HC Deb 25 July 1951 vol 491 cc51-3W
Mr. J. Hynd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is in a position to make a further statement on the compensation under the terms of the draft treaty of peace with Japan, of former prisoners-of-war and internees in Japanese hands.

Mr. H. Morrison

The draft peace treaty gives each of the Allies the right to seize all Japanese assets within its territory subject to certain exceptions. In the United Kingdom the total net value of these assets is estimated at about £1,250,000; but, owing to the delays inevitable in the liquidation of certain Japanese companies, it is probable that rather less than £900,000 will be available for distribution within six months of the coming into force of the treaty.

It has been suggested that the proceeds of the liquidation of these assets should be used, as has already been done in the case of German and Japanese assets in the United States, for the payment of allowances to former prisoners-of-war and civilian internees as compensation for their sufferings while in Japanese hands. But it is clear that the small total sum available would admit of distribution on a very small scale to the many claimants in this country. For this reason, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said in the course of a debate on this subject on 10th May, His Majesty's Government have been considering whether the value of these assets might be used for the endowment or otherwise for the benefit of organisations and institutions whose work has been and can be of value in helping those in the United Kingdom who have suffered, and the dependants in the United Kingdom of those who died, as a result of captivity or internment in enemy hands during the war.

On further consideration, however, His Majesty's Government believe that it would be right to try to arrange for the sum available to be utilised in such a way that former prisoners-of-war and civilian internees who are in need or undergoing hardship should derive the maximum benefit possible. We therefore propose that the money which may be obtained from the liquidation of Japanese assets in the United Kingdom should be put at the disposal of selected benevolent organisations closely linked with the Services, or concerned with the interests of civilian internees. This would be on the understanding that the money shall be used primarily for the benefit of prisoners -of-war and civilian internees of the last war and of their dependants, who must be resident in the United Kingdom at the time of payment; that it is to meet need and hardship (on a broad interpretation of those terms), and preferably not to be in the form of a continuing grant. There should also be safeguards against overlapping between the various organisations, and between payments made from these funds, and those which may be made by the International Committee of the Red Cross from the proceeds of other Japanese assets.

It is, therefore, proposed that this money should be divided up between the various organisations representing the three Services and civilian internees in proportion to the number of each of the Services and of civilians who fell into enemy hands. Of the total allocated to the three Services 60 per cent. would be divided up between the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force, for use in proportion to the number of prisoners-of-war from each Service in all theatres of war. The remaining 40 per cent., after a suitable sum has been allocated to the King's Fund, administered by the Ministry of Pensions, would, after due consultation through machinery which already exists, be divided between other welfare organisations whose work covers all three Services. A similar arrangement would apply to the sum allocated for civilians.

By the draft treaty, His Majesty's Government will be empowered to seize also Japanese assets in Colonial, Trust and Protected Territories. I think the House will agree with me that it is only right that these assets, the bulk of which are in territories over-run by the Japanese, should be entirely at the disposal of the Secretary of State for the Colonies for the benefit of and in consultation with the authorities of the territories with which he is concerned.