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British Army And Royal Air Force (Numbers)

Volume 415: debated on Tuesday 30 October 1945

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(by Private Notice)asked the Prime Minister whether he will now give the total numbers of United Kingdom personnel of the Army and the Royal Air Force respectively under the following five heads:

  • (a) In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland;
  • (b) In North-West Europe, including Germany, the Low Countries, France and Norway;
  • (c) In Austria, Italy and the Mediterranean Theatre (including Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Persia and Iraq);
  • (d) In India and Burma, and
  • (e) In the Far East.
  • I regret that it is not in the public interest to give this information.

    I am astounded at the answer by the Prime Minister, and I do not for one moment accept the validity of the arguments behind it. I am not ill-acquainted with what is the situation in the world. If (b) and (c) in my Question were linked together, and (d) and (e) werelinked together, making only three categories, namely, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in everything West of the Suez Canal, and in everything East of the Suez Canal, if there were these three main global totals, would any objection be alleged against giving the figures?

    :I had the privilege of sitting under my right hon. Friend for a number of years when this kind of question had to be considered. No one knows more than the right hon. Gentleman about these things. I want to meet him as far as I possibly can. I would like to discuss with him the possibility of what figures could be given, but it is not very easy.

    On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Can you tell me why this question is taken as a Private Notice Question? What urgency is there? I understand that Private Notice Questions can be asked only as a matter of urgency.

    It is not the custom for the Leader of the Opposition to put Questions on the Order Paper. The only way in which he can put a Question is by Private Notice.

    I gladly accept the Prime Minister's suggestion that we should have a few interchanges on the subject. I should be very ready to put the question down in a different form, possibly asking for three totals. All we want to know is how many men are being kept here and in the Far East. That is the main fact. One must see where the greatest numbers lie. That is all I am anxious to adduce. I should be very glad to have a talk with my right hon. Friend afterwards, and to put another Question to him. [Interruption.] An hon. Member asks why I want to know. It is because I want to get the largest number of men out of the Army as soon as possible.