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Hong Kong (War Losses Compensation)

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 30 March 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many claims were sent in to the Government of Hong Kong for compensation for losses arising directly or indirectly out of the war; and what was the total-amount of compensation claimed.

The total number of claims for war damage compensation received by the Government of Hong Kong was 14,723 amounting, to the nearest thousand, to £38,610,000.

Does not the hon. Gentleman feel that, in view of the number of claims and the amount of money involved, the Government of Hong Kong might be asked to adopt a different attitude? Surely, the same practice regarding compensation might be followed in Hong Kong as in Malaya and Borneo?

I am afraid we could not make another approach to the Hong Kong Government on this matter. They have fully considered it, and, for reasons which have already been given to the House, they have decided not to adopt a compensation scheme of the kind existing in Malaya.

Will the hon. Gentleman say what proportion of these claims have been settled? Is he aware that there is considerable hardship among certain classes in Hong Kong as a result of their losses during the war?

How can the hon. Gentleman defend the use of entirely different methods in the two Colonies? Why should a man in Malaya who has lost everything be compensated, and a man in Hong Kong who has lost everything be refused any sort of compensation? Surely, the hon. Gentleman has a responsibility in this matter?

There are differences. First of all, there was a contributory insurance scheme in Malaya, but there was not in Hong Kong, and that has some bearing on the matter; secondly, Hong Kong became extremely wealthy and trade recovered very rapidly. To a large extent the same conditions have not appertained in the whole of Malaya.

In view of the fact that the people who are benefiting by the new prosperity may not necessarily be the same people who lost through bad conditions during the war, and of the widespread uncertainty about this decision of the local government, will the hon. Gentleman cause a new investigation to be made?

I regret that I cannot promise any new investigation in this matter. The decision has been announced for a considerable period. It has been the unalterable decision of the Hong Kong Government.