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Commons Chamber

Volume 415: debated on Tuesday 30 October 1945

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 30th October, 1945

The House met at a Quarter past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Standing Orders (Private Business)

I beg to move, "That the Amendments to the Standing Orders relative to Private Business, as set out in the Schedule attached hereto, be made:

Schedule.

Standing Order 39,—page 116, line 6, after 'Ministry,' insert 'the Ministry of Civil Aviation.'

Standing Order 60,—page 133, line 19, after 'Ministry,' insert 'or the Ministry of Civil Aviation.'

Line 20, after 'Air,' add 'or the Minister of Civil Aviation, as the case may be.'

Standing Order 180,—page 198, line 9, after 'Ministry,' insert 'or the Ministry of Civil Aviation.'

Line 10, after 'Air,' add 'or the Minister of Civil Aviation, as the case may be.'

Appendix (C) (Table of Fees),—page 233, line 8, leave out '£1 2s.,' and insert '£3 3s.'

Line 10, leave out '9d.,' and insert '1s. 0d.'"

These Amendments relate to Standing Orders concerning Private Business. As the House is aware, copies of all Private Bills have to be furnished, under Standing Orders, to certain Government Departments. A new Ministry has now been created—the Ministry of Civil Aviation—and it is desired to add the name of that Ministry to the list of Ministries to whom Bills have to be supplied by the promoters. The first five Amendments, therefore, deal with that question, and bring in the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The last two Amendments relate to increases in the shorthand writers' rates, and these have been agreed by the Treasury, as a result of representations by the shorthand writers.

Question put, and agreed to.

Oral Answers To Questions

British Army

Demobilisation

1.

asked the Secretary of State for War what plans exist for the demobilisation of Regular officers.

This question does not arise except in the case of Regular officers who are due for retirement, or who wish to retire. The present general policy is to retain Regular Army officers for at least the duration of the emergency, unless they have passed the age limit for reserve liability. Those who have reached the normal age for compulsory retirement are retained on the active list under the authority of Article 213 of the Royal Warrant for the Pay, etc., of the Army, but any who particularly wish to retire on medical or other grounds may apply to do so through the usual channels. Each application is considered on its merits. Members of the Regular Army Reserve of Officers who were called up during the present emergency are released in their age and service groups.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is amatter affecting many officers who will wish to retire, and will he, at an early date, institute an inquiry into how many wish to continue to serve, and how many do not?

6.

asked the Secretary of State for War which demobilisation groups are affected by the restrictions which prohibit home leave for men in early demobilisation groups in C.M.F.; how many servicemen are affected; how many weeks' delay would be caused in the repatriation schemes if this restriction was removed; and whether he can now relax this restriction.

:The groups affected by this arrangement alter continually as the release scheme progresses, and the numbers of men affected also change constantly in the different theatres, according to the total numbers falling due for release or repatriation under Python at any particular time. I cannot therefore give figures. The object of the arrangement is to avoid bringing men home on leave for long distances, returning them to their units, and bringing them home again shortly afterwards. It is clearly both economical and reasonable and I regret that I can see no grounds for making any change.

In view of the answer given to the previous Question, how can the right hon. Gentleman make a decision upon that matter without knowing, with some degree of accuracy, how many men are affected by this scheme?

I am afraid that, in this particular case, I have not very much to add to what I have stated, because as I see it—I donot know whether I am mistaking the hon. Member's point—it places officers much in the same category as other ranks, on this question of leave.

28.

asked the Secretary of State for War if a man granted compassionate release which takes him beyond his release group, will be liable to be recalled or automatically released with his group.

Periods spent in release from the Colours for any reason are excluded as service for the purpose of assessing a man's age and Service group. If a man is given compassionate release for a limited period, therefore, his age and service group must be amended on his return to the Colours. He may, of course, be eligible for immediate release in his new group. A man who is granted indefinite release on compassionate grounds is not recalled to the Colours.

39.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the provisions of the release scheme as applied to units of His Majesty's Army also apply to the Jewish Brigade; and what steps are being taken to effect the demobilisation of the Jewish Brigade.

:Members of the Jewish Brigade are dealt with for release like any other soldiers. Those enlisted in the United Kingdom are returned for release in the usual way with their group; those enlisted in the Middle East are recalled by that Command as release becomes due under the rules relating to local enlistments.

Will the Minister give an assurance that the rate of release of the large numbers in this Brigade who are Palestinians is identical with that of British soldiers?

Do the rules of local enlistment correspond at all to our rules?

The members of the Jewish Brigade are dealt with in regard to release like any other soldiers.

:My right hon. Friend said in his original answer that those enlisted in the Middle East were dealt with according to the rules of local enlistment; are those rules anything like our rules?

Requisitioned Property (Release)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many requisitioned premises there are in Folkestone; and on what date derequisitioning will be completed.

