Blair to consider payouts for veterans

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair gave fresh hope yesterday to calls for compensation by Second World War veterans who were held by the Japanese as prisoners of war.

A Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister would "reflect" on the case after talks with the Royal British Legion in Number 10.

Veterans stepped up their efforts to secure a special gratuity for all former British PoWs of the Japanese, or their surviving widows, in recognition of their suffering. The Government rejected a cross-party appeal on the issue last month.

The spokesman said the Government would be getting back to the Legion in due course but it would be wrong to raise expectations about its eventual response.

The Government had rejected impassioned cross-party pleas for a one-off compensation payment for the veterans, saying it would be wrong to drop a long-standing policy not to pay compensation to ex-soldiers.

Lewis Moonie, a Defence minister, was faced by calls led by the Independent Tatton MP, Martin Bell, who said 328 MPs from all parties wanted the PoWs' unique suffering at the hands of the Japanese to be recognised.

Mr Bell said Britain should follows Canada's example and give each of the 7,335 surviving British Far East prisoners of war and 3,304 widows some compensation to add to the "insulting" £76 they received after the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty with Japan.

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