Skip to main content

Prisoners Of War And Missing (Far East)

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a comprehensive statement regarding men previously situate in Malaya, Java, Hong Kong and Singapore, and now missing, giving the fullest information for the enlightenment of relatives whose long anxiety is deserving of all possible relief?

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any further statement to make regarding allowances to the dependants of officers and other ranks reported missing in the Far East?

In cases where the fate of individuals is known, the next-of-kin are of course informed. The Japanese Government are very slow in notifying the names of prisoners of war in the Far East and the number of individuals notified forms only a proportion of the total number who were originally missing. I am well aware of the strain and anxiety of the relatives of those whose fate is not yet known, and have from time to time given information in this House and to the Press, as to the position of prisoners of war in the Far East, so far as this is known. Definite news has now been received regarding nearly 95 per cent. of those originally reported missing at Hong Kong and I am afraid that in the case of the remaining comparatively few cases there is a strong presumption that they are dead. I do not therefore think that it is justifiable to continue indefinitely in these cases the special extension of allowances which is at present due to expire on the 31st March. In order to give notice of the change the allowances will continue for another month after that date, i.e., up to 30th April. Thereafter continuing allowances at pension rates will be issued where admissible.

Definite news is still lacking about the great majority of personnel missing in other Far Eastern theatres of war. While this continues the position of the allowances for their wives and dependants will be kept under review, but will continue at any rate for the period mentioned in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher) on 9th February, i.e., for 16 months from the date the relatives were notified that the man was missing, or to the 30th September, 1943, whichever is the earlier, unless, in any particular case, other news is received in the meantime.

As regards the welfare of the prisoners their situation has been to some extent improved through the arrival in the camps of relief supplies sent by the British and Dominions Red Cross Societies. Efforts are being continued through the International Red Cross Committee to provide additional supplies of medicines and comforts. In view of the continued refusal of the Japanese Government to permit visits to camps in these territories and in view of the drastic restrictions imposed by them on the small volume of correspondence so far received there is little reliable information about conditions in the camps. Broadcasts are frequently made by prisoners in Java but they can of course only say what the Japanese wish us to hear.