One hundred and forty premises in Folkestone are under requisition by my Department. Of these, 25 are already in process of release, and a further 66 are expected to be released by the end of this year. I cannot give a date for the remainder, though I hope thatmore than half of them will be cleared by the end of March, 1946.

:While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, which, so far as it goes, will give great satisfaction to some of my constituents, may I ask why, in view of the fact that Shorncliffe Camp can accommodate a brigade group, the whole of the accommodation in Folkestone at present requisitioned by his Department cannot be released at an early date?

I think that in the circumstances, and the duties and responsibilities falling upon the Department, we had better be thankful for small mercies.

27.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, owing to the pressing nature of the housing problem in the borough of Wembley, he will arrange that all houses and flats now occupied by the Army shall be released and made available for civilian occupation.

Under the plans already made it is hoped to release during the next two months about two-thirds of the properties still held by my Department in the borough of Wembley. I cannot at present say anything about the release of the remainder but they are very few in number.

44.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has considered the repeated requests for the derequisitioning of houses and farms in the area covered by the battle training school in the vicinity of Thetford, Norfolk; and if he will come to an early decision on this matter in view of the contribution both to the housing problem and for food production the release of these villages would make; as the people involved were promised in 1942 that this requisitioning would only be for the duration of the war, and as many of those who willingly gave up their houses are in difficulties and unable to make proper arrangements for the future.

:I have been considering the repeated requests for derequisitioning of houses and farms in the vicinity of Thetford. The whole of the requisitioned area is now being used for the preparation of troops about to be despatched to take the place of troops due for release or return from overseas theatres. It is as yet not possible to say which portions of this area can be released shortly and which the Army will seek to acquire for future Army training. I am making a survey of all lands now in use by the Army with a view to deciding which must be retained. This area will, of course, be considered in the course of the survey and full weight will be given to these representations. No decision can be given until the survey is complete, and that depends on the future requirements of the Army, its composition, and commitments.

Do I understand my right hon. Friend to say that he is considering using this area as a permanent training ground?

What I wanted to make clear was that I am making a reassessment of the country as a whole in view of the complaints we have had from various parts as to the wide areas that are being used for training purposes. I have to consider this question as a whole.

Is the War Office prepared to carry out the pledges that were given that these areas would be returned to their owners at the end of the war?

I should like to see what those pledges were and whether they were given with the authority of the War Office or not. In any case, I want to look at this question as a whole because we want to do justice all round and, at the same time, to do justice to the Army in its training.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of visiting the areas in question and seeing the facts for himself?

Repatriation (Medloc Scheme)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the discomfort and delay experienced by Army personnel returning to the United Kingdom through Southern France from the Middle East and else where under the Medloc Scheme; that conditions on this route compare un favourably with those on similar routes in the same area under the control ofthe U.S. Army authorities, and whether immediate steps will be taken to improve the present arrangements.

:As regards the sea and railway journey I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given on 17th October to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Allighan). As regards the conditions at Dieppe, I would refer him to the reply given on 16th October to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend.

Training Areas, North Wales

4.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the extensive danger and in convenience caused to residents and visitors in the coastal area of Snowdonia by reason of the battle school exercises in that area; and whether, in view of the adverse effect which this has upon the holiday trade, arrangements will be made to ensure that the exercises do not take place within five miles of the coast or of inhabited places and are confined to the large area of land available to the schools outside those limits.

These areas are used for the training of officer cadets. There is an urgent need to provide junior officers to replace the older officers now due for release and it is impossible at present to avoid the use of North Wales. But the officer training establishments concerned are being moved to other locations, and the practical field training of officer cadets will be carried out where it will not interfere with the convenience of residents or visitors of Snowdonia during the 1946 holiday season.

:Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a considerable amount of feeling on this matter, not only among residents and visitors to coastal areas, but among the farming community, and that it is due entirely to the failure, all too often, of those engaged in these exercises, exactly to confine themselves to the limits of the practice areas? Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to publish publicly the exact areas, and the boundaries concerned, and also issue orders that these exercises must be confined to these boundaries?

:So far as I am aware, they are confined to certain areas, and there are boundaries to those areas. I should have thought that the answer to the hon. and gallant Member shows a considerable improvement in the position.

Release Deferment (Leave)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the hold up in demobilisation of certain officers and other ranks, he wall give instructions to C.M.F. that leave under L.I.A.P. Scheme shall begiven immediately to officers and other ranks affected by the hold up and who have served overseas for three years but, because of their early demobilisation group, have not been allowed leave under that scheme.

68.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give instructions that officers in release groups 21–24, serving in C.M.F., whose release is being delayed in accordance with the announcement of 16th October, should not now be considered ineligible for United Kingdom leave on the ground that the period before their expected date of release may be less than four clear months.

95.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will grant special short-term leave facilities to those officers overseas who are being retained beyond the normal time of demobilisation of their age groups, especially those in the M.E.F. who have not been home to this country for several years.

