HL Deb 22 January 2001 vol 621 cc4-5

2.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many British servicemen, believed to have become prisoners of war in the Korean war 1950–53, have not yet been accounted for.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, there were 82 British servicemen believed to have been prisoners of war but not repatriated following the armistice in July 1953. Eyewitness accounts from British or American personnel confirm that of these, 71 had died prior to July 1953. In a further nine cases, there is evidence to indicate that the individuals had also died but this has not been confirmed by such eyewitnesses. In the cases of the two remaining individuals, no report of death has been established but they are presumed dead.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. While it must be expected in war that a number of casualties will be missing, believed dead, will the Government make use of the new diplomatic relations with North Korea to pursue inquiries about those still unaccounted for who were believed to be prisoners of war, including, if possible, those who were captured by the Chinese forces?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, there are, sadly, in war always a number of individuals who go missing and of whom there is no account. We understand and have enormous sympathy with the anguish of families who go through that dreadful experience. We have in the past approached both the North Koreans and the Chinese in regard to what happened to such individuals. They may not necessarily have been prisoners of war; they may have been lost in action. It is indeed the Government's intention, following the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, to make a fresh approach on these issues.