HC Deb 02 April 1957 vol 568 cc213-5
15. Sir J. Smyth

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will state the names of those who have been invited or are being invited to attend the unveiling of the Dunkirk War Memorial in June; and whether they will have to pay their own expenses, or whether this will be done by the Government.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Hare)

These names have not yet been decided upon. Official representatives nominated by the three Services and the Merchant Navy will have their expenses paid by the sponsoring Departments. Special arrangements for cheap fares are being made by the Imperial War Graves Commission for relatives and regimental representatives attending the unveiling.

Sir J. Smyth

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, but will he realise that it will bring cold comfort to the Far Eastern ex-prisoners of war, whose simple request to he allowed to send one representative to represent officially the relatives and survivors at the unveiling of the Singapore War Memorial was refused, as a result of which ten women representatives struggled out at their own expense, in direct contrast to the contingent of Australian sponsored relatives, all of whose expenses were paid? Also will my right hon. Friend realise that there is a great deal of feeling about this, both here and in Singapore, and will he try to repay the out-of-pocket expenses of these unfortunate women?

Mr. Hare

I certainly have sympathy with what my hon. and gallant Friend says, but our general rule is that public funds should not be used to pay for the attendance of representatives unless at the same time we can make arrangements for relatives to attend.

Sir J. Smyth

Does my right hon. Friend realise that I have had letters from Singapore referring to the very inept and unsympathetic handling of this matter of the unveiling of the Singapore War Memorial, particularly the fact that each of these ten women, with one of whom I have been talking today, is at least £100 to £150 out of pocket as a result of the fact that no arrangements were made for them, whereas the Australian Government made appropriate arrangements and sponsored and paid for the whole of the Australian party?

Mr. Hare

I have just told my hon. and gallant Friend what the general rule is. If he cares to send me particulars, I will naturally consider the matter.

Mr. Shinwell

As this is a very important and historic occasion, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter? Can he say what the expense would be? If it is not substantial, could not the Government and the country afford it?

Mr. Hare

My hon. and gallant Friend was talking about the unveiling at Singapore. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is talking about Dunkirk. The Question is about Dunkirk. I have said that representatives of the three Services and the Merchant Navy are going and special arrangements are being made for cheap fares for relatives to go there.

Major Beamish

When the Taukkyan Cemetery, just outside Rangoon, is un-veiled in the spring of next year, will my right hon. Friend try to be at least as generous in helping guests as he is being over Dunkirk?

Mr. Speaker

That is another question.