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Armed Forces (Overseas Service)

Volume 400: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1944

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38.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to institute an inter-Departmental inquiry with a view to a reduction in the inequalities between the three Services regarding the periods of overseas service.

39.

asked the Prime Minister whether, while it is recognised that the granting of home leave for all men abroad must depend on the availability of shipping, there is any reason why the qualifying period for such leave should not be the same for the Army and the R. A. F.

Every effort is made to equalise the conditions of service in these matters in all the Armed Forces but I regret that, owing to war-time conditions, this is difficult to achieve. I fear that an inquiry, as is suggested, will not solve these difficulties.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that we have been assured from time to time that the difficulties consist, first, in the unmanageable numbers the Army is said to have and, secondly, in the fact that the two other Services have their own means of transport? Would not an inquiry between the Services do something to improve the position of soldiers as compared with sailors and airmen?

I do not think the hon. Member is correct. I have referred him to the full reply that the Prime Minister gave to the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker). There are many great difficulties.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the discontent that there is in the country over this question? Is if not possible to equalise the qualifying period, and let the men concerned wait until shipping becomes available?

I am aware that there is natural feeling about this, but the difficulty is really due to operational conditions.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the grievance felt by the men in khaki is that members of the Air Force, who are on the ground staff, can have leave whereas they, though they have undergone considerable hardships, have to wait, simply because they are in a different Service?

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that what the Army feels is that the War Office does not look after them as well as the Air Force looks after its men?

Will not my right hon. Friend consider the matter again? It is causing grave concern to everyone.

I will certainly look into it as fully as possible, and I shall be glad to have any information hon. Members can give me.

The right hon. Gentleman says one is not correct in stating what the difficulties are. Is he not aware that I am only paraphrasing what we have been told only to-day by the right hon. Gentleman sitting next him? Would not an inquiry solve these apparent discrepancies between the two right hon. Gentlemen?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that, with the extension of the Far Eastern war, these difficulties are likely to become more acute and widespread, and will he not take steps in advance to prevent them?

Is it possible to appoint a co-ordinating Minister to equalise the conditions between the different Services?