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Volume 411: debated on Tuesday 29 May 1945

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the figures which have been issued by the United States Government as to the number of troops which they intend to demobilise now that the European war is over, and the numbers which they intend to reserve for service in the Far East; and whether in these circumstances he can make an equivalent statement about the British Army, indicating how many men are to be brought home within the next few months, what proportion will be reserved for service in the Far East; and what principles will be applied to bringing home those who have already served for considerable periods in the Far or Middle East.

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Labour on 16th May, and to the answers which the Prime Minister gave to the hon. Members for Everton, Liverpool (Mr. Kirby) and South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) and which I gave to the hon. Members for West Lewisham (Mr. Henry Brooke)and Skipton (Mr. H. Lawson) on 15th May.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that there are considerable complaints in the Army about the long term that has to be served by those overseas and of the length of service of those who are in the ranks?

As this is a matter which concerns the three Services, will not the Prime Minister himself give the House some more precise information as to methods of demobilisation, in view of the considerable apprehension that exists in the minds of Service men and of their families? At the present moment all we have is a global figure and not individual figures.

A statement on this matter might well be made before we separate, but the subject is not as simple as it seemed to be at the outset.

Royal Army Medical Corps


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can now announce demobilisation plans for officers and men in the R.A.M.C.; and if they will be treated in the same way as officers and men in other branches of the Service.

The ordinary release Regulations will apply to the R.A.M.C. as to the rest of the Army. I do not anticipate that the "military necessity" clause will be frequently applied to other ranks and general duty officers. It will probably have to be applied to specialist officers much more freely in view of the over-all shortage of such officers and of the difficulty of obtaining from civil life replacements which are likely to be necessary.

Is not the Minister aware that there is a great shortage of doctors in many parts of the country? Will he bear that fact in mind in making his plans?

Quite a considerable number of doctors are due to be released under the ordinary working of the scheme.

If medical officers are to be released under Class B as being essential for civilian needs, will the right hon. Gentleman make sure that their rights as regards 56 days' leave are safeguarded? Otherwise a good many of those who are released for urgent civilian needs will lose a corresponding amount of pay.

My difficulty is not of releasing doctors under Class B but of releasing those whose turn comes under Class A.

Is it not the case that a considerable number of applications is being made for the return at an earlier date of those who are due to be demobilised, because in certain areas the civilian need is very acute? If that is so, will the Minister not have regard to the suggestion which I have made to him?

I think that the need of the civil population for doctors is much more likely to be met under Class A than Class B. It is a new idea to me that it will be necessary to have recourse to Class B for doctors.

Russia (Transfer Of British Vessels)


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the war in Europe is ended, he is now able to give information as to the transfer of vessels of the Royal Navy to the Red Fleet.

I will ask the hon. Member to defer this Question, the answer to which would be somewhat lengthy, till next week.

Will the right hon. Gentleman, when he is dealing with British property in this prodigal fashion, remember the promise he made that he would not preside over the liquidation of, the British. Empire, as this is part of the British Empire?

This particular episode was part of the process by which the consolidation of the British Empire was achieved.

When the Prime Minister is preparing an answer to that question, will he also prepare an answer to the question, why he transferred the Secretary of State for Scotland from this House to another place?

Can the Prime Minister assure me that he will not also hand over the Welch Fusiliers to Marshal Tito in the process?

Seac (Headquarters)


asked the Prime Minister whether the headquarters of S.E.A.C. will be moved from Ceylon to a place nearer the scene of operations in view of the liberation of Burma.

The choice of the Headquarters is not governed by its exact geographical location, view of the great distances involved on this Front and the facilities of air transport. Should any change be made, there would be no reason to inform the enemy of it.

Occupied Germany (British Economic Interests)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the appointment of a special economic advisory body to assist military government in British-occupied Germany for the purpose of designing an economic policy appropriate to safeguarding the traditional interests of British business in Europe, as demonstrated by Europe's ratio of the foreign trade of the United Kingdom.

No, Sir. Adequate arrangements have already been made to enable those responsible for military government in British-occupied Germany to receive from His Majesty's Government the advice, information and instructions which they require on economic matters.

Reparations Commission (British Delegate)


asked the Prime Minister how often the Reparations Commission in Moscow has met; who are the British delegates to this body; and what share of the reparations total is claimed by this country.

The Reparations Commission has not yet met. It will meet in Moscow in accordance with the Yalta decision. The United Kingdom delegate will be the Solicitor-General, Sir Walter Monckton, whom I can mention by name because he is not yet a Member of this House. I regret I can make no statement in advance of the date of the meeting of the Commission.

Could the Prime Minister say whether the report that France is taking unilateral action in transferring cattle from Germany to France, and that Russia is transferring male population in order to rebuild cities, is true?

United Nations (German Territory)


asked the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that the other members of the United Nations are taking steps to ensure strategic control of the approaches to their respective countries, whether consideration will be given to the safeguarding of the United Kingdom by retaking possession of the former Kingdom of Hanover.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree from his researches into history that it would give much greater confidence to the smaller countries of Europe if they felt that this country had a definite status on the mainland of Europe?

We are not seeking to enlarge our bounds as a result of this war. We have fought it for great principles, and in the satisfaction of those principles we shall find our reward.

British Commonwealth And Empire War Casualties


asked the Prime Minister whether he can now state the total casualties suffered by the Armed Forces of the Crown during the present war to date, compared with those suffered in the Great War, 1914–1918.

The total casualties suffered by the Armed Forces of the British Commonwealth and Empire in the present war, as reported from 3rd September, 1939, to the end of February, 1945, a total of 66 months, were 1,128,315 of which 307,201 were deaths. For fuller details I may refer my hon. and gallant Friend to a statement circulated on 10th April in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies). In the first Great War the total casualties suffered by the British Commonwealth and Empire Forces in 52 months were 3,286,090 of which 996,230 were deaths. It should however be borne in mind that in this present war the following additional losses have been inflicted upon the civil population of Great Britain by the enemy bombardment, namely: killed, 60,585; seriously injured, 86,175. I cannot give the precise figures for the slightly injured but they are upwards of 150,000.

Does that include Northern Ireland? The Prime Minister mentioned only Great Britain. What about Northern Ireland?

The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned civilians. What of civilians in Northern Ireland—942 killed in Belfast alone?

Has any estimate been formed of the total loss of human life that has been occasioned in all countries, as a result of this war?

Empire Forces, Great Britain


asked the Prime Minister if opportunity can be given to the peoples of London and other centres to meet and greet contingents of the Dominion, Indian and Colonial forces of the Crown, in order to show our appreciation of their fellowship in the war effort.


asked the Prime Minister if in view of the services rendered by volunteers from all parts of the Empire during this war, and the numbers of Empire troops still in this country, he will arrange for a march through the Metropolis of Empire units before their return home, so that the citizens of London may show their appreciation.

Nearly all the Dominion, Indian and Colonial troops now in this country, other than Canadian troops, are returned prisoners of war, who naturally wish to get home as soon as possible. It would be very difficult to arrange a suitable and representative parade. But the suggestion will be borne in mind. Meanwhile the best way in which we can show our appreciation of the contribution to victory made by these troops is to extend every hospitality and courtesy to individual members of these Forces throughout the short period of their stay in this country.

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that that does not give the people of the country the opportunity of greeting them in the streets in a march past?

I think that it might inflict hardship on these men if, in the short period, they had to go through the drills and organisation necessary for ceremonial parades. I think we can trust to the warm contacts which have already been established.

War Decorations And Medals


asked the Prime Minister to what modal men who have served in Paiforce will be entitled.

The Prime Minister: I should be obliged if my hon. and gallant Friend would repeat this Question this day week.


asked the Prime Minister if he will consider recommending that a reasonable period of service, perhaps 18 months, from 24th August, 1939, shall qualify for the Defence Medal the volunteer veteran members of the Home Defence battalions, many of whom have been prevented from serving for three years by reason of having the age-limit or by reason of ill-health or infirmity.

Such service after 3rd September, 1939, amounting to less than three years and terminated by death due to enemy action on duty or by injuries entitling the candidate to a Wound Stripe qualifies for the Defence Medal. It is not proposed to make any reduction in the qualifying period in favour of those who retired because of ill-health not falling within this definition or on account of age.

Questions To Ministers

The following Question stood on the Order Paper in the name of Sir Arthur Salter:

56. To ask the Prime Minister to which Minister questions on general policy regarding European relief and reconstruction should be addressed.

On a point of Order. Despite the usual practice, can you, Mr. Speaker, permit the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) to put the Question that stands in his name, in order that the Prime Minister can say that the answer to the Question is the questioner?