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War Office

Volume 170: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1924

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32.

asked the Secretary of State for War the number at present on the staff of the War Office and the total salaries for the year 1923–24, together with the corresponding figures for 1914–15?

The figures are for 1914–15: 1,590, at a cost of £390,000. For 1923–24: 2,606, at a cost of £921,000.

39.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that 21 pensioned civil servants, with pensions ranging from £450 per annum, are engaged as temporary clerks in his Department; and whether, in view of the serious unemployment amongst ex-service men, he will take immediate steps to secure the discontinuance of this practice?

I am aware of the employment of these ex-officials, but their pensions range from £175 to £401 a year only, and not from £450. They are engaged on the responsible duty of examining War Office records and papers and deciding which should be retained and which can safely be destroyed. This is a very special class of work for which the long experience of the staff concerned peculiarly qualifies them, and which could not suitably be entrusted to ex-service men with a limited knowledge of War Office work. I regret, therefore, that I do not see my way to adopt the hon. Member's suggestion.

Are we to understand that no other men can do the work on which these men are engaged in examining those papers? Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to support the policy of retaining in the War Office these men with large pensions when men who have fought want jobs and cannot get them?

Both the ex-service men, and the British Legion, which specially represents ex-service men, have had this matter under consideration and have endorsed the attitude I have adopted.

On a point of personal explanation, may I say that, although the Secretary of State for War states that his action is endorsed by the British Legion and the Ex-Service Men's Association, yet this question was put down at their request.