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Transfers To Bla (Home Leave)

Volume 409: debated on Tuesday 10 April 1945

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21.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that there is some dissatisfaction among men who, having served for more than four years in the Middle East and Central Mediterranean Forces, are eligible after transference to the B.L.A, for only seven days' home leave; and if, in any future modification of the B.L.A. leave scheme, con- sideration can be given to length of service in more remote theatres of war.

30.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that a division, of which he has been informed, after three years' service in the Middle East, have now been transferred to Belgium; that these men have only been allowed seven days' leave similar to the B.L.A.; and if he will consider granting these men at least 28 days' leave after three years abroad, as there is a strong feeling of resentment amongst the personnel concerned and relatives.

42.

asked the Secretary of State for War why it is that men who have had several years' service abroad and have been transferred to the B.L.A. are only given nine days' leave.

These were operational moves between overseas commands. I have repeatedly made it clear that operational considerations over-ride all leave rules. Subject to this the general position is broadly speaking that transferees come under the rules applicable to the theatre to which they are transferred but count their service in the previous theatre for the purpose of any qualifying periods. If the men now in question had remained in their previous theatres they would have been eligible in due course for repatriation and they would have taken their chance in the allotment of vacancies for 28 days' leave. On transfer they aggregate their service for repatriation and acquire greatly increased chances of leave but for the smaller period of seven days. As a matter of fact, I arranged personally with Field Marshal Montgomery that they should have a special allotment over and above that to the rest of the B.L.A. and at approximately double the rate. In the result they should get leave much earlier than they otherwise would have done and their repatriation rights are not appreciably affected. On the whole I think they have been very fairly treated in somewhat difficult circumstances. Incidentally, Field Marshal Montgomery personally visited most of the men affected and explained the leave arrangements to them.

But in all the circumstances, would it not be desirable to grant these men, as a special arrangement, double the present arrangements regarding the B.L.A. leave? In ordinary circumstances they would have been entitled to 28 days—

The right hon. Gentleman interrupted me. What I wanted to say was, apart from the question of entitlement, has it not been the custom in normal circumstances to grant these men 28 days' leave, and, in the special circumstances, would it not be desirable to double the leave and, instead of seven days, to give them at least 14?

Not at all. They take their chance in a very limited allotment of places. I think I can broadly explain the matter, that whereas in their new home the whole lot of them are likely to get the shorter leave in a period of three months, it would have taken a very great deal longer than that for all of them to have qualified for and to have obtained the 28 days' leave. Each individual has a smaller allotment bat they all get it much earlier and with much more certainty.

While the right hon. Gentleman has, of course, given a reasonable and correct Departmental reply, would he bear in mind that when a man has been overseas for four years or more, it is very hard indeed only to get seven days' home leave—almost worse than not getting leave at all—and could he not look into the matter again?

Certainly, Sir. I have looked into the matter with great care and I am willing to wager that the people concerned would very much rather that they all get seven days' leave than that a quarter or a fifth of them get 28 days' leave.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a good deal of feeling in the country amongst the relatives of these men and, seeing how widespread it is, surely he will agree that seven days' leave after three or four years abroad is not reasonable?

I have received a certain number of complaints on behalf of relatives but the men themselves, to the best of my information, regard the arrangements made as quite reasonable.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those who have come home did not have the scheme explained to them by Field-Marshal Montgomery, as he has said?

I said that most of the men affected had it explained to them. I am sorry that my information is rather different from that of the hon. Gentleman.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it takes most of the men two or three days to travel to their homes after they arrive in this country?

Excuse me, it does. I am sorry to contradict the hon. Member, but arrangements are made for people who live a long way off to be given extra travelling time.

There are many cases where it takes 3½ days for the men to reach their homes.