Oral Answers to Questions — British Prisoners of War

– in the House of Commons on 26th January 1943.

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Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

asked the Secretary of State for War the latest information with regard to the treatment of military prisoners of war in Hong Kong; whether there has been any improvement in the food supplied; whether they have any medical attendance and, if so, what; whether the International Red Cross, whose representative is allowed to visit civilian prison camps weekly, is still forbidden to visit the camps containing military prisoners of war; and what further action is being taken by the Government in the matter?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

It is believed that the majority of the prisoners of war have been transferred from Hong Kong, though it is probable that some 2,000 British and Canadian prisoners as well as some Indian prisoners, remain there. The International Red Cross Committee delegates reported favourably on the Hong Kong camps in October, 1942. Later information indicates a deterioration in the rations and considerable outbreaks of disease during last summer. It is understood that prisoners of war admitted to hospital receive adequate nursing, but medical treatment is hampered by a serious shortage of drugs and other medical requisites. The delegate of the International Red Cross Committee is allowed to visit the camps, but no further reports have been received. Should the International Red Cross Committee report that their delegate is being refused access to the camps, representations will be made to the Japanese Government; but no such communication has been made by the International Committee.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

With regard to the prisoners still there, is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the B.B.C. have for some time been receiving lists of British prisoners of war given out by the Japanese on short wave lengths every afternoon, and that when inquiries have been made at the Colonial Office they say that they know nothing of this matter, and could not some liaison between the B.B.C. and the Colonial Office be arranged?

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will examine, with the Secretary of State for Air, the possibility of bringing home prisoners of war, on the cessation of hostilities, by transport aircraft rather than by less expeditious means?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I can assure the hon. Member that it will be the object of the Government to repatriate our prisoners of war as quickly as practicable after the conclusion of hostilities. It is scarcely possible at present to say what ways and means will be available when that time comes.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that it is as necessary not to be caught unprepared by the end of the war in this as in other matters, and that the difference of even a few weeks in getting home will mean a lot to these men after their long and wearisome ordeal?

Photo of Mrs Mavis Tate Mrs Mavis Tate , Frome

Will the Minister bear in mind that if they waited to come home by British civil aircraft few of their relatives would live to see them?