Minute from Alan Burnham, Acting Chief Executive,
War Pensions Agency, to Tom McKane, Cabinet Office, dated
4 May 2001
Issue: Civilian Internees British
Timing: By 9th May
Action: To consider need for extension of
1. My note to Nick Gibbons dated 10 April refers.
2. The concerns I expressed in that note are
continually confirmed by the receipt of further information submitted
in support of applications for the ex-gratia payment. We do not
seem to have a sustainable definition of 'British' and I have
seen a large number of cases where a rejection based upon our
present position would draw an immediate and potentially difficult
challenge both in legal and publicity terms.
3. I acknowledge that WPA has both a policy and
Operational interest in this exercise but we are primarily the
operational wing and I do not wish to be drawn into the sole position
of creating policy. I say this particularly as we have little
expertise in the issues in dispute, i.e. definition of nationality
and historical context of Japanese internment. I think that any
policy line must be considered, understood and supported by each
of those Departments who have a stake in this with a clear awareness
of the potential consequences of chosen options. My purpose, therefore,
in this submission is primarily to alert 'stakeholders' to a growing
problem, to point to alternatives and to put forward possible
solutions. I think that decision needs to be taken - quickly -
by the cross-Departmental group.
4. The current nationality eligibility requirement
for civilian internees is that they were born in the UK, or that
either one of their parents or grandparents were born in the UK.
The practical effect of this is to leave us with civilian cases
falling into four major categories:
Cat. 1 Applicant/parent/grandparent born in the
UK and evidence is available to confirm this.
Cat 2 Applicant/parent/grandparent stated to
have been born in the UK but no acceptable evidence is currently
available to confirm this.
Cat 3 Neither applicant nor parent/grandparent
born in the UK but applicant is now a British citizen (which we
assume is defined as holding/entitled to a British passport) and
is 'permanently' resident in the UK.
Cat 4 Neither applicant nor parent/grandparent
born in the UK and applicant is not currently resident in the
UK (some in this group may claim to hold/have held a British passport)
5. It is currently not possible to provide any
meaningful statistics about how many claims fall into each group
as the majority of enquiries regarding place of birth remain outstanding.
However the total of all categories remains around 1600. Civilian
cases are not a primary cause of the increase in claims from original
6. Categories 1 and 2 are currently agreed as
eligible for payment. Category 2 is merely a problem of administration
and we are currently considering whether we can establish administrative
links with the Records Office at Southport regarding the pro-active
tracing of birth certification.
7. On present policy both categories 3 and 4
are currently ineligible for payment. However, as I set out in
my previous note, the exclusion of category 3 could be extremely
problematic and would present a distinct risk of legal challenge
and bad publicity. There are people within this category who underwent
considerable suffering and whom 'the man in the street' would
consider to be wholly British. It may therefore be deemed appropriate
to introduce a further criteria of eligibility that would allow
payment to this group.
Wider Eligibility Criteria
8. The problem in establishing wider eligibility
criteria is determining a clear set of criteria which would cover
all circumstances. However, it seems that we might consider the
following as being factors which weigh the argument in favour
of making a payment:
- that the person was interned
by the Japanese because they were considered by their captors
at the time to be 'British' (this covers a wide variety of differing
- that they have lived in the UK for a considerable
time (just how long this might be is open to debate)
- that they hold/entitled to a British passport.
9. This would leave a group of people whose applications
would be rejected on the basis that whilst they too were interned
by the Japanese in exactly the same circumstances as para 8 above,
they have not subsequently moved to live in the UK and do not
currently hold 'British citizenship'. Whilst it could be argued
that there is less of a case for payment of these groups many
within their ranks will feel that they should be paid solely because
the reason they were interned by the Japanese was because they
were 'British'. We can also be certain that many of these will
have personal tales of considerable suffering and privation at
the hands of the Japanese.
10. It may be that cases within this group throw
up special circumstances which might merit discretion being exercised
in favour of payment.
11. ABCIFER have raised with us the special circumstances
which they feel apply to people of Russian origin who were employed
by British Administration in China. These individuals were displaced
by the 1917 revolution and ended up in the Far East as 'stateless
persons'. In the 1920's the British Government deemed it necessary,
particularly in China, to have a cadre in the local British Administration
and/or Colonial Police Forces that were not of oriental ethnic
origin. Accordingly such former 'Russians' were employed and were
able to apply for and were granted British Nationality after five
years service. The Japanese considered that these people were
British and were treated as enemy aliens and interned. Their children
were deemed British.
12. It could be considered harsh to reject applications
from these people who were people who were employed by the British
Government and who were granted British citizenship. It may therefore
be appropriate to include a further qualifying criteria that allows
for payment of any person or their qualifying relatives because
they were, prior to their internment, employed by or on behalf
of the British Government.
Australia and New Zealand Announcement
13. You will be aware of the recent announcement
by these Governments of their intention to make similar payments.
Such announcements raise an issue
14. We have previously agreed that in the case
of the Isle of Man we would seek to avoid duplicate payment (albeit
that such cases have not yet been rejected pending clarification
of arrangements between UK and IOM Governments regarding reimbursement
and clarification that we can proceed with rejection would be
helpful). Similarly duplicate payments with the Canadian scheme
will be avoided on the basis of mutually exclusive qualification
criteria. These schemes were however in place prior to the UK
announcement on 7 November 2000.
15. MoD is currently seeking clarification of
the scope of and arrangements for payment under both schemes.
However should it arise that the schemes are not mutually exclusive
and we have a claim from a person otherwise eligible under both
schemes, the issue of the order of application will need to be
16. ABCIFER have expressed the view to us, informally,
that payments should not be made to those people who were 'interned'
at Rosary Hill in Hong Kong. Their view is based on the fact that
this was a 'refuge' run by a religious order rather than the Japanese,
and does not therefore 'qualify' as an internment camp. Rosary
Hill was used to hold people who were unsuitable for normal internment
camps e.g. suffering from contagious disease, mental instability.
In some cases where other famlly members had been interned and
all the assets of the family seized people elected to go to Rosary
Hill although in reality they had little or no other option. ABCIFER's
view is that people resident in Rosary Hill did not suffer the
same level of deprivation as at internment camps generally.
17. War Pensions Agency does not have the historical
information to confirm or deny ABCIFER's account. We do not have
a set definition of just what constitutes 'internment' and have
in no other cases sought to take into account the relative level
of suffering as an eligibility factor. We have cases where some
members of a family were in Rosary Hill and some in other internment
camps. Rejection could thus be problematic.
18. Without further information we do not believe
that we have a case for rejection and, on the basis that only
about 30 applications are involved we would intend to make payment
unless you and other interested Departments disagree.
19. The issues on which views are now sought
- the possible extension of the
definition of 'British' to cover those persons now resident in
- the possible extension of the definition of British
to cover those persons employed by or on behalf of the British
Government prior to internment.
- the impact of the recently announced Australian
and New Zealand scheme.
- to confirm that we can proceed with 'rejection'
letters to those people who received payment under the Isle of
- the position of people who were held in Rosary
Hill, Hong Kong.
20. I would suggest that an urgent meeting of
the inter-Departmental group would be the best vehicle to progress
these issues. We really do need to come to an early conclusion
as the pressure from various areas, most noticeable MPs, is increasing
N Gibbons Cab Office
M Tonnison MoD
A Ward MoD
M Mitchell FCO
S Gallagher HMT
A Walker HMT
S Adams DSS
J Wareing WPA
A Mayers WPA