HC Deb 05 May 1952 vol 500 cc12-4
24. Mr. Christopher Mayhew

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the Korean armistice talks.

27. Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what are the issues which still divide the United Nations representatives and the Communists in the cease-fire talks in Korea.

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

Agreement has still to be reached on the following questions: (i) the right of prisoners of war to choose whether or not they wish to be repatriated; (ii) the repair and construction of military airfields after an armistice; (iii) the nomination by either side of nations neutral in the Korean conflict to provide inspection teams. On 28th April, at a closed session of the plenary delegations, the United Nations Command submitted proposals for a general settlement of the outstanding points of difference. These proposals are still under discussion at further closed sessions of the plenary delegations. The House will understand that I cannot say more while the closed sessions are in progress.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there may be some disappointment at his statement in the light of other statements which he has recently made about these talks? Can he tell the House, in respect of this compulsory repatriation of prisoners, what action is being taken to sort out those prisoners who refuse repatriation because they are genuinely afraid of reprisals and other prisoners who refuse repatriation because of better living standards in the south or because of exaggerated propaganda?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Gentleman can be assured that the greatest possible care is being taken in this matter, but I obviously cannot give a detailed reply while this is actually a subject of confidential discussions between the two sides engaged in the armistice discussions.

Mr. Mayhew

That is quite understood, but the point I mentioned may be the key point to the successful conclusion of these negotiations. There is nothing secret about it, there is nothing to be negotiated. The point is, what action is being taken by the United Nations, by the kind of measures I suggested, to increase the number of men who are prepared to be repatriated?

Mr. Eden

What I can assure the House and will assure the House in greater detail later, is that immense care has been taken to ensure that tliis inquiry into who wants to go back and who does not is very fairly, fully and properly carried out. Beyond that, I cannot go.

Mr. Shinwell

Does the right hon. Gentleman not appreciate that these talks have gone on for a long time, that it looks as if they will be unduly prolonged, and would it be useful, in order to remove the disquiet which I believe exists in all quarters in this House and elsewhere, if the right hon. Gentleman made a full statement on the whole position? While I understand the difficulty about the confidential talks, if they are to go on for a long time, the misunderstanding will continue.

Mr. Eden

So far as I am aware, I do not know of any misunderstanding as to the details, but the position is that at this moment plenary discussions are going on of a confidential nature between the two sides, and clearly neither I nor any other representative of the United Nations' Governments can make a statement while those discussions are proceeding. The moment they are terminated and the moment I can do so, the right hon. Gentleman may be assured that I will make the fullest statement to the House.

Sir T. Moore

Following the question of the right hon. Gentleman, may I ask my right hon. Friend in all seriousness when this farce is to be brought to an end. Is it not really a screen behind which Communist forces are being mounted up and added to while ours—those of the United Nations—remain static?

Mr. Eden

I hope that the House will not express views either one way or the other at this time. There is still an opportunity for an arrangement to be arrived at, and as Foreign Secretary I shall not say anything that may make that less likely.