HC Deb 10 February 1960 vol 617 cc433-4
3. Mr. Prentice

asked the Minister of Defence what grants are made towards the funeral expenses of members of the Forces who die while serving at home and overseas, respectively, in cases where the relatives prefer to make their own arrangements for the funeral; and whether he will take steps to increase these grants.

Mr. Watkinson

I would refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's reply to his Question on 3rd December, 1958, in which he explained the arrangements for paying grants in these cases. I do not consider any change is necessary.

Mr. Prentice

Is not this another matter which the Minister ought to consider to see whether some reform can be made? Is it not a fact that at present if a soldier or other member of the Forces dies overseas, and his parents want to bring the body home for burial, they have to meet practically the whole coast themselves? Is not this piling a financial crisis on top of all the other distress which they feel at that time? Should not something be done about it, both on humanitarian grounds and as sensible public relations for the Armed Forces?

Mr. Watkinson

The hon. Gentleman knows that one has the very greatest sympathy for parents or dependants in that position. This is a matter which has been considered a great many times, and one in which very large expenditure would be involved. It is, of course, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman understands, a long-standing custom that members of the Services who die overseas are buried in the area in which they die.

Mr. Strachey

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree—we have all had much experience of these very painful cases—that there is a case for reviewing the matter and ascertaining whether the grant could not be increased? After all, the principle which is involved is not new. I should have thought that rather larger generosity in expenditure on the part of the Government would, to put it at its lowest, pay very high dividends in good will in the Services.

Mr. Watkinson

I never refuse to look at anything if I am asked to do so by the House. However, I would make it plain that I do not think that anything will come from my looking at it again, because the potential expenditure is very large indeed.