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Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Blair trails PoW announcement
PoWs in October 1945
UK PoWs were found in a terrible state on their release
Prime Minister Tony Blair has told MPs that a decision will be made soon on whether to grant extra compensation to former British servicemen held prisoner by the Japanese during the Second World War.

Speaking during the first prime minister's question time since Parliament's summer recess, Mr Blair told the House that the issue was under consideration in the run-up to the pre-budget report, due to come out early in November.

He said: "I've always had considerable sympathy with the campaign mounted by the Royal British Legion for additional compensation to be paid for Far East prisoners of war."

Mr Blair went on: "The nation owes them a particular debt of honour and gratitude for the sacrifices they have made and the memories they have had to live with for the rest of their lives."

Patience

He called on the men - who have waited more than 50 years - to "exercise patience for a little longer. These are decisions that need to be made in the run-up to the pre-budget report."

Issuing a strong hint that money may be made available the prime minister added: "It won't be very much longer until the decision is announced."

Mr Blair's remarks were made in response to a question from Labour backbencher David Winnick.

Debt of honour

He called on Mr Blair to follow the example of Canada and do the right thing for the war veterans who, he said, had often been treated like slaves or tortured.

It was time, he said to "honour our obligations to what is now a very small number of people who suffered so terribly as prisoners of war of the Japanese."

The Railtrack of the skies?

As well as the now routine clash between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition William Hague on the single currency, Mr Blair ruled out a re-think of his plans to part privatise the National Air Traffic Services or NATS.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy asked for such a decision in light of the experience of rail privatisation which has seen fragmentation and under investment leading to safety concerns.

Mr Blair said a part privatisation would ensure much needed investment for NATS and see responsibilities for safety remain in the public sector - it would, he said, be "the best of both worlds".

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26 Nov 98 | Asia-Pacific
PoWs lose Japan compensation ruling
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