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Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I tried to indicate that the people mentioned were indeed covered. I was a little concerned that the noble Baroness may have touched on a group outside those. It was for that reason that I was cautious in my answer. I shall ensure that the noble Baroness is given the correct reply.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and for the excellent news for those who will benefit from this sum of money. It is very late in coming for 80 year-olds, but it is, nevertheless, very welcome.
Lord Burlison: My Lords, while I did not comprehensively cover the issue of spouses in my delivery of the Statement, I should like to assure the noble Lord that, to my knowledge, nothing will debar spouses from receiving the payment. The Government have tried as hard as they possibly can to ensure that a surviving spouse will receive her husband's entitlement. One or two complications may arise in this area, but the Government intend to ensure that, whatever the circumstances, a surviving spouse will receive her husband's entitlement.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, as the only diocesan bishop whose father was killed in action during the Second World War--although against the Germans--I warmly welcome the Government's Statement. One of my former clergy was in action against the Japanese; he was captured and suffered grievously at their hands. Throughout the remaining years of his ministry after he returned to this country, the effect on that and his family life was terrible to see. I believe that what hurt him most was his feeling that all that he and so many others had gone through was not really appreciated by those of us back home. I welcome what the Government have said and I understand why the payment has been so long in coming. This afternoon I feel for the dead priest and the fact that this has come, sadly, too late for him and for many others.
Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for his comments and for his compliments to the Government on their action. I sympathise with his friend and with the many other prisoners of war who suffered during that period. I point out to noble Lords that as regards prisoners of war in the Far East, the
Lord Grenfell: My Lords, I rise with some emotion to declare an interest. My brother-in-law was captured at Singapore. He had a very unpleasant time in Changi gaol. He then worked on the Burma railway. Happily, he is still with us at the age of 83. I know that during the 55 years since his release he has been very much looking forward to the day when the plight of the prisoners would be recognised. I know that while he bore in stoic silence his astonishment at the treatment meted out after their release--a payment of £76.10s--he was very active in seeking redress for colleagues worse afflicted than he was.
I am sure that he will be enormously relieved to know that the surviving spouses of his PoW colleagues who died in the intervening years will be the beneficiaries. Would it not be appropriate that with their payment they receive a letter from the Government thanking them for their great patience in waiting for this compensation?
Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments, particularly in relation to countries such as Singapore where many people suffered during that period in a similar fashion. I take note of my noble friend's comment as regards a letter. I shall raise the issue outside the Chamber.
Lord Renton: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that a high proportion of the Armed Forces who became prisoners of war were members of the East Anglian Division? Many were constituents of mine when I was elected in 1945. They suffered terribly. Many wondered whether they would survive their time in captivity and, thank goodness, a few of them did return including, as noble Lords may remember, Lord de Ramseay who became Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire.
Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comments. I am sure that many Members and ex-Members of Parliament must have had similar circumstances brought to their attention. I certainly appreciate how the noble Lord feels at this time.
Baroness Strange: My Lords, I give heartfelt thanks to the Government for this very welcome news today about prisoners of war in the Far East, however late. I congratulate the Minister on his Statement. Can he tell us whether widows of Japanese prisoners of war who died in Japanese camps will also benefit as well as the widows of those who have since died?
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, a former partner of mine, Colonel Cecil Wells, of the Suffolk Regiment, was in Japanese prisoner of war camps throughout the war. He died just 15 days ago. Do I understand from the Minister's Statement that his estate will not receive anything or is the proposed date for the award prior to today? If, as I suspect, the answer is that the Statement shows that the award is from today and his wife died some while ago, is there no intention on the Government's part for any part of the sum to inure for the benefit of his children?
Lord Burlison: My Lords, I believe that it is clear from the scheme that the ex-gratia payment starts from today. Under these circumstances it is always very difficult to create the date when such a payment is applied. If his widow had survived him she would have been entitled to the payment. In the circumstances it is my view that there is no entitlement to the payment. If anyone were to die from this point on, the estate would receive the £10,000.
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I am sure that we shall all wish to recognise the hard work of the Burma Star Association and particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, in this area. As an RAF pilot I flew a number of our prisoners of war back from Singapore to Ceylon at the cessation of hostilities. I can confirm their dreadful physical condition. Subsequently, as a constituency MP, a number of ex-prisoners of war and their wives came to see me and put forward their case very strongly indeed. The Government have done extremely well over the settlement. Many people will feel that at long last they have been appreciated.
Lord Burlison: My Lords, when I hear people like the noble Lord, Lord Monro, speak of their activities I feel quite humble. I really appreciate the comments that he made as regards the Government's effort.
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, as one who fought in the Burma campaigns with Indian troops, I pay tribute to Her Majesty's Government for this generous settlement. Perhaps I may say how sorry I am that the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, who is president of the Burma Star Association, is unable to be with us today. The Burma Star Association, the British Legion and the Far East Prisoners of War Association have been fighting for a long time for this recognition.
The Minister said that Indian troops who were prisoners of war will be included in this settlement. How will the Government go about discovering exactly who they are and how many exist in the sub-continent today? This is a very generous settlement for them; such a sum of money will be of colossal advantage. How will the Government go about discovering exactly who they are?
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, in August 1945, as my family prepared to light bonfires for the VJ celebrations, my grandfather received a telegram saying that his son, my uncle, would not be returning from his Far Eastern captivity. My uncle's wife died quite a long time ago. So that is one family who will not receive any financial benefit. But there will be thousands of families in that position who will very much welcome the recognition and appreciation demonstrated today.
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