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The BBC's Carole Walker
"The surviviors say compensation is only partial justice"
 real 56k

Arthur Titherington
"I'm very happy that it has now finally happened"
 real 28k

The BBC's Bethan Rhys Roberts
"The compensation is expected to be paid in February next year."
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 November, 2000, 18:19 GMT
PoWs to receive 'debt of honour'
POW in camp
Successive governments have ignored survivors' case
Former servicemen imprisoned by the Japanese during World War II are to receive compensation of 10,000 each.

A similar sum will go to the spouses of those who have died.

The announcement, made by defence minister Lewis Moonie was welcomed by PoW groups and the opposition.


Today is a great day

Arthur Titherington

Prime Minister Tony Blair also paid tribute to former British PoWs.

Speaking to a group of veterans after the announcement, he said: "This and future generations must never forget their suffering or their contribution to our country.

"This is, for me and my generation and those younger, just one small but significant way in which we can say to you `Thank you for your courage and thank you for what you did'."

Mr Blair said the one-off ex-gratia payment would go to 16,700 former PoWs or the spouses of those who have died.

Making an exception

Earlier, Dr Moonie told the Commons that it had been the policy of successive governments not to make payments in such circumstances.

The government was making an exception for the groups held by the Japanese "in recognition of the unique circumstances of their captivity".

He said in his brief statement: "We believe the country owes a debt of honour to them."

"Those who will be entitled to receive this payment, are former members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, who were made prisoners of war, former members of the merchant navy, who were captured and imprisoned, and British civilians, who were interned."

Certain other former military personnel in the colonial forces would also be eligible.

Unique experience

To further cheers, Dr Moonie said the payments will not be taxable and would not be taken into account for benefits.

They will be paid "as quickly as possible," with all the appropriate arrangements expected to be in place by February.

"The government recognises that many UK citizens, both those serving in the armed forces and civilians, have had to endure great hardship at different times and in different circumstances.

"But the experience of those who went into captivity in the Far East during the Second World War was unique.

"We've said before that the country owes a debt of honour to them. I hope I'm speaking for everyone here when I say that today, something concrete has been done to recognise that debt," the minister said.

Of the 50,016 British military personnel taken captive by the Japanese 12,433 died or were killed in captivity.

The survivors have campaigned for years for extra compensation for the horrors they endured.

Japan says the issue was settled when it made a token payment of 76 (the equivalent of 1,200 today) to the servicemen in the early 1950s, and has refused to meet their demands for further compensation and an apology.

The compensation payments announced today will cost 100m.

Better late than never

The chairman of the Japanese Labour Camp Survivors' Association, Arthur Titherington, said the UK Government's action was a case of "better late than never".

But he said the veterans would continue to seek an apology from Japan.

Mr Titherington said: "Today is a great day. The British Government has shown that it has fully understood the importance of these issues to today's society.

"My only disappointment is that the real culprits, that is the Japanese Government, has got away scot-free.

"The least they can do is recognise the gross errors of its past which it can do by providing a full, unequivocal apology," he said.

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See also:

31 Oct 00 | UK Politics
PoW cash 'by Remembrance Sunday'
26 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Blair trails PoW announcement
26 Nov 98 | UK
PoWs appeal
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