The purpose of deferring the release of officers in certain age-service groups, which I announced on 16th October, is the performance of duties for which their presence for a limited time in overseas theatres is essential. Though I regret that some hardship may have been caused in individual cases, I do not think it is possible for commanders overseas to make an exception in favour of these officers to the rule which excludes leave from overseas theatres to those who are to be released within the space of a few months. In cases of extreme hardship, it is open to the officers concerned to apply for compassionate reversion to the United Kingdom, or, if necessary, release under Class C. There has been no hold-up in the demobilisation of other ranks in C.M.F. except in a very few isolated cases.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as a result of his answer, these officers will not only have been held back several months already from their normal leave, but will have an additional four or five months on top of that? Cannot he see that it is most unreasonable to keep these men, because of their nearness to demobilisation, away from their families for a very long time?

:It all depends on the number of the group. If it was group 21, there might be something in that, if three or four months were added to their time; but if you took groups 22 to 24, it would be a different matter. In this case there would be no virtue in sending a man home for his leave, when, by the time he returned, he would be due to come back to this country again.

The Question asked that they might be returned immediately. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman consider allowing these men. who have already lost their places in the leave rota, to come home immediately, in the place of other men who would come home under the normal leave scheme?

:I am afraid I cannot give any encouragement to that suggestion, because it would tend to wipe out the value of the deferment scheme, which I announced a week or fortnight ago. This allows the sharing of the deferment over the whole of every theatre.

Release Groups (Oversea Posting)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that a number of men in the early 30 release groups, including some skilled and experienced in the building trades, are about to sail for Hong Kong in a company of the R.A.S.C., of whose identity he has been informed; that the units from which men were posted to form this company contain many men in much later release groups, who are to remain in Britain; and if, in view of the urgent need to conserve both shipping-space and housing man-power, he will cause the composition of this company to be revised.

The unit in question has already left for Hong Kong, and the men were correctly posted under the rules in force at the time. The general practice regarding the posting of soldiers to overseas theatres and how it avoids uneconomical travel, was explained on 16th October in answer to a Question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aston (Major Wyatt). The men who remain in the units from which this company was drawn are still available for overseas posting and may well be so posted if they are in the appropriate groups and are medically fit.

Before this unit, or other units like it, are posted to the Far East, is any attemptmade to sort out possible Class B releases—building trade workers and so on?

:I cannot say that there is. As a matter of fact Class B releases are usually sent in to the appropriate Department on application by the employers.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that has been specifically denied? I have had a private word with other hon. Members and I am given to understand that that is not so.

Is the Minister not aware that many hon. Members have put the same question, and have been told specifically, by many Departments, that employers may not apply? Would he make some statement to clear up this matter?

As a matter of fact this Question deals with the numbers of the groups that are required to go out. I made a statement on 16th October in which I pointed out that groups before Group 32 did not go out—that is, two groups later than the one mentioned by my hon. Friend. As to the other point, I would prefer to see the Question on the Order Paper.

Stakehill Detention Barracks

8.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now make a statement on the recent fatality at Stakehill Military Detention barracks; and to what extent conditions there conform with the recommendations of the Oliver Report.

The proceedings of the military court of inquiry, together with the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief's recommendations, were forwarded by the Command concerned to the War Office on 25th October. These are now being examined. All recommendations of the Oliver Report have been put into effect at Stakehill.

How soon does my right hon. Friend expect that he will be able to make a full statement about this matter, which is causing a good deal of public anxiety?

:I agree, and I can understand that public anxiety in the circumstances. The matter is receiving my urgent attention and I hope to give a full statement to the House very shortly, but I wish it to be a thorough and comprehensive statement. Therefore, I am not inclined to hurry the matter too much.

:Are we to understand from the original answer, that the inquiry was conducted by a military court of inquiry? If so, does not my right hon. Friend recall that when I asked him a Question on this subject about a week ago, he assured me that the court of inquiry was not purely military but that other interests were represented on it?

I cannot recall offhand what that particular answer was, but I should be sorry if any mistake was made. This inquiry has been conducted by the General Officer in Command.

In connection with this very important matter, is my hon. Friend taking into consideration the evidence submitted to him by the Rev. Evans, a curate in the locality?

:All information and all evidence are taken into consideration. I wish to make it quite clear that it is the proceedings of the military court of inquiry which have been forwarded.

Arising out of the last reply, when the right hon. Gentleman said that everything was being taken into account, did that include a full report of the coroner's inquest, which was very exhaustive?

I should like to see that question on the Order Paper. I have already answered questions about the coroner's inquest.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the relatives of the deceased soldier were represented at the inquiry?

In order to give my right hon. Friend an opportunity of making the thorough and comprehensive statement which he agrees is desirable, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment on Wednesday of next week, 7th November.

Missing Personnel (Far East)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will cause to be circulated to the next-of-kin of Far Eastern prisoners of war, in a forthcoming issue of the periodical "Far East" or otherwise, as complete a list as possible of all those reported missing in the Far East, together with their last known locations and addresses of next-of-kin, so that liberated prisoners of war now returning home may furnish to the relatives of the missing men such information as they have.

