HC Deb 30 July 1954 vol 531 cc121-3W
Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will now make a statement about the distribution of the £170,000 received from Siam for the Siam-Burma railway built by prisoners of war, and the money available from Japanese assets in Britain.

Mr. Peake

Yes. In October, 1952, the Minister of Pensions announced that there would be an initial distribution out of the proceeds of the Japanese assets in the United Kingdom under Article 14 of the Peace Treaty. This would amount to £15 apiece payable to prisoners of wa[...] and civilian internees of the Japanese wh[...] were British subjects, normally resident in the United Kingdom before captivity and also at the time of the distribution. Over 51,000 payments have been made and the recipients included widows, or orphans, or parents of those who had died.

It was stated at the time that the realisation of the remaining assets, on which a further distribution depended, would be a lengthy process. I am glad to say that the collection of these assets is now well advanced and we expect to be able to make a second and final distribution before the end of this year. We propose to extend the Scheme to cover certain small classes of persons who were excluded by the strict qualifications imposed in connection with the first distribution. These were mainly members of our United Kingdom Forces who had emigrated, or who were living overseas.

It is, therefore, proposed to include all Service personnel who became prisoners of the Japanese while serving in British units based in the United Kingdom, or as members of the Royal Navy; members of the Merchant Navy who were captured while serving in British ships registered in the United Kingdom will also qualify. As regards civilian internees, we shall include all British Nationals normally resident in the United Kingdom before internment, who returned to the United Kingdom on being released but have since emigrated.

In making the first distribution only one share was payable for each family unit. It is now proposed to make separate payments to husband and wife in cases where both were interned. Those who received the first distribution will receive the second automatically, and no application on their part will be necessary.

Those who have not so far received any payment but come within the wider qualifications I have mentioned will also receive the £15 paid at the first distribution. They should apply for application forms as quickly as possible to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, Thames House South, Mill-bank, London, S.W.1.

As far as can be judged at present the sum available for distribution under Article 14 will provide for a further payment of about £20 a head, in addition to the £15 already paid.

In addition to the money available under Article 14 of the Treaty, there is a sum available from the proceeds of the sale of the Burma-Siam Railway. By international agreement, the Government of Siam paid £1,250,000 for the part of the railway in their territory and all but £355,000 was divided between the Governments of Malaya, Burma and the Netherlands East Indies in compensation for materials taken from them by the Japanese to equip the Burma-Siam Railway. The £355,000 remaining has been apportioned between Allied Governments whose service men were forcibly employed on the railway and the United Kingdom's share is about £170,000. This amount covered members of the Colonial Forces and we are in consultation with the Colonial Governments concerned regarding the sums to be allocated to them.

In so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, it has been decided, after consultation with the National Federation of Far Eastern Prisoners of War Clubs and Associations, to distribute this money along with that available under Article 14 among all service personnel who were prisoners of war of the Japanese or, where they have died, their widows, orphans or parents.