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British Army

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1943

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Beveridge Report (Army Bureau Of Current Affairs)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is now his intention to include the subject of the Beveridge Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services in the syllabus of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs together with the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debate in Parliament on this scheme?

24.

asked the Secretary of State for War how soon he anticipates that the revised version of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs Beveridge bulletin will be distributed; whether it will contain an objective summary of the original Beveridge proposals as well as a statement of the Government's intentions; and whether copies of it will be placed in the Library so that hon. Members may have the opportunity of comparing it with the former version?

At the moment I have nothing to add to the reply I gave last Tuesday to my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White).

In view of the fact that Sir William Beveridge was invited by the Government to send in a Report, will the right hon. Gentleman consider inviting him to give talks to those in the Army Department who are responsible for A.B.C.A.? Can he say whether this will also apply to the Beveridge talks to the troops overseas?

Is it not possible for the right hon. Gentleman at least to answer the last part of Question 24?

I have learned since the hon. Member raised the question about this particular issue of "Current Affairs" that from the beginning issues of "Current Affairs" have been placed in the Library of the House.

Will the Minister consider sending the Tory opponents of the Beveridge plan to visit the camps so that soldiers can see what they are up against?

When does the right hon. Gentleman think he will be in a position to make a statement?

Pay (Savings)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for War why it is forbidden to soldiers, having other sources of income, to put the whole of their Army pay into Army savings through the Post Office?

There is no rule forbidding a soldier to give a standing order to invest the whole of his pay in the Post Office Savings Bank. In view of the possibility of charges against his account—say for the loss of kit—it is, however, desirable that the standing order should be limited to a proportion only of his pay. There is nothing to prevent a soldier from investing all the pay he draws after any deductions have been made either in the Post Office, in National Savings Stamps or National Savings Certificates. Soldiers are encouraged to save as much as possible.

Hospital Suits

22.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction of soldiers in hospital with the absence of suitability in the hospital suits they are given; and whether, when such soldiers are able to visit friends, they will be permitted to wear their uniform or given suits which come near fitting them?

The distinctive dress which must be worn by soldiers who are patients in hospital ensures in a simple and practical way that they can always be identified as such. The range of sizes of the dress available at a hospital should normally enable every patient to wear a suit which fits him reasonably well and I am not aware of any complaints about this.

Is the Minister aware that many soldiers who want to appear smart and orderly when they go out on leave hesitate to avail themselves of passes from hospitals because they are forced to go out in sloppy dresses which would fit somebody twice their size? Could he not have this readjusted so that the soldier's sense of fitness can be accommodated when he goes out on leave?

If my hon. Friend knows of cases at any particular hospital where a large proportion of the dresses are misfits I shall be glad to consider them, but I do rot believe there are very many of them.

Cobbler, Coseley (Application For Release)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has considered the petition from citizens of Walbrook, Coseley, posted on 13th February, requesting the release from military duties of its only cobbler; and has he any statement to make?

A report has been called for. As soon as it is received, I will communicate with my hon. Friend.

Leave (Middle East)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that a number of officers have returned from the Middle East for various reasons, he will make arrangements to have a certain number of non-commissioned officers and men sent home each year from every battalion in the Middle East, to be chosen by their commanding officers as a reward for good service?

It is necessary from time to time to bring home a few officers from the Middle East in order to give the Army at home the benefit of their experience of active operations. Occasionally it is possible to bring individuals home for other reasons. I gave a brief outline of the arrangements for such transfers in an answer to my hon. Friends the Members for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and East Fulham (Mr. Astor) on 8th December, of which I am sending my hon. Friend a copy. I fear that the shipping situation and operational needs do not enable any more extensive scheme for bringing officers and men home to be introduced at the present time.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that to some of the soldiers M.E.F. stands for "Men England Forgets" and that this proposal would do a great deal to destroy that illusion?

Yes, Sir, and I have not the slightest doubt that this is one of the things which render it extremely desirable to have more shipping.

Is not the reason why some of these officers are brought home that they want to see their relatives and for no other purpose?

I do not know of any, and if the hon. Gentleman can give me instances, I shall be glad to investigate them.

Has my right hon. Friend gone into the whole question of priority passages, and cannot some of these be cut down so as to give the men referred to in the Question an opportunity of coming home?

I do not think that that arises, because at the moment there is a large back lag even in the priority passages.

Casualties (Unofficial Telegrams)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that there is normally no serious congestion in the telegraph facilities between the Middle East and England, he will consider relaxing the rule regarding personal communication to relatives in all cases except that of missing persons whose fate may still be under investigation?

As I have already explained, the rule referred to was introduced at his own discretion by the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, and I do not propose to interfere with it. The governing consideration was the avoidance of distress and disappointment arising from the premature communication of unverified and sometimes unreliable information. The pressure on means of communication is a secondary consideration at the present time, but it may become a serious matter in times of heavy fighting when casualties are numerous.

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman shifts his ground for refusal every time I ask him this Question, may I ask whether he is aware that the ground he gives of worry in a case which is still uncertain is explicitly excluded from the proposal I put in this Question?

What is it to do with the Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East as to whether relatives in this country are caused distress?

The Commander-in-Chief is in control of the operations and also of the administration connected with them.

Why does that make him responsible for any distress that might be caused to relatives in this country?

The Commander-in-Chief is responsible not only for operations but for the morale of the troops in the Middle East and, that being so, I propose to take his advice on the matter.

Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Commander-in-Chief on this proposal, and has he taken his advice?

Why does the tight hon. Gentleman quote the Commander-in-Chief when he has not consulted him?