Blair confirms £10,000 payments to meet 'debt of honour' to PoWs

Click to follow
The Independent Online

More than 16,000 British survivors of Japanese prisoner of war camps will receive a one-off payment of £10,000 each, the Government said yesterday.

More than 16,000 British survivors of Japanese prisoner of war camps will receive a one-off payment of £10,000 each, the Government said yesterday.

The compensation for veterans of the Second World War camps or their surviving spouses will be tax free and not taken into account for benefits.

Tony Blair said the circumstances of their suffering had been unique. "Having examined carefully the facts of their dreadful ordeal, I became convinced that those unique factors deserved recognition," he said.

The Prime Minister said the ex-gratia payment, expected to be paid to 16,700 people, would repay a "debt of honour" to the former prisoners, who were members of the armed forces, the merchant navy and civilians. The payments should be in place by February, he said. The scheme's total cost will be £167m.

Mr Blair's announcement followed a fierce campaign by the Far East Prisoners of War.Of the 50,016 British service personnel reported captured by the Japanese, 12,433 died or were killed in captivity.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservatives' defence spokesman, said he "wholeheartedly, without any reservation" welcomed what he called "frankly a generous settlement". Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs and defence spokesman, congratulated those who had campaigned "so robustly over such a long period". Apart from the £10,000, the true measure of the announcement for many recipients was the public recognition of the "terrible privations they had to endure", he said.

Representatives of the PoWs and the civilian internees said "compensation and an apology should go hand in hand". Arthur Titherington, the chairman of the Japanese Labour Camps Survivors Association, said: "The demand for a full, meaningful apology from the Japanese remains."

The claim for compensation was directed at Japan until the discovery in the Public Records Office in March 1998 of documents showing the British Government could have made a claim against the Japanese for a figure of £2,000 for each PoW and internee in 1955. As it was, PoWs and internees received £76 and £49 respectively.

Mr Titherington said: "I have been fighting for justice from the day I set foot back on English soil in 1945. Today is a great day."

Martyn Day, of Leigh Day and Co, lawyers for the PoWs and internees said: "In 1992 my uncle asked if I could help gain justice for him and his fellow PoWs. I am only sorry that my uncle, who died in March, and so many others... are not alive to share the joy of today's announcement."

Comments