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Japan: Former Civilian Internees

Volume 455: debated on Monday 8 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many cases considered by the ex-gratia scheme for former civilian internees of the Japanese have been paid as a consequence of the change to the 20-year residency qualification; how many cases have been rejected on the grounds that the claimant (a) was not interned and (b) did not meet the revised criteria of 20 years; how many of those rejected because the claimant did not meet the revised criteria would have met the criteria if the period of overseas services was as a locally employed staff member was included; how many cases remain to be decided; what progress is being made in establishing the hardship fund; and if he will make a statement. (104574)

As at mid-November 2006, 120 claimants had been paid under the Ex Gratia Payment Scheme for former Far East Prisoners of War and civilian internees, on the basis that they met the 20-year residence criterion. Five claims had been rejected on the grounds that the claimant was unable to prove internment. No claims have been rejected for failing to meet the residency criterion; the nine claims that might currently fall into this category are being held pending a review of the way that the criterion is working that I will shortly be undertaking, taking account of the views of the Association of British Civilian Internees Far East Region (ABCIFER). 47 other cases remained under consideration.

Employment overseas can count towards the 20-year qualifying period where there is reasonable evidence that the individual was expected to return to the UK. However, it does not count where there was no reasonable evidence that they would return to the UK, including cases where the individual was locally employed; this is because the close link to the UK, which is an overall requirement of the scheme, is not considered to have been demonstrated. It would be inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the scheme to allow such service to count and, were we to do so, it would have very significant financial implications for the eligibility criteria for the military side of the scheme.

To respond to concerns that a number of those who do not qualify under the ex gratia scheme may be suffering hardship, officials have investigated the feasibility of providing financial assistance to a charity supporting such individuals. The charity has recently indicated that it is not able to accept the support offered to limitations in the terms of its deeds.