HC Deb 27 April 1966 vol 727 cc672-3
3. Mr. Grant

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many British Service men died overseas in each of the last five years; and what is the estimated cost to public funds of returning their bodies to the United Kingdom.

The Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)

As the Answer contains a table of figures, I will with permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Grant

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the tragic circumstances of one of my constituents who had to spend his life savings to have the body of his son brought back from the West Indies? Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that, on 10th February, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army said that a review was taking place of this matter and that a statement would be made shortly? When is that review likely to be completed and the statement forthcoming? Will the hon. Gentleman consider this matter generously?

Mr. Mallalieu

The report will be out shortly and I will, of course, look at it with the greatest sympathy.

Following is the information:

In North-West Europe, from where we already have a scheme for repatriating the bodies of dead Service men if the relatives so wish, the numbers are:

1961 74
1962 99
1963 108
1964 106
1965 95

The total cost to public funds of bringing all these bodies home, at current rates, would be between £11,000 and £16,000 a year of which rather more than half is the cost of transport.

Outside North-West Europe, the numbers are:

1961 136
1962 132
1963 145
1964 147
1965 191

Assuming repatriation were feasible, the approximate cost for air transport alone, at current air freight rates, would be between £23,000 and £33,000 a year, and there would be other substantial costs, ranging up to £250 or more in each case.