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British Army

Volume 319: debated on Tuesday 2 February 1937

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Palestine Reservists (Employment)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will collect and publish the names and addresses of all the firms which have refused to reengage the reservists who recently were compelled to leave their employment in order to go to Palestine?

I doubt if the compilation of an exhaustive list is feasible, while it would be unfair to those employers who have been prevented, by circumstances beyond their control, from taking reservists back into employment.

If the right hon. Gentleman cannot see his way to publish the names and addresses, will he consider the advisability of making them available for Members of this House, so that they can take what action they may think fit in any particular case?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that as far as I am aware no employers have deliberately refused to take these men back into their employment. Some of them had temporary employment only and in some cases works had closed down while the men were absent. In nearly every case that I have investigated the employers have done their best to reinstate the men.


asked the Secretary of State for War how many of the 500 Army reservists now unemployed on their return from Palestine were in employment when called up for service?


asked the Secretary of State for War how many of the reservists returned from Palestine were re-engaged in their jobs; how many have found new situations; and how many who were in employment before going to Palestine are now unemployed?

Of 2,145 reservists who have communicated with the War Office since their return from Palestine, 1,600 are recorded as having been in employment when called up, and at least 1,134 of these have been reinstated by their former employers. A further 303 are known to have secured other employment. Three hundred and one of the 2,145 reservists were registered on 25th January last as unemployed; 79 of these were in employment when called up.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that the public ought to know the employers' reasons for not reinstating them?

As I pointed out in reply to previous supplementary questions, the employers in nearly every case have done their very best to employ these men. There are more of these men in employment than at the time when they went out to Palestine. There are 200 more in employment now than last week, and 400 more than at the time when this question was first raised some weeks ago.

Are the Government considering taking into their employment an additional number of these men?

I have not made any particular effort to get these men into Government employment, and I do not know whether they would qualify for Government employment, but the figures really are not unsatisfactory.

Will the right hon. Gentleman put pressure on Government Departments to take on more of these men?

Vocational Training


asked the Secretary of State for War whether serving soldiers undergoing vocational training before their return to civil life are required to make any financial contribution towards the cost of such training, and, if so, how much?

Yes, Sir. The standard fees range from 5s. a week for a private or lance-corporal to 10s. a week for a warrant officer, Class I, with half rates for courses in dairy, general or pig farming.

Has the right hon. Gentleman this question under review, with the object of doing away with these charges and thereby making the Service more attractive?

Ought not the training to be reckoned as part of the remuneratory service rendered by the State to the soldiers, who have themselves rendered service to the State?

Recruits (Training And Nourishment Experiment)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make a statement on the experiment of special training and nourishment for certain selected recruits under standard; and whether he proposes to extend the experiment to include large numbers of recruits now rejected as unfit?

At the end of the initial three months' training, 31 of the 33 recruits who had, been selected for experiment were adjudged to be fit to start the normal recruits' course and were passed to their regimental depots for this purpose; 24 have since been passed as up to standard, while seven, who have not yet reached normal standard but have made such progress as to justify their retention, are under special observation at their depots. The experiment is regarded as successful, and its practical application on a larger scale is under consideration.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication as to the approximate weekly cost in keeping these men in nourishment, to maintain the standard?

Now that the Minister has proved that the diet with which he has been experimenting since 13th October is good, with margarine left out, will he see that everybody in the Army gets butter?

Will the right hon. Gentleman hand over the text of that experiment to the Ministry of Labour, as it will be very useful for dealing with people in the Special Areas from the point of view of nutrition?

Estimates (Memorandum)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will consider the advisability, when the Army Estimates are introduced in 1937, of including in the explanatory paper a reference to the fact that the armed forces are required inter alia for the carrying out of the obligations undertaken in connection with the Covenant of the League of Nations?

Yes, Sir. I will consider how far a general statement as to the purposes for which the Army is maintained can suitably be included in the Memorandum in question.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that recruitment would be increased if recruits were told that they would be required mainly for the defence of their own homes?



asked the Secretary of State for War when the new blue or green uniforms are to be issued to the Regular and Territorial armies?

Arrangements have been made for the supply of the blue or green uniforms to those troops taking part in the Coronation parade in London, but no decision has yet been reached regarding the general issue of the uniforms.

Will the right hon. Gentleman include red in the colours, so as to make it really patriotic?

The Coronation (London Territorial Representation)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the great disappointment among London Territorial units that only a small party from each is to take part in the Coronation parade; and whether, in view of the fact that county units have local celebrations, whereas London units do not, and that London units worked hard at the Jubilee and bore the brunt of the duties at His late Majesty's funeral at short notice, he will reconsider the question, so that all serving Territorials in London may take part in the Coronation ceremonies, if they wish to do so?

I think that some misunderstanding may have arisen in the minds of certain London Territorial units with regard to the true facts of this matter. The street lining will involve approximately 18,500 men, apart from the representatives of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, and the Territorial Army will provide more than 50 per cent. of this number. As it is desirable that every Territorial Unit in the country should be represented at this National ceremony it will be obvious that only limited detachments can be taken from each unit, and it has been decided that all Territorial units shall be treated on an equal basis.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that throughout the Provinces among all ranks of the Territorial Army there is general satisfaction with the arrangements which are being made?

Unemployed Reservists


asked the Secretary of State for War the total number of Army reservists now unemployed?

Inquiries were recently made of 113,793 Army reservists regarding their employment situation. 7,782 failed to reply, but of the balance 88,954, or 84 per cent., were recorded as being in employment, and 17,057, or 16 per cent., unemployed.

Am I to understand that this is the result of special investigations, and that the right hon. Gentleman does not receive periodical reports from the Ministry of Labour?

We keep in touch with the Ministry of Labour all the time as regards the employment of ex-service men.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of these men are long-term unemployed men?

Majors (Half-Pay)


asked the Secretary of State for War how many officers of the rank of major have, during the past six months, been placed on half-pay and informed that they are not likely to be employed again; how many of such officers had been recommended for command prior to being placed on half-pay; whether the half-pay of such officers is less than their retired pay would be; and whether by being placed on half-pay, they are deprived of the opportunity of earning the maximum pension for their rank?

Between 1st August, 1936, and 31st January, 1937, 71 majors were due to be placed on the half-pay list and were informed that they were not likely to be re-employed. Of this number, eight majors had previously been considered as possibly suitable eventually for command but failed to be selected when the occasion arose. Generally speaking, the rate of half-pay would be less than the rate of retired pay, and in fact the majority of the officers applied to retire instead of being placed on the half-pay list. With eight exceptions the officers had insufficient service for the maximum rate of retired pay in the rank of major, but, unless he is actually superseded, no major who is not selected as suitable for promotion is placed on half-pay until he has completed at least three years' service in the rank and so earned a major's pension, and has attained age 45.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the bigger the number of officers he places on half-pay the better he will please hon. Members on these benches?

Generals (Active List)


asked the Secretary of State for War what is the average age, in their several categories, of officers of the rank of general at present on the active list?

The average ages, by categories, of generals of the combatant arms who are at present on the active list, are: Generals, 62 years; Lieut.-Generals, 58 years; Major-Generals, 56 years.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether those averages are higher or lower than in 1914?