PASC PRESSES MOD INTO PARTIAL U-TURN ON ‘DEBT OF HONOUR’, BUT DEMANDS FULL RECONSIDERATION
“The Ministry of Defence should conduct the full and proper review it has so far refused into its ex gratia scheme for civilians interned in the Far East in the Second World War, and reconsider the position of those [UK citizens] who were denied payment because they lacked a blood link to this country” says the Commons Public Administration Select Committee in a report released today, 19 January 2006.
The MoD has steadfastly refused to review the operation of the scheme, as recommended by the Ombudsman, despite her concern that it could not demonstrate that the first payments to civilians under the scheme were consistent with the compensation criteria introduced later.
New evidence of this only came to light when Don Touhig MP, the Minister for Veterans, was called before the Committee late last year despite the Ombudsman’s investigations and two Judicial Review cases. The MoD was forced to undertake a review and Mr Touhig, has promised to make a further statement to the House next month.
It is still not clear that the MoD will accept the Ombudsman’s and the Committee’s recommendation to reconsider the cases of those denied payments-like Professor Jack Hayward, a British citizen who has spent his working life in this country-because they had no blood link to the UK. The Committee believes it should do so and quickly. The ex-internees are elderly, and their numbers are rapidly diminishing.
Dr Tony Wright, Chairman of the Committee, said:
“It is a source of real regret, and shame, that the MoD received the Ombudsman’s report a year ago, on 18 January 2005, and did nothing about it until our hearing when they were essentially bounced into addressing the report properly. Having now been forced into conducting the review the Ombudsman recommended; the MoD should now accept the recommendation to reconsider the position of Professor Hayward and others in a similar position. These people were interned because they were British, regardless of any “blood link”. Let the MoD review their cases, and do so with the urgency and generosity of the scheme’s original intention. When the Minister returns to the House in February to make a statement we hope that he will recognise that a debt of honour is owed to the British civilians interned by the Japanese, and announce that this debt can at last be paid.”
Notes to editors:
On 7 November 2000, the Government announced the introduction of an “ex-gratia” payment of £10,000 for former British Prisoners of War (PoWs) and civilian internees in the Far East. It was not general policy to offer compensation to those who had been imprisoned during hostilities, “but an exception was made in this case to recognise the enormity of what had happened: of the 50,016 British service personnel reported captured by the Japanese, 12,433 died or were killed in captivity. Put another way, conditions were so bad that one in four did not survive.”
The scheme was launched before the full details of eligibility for civilian internees were determined. During the first round of applications, the criteria of “British-ness” was refined to exclude anyone who was a British citizen at the time of internment but without a blood link to the UK.
It is the cases of people whose claims were rejected after this change was made -like Professor Jack Hayward, who was interned as a child and whose application was rejected on the basis that neither he, his parents nor grandparents were actually born in the UK-that the Ombudsman, and the Committee, feel should be reviewed.
The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005. Its terms of reference are to examine the reports of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen, and to consider matters relating to the quality and standards of administration provided by Civil Service departments, and other matters relating to the Civil Service. The
Membership of the Committee is as follows:
Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), Mr David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), Julia Goldsworthy (Lib Dem) (Falmouth & Camborne), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Grant Shapps (Con) (Welwyn Hatfield), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)
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