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New Clause—(Amendment Of S 108A Of Army Act And S 108A Of Air Force Act)

Volume 388: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1943

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Section one hundred and eight A of the Army Act and section one hundred and eight A of the Air Force Act (which provide for billeting in cases of emergency) shall respectively have effect as if at the end of paragraph ( c) of subsection (3) thereof there were inserted the following proviso:

"Provided that in no case shall the inclusive price prescribed for breakfast, dinner, tea and supper be less than three shillings."—[Mr. Bellenger.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I should not have brought forward this new Clause if there had been any other way of dealing with this matter on Second Reading. The purpose of the Clause is to improve the rates of billeting allowances. At the beginning of the war the allowance paid to the public for billeting troops was 2s. 3d. a day—breakfast 8d., dinner 11d., tea 3d. and supper 5d. Since that time the rates have been improved, so that to-day the inclusive allowance is 2s. 7d. a day. My point is that that is not sufficient, and I would illustrate it by showing the anomaly which can arise in the following circumstances. A soldier, an airman or a seaman when he goes on leave is given a ration allowance of 3s. a day. Perhaps he may hand it over to his wife when he gets home. When that soldier's leave is ended, if another soldier should be billeted in that home the wife will get an allowance of only 2s. 7d. a day for him. I think my hon. and learned Friend is fully conversant with the point, and I hope he is going to meet me to some extent. I suggest that these billeting rates, which have been unchanged for two years, ought to be in- creased. It would certainly throw an additional charge on the Army, but I do not think it would prove expensive, and even if it did I suggest that we have to deal fairly with the members of the public who are providing food and attendance for members of the Armed Forces and that they should not be paid less than the allowance by way of rations now given to members of the Armed Forces when they go on leave.

I am afraid that it will not be possible for me to accept this new Clause. My hon. Friend knows that the prices to which he has referred are not fixed by Statute but by Regulation, at any rate during a national emergency. It follows, therefore, that those Regulations can be altered at any time when a rise or fall in prices justifies certain action, and it is impossible to impose restrictions through the medium of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Act. As my hon. Friend knows, the Regulations have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, either of which may present an Address for their annulment within 40 days of their being laid. At the same time, the problem to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention has been under the active consideration of the War Office, not only in regard to food prices, but also in regard to other elements, for example, accommodation, including payment for fuel, etc. While I cannot make any promise, I can assure my hon. Friend that I will do my best, in conjunction with the other Departments concerned, to ensure that an early decision is reached, and in those circumstances I hope he will see his way to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.