HC Deb 25 October 1954 vol 531 cc1586-8
30. Colonel J. H. Harrison

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will make a further statement about the distribution of Japanese assets in the United Kingdom and of the United Kingdom share from the sale of the Burma-Siam Railway.

Mr. Peake

I am glad to say that we have received substantially more than we expected from the realisation of Japanese assets in this country under Article 14 of the Peace Treaty. This enables us to increase the final payment forecast in July from £20 to £28 a head. Taking into account the first distribution of £15, all those qualified to take part in the distribution of this money will, therefore, receive a total sum of £43. Service men will also get a further sum out of the money received from the Burma-Siam Railway, which will bring their total payment up to £46.

We want to complete the distribution of this money as soon as possible. I therefore appeal to any ex-Japanese prisoner-of-war or internee who has neither received a payment nor applied for one to write to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance at Thames House South, Millbank, London, S.W.1, for an application form as soon as possible. Applications received after 31st March, 1955, may have to be excluded from the distribution.

There are still some outstanding matters connected with the realisation of the assets, and until these are cleared up and we know the total number of eligible claimants we cannot say exactly how the fund will turn out. We propose that any, surplus which remains after this final distribution has been made should be made available for the welfare of former Japanese prisoners-of-war and internees and their dependants through the King's Fund and benevolent funds specially concerned with their interests.

Colonel Harrison

As one who is personally interested in this matter, I should like to thank my right hon. Friend for all the time he has spent on this question and the very happy outcome. I am sure that those who receive the money, whether dependants or the men themselves, would be extremely glad if they could receive it before Christmas, as happened with the first distribution. Would it not be particularly useful to those men who have no pensions but who lose an odd day's work through recurring illnesses contracted at that time?

Mr. Peake

It may be that we may be able to get these payments actually made before Christmas.

Mr. Lawson

What arrangements are being made for those ex-prisoners-of-war who have emigrated?

Mr. Peake

I have been able to extend the category of recipients to include those who have emigrated since the end of the war.

Sir D. Savory

How far do these additional payments meet the very legitimate claims of those men who suffered so much in Japanese prisons?

Mr. Peake

Of course one cannot possibly begin to assess the suffering and hardship in terms of cash payments. I simply regard this as a token of what I think is due to these men for what they underwent in Japanese hands.

Mr. Bottomley

While recognising that a time limit must be set, will the Minister reconsider March, 1955, because in some cases of exceptional circumstances the men might not have an opportunity of making a claim before that time?

Mr. Peake

Certainly we shall in exceptional circumstances, but we want to get in as many claims as possible by the end of March.

Mr. Burden

Can we have an assurance that steps will be taken to ensure that an equally successful conclusion will be brought about in regard to Article 16?

Mr. Peake

That rests more with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs than it does with me.

Mr. I. O. Thomas

The Minister mentioned certain dependants of men who were prisoners-of-war, and I presume he means by that dependants of men who died while in Japanese hands. Has he considered the cases of men reported missing and whose dependants feel that they probably fell into Japanese hands though there is no record of them as prisoners-of-war? Will he give consideration to such cases?

Mr. Peake

Perhaps I might be allowed to consider that rather complicated point and write to the hon. Gentleman.

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