Under existing arrangements, each prisoner of war recovered in the Far East is asked to give any information he may have about his missing comrades, and already many reports regarding such casualties in the Far East have reached the Service casualty branchesconcerned. These reports are in process of examination and check against official records, and where the information is considered acceptable, next-of-kin have been notified. It will be appreciated that many of the reports do-not represent firsthand information, while some are inconclusive or inaccurate. The responsibility for checking and assessing such information could not be left to the next-of-kin as suggested by my hon. Friend, but must rest with the Service Departments concerned, since they alone possess the official records of the missing men.

:Does not my right hon. Friend consider that seeing a particular name in a list might remind a man of an incident which he had forgotten, and which it had not occurred to him to put forward in his official report?

:My Department welcomes any information from the relatives of the people concerned. I would point out to my hon. Friend that the proposals contained in his Question are very much in line with what I have stated in the answer just given.

Building Tradesman (Release)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for War why 14385263, Private Pullinger, A., 47th Division Battle School, with 22 years'experience in the building trade, including five years as foreman bricklayer, has recently been employed as a batman; and whether he will now be released to resume building.

Will the right hon. Gentleman supply information as to when this soldier joined the Forces, and his age and length of service?

This man was in a very late release group because he was indefinitely held at home for particular purposes.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that this trade of officer's batman is abolished altogether?

Was this man released because he was a batman, or because he was a builder?

As there seems to be some interest in this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman tell me when he is ready to give an answer, and I will then put down the Question again?

Baor (Beer Supplies)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for War how much beer is now avail able per head in the B.A.O.R. each week; when an increase is expected; and what is the target, in pints, weekly per head for December, March and June, respectively.

:The present supply is based on an allocation of 3½ pints a week per head. The target figure for all overseas theatres is 4 pints. Any addition can only be attained by local production. I am sorry I cannot give separate figures for specific dates ahead. Conditions vary as regards the availability of raw materials for local brewing.

As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is anxious not to create any alarm or despondency, will he do his utmost to secure an increase in the supply?

Polish Personnel (Leave)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for War what facilities for leave to this country are offered to Polish troops serving in the Army in Italy and in B.A.O.R., respectively.

:There is at present no regular leave to the United Kingdom for Polish troops serving in Italy, but the matter is under consideration.In individual cases special leave has been granted where there are strong compassionate reasons why the men should be allowed to come to the United Kingdom. The Polish Division with B.A.O.R. has been allotted 69 vacancies a day for leave to the United Kingdom. These are granted only to individuals who have been stationed in this country and have wives and families here. This allotment may be exceeded by the addition of compassionate cases of extreme urgency, but this is seldom necessary.

In view of the heroic achievements of the Polish troops in the war in Italy, and of their many contacts in this country, will the right hon. Gentleman give sympathetic and early consideration to the extension of leave for these troops?

Motor Cars

15.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many motor-cars are now surplus to Army requirements; and what is the reason for the delay in handing these over to the Ministry of War Transport for disposal to the public.

:The Army has no motor cars in excess of its present requirements. The requirements for the more immediate future are now being worked out, but it is unlikely that many will become surplus. There is, of course, a steady outlet of cars which have completed their useful life in the Army and are uneconomical to retain. These are regularly reported for disposal to the Ministry of Supply and Aircraft Production, which is the responsible Department.

In view of the extraordinary statement in the early part of the reply, can the right hon. Gentleman explain who owns the thousands of cars in the many car parks, pictures of which we have seen in the Press day after day for many weeks? Is it not the War Office?

I want to make it quite clear—I do not know whether it is necessary to do so—that this Question relates to motor cars, not motor vehicles. As far as vehicles are concerned, they have become surplus in large numbers and are being handed over to the Ministry of Supply and Aircraft Production as quickly as they can accept them.

Can the right hon. Gentleman state the number of motor cars now held by the Army?

If the right hon. Gentleman knows the number of cars which are not surplus to Army requirements, he must know what the number is.

As a matter of fact, I do not know the number. Therefore, I would like to see the Question on the Paper.

:Is it the policy of the Army authorities to mechanise the Army to such an extent that every individual member of the post-war Army will have a motor car of his own?

Post-War Credits (Payments)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for War when it is proposed to pay post-war credit to soldiers discharged from the Service since 1st January, 1942; and what form payment will take.

Post-war credits for invalided personnel were paid at the time of their discharge. In other cases they are payable with the war gratuity, and men discharged before VE-day must apply for payment, as announced in the Press on 1st September last. Application forms can be obtained at Post Offices. Where the post-war credit is paid with war gratuity, the combined benefits are given in the form of credits in the Post Office Savings bank in an account opened in the man's name, and the bank book is sent to him as soon as available.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether arrangements are made to bring this matter to the notice of the men concerned, apart from the notice in the Press?

Yes, Sir. They can obtain the forms and the information from post offices.

