Government. They have indicated that they intend to abide by it, but we have no evidence that they are doing so.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Can my hon. Friend say how many British prisoners-of-war were voluntarily released by the Chinese authorities and sent back, and what proportion that number bears to the number of prisoners they took?

Mr. Davies

No, Sir. There have been reports of some releases, but I think that for further details a Question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend.

Captain Crookshank

Did I understand the hon. Gentleman aright—that this letter was being transmitted through the Soviet Government? If so, can he explain how their good offices have come into this matter?

Mr. Davies

Yes, Sir, because we were most anxious to find out any information we could about Captain Holt. We approached the Chinese Government and the Soviet Government, asking them to use their good offices, and I am glad to say that the Soviet Government are doing so.

Back to