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Casualties (Unofficial Telegrams)

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 23 March 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the Order regarding communications to relatives from the Middle East has twice been altered at different dates; and whether he will ask the new Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, to consider the question in the light of the representations which have been made?

I am well aware that three General Orders have been issued by the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, on this subject. The second and third repeat word for word the original prohibition on cables and telegrams and give the same reason for it, although other points are added which were not in the original Order. In answer to the second part of my hon. Friend's Question I therefore have nothing to add to the answer I gave him on 10th March.

Is it not reasonable that, in view of the widespread interest of the families of troops in this question and the support this has received in the House, my right hon. Friend should at least ask the new Commander-in-Chief to look into the question again and see whether he can reconsider it?

No, Sir. Quite frankly, I think the Commander-in-Chief has other and much more important things to do.

Is it not treating the House with contempt if my right hon. Friend refuses to ask a perfectly reasonable question of the Commander-in-Chief on a point on which there is great interest in this country.

There is no evidence, apart from the hon. Member's persistence, of the great interest to which he refers, and, as I have said, I think the Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East and the authorities in North Africa generally have much more urgent tasks to do at the moment.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the use by troops in the Middle East, during the time when it was permitted to them to communicate with relatives in this country, of their right to do so had the object and the effect of alleviating anxiety in this country and not increasing it?

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at an early opportunity.