HC Deb 19 May 1952 vol 501 cc10-2
16. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make inquiries of the United Nations Command in Korea concerning recent changes in the command of a camp in which a number of Chinese and North Koreans are held as prisoners of war, and the incidents that led to these changes; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The United Nations Commander has ordered an inquiry into recent events on Koje Island. I should prefer not to say anything until the results of this inquiry are known.

Mr. Driberg

Is it not very strange that there should be these riots and mutinies against their American captors among prisoners, such a large proportion of whom are said to be strongly pro-American and pro-United Nations and anxious to stay in the camp, or on this side anyway? Cannot the right hon. and learned Gentleman take this as a reason for asking permission to send a British delegation to investigate conditions there?

Mr. Lloyd

All I can say in answer to this question is that at the moment it would be very much better to await the result of the inquiry into the recent events; for example, my information is that the majority of the prisoners concerned are violently pro-Communist.

Mr. Donnelly

Is it not a fact that the allegation made in the question of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), which was repudiated a minute or so ago by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, was based on a statement by the United States Government; and what is he doing, in this fashion, by repudiating American statements?

Mr. Lloyd

I am not repudiating anything. I am simply saying: let us see what is the result of this court of inquiry; and I gave an example that my present information showed a difference, that most of the prisoners in these camps are Communists and not anti-Communists.

Mr. Beswick

Will not the Minister have great difficulty in reconciling the statement which he has just made, that the majority are violently pro-Communist, with the figures which his right hon. Friend gave last week to the effect that the majority were anti-Communist?

Mr. Lloyd

I am dealing now solely with Koje Island.

Mr. Beswick

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not understand that a large proportion of the total number of prisoners are pro-Communist?

Mr. S. Silverman

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that there is a very serious discrepancy between the statement he has made to the House and the statement made by the United States authorities to the Red Cross Commission, to which I referred in my previous supplementary question? All the statements which I set out in that question were derived, not from Communist sources but from facts admitted by the United States military authorities in the course of that inquiry to the Red Cross Commission, and if these facts are correct, how can it still be continued to be argued that the men concerned were not subjected to very great pressure or that their choice was a voluntary choice?

Mr. Lloyd

If I have given a false impression to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), may I point out that I did refer, in answer to a supplementary question, to Koje Island. There are various camps on Koje Island. and this question refers to a specific camp. It is with regard to this specific camp that our information is that the majority of prisoners are pro-Communist. In the light of the supplementary question of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), I still say that I think it better that we should not pursue this matter until the facts are established by the court of inquiry

Mr. Mayhew

While accepting what the Minister has said in interpreting his reply, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Government's general attitude on this question of prisoners of war. I beg to give notice that I shall raise it on the Adjournment.

Forward to