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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Minister 'sorry' over PoW payouts
Diana Elias and family members, who were later interned
A High Court ruling found that the scheme was discriminatory
The veterans minister has apologised to former prisoners of war judged "not British enough" to receive compensation under a government scheme.

Around 1,100 British subjects without close blood-links to the UK were ruled ineligible for a 10,000 payout offered to civilians held in Japanese camps.

Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham said the scheme was maladministered and had been rushed through.

Minister Don Touhig said those affected deserved more "tangible" help.

The Japanese did not inquire whether I had a blood link to the United Kingdom
Prof Jack Hayward
Former PoW

The Ministry of Defence scheme gives a payment to civilians who were imprisoned in internment camps in the Far East during World War II, or their surviving spouses.

Many of those whose claims had been rejected had been encouraged to apply for the compensation.

However, their claims were dismissed because neither they, their parents nor their grandparents were born in the UK.

Ms Abraham said those owed a "debt of honour" in recognition of the suffering they endured were entitled to expect the compensation plan would have been devised and implemented properly, she said.

"It is of considerable regret to me that this did not happen," she said.

"It is also deeply disappointing that the government has not accepted that it should properly remedy the injustice I have found was caused by maladministration."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Touhig said: "Governments do sometimes get things wrong and I apologise for that fact.

"I will be considering the Ombudsman's recommendation that we have a more tangible expression of our regret and our apology."

The MoD had earlier said that while it accepted some of Ms Abraham's criticisms, a review was not needed.

'Insult'

One of the former PoWs affected, Professor Jack Hayward, said he felt insulted when he was told he was ineligible.

"The Japanese did not inquire whether I had a blood-link to the United Kingdom.

"Had the British government at the time alerted them to the fact that I was a third-class British subject who didn't deserve to be put in incarceration because they were not real Britons, it might have been of some interest to my family."

Last week, Diana Elias, 81, who was held in a Japanese PoW camp in Hong Kong for four years, won a legal battle for compensation after she was denied a payout under the scheme.

A High Court judge ruled the government scheme indirectly discriminated against those of non-British national origin.

The MoD had argued its policy did not discriminate on grounds of race, but was a "proportionate as well as rational" means of identifying those who should receive awards.


SEE ALSO:
Former PoW visits prison camp
04 May 05 |  Northern Ireland


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