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Imperial War Graves Commission

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 24 April 1951

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that although British gardeners employed in Belgium by the Imperial War Graves Commission were compelled, on the German occupation of Belgium 11 years ago, to leave their clothing and some of their furniture in that country, they have received no compensation; what is approximately the total amount involved: and whether he will make a statement.

In 1948 His Majesty's Government concluded a reciprocal war damage agreement with the Belgian Government, securing for British nationals who have suffered losses of this nature treatment as regards compensation equal to that accorded by the Belgian Government to their own nationals for similar loss or damage. Employees and former employees of the Commission who might have suffered such losses have been kept fully informed by the Commission of the steps to be taken to present their claims to the Belgian authorities and the Commission have been assured by these authorities that such claims will be dealt with in strict equality with similar claims by Belgian nationals. Since the employees concerned have themselves drawn up and lodged their claims, the Commission are not in a position to state the total of the amounts claimed.

As nothing whatever has happened in the last 11 years, does not the Secretary of State think it is grossly unfair that these men should be so much less generously treated than, for example, Army officers who had claims for such losses paid by their own Government, or traders in places like Malaya and Hong Kong, who had a much less strong claim?

I sympathise with the position of these men, but we ought not to suppose that the Belgian Government will not do what they have definitely said they will do and honour the claims in the same way as they are honouring the claims of their own citizens.

In the hope that something can be done before all these men are dead, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.