Is the right hon. Gentleman sending word to them, apart from the notice in the Press?

Missing Prisoners Of War (Russian Zone)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether permission has now been obtained for British search teams to enter Soviet-occupied Germany to look for missing British and Dominion prisoners of war.

35.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether approval has yet been received from the Russian authorities for the entry into the Russian zone of British teams searching for British prisoners of war who are still unaccounted for.

No, Sir. The situation is still as indicated in my reply on 9th October to a Question by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton).

Have the Russian Government given any reason for this extraordinary refusal?

That is not a matter which is relevant to my Department. It is a question for the Foreign Office.

Will the right hon. Gentleman press this application, in view of the great anxiety of the relatives, which is being aggravated by this delay?

I am afraid I shall have to leave that to hon. Members themselves to press.

Will the right hon. Gentleman not take some action to find 150 British prisoners of war who are lost in the Russian zone in Germany?

Private Soldier (Arrest)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for War why Private R. Jones, 14217651, 7th Battalion, A. and S.H., B.A.O.R., was kept in close arrest for more than five months before being brought to trial by court martial; under what authority this soldier was kept in arrest for so long a period without trial; and whether he has taken any action against any person responsible for the delay in dealing with the case.

:Inquiries made up to date show that Private Jones was kept in close arrest because of special difficulties connected with operations in obtaining evidence as to the serious offences with which he was charged. This action is permissible under the provisions of the Army Act, Section 45, and I have no reason to doubt that these provisions were observed. I have, however, asked for a further report as to the delay before trial.

Is it not a fact that this long detention without trial—it was in fact, I think, over six months—was an injustice to the man concerned, and was it not contrary to the long-established rules of procedure? Further, how much of the sentence was actually served in view of the very long period of detention without trial?

:I did not know anything about this until the hon. and gallant Gentleman put the Question. I called for a report immediately, and went into the facts.

Teachers (Release)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for War why the release of all sergeants working in the War Office Selection Boards has been suspended in spite of the fact that amongst them are a number of teachers who had already accepted release under Class B and are now forced to remain in the Service; and whether he will take steps to see that these men are immediately released at the earliest possible moment for return to the teaching profession.

87.

asked the Secretary of State for War why Class B releases, offered and accepted by teachers serving in the ranks, have been frozen until the end of this year, particularly in the case of men serving at 25 W.O.S.B., R.T.C.

Release has not been suspended, but owing to the very large number of Class B releases already approved, in addition to normal Class A releases, there is now a. shortage of men for this highly specialised work. This is being made good as quickly as possible, but, in the meantime, applications for Class B release must be considered individually and it has been necessary to hold up a few cases pending the provision of replacements. It is expected that all ex-teachers on the Personnel Selection Staff who desire Class B release will have left by the end of the year; the deferred cases will naturally be the first to go.

:In view of the very urgent necessity of teachers being returned to the schools, will the Minister see that applications for release under Class B are granted without interminable delay?

Did Iunderstand the Minister to say that a very large number of people had been released under Class B? If so, can he give the number, and can he say that it is anything like the 10 per cent. which are expected to be released to keep pace with the Class A releases?

:I could not, offhand, give the figures upon this matter. It is very difficult, but I should be pleased to answer a Question, if it is put down upon the Paper.

I would like the Minister to explain why he has made a statement of that kind when recently I have had occasion to write to him on the case of a young man who had graduated, but was not allowed to claim release under Class B?

In view of this trouble about teachers, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter at the earliest possible moment.

33.

asked the Secretary of State for War why the A.E.C. drafts containing schoolmasters who have been applied forunder Class B, are at present being dispatched from the Army School of Education at Wakefield to India; and whether, in conjunction with the Minister of Education, he will issue orders that this shall be cancelled immediately, in view of the shortage of teachers.

:No, Sir. As I have explained to the House on previous occasions, it is not always possible to spare members of the A.E.C. who have been applied for under Class B. A sufficient number of A.E.C. personnel must be retained to operate the Army Education Scheme. The fact that members of the Corps have been posted overseas does not affect their entitlement to release under Class A, at the appropriate time and under the usual rules.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of these men are headmasters of schools, that they are being sent to India to teach English to the Indians, and that they have no knowledge whatever of any Indian language or dialects? Does he not think, in view of the shortage of teachers here, thatthat is most inept?

:No, Sir, and I am not aware of the facts as stated by the hon. Gentleman. If they are facts, I should like some more information on a matter of that kind. I am aware that members of the Army Educational Corps have to be retained in some cases. Hon. Mem- bers have criticised the Army authorities for not carrying on educational schemes, but if those schemes are to be carried on we must have some help from the proper quarter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that in certain cases it is not a matter of the Army educational scheme? Will he undertake to inquire into the drafts which are now at Wakefield?

I would be very pleased to inquire into this particular case and to write to hon. Member when he gives me the facts.

