HC Deb 26 May 1952 vol 501 cc919-24
10. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will inquire of the United Nations Organisation in how many camps North Korean and Chinese prisoners of war are confined; how many of these are on Koje Island; approximately what percentage of the prisoners in each of these camps are deemed to be pro-Communist and anti-Communist; what methods of screening have been used in order to ascertain the prisoners' views; to what extent they have been subjected to any process of re-education or indoctrination; and how soon he expects to receive the report of the Koje Island inquiry ordered by the United Nations Commander.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Until recently, apart from a hospital compound at Pusan, there was only one United Nations prisoner of war camp. This camp was situated on Koje Island and was divided into a very considerable number of compounds and sub-compounds. Approximately 132,000 prisoners of war and 37,000 civilian internees were confined to this camp. Of this number approximately 20,500 persons were Chinese and the balance Koreans.

In connection with the recent screening of prisoners of war carried out by the United Nations Command and the establishment of greater discipline in the compounds involved in the recent disorders, the United Nations Command is carrying out an extensive regrouping of prisoners as well as a movement from the Koje Island camp of those prisoners who were shown by the screening to be likely to object violently to repatriation.

Until these movements have been completed, it would not be practicable to attempt to give any details of the composition by nationality or Communist sentiment of individual compounds. As regards the re-education of prisoners, I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), on 20th May. I expect to receive soon the report ordered by the United Nations Commander on the Koje Island inquiry. but I cannot give an exact date.

Mr. Driberg

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether it is correct that any Chinese Nationalist officers from Formosa have been used in screening in these camps? Can he also say whether, now that British troops are taking a direct part in the control of the camps, Her Majesty's Government will have a more direct say than hitherto in their control and in this general question of handling prisoners of war?

Mr. Lloyd

In answer to the first part of the supplementary question I can say definitely—according to present information of Her Majesty's Government—that no Chinese Nationalist interpreters took any part in the main April screening. With regard to the second part of the supplementary question, it is correct that a company of one of Her Majesty's regiments has been ordered to Koje Island camp, and it may be that that will have the result which the hon. Gentleman wishes.

Mr. Beswick

Will the Minister recall the answer he gave to me last week on this point, in which he said that, according to his information, the majority of prisoners in this camp were violently pro-Communist, and when I asked him how he reconciled that answer with the statement made by the Foreign Secretary, he said that what he meant was that there were several camps on Koje Island but it was only in this particular camp that the majority of prisoners were violently pro-Communist? As the right hon. and learned Gentleman now says that there is only one camp on Koje Island, can he reconcile this answer with the one he gave last week?

Mr. Lloyd

The fault was entirely mine, and I apologise. The word I did not use was "compound." There is only one camp, but there are many compounds. I was referring to compounds when I gave my answer.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer in detail the part of my hon. Friend's Question which asks what methods of screening have been used and, when he does, will he also answer the question whether Her Majesty's Government are satisfied as to the legality of these screening operations?

Mr. Lloyd

So far as the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is concerned, I have nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend on 7th May, which dealt with that point. With regard to the second part of the supplementary question, I should like to see that on the Order Paper.

Mr. Donnelly

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that regrouping was taking place. Is not that an open admission of the fact that the previous screening was quite unsatisfactory?

Mr. Lloyd

No, nothing of the sort.

14. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will recommend to the United Nations that their negotiators in the truce talks in Korea should propose that the Communist authorities, after the signing of an armistice, should have facilities to send missions to the prisoner of war camps with the object of attempting to persuade those of their nationals, who at present refuse repatriation, to return home.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

An offer was submitted to the Communists on 28th April by the United Nations Command. This offer was that if they wished, they might verify the results of the screening processes after the armistice was signed. The offer went on to say that the Communists at that time could interview those persons held by the United Nations Command who had indicated that they would violently oppose being returned. If any indicated that they were not still so opposed, the United Nations Command would return them promptly to the Communists. The Communists have not so far accepted this offer.

Mr. Wyatt

I wonder if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would consider adding one more point to that offer, which would make it more like the arrangement made with the Russians at the end of the last war? At that time, their missions were allowed to remain permanently in the area of the camps and, under the supervision of British and American personnel, to interview those people who did not want to go back.

Mr. Lloyd

I think if this suggestion were to be accepted in principle, and an Armistice concluded, there would be no difficulty about making precise arrangements for these missions or for representatives, and I certainly should not rule out the suggestion which the hon. Member made.

Mr. Donnelly

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman seen the suggestion made in the leading article of "The Times" last Friday, in which it was suggested that a new kind of offer might be made to the Chinese in which they might help to draft some new questions and a re-screening process might take place? What has the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say about that very sensible suggestion put forward in a responsible organ?

Mr. Lloyd

This Question on the Order Paper relates to what should take place after the signing of an armistice.

26. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will inquire of the United Nations Organisation what were the nationalities of the impartial commission which screened the Korean prisoners of war on behalf of the United Nations Command; how many were in this commission; how long the task of screening took; and what alternatives were put to those prisoners who did not wish to be repatriated.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Further information has been received on this subject since 7th May when my right hon. Friend made his statement to the House.

Between 4th April, when the meetings on the prisoner of war question were temporarily recessed, and 19th April, when the round figure of 70,000 prisoners willing to be repatriated was given to the Communists, it was possible to screen about two-thirds of the total number of prisoners of war and civilian internees. The figure of 70,000 was inevitably an estimate, since individual screening was not attempted, and could not have been conducted without violence, in certain compounds predominantly occupied by hardened Communists. All prisoners in such compounds were included in the number to be repatriated. I have no information about the exact number of interrogators, but most of them were United States Army personnel. No Chinese Nationalist interpreters were used.

It was made clear to all prisoners interrogated that if they refused repatriation they might have to remain in South Korea long after those who chose repatriation had returned home, and that the United Nations Command could not undertake to send them to any given place after their release from camp.

Mr. Beswick

Does not the Minister now agree that his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was claiming too much for these figures when he put them forward in the House of Commons in the first place; and, in view of the fact that we now know it was neither a full nor a complete investigation, is it not a pity that these important figures were used by the United States authority for propaganda purposes to China; and has that not made it very difficult at the truce talks to get reasonable negotiations about them?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not agree with the hon. Member at all. So far as the prisoners who refuse to be repatriated are concerned, the screening was done, as my right hon. Friend said, with great care. It was only with regard to those to be repatriated that difficulty arose simply because the interpreters could not enter the compounds.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Were there any British representatives on this commission?

Mr. Lloyd

I am not sure to which commission the hon. Gentleman is referring.

Mr. Fletcher

The screening commission.

Mr. Lloyd

There were no British personnel, so far as I know; but I should like notice of that question.

Mrs. Castle

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the screening, revealed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's answer, does he not think it time to reconsider his refusal to send a British observer to Korea?.

Mr. Lloyd

I do not accept the fact that the screening was unsatisfactory. So far as those who wish not to be repatriated are concerned, we are quite satisfied that the screening was properly done. With regard to the 70,000 to be repatriated, it may be that the screening, in that case, was not too satisfactory, but that was solely due to the fact that the control of those particular compounds was in the hands of the Communists.

Several Hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker

This matter is being raised on the Adjournment.