HC Deb 27 March 1945 vol 409 cc1295-7
25. Major Mills

asked the Secretary of State far War for what period the allot- ment and allowances now being paid to the dependants of officers and men still missing in the Far East will be continued.

Sir J. Griģģ

I will, with permission, make a statement after Questions.

Following is the statement:

When a soldier is reported missing the general rule is that missing allowances equivalent to the family or dependants' allowances, allotments of pay, whether qualifying, contributory or voluntary, and war service grants in issue are continued for 26 weeks from the date his relatives are informed he is missing, provided he continues to be recorded as missing. The period is related to the maximum time which experience shows is taken by enemy Governments in communicating the names of missing soldiers who may be prisoners of war in their hands. Missing allowances, broadly on similar lines, are issued in respect of missing officers.

At the end of the period a continuing allowance is normally payable, for so long as the officer or soldier remains missing. This allowance is the same in amount as the pension which would be payable if he were dead.

Owing to the extreme delays on the part of the Japanese authorities in notifying the names of prisoners of war in their detention, extensions of the above period have been approved from time to time in the absence of news of the Far East missing. Missing allowances were, however, terminated in May, 1943, in respect of men still recorded as missing at Hong Kong and continuing allowances substituted, because it had to be assumed that the majority of those still missing at Hong Kong were no longer alive.

The position of men missing in other parts of the Far East has recently been carefully reviewed in the light of all available evidence as to their fate. The records show that by far the greater number of those who became missing in the fighting in and around Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies in 1942, and Burma before 1st November, 1942, are now reported as prisoners, either as a result of official notification from- the Japanese or of communications received from the men themselves. The Government have, therefore, been forced to the conclusion that, in view of this position and of the lapse of time since the men were originally reported as missing, it is unhappily now unlikely that any considerable number of those still missing will be found to be prisoners.

In these circumstances it has been decided that the allowances in issue in respect of those still missing from the campaigns mentioned should cease after 31st July next. For other ranks, allowances will cease at the end of the pay week which includes the 31st July; for officers they will cease with effect from 1st August, 1945. Continuing allowances will then, in accordance with the usual rules, be payable. This change does not mean that the death of the missing man has been presumed or that endeavours to obtain evidence of his fate will cease from that date. In each case where death is officially presumed, a separate communication is made to the next-of-kin. Provision has been made for special continuing allowances to be paid to those families who are necessarily detained in certain areas overseas where expenses are higher than in this country. As regards those missing from operations after 1st November, 1942, missing allowances have already been extended, but at present not beyond 31st July, 1945. These cases will be reviewed before that date. All these arrangements apply equally to Naval and Air Force missing.