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Prisoners Of War And Nationals (Exchange)

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 24 March 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the desire of the Japanese Government to arrange the exchange of two more batches of Japanese against Allied nationals held in Japan; and whether any negotiations are taking place on the subject?

As I informed my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) on 24th February, the Swiss Government, as the Protecting Power, have intimated to the Japanese Government the desire of His Majesty's Government to arrange further exchanges of British nationals in Japan and Japanese-occupied territories against Japanese held in the British Empire, but no reply has been received from the Japanese Government. The position has not changed since then, and His Majesty's Government are still hoping to hear that the Japanese Government reciprocate their desire to arrange further exchanges.

Will the right hon. Gentleman call for a copy of Reuter's message of 26th or 27th February, which states that it was announced in Tokyo that the Japanese Government desire to carry out the exchange as stated in the Question?

There is no need to call for a copy of the statement, because I have already seen it. The statement was certainly made in Tokyo, but no approach has been made to us by the Japanese, and, as I say, so far they have not replied to the representations that we have made to them through the Protecting Power.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in the arrangements made to exchange Royal Navy prisoners of war in Germany and Italy, the men who had been prisoners longest got priority; and whether a similar number will be taken from the Army prisoners of war in Germany and Italy?

The exchange to which my hon. Friend refers arose out of quite exceptional circumstances which are not likely to be repeated, and there is therefore no likelihood of any further exchange on these lines. Last summer His Majesty King Ibn Saud requested the Turkish Government to intervene with His Majesty's Government and the Italian Government in order to arrange by agreement the removal of some 800 Italian sailors who had been interned at Jedda, together with a small number of civilians by means of an exchange. We agreed to consider an exchange against a suitable number of British naval prisoners of war in Italian hands and to provide transport from Jedda. At that time it was understood that the total number of British naval personnel in Italian hands was less than the number of Italian naval refugees at Jedda. No question, therefore, arose of the length of captivity. When, subsequently, more British naval personnel were captured by the Italians it was felt to be inadvisable to make fresh conditions in order not to risk delay in reaching an agreement. It was also decided, in order to facilitate agreement, to offer to include some 40 Italian civilians, and also a smaller number of German civilians, mostly merchant seamen, who were also interned at Jedda, in exchange for an equivalent number of British. I am glad to be able to confirm that the exchange was completed at the Turkish port of Mersin on 21st March and to take this opportunity of publicly thanking the Turkish Government for the valuable help which they have given in this matter.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered one part of my Question. I asked whether the men who had been prisoners longest got priority.

I think I answered that. I explained that no question of priority arises in the circumstances.