Skip to main content

First Schedule—Prices In Respect Of Billeting

Volume 237: debated on Thursday 3 April 1930

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this be the First Schedule to the Bill."

I wish to ask a question of the Secretary of State as to whether there is any difference in the prices in respect of billeting. Does he not think that these charges are quite inadequate in view of the present high prices, and that it imposes hardship on innkeepers, especially on the roads to Aldershot?

There is to be no change in the forthcoming year. In the opinion of those responsible the rates are reasonable. It must be borne in mind that very few men are being billeted in this way, and therefore there is no cause for apprehension.

Does the hon. Gentleman consider 8d. a day a fair and reasonable allowance?

It entirely depends on the circumstances, and that depends on the amount and variety of the food provided.

It is quite possible that, in order to stimulate recruiting, it may he necessary to send troops on recruiting marches; that has always been the custom for many centuries, and I hope that the Secretary of State will bear in mind that these rates are not satisfactory as they stand at present, and are really unfair.

I will bear in mind everything that is said, and will have it examined, but I cannot give any promise to vary a custom that has obtained so long, and has proved to be so satisfactory.

In view of the fact that the cost-of-living is by no means stationary, and is likely to rise appreciably in the near future on account of the lamentable fact that the Socialist party are now in office, surely there should be some provision for these rates to be put on some kind of sliding scale, in accordance with the cost of living. I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War two questions. Would he like to live on 8d. a day? I take it that even his frugal appetite would hardly be likely to be satisfied with this small allowance. On 8d. a day, however, he might save a little on the cost of his clothing, but would he really like to live on that amount? If he happened to have troops billeted at his house, could he provide their food, board and lodging at that figure?

Does he think that he would be making any profit for himself or that it would even cover the cost? If any troops were fortunate enough to be billeted at his house I know that he would treat them with ample hospitality, but that, after all, is hardly business, and it could not be expected of a poor man who is not a plutocratic super taxpayer such as we know the right hon. Gentleman to be.

The billeting scales are not only all too small but based on a wrong principle, because if ever it were right and proper that scales of pay should be based on the cost of living surely it would be right and proper in this case. Then there is the candle allowance. Does he think the sum allowed for candles is really adequate and what happens in a house where candles are not the ordinary form of illumination? It is not a princely allowance with which to cover the cost of electric or other light. These allowances arouse a good deal of comment and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give them his close personal attention.

Order! I can hear the dropping of coins in the House. That is quite out of order.

I do not mind if the hon. Gentleman opposite who is jingling his coins is doing it as an indication that he shares my view that these paltry allowances ought to be increased, or at least that the scale should be reorganised. Seriously, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to go into this question with his expert advisers, and if he cannot give me an answer straight off the reel perhaps I might have a reply on the Report stage.

I can give the hon. and gallant Member an answer now. I can assure him that all his suggestions will meet with consideration.

Order! The hon. Member at the end of the Chamber who is standing should find a seat.

Seeing the very large sum paid for unemployment, is the Secretary for War not able to increase the allowances in this Schedule! I think the right hon. Gentleman who sits as the Socialist Minister for War cannot honestly believe he can come down to my constituency or any other constituency, and tell them that 8d. a day is sufficient.

If the hon. Gentleman was paying any attention to what I was saying he would know that I was explaining to the Committee, as he will find, if he will look at the First Schedule on page 8 of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill [20 George 5] that the following is set out.

Lodging and attendance for soldier where meals furnished.Tenpence a night for the first soldier and eightpence a night for each additional soldier.
I think there is no question in dispute about that. It may be that I was slightly in error in suggesting that they got 8d. only. The point I was endeavouring to make was that, in spite of the fact that the cost of living has gone up—[Interruption]—the right hon. Gentleman comes here in charge of the War Office in a Labour Government and is doing nothing to assist the billeting of the ordinary private soldier. I would be surprised if he came to my Division, or any other Division in the country, and told the people exactly what the Labour party are doing in that respect. I am also rather surprised that nothing is being done about the ration for horses:
Stable room and ten pounds of oats, 12 pounds of hay, and eight pounds of straw a day for each horse.Two shillings and threepence a day.
This is a problem which particularly affects my Division of Melton Mowbray, where not only do we produce this particular ration in this schedule, but where also we have in the Urban District of Melton itself one of the two remount stations in this country. Therefore, I do know something about this question of the ration. I am extremely surprised that the Labour Government are doing nothing at all other than allowing this 2s. 3d. a day for this particular service. Of the rations used for this service a very large percentage is grown in the Midland counties. A certain amount may come from the Eastern Counties. The Government use English rations for this service. I will give them that credit. This particular allowance ought to be increased so that my constituency may gain a little bit of advantage from it.. Now we come to the next item in the Schedule:—
Lodging and attendance for officer. Three shillings a night.
I would like to know what is included in that. I am sorry to see that the Secretary of State for War has left the House. I would have thought that having got on so quickly with the business he would have remained at his post until the end. Now the death penalty has been done away with, he is the first to take advantage of that fact. I am, however, sure that the Financial Secretary will be able to deal with the point I mentioned. Does this include ration allowance or is it just an ordinary bed in a particular cottage? I am very glad the Secretary for War has come back to the House. I withdraw what I said about his being the first to leave his post after the last Vote of the Committee. I realise now that he is ready to answer my question. To what does this 3s. actually refer? Does it refer just to a bed for the night or does it give the officer some sort of allowance for food as well? These are the only points that I can raise on this schedule. There are several points which I wish to raise on the Second Schedule. I would be obliged if the right hon. Gentleman would give me an answer to some of these important questions.

We have these experts on the other side of the House who get up and, airing their knowledge of the Army Annual Bill, ask whether "lodging and attendance" for officers includes meals. If they had dusted their eyes they would have seen:

"Note.—An officer shall pay for his food."
We have had from the same hon. Members the statement that the soldier was kept for 8d. a day. If they had looked down the Schedule and cared to read it, they would have found that breakfast, dinner and supper are separate items.

Question, "That this be the First Schedule to the Bill," put, and agreed to.