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Prisoners Of War (Exchange)

Volume 395: debated on Wednesday 1 December 1943

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6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any inquiries have yet been made by the International Red Cross with regard to the exchange of a certain number of prisoners of war to neutral countries, more particularly those who have been in captivity a long time?

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is considered possible now to open negotiations through the Protecting Power for the transfer to a neutral country of prisoners of war who have been a long time in captivity?

A suggestion for the accommodation in a neutral country of prisoners of war who have been in captivity for a long time has been received from the International Red Cross Committee. This suggestion is under consideration, but the matter is one of some complexity, and it may well be that direct repatriation would be preferable to accommodation in a neutral country. The question clearly requires very careful consideration, but the importance of the matter is fully realised and a decision will be taken as soon as possible.

Is the Minister aware that in the last war when an agreement was made an arrangement was come to by which all prisoners undergoing punitive imprisonment for attempts to escape should be released from their cells within two months, and their sentences reviewed after the war? Will he see whether similar arrangements could be made now as there are prisoners undergoing long detention for attempts to escape?

The supplementary does not arise out of the Question on the Paper, but that matter will be considered.

In view of the reply that this matter requires consideration, would the right hon. Member take into consideration the fact that it has been raised repeatedly in the last two years, and surely the Government in that time ought to have been able to make up their mind as to the best course of action?

It was considered that it would be much better to conclude the negotiations for the return of prisoners of war who were seriously sick and wounded. Now that they are out of the way and fortunately a substantial number have returned to this country, we can now give attention to the Question on the Order Paper.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the matter is pushed on, as there is great anxiety about it?