On 19 July my predecessor, the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Watson), announced the publication of an independent report on the errors made in administering the Government’s ex-gratia payment scheme for former far east prisoners of war and civilian internees. The report prepared by Mr. David Watkins was based on a detailed and thorough investigation of how inconsistent criteria came to be used in deciding payments to former civilian internees; this included consultation with the key affected parties. At the time of its publication, the Government welcomed the report and made clear that they would take time to consider further the detail of the recommendations.
In responding to the report, the Ministry of Defence has consulted with the other Departments responsible both for developing and implementing the scheme in 2000-01, and for now providing guidance on the development of new policy. We have also consulted with the representative organisation for civilian internees, ABCIFER, and with the parliamentary ombudsman. The report made some 13 recommendations. Steps had already been taken since 2000 that address many of the shortcomings. These occurred quite independently, as part of the Government’s work on better regulation and better policy making. Nevertheless, the recent reshaping of the FEPOW scheme in particular was able to benefit from the emerging recommendations and we are doing work to take them into account in the wider context of a wider review of the Department’s guidance on policy making.
I have today placed in the Library of the House our detailed response to David Watkins’ recommendations.
I would like to thank Mr. Watkins for his thorough investigation and comprehensive report and to acknowledge the major role played by the parliamentary ombudsman and Public Administration Select Committee in scrutinising the administration of the scheme and helping us to identify and resolve the errors within it. Finally, I would like to give credit again to Ron Bridge, the chairman of ABCIFER, for the enormous amount of painstaking work he has put into the process.