Far East Service (Medical Regrading)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether men in the Far East who have been medically regraded can be returned from unsuitable climatic conditions to this country now that hostilities have ceased.

:I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given on 9th October to a somewhat similar question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hitchin (Major Asterley Jones).

Defence Works (Removal)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that quantities of Defence works are still awaiting removal in the Mablethorpe and Sutton urban district area; and since it took fleets of Army lorries and hundreds of soldiers to erect them and the localcouncil possess neither the labour nor equipment to do the work, will he consider leasing either troops or prisoners of war, as has been done already in certain South Coast areas, to clear these Defence works before next summer since clear beaches are important to the town's prosperity.

:It has been possible to remove some of these obstructions by military labour, and I understand that holiday makers have been able to enjoy the use of the front. It should be possible, however, for the local authority to arrange for any urgent clearances, as is the practice on the South-East Coast. If the local authority will submit detailed schedules of the work to be done, they will be given early consideration.

I understand from the clerk of the local council that they have applied for help and have not been able to get it, although it has been given to people on the South coast. In view of the fact that this area provides for the working men from the Midlands cities—and more come because of holidays with pay—is it not necessary to get this coast cleared, and cannot something be done about it at once?

Can we not have some of the obstructions in the War Office removed?

Medical Practitioners

24.

Asked the Secretary of State for War if he will state the number of medical practitioners serving in the Army on D-Day 1944; and the number at the present time.

The number of medical practitioners serving in the Army on D-Day, 1944, was 11,328. The number serving at the present time is 10,091. There has been a net reduction of 510 during the month of October.

6Th Airborne Division

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War why certain units of the 6th Airborne Division have been deprived of airborne pay and of the right to wear red berets.

:Officers and men are entitled to draw airborne pay and to wear the red beret only when they are serving with an airborne unit. Recently a large number of officers and men were posted away from the 6th Airborne Division before it left for the Middle East, owing to the fact that they were due for early demobilisation. They have accordingly been posted to other units of the regiment or corps to which they belong, and in some cases these are not airborne units.

:Is the Minister aware of the great dissatisfaction which these postings just prior to demobilisation cause among men who have fought in all the major battles?

Yes, Sir, it is always a very difficult and moving matter when units are being broken up, and particularly has it been the case with this Airborne Division, but I do not see what we can do about it.

Sick Personnel (Relatives' Visits)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will extend the concession granted to men serving in B.A.O.R., whereby, in the case of serious illness near relatives may visit them, to men in the C.M.F.

The concession referred to is restricted to men who are on the dangerously ill list. Discussions are now proceeding with a view to the extension of the scheme to C.M.F. I will inform the hon. and gallant Member of the decision in due course.

Vocational Courses, Baor

30.

asked the Secretary of Statefor War whether in view of the complaints which have been received by Members of Parliament from men serving with the B.A.O.R. that vocational courses and other educational training are totally inadequate, he will make a statement on the facilities provided.

As the answer is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

Following is the answer:

The Army Education Scheme is not a vocational training scheme. Vocational courses are arranged by the Ministry of Labour and National Service after release. Instruction under the Army scheme is mainly general and pre-vocational, though in certain cases a limited amount of vocational training may be provided.

The Commander-in-Chief, B.A.O.R., decided that as many units as possible should start implementing the Scheme with effect from 1st August, 1945, and the latest information is that 53 per cent. of units, including 70 per cent. of the total personnel of B.A.O.R., are operating the Scheme either partially or fully. Taking into account the fact that the occupational duties in this theatre are very considerable I consider that satisfactory progress has been made. The position with regard to units which are not yet able to implement the Scheme is reviewed monthly.

In addition to education in units, two Corps schools, seven Divisional schools, and 27 Brigade or equivalent schools have been established to provide such general and pre-vocational training as it is not possible to arrange in units. Also, the Rhine Army Formation College will open in November and will provide residential courses of a month's duration in a variety of subjects.

Recent reports from the theatre indicate that the position as regards instructors is satisfactory. Difficulties with regard to the distributionof books and materials in the theatre have largely been overcome and the present situation, taking into account the world shortage of books and certain other materials, is now definitely good.

German-Speaking Officer (Posting)

32.

asked the Secretary of State for War why, in view of the shortage of officers, particularly German-speaking officers, with the British Army of Occupation in Germany, which is already leading to the retention of officers due for release, has Lieutenant K. H. Farnham, 312633, who underwent and passed a language test on 28th August this year and was recommended as an interpreter in Germany, been posted to the Middle East for duty with native labour units.

This officer did not possess the technical qualifications necessary for the particular post in Germany for which he was considered, and he was drafted to the Middle East in the ordinary course of regimental duty before being considered for other employment as an interpreter. There is an acute shortage of officers in his corps in the Middle East also at the present time, and the number eligible for posting to that command is very limited. I am, however, looking personally into the case and I will write my hon. Friend.

Repatriated Prisoners Of War (Overseas Postings)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that prisoners of war repatriated from Germany have been put on drafts for service abroad, and of the resentment towards this policy, in view of the sufferings of these men; and if he will now consider demobilising all repratriated prisoners of war, or keeping them for service in this country.

69.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that men who have had only a few months in England andwho have been prisoners of war for over four years and whose group numbers are between 20 and 30 are being sent out to the Middle East, and why arrangements have not been made whereby men who have undergone such experiences can be retained in this country until their demobilisation date is reached.

:In fairness to other soldiers, many of whom have endured long periods of arduous campaigning in different parts of the world, involving severe privations, I regret I cannot release these men regardless of their age and service group, or give them the preference suggested as regards posting. They are not retained in the Army unless they have been found medically fit for further service and in all cases they spend a minimum of six months in this country after liberation. As a general rule, soldiers in groups 20–30 are no longer sent to the Middle or Far East.

Is it not contrary to international law to send out these repatriated prisoners to theatres which might, in view of the unsettled state of the world, develop into battle grounds?

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Currency Exchange (Ex-Prisoners Of War)

36.

asked the Secretary of State for War why savings from pay received by repatriated prisoners of war who worked in the camps as batmen or orderlies are being exchanged at reichsmarks 40 to the £, whilst savings of working pay received by those who were working for the enemy are being exchanged at reichsmarks 15 to the £; and whether he will take the necessary steps to remove this anomaly.

As has already been explained to the hon. Member, this question cannot be dealt with in isolation from other special credit balances accumulated in Germany, and is now being examined in the light of all the information available.

Surely it is very unfair that men who, on the orders of the senior officer in the camp, took on orderly duties instead of working for the Germans, should be discriminated against?

As I have said, this matter is to be examined in the light of the facts, which are not so simple as appear on the surface.

37.

asked the Secretary of State for War why the charitable contributions made by officers in Oflag VA to the Chartered Insurance Institute are being exchanged at the rate of reichsmarks 40 to the £, instead of at the preferential rate of reichsmarks 15 to the £, which is normally used for the savings of repatriated prisoners of war.

:As has already been explained to the hon. Member, we cannot treat as personal savings of pay such reichsmarks as a prisoner of war has applied for another purpose.

:To save time, I beg to give notice, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of these two replies, that I will raise the matter at the earliest opportunity.

Docks (Military Labour)

38.

asked the Secretary of State for War what units or corps are being called on to provide personel to unload ships at the docks; and to what extent it is interfering with their training.

Full particulars are not available but certain Infantry personnel are being employed inaddition to Royal Engineers and Pioneer units. The training of the soldiers in question is not being adversely affected by this employment. In the case of the Royal Engineers and Pioneer units, such work falls within the scope of their normal Army duties. The Infantry personnel concerned have already completed their primary and corps training: some are awaiting release and others posting overseas.

In view of the answer to a question which I was given last week, when the right hon. Gentleman said that it did not interfere with demobilisation, would his present answer be quite correct?

Education Corps Draft (Declaration)

41.

asked the Secretary of State for War why Army Education Corps drafts, being prepared for dispatching to India, were ordered to sign a declaration at the Army School of Education, at Wakefield, on 22nd October, stating that they would not divulge to the Press, or relatives, any details concerning the method and date of departure from this country.

:This declaration was obtained in error. It was a war-time procedure, necessary for security reasons, which is now being stopped.

What steps are being taken to prevent a recurrence of similar futile errors in future, and will any action be taken against the men who made that error?

Leave Men (Arms And Equipment)

42.

asked the Secretary of State for War what arms and equipment soldiers on Home establishment are compelled to take with them when proceeding on leave.

Post-War Strength And Conditions

43.

asked the Secretary of State for War in what form he anticipates announcing his proposals for the future organisation of the Army; and whether he will consider embodying such proposals in a White Paper with a view to opportunity being given to the House to discuss them before final decisions are taken regarding them.

It would be premature for His Majesty's Government to make an announcement of the form in which they intend to make public their proposals regarding the future organisation of the Army. There are, of course, some matters on which pronouncements can be made without awaiting decision upon the wider questions of policy, notably the Government's intentions regarding terms of service as to which I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply which I gave to the House on 16th October to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston-upon-Thames.

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the part of the Question referring to the possible publication in a White Paper of the terms of the Government's proposals in order that the House may have an opportunity of discussing them?

It would be premature to give an answer as to the form of publication in this matter.

Ex-Prisoners Of War And Internees (Far East)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the anxiety caused to relatives by the absence of any official information about British prisoners of war in Borneo; and whether, in view of the fact that Borneo was liberated last May, he will now make a full and detailed statement in this connection.

:Yes, Sir. Allied landings took place in May, June and July, but at the time of the Japanese surrender only a comparatively small part of Borneo had been liberated, and no United Kingdom prisoners of war had been recovered. On the surrender immediate steps were taken to contact the known camps. Eight hundred and sixty-eight prisoners of war were found at Kuching, over 400 of whom have embarked direct for the United Kingdom, theremainder being moved to India as the next stage of their journey home. The prisoners of war held at the Sandakan camp had been marched out by the Japanese earlier in the year, and their destination is not known. While every effort is still being made to trace them it is known that many deaths occurred and it is feared that the number of survivors from this camp will prove to be very few. The Australian authorities are forwarding all available information and a thorough interrogation of all recovered men, including those from Kuching, will be carried out. I much regret that I am not able to make a more satisfactory report. I am sure the House would wish me to convey our deepest sympathy with the relatives of the men who have lost their lives and to give theassurance that everything possible will be done to obtain additional information and to trace any survivors.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for War how many British prisoners of war and British civilian internees formerly in Japanese hands have reached this country; and how many still remain to be repatriated.

:It is assumed that the figures required are those of United Kingdom and not British Commonwealth personnel. Up to 29th October, 1945, about 39,000 prisoners of war had been recovered by British or Allied Forces; of these, all but a few have already left the country in which they were interned on the first stage of their journey home. This figure includes 6,000 who are on ships proceeding direct to ports in the United Kingdom, 5,506 bound for the United Kingdom through North America and 21,471 who have already reached this country. At the time of the Japanese surrender it was estimated that there were not less than 38,000 and not more than 43,000 UnitedKingdom prisoners of war alive in Japanese hands. It was not possible to make a more accurate estimate owing to the Japanese failure to notify casualties. A small number of internees have arrived in this country by air. At the moment some 3,000 from Colonial territories have arrived by sea and so far as can be ascertained about 1,000 are now on the way and will be arriving in the course of the next few weeks. The internment camp at Singapore has been cleared of United Kingdom internees and only a few are still left in Hong Kong. Internees from Borneo are in process of being evacuated.

:The right hon. Gentleman has not really answered the most important part of my Question—the final part, which asks how many still remain to be repatriated. It is a simple question.

:I do not know whether this point is contained in an answer I have already given, or in one which I have to give later to-day, but as a matter of fact we are very indefinite about the number of prisoners who were there at any time. Consequently we do not know the number who have to be repatriated, but in one case there have actually been more prisoners liberated than we at first thought were in that particular place.

While not pressing the right hon. Gentleman as to the exact number, because I realise the difficulty he has mentioned, may I ask him to make quite certain that all available British shipping is devoted to the project of repatriating liberated British subjects before any Allies are repatriated?

:Yes, Sir, and the very encouraging and most moving thing I found in the Far East was that men who have long been there agreed to the principle suggested by the hon. and gallant Member.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether all the British subjects in that area have been recovered by the occupying forces?

:The indication in this answer is that there are some people who have not been recovered and who were known to have been in a particular place, and we fear from what we have heard that their bodies will not be recovered.

Italian Prisoners Of War (Repatriation)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement with regard to the repatriation of Italian prisoners of war and exprisoners.

I regret that I cannot at the moment add anything to the reply given on 9th October to the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley).

Would my right hon. Friend indicate when I might put a Question down and receive an answer?

I could not do so definitely, but if my hon. Friend will put a Question down I will give him the answer at the earliest possible moment.

Palestine (Government Policy)

45.

asked the Prime Minister when he expects tobe able to make a statement on Palestine; and if he can give an assurance that no irrevocable decisions will be taken without the House having the opportunity of a full Debate.

I am not yet in a position to say when the statement will be made, but I can assure the House that it will be made as soon as possible. In regard to the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Lady to the reply I gave to the right hon. and Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) on 9th October.

:In view of the importance of the subject, can the Prime Minister say whether that was an assurance that there would be an opportunity for a full Debate?

Requisitioned Industrial Premises (Release)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that premises needed for industry are being used for storage of CD. equipment; that the buildings are provided by the Board of Trade, are held by the Ministry of Works and goods stored in them controlled by the Home Office, and that when inquiry is made the matter is referred from one Department to another, with the result that the premises are not released; and will he consider giving authority to one Minister to deal with this disposal of stores and derequisitioning of premises.

:Many Departments own or control equipment, and it would not make for administrative simplicity or economy if one Department were made responsible for storage, disposal and derequisitioning. Suitable administrative arrangements have been made to secure co-ordination of storage, disposal and release of premises. If my hon. Friend has any particular premises in mind, perhaps he will bring them to the noticeof my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

:Is the Prime Minister aware that I have already done so? Is he further aware these premises are required for the export industry so urgently stressed by the Government, that in many the machinery is intact and could immediately employ large numbers of work people, and that the real trouble is that nobody can understand the reason for the continued storage of this redundant and now completely obsolete civil defence equipment which is perishing from disuse?

If my hon. Friend has some particular case in mind, perhaps he will put it to the Minister. This question was more general.

Is the Prime Minister aware that this complaint is general all over the country and that some direction appears to be called for in order that those who are making efforts to expand their business premises shall receive some encouragement?

While I appreciate my right hon. