HC Deb 01 December 1952 vol 508 cc1077-8
5. Mr. Leather

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why no claim was made against the Japanese Government on behalf of the ex-Far East prisoners of war.

Mr. Nutting

Under Article 14 of the Peace Treaty with Japan the proceeds of Japanese assets in the United Kingdom are being distributed for the benefit of former British prisoners of war and civilian internees. Under Article 16, Japan will transfer assets in neutral and ex-enemy countries to the International Committee of the Red Cross for distribution as the committee may decide to former prisoners of war and their families. Under the Peace Treaty, the Allied Powers waived all reparations claims.

I understand that in agreeing to this decision, the late Government accepted that the state of the Japanese economy rendered the exaction of reparations impracticable.

Mr. Leather

While thanking my hon. Friend for clarifying this point, may I ask him whether it is not a fact that the present very unsatisfactory position regarding payment to ex-prisoners of war is entirely the result of the arrangement which was concluded by the previous Government?

Mr. Nutting

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Younger

While not expecting the hon. Gentleman to take responsibility for what was negotiated in the time of the then Government, may I ask whether he would not agree that the matter was very fully debated in this House in the summer of last year, before the Treaty was signed? Will he not direct the attention of his hon. Friend to the debate in which, as the hon. Gentleman will see, it was clearly shown to be a matter of the greatest difficulty to make funds available, not only from assets in this country but also from neutral assets; and to the point that there would have been very strong objection not only from the United States but from a number of Asian countries had there been an attempt to get a larger sum from other Japanese sources?

Mr. Nutting

I have no doubt that my hon. Friend has noted the comment made by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. J. Hynd

Does the acceptance by the hon. Gentleman of the words "unsatisfactory … arrangement … concluded by the previous Government" mean that the present Government would be in favour of a policy of reparations from Japan?

Mr. Nutting

I have not accepted any part of the supplementary questions of either the right hon. Gentleman or of my hon. Friend, beyond that in which it was said that the responsibility for negotiating the Japanese Peace Treaty lay with the late Government.