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Japan (British Ex-Prisoners-Of-War)

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 25 April 1951

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when the conversations at present taking place within the Commonwealth on the subject of the claim of the Far Eastern prisoners-of-war for compensation from the Japanese are likely to be concluded; and whether he is also conducting conversations with the Government of the United States of America with regard to the action they have already taken with regard to their Far Eastern prisoners, or may be going to take in the peace treaty with Japan.

This question is under consideration in the general context of the Japanese peace treaty. I am unable to say when a final decision will be taken. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No."

In view of the fact that 296 Members of the House are supporting a Motion asking the Government to give consideration to claims by British Far East ex-prisoners-of-war would the hon. Gentleman expedite these conversations with the Commonwealth, so that the claims do not become time expired? In view of the fact that the United States Government have already had conversations about this matter, and have taken action with the Japanese, does the hon. Gentleman not think that it would be a good thing if we had conversations with the American Government on those lines?

I think the hon. and gallant Member is mistaken. I cannot, of course, speak of what the United States Government are doing, but I do not think they have been considering what the Japanese should do. They have taken their own measures with regard to their own ex-prisoners-of-war, and that is quite another matter. We are consulting other Commonwealth countries who are very closely concerned with this, and we shall not take any longer than is absolutely necessary.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the fact that other countries have already taken steps to obtain compensation for these ex-prisoners-of-war makes us anxious to know when these consultations will come to an end?

I cannot give any date by which the consultations will come to an end. I think there is a certain amount of misunderstanding. I do not know of any Government having so far achieved any compensation from the Japanese. The American Government made their own arrangements—not from Japanese funds.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a very great deal of understandable feeling in this matter? As the American Government have already taken practical and effective action is there any reason why he should not confer with them, so that we may work upon parallel lines?

All matters connected with the Japanese peace treaty will be the subject of discussion. We are consulting the Commonwealth Governments, and thereafter, no doubt, we shall discuss whatever arises with the United States Government.

Can my hon. Friend give us an assurance that, whatever may be the outcome of these conversations with the Commonwealth, the United States and everybody else, the Government will raise this matter in the Japanese peace treaty discussions?

I think I must await the results of the Commonwealth consultations before I make any further statement.

Is it not a fact that the American and Australian Governments have both made it clear that sums paid to ex-prisoners-of-war in the Far East will eventually be sought from the Japanese Government as reparations?

Can my hon. Friend say then what exactly the position is about the Australian Government? What is their attitude? What action have they taken so far?

I think some facts were given about what the Australian Government have done in answer to a Question a short time ago, and I should not add to that today without notice.