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Service Personnel (Travel Facilities)

Volume 414: debated on Monday 22 October 1945

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13.

asked the Minister of War Transport what are the travel priorities given to men coming home on compassionate leave.

I have been asked to reply. Hon. Members will realise that there are many degrees of compassion, ranging from a case of extreme urgency, such as that of a dying wife, to one where there are strong grounds for bringing a man home which are not urgent in the extreme sense. No rigid rule is therefore possible. In general, cases of extreme urgency are given the highest priority possible by sea or air and those of lesser urgency are fitted in, in accordance with the relative needs of each case and the available transport.

Is the Minister aware that there are complaints from those who are granted these high priorities, that they often take longer to come on compassionate leave than on ordinary B.A.O.R.leave?

That is not our information at the War Office. We do everything possible to bring the really urgent compassionate cases home as speedily as possible by whatever means of transport are available.

14.

asked the Minister of War Transport why 300 Indian students proceeding to Britain were transferred from the s.s. "Georgic" to the s.s. "Orion" in Bombay; and if he will assure the House that the use of troopships for this purpose will not delay the repatriation of His Majesty's Forces.

The number of Indian students being brought to this country in the "Georgic" and "Orion" are two and 269 respectively. The reason why some students were transferred from "Georgic" to "Orion" is not known, but I am making inquiries. The reason why Indian students are being brought to this country at a time when available space is very limited was given in the reply by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for India to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Garry Allighan) on 15th October. Some civilian movement must be maintained but the number of civilians being transported by ship at the present time is an absolute minimum and makes no appreciable difference to the rate of demobilisation of His Majesty's Forces from overseas.

Is the Minister aware of how exasperating it is to Service men in Burma and elsewhere, who are told that they cannot come on leave because of the lack of transport, to find that space is reserved on troopships for Indian students? Will he see that this does not occur again?

If the hon. Gentleman will read my reply, he will see that I deal with those two points.

17.

asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will allocate one additional steamer to the cross-Channel route from Dieppe, in order to widen the bottleneck through which C.M.F. leave parties have to pass.

Cross-Channel shipping at the moment is not the limiting factor in the movement of C.M.F. leave parties. The main bottleneck is the capacity of the European railways to bring the men to a Channel port. An increase in the rail movement is expected to be possible shortly and this additional movement will be provided for by additional shipping, but the port of embarkation will not be Dieppe.