HC Deb 18 June 1952 vol 502 cc1187-9
33. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make a further statement on the proposals for rescreening prisoners of war in Korea.

Mr. Eden

The United Nations offer of a further screening, which I described in my statement of 7th May, still stands. We are in constant touch with the United States and other interested Governments in order to try to find a way out of the present deadlock.

Mr. Henderson

In view of the widespread concern over the original screening, would not the right hon. Gentleman recommend that a rescreening should take place without delay on the basis that all prisoners of war—the 70,000 in question—should be repatriated at the proper time, except those who express the desire not to be returned for fear of political persecution?

Mr. Eden

I think I dealt with that in answer to a supplementary question by the right hon. and learned Gentleman last week. The position is that so far any question of rescreening has been rejected by the Communist authorities. As I said last week, if the only question were between rescreening now and after the armistice, I would personally be ready to agree to the rescreening now, but it would have to be on the understanding that the result of that rescreening would be accepted. These are matters which we are discussing with the United States Government, and they are somewhat delicate at this stage. Therefore, I hope that the House will not press me further at this time.

Mr. Chetwynd

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what are the objections to immediate rescreening, because in the opinion of most people this would facilitate further progress with the truce talks?

Mr. Eden

The difficulty at present is to secure an assurance from the Communist authorities that they would agree to accept the results of that rescreening. It is of no value to do it unless we get that assurance. We might even get it, but I should rather not go further at the moment.

35. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of the possible acceptability of representatives of India and of Pakistan by the Chinese Government, if Her Majesty's Government will consider proposing to the United Nations that representatives of the Indian and Pakistan Governments should take part in the rescreening of prisoners of war in Koje Island by non-participants in Korean military operations.

Mr. Eden

As I am in communication with the United States Government on the question of screening and cognate questions, I should prefer not to make a further statement on this topic at present.

Mr. Sorensen

While recognising the delicacy of these negotiations, can we at least have an assurance that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the value of the representatives of these two countries in view of their acceptability to China at the present time?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Member can be assured that I will bear this and a great many other questions in mind in these very difficult and delicate negotiations. I am not without hope that we may be able to make some progress.