§ 93. Mr. William Teeling
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why British subjects, interned in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation, and whose sole means of livelihood was lost at that time, are required by the British Government to pay back to them any debts incurred for their upkeep; and whether he will consider making Japan pay these sums instead.
The Japanese authorities bore the cost of maintenance for the internees, although, I am sorry to say, at a pitiful level. To supplement this low standard, His Majesty's Government arranged for the supply of extra comforts by the International Red Cross Society, for the payment of pocket money, and the provision of medical treatment and the like by the Protecting Power. For all of this His Majesty's Government have claimed repayment from each of the internees at the rate of only £2 a month, a small fraction of the cost. Even these claims for repayment are not pressed if hardship would result, but it must be borne in mind that many of the internees were employees of substantial British firms and continued to draw salaries throughout their internment. Such persons are usually only too glad to pay.
§ Mr. Teeling
While fully realising that that is the case of the employees of large companies—I understand some have paid —may I ask if the hon. Gentleman is aware that there were many Government employees, and people of that kind, who really have not got the money and are now practically starving?
I have already pointed out, and I will repeat it, that I will be glad to consider any individual case where there is undue hardship. The Treasury have not been at all adamant.
§ Mr. Gammans
What is the justification for treating these people less generously than British subjects were treated in, say, Singapore or any British Colony, in view of the fact that it was very largely as a result of these people's work that a vast amount of wealth came to this country before the war?
I do not accept that there is less generous treatment. In fact, no actual bill has been rendered. There was a token payment in cases where possible, for additional comforts other than supplementary rations.
His Majesty's Government have not lost sight of that possibility. That is being pursued. Of course, that would not necessarily affect the accounts between these individuals and His Majesty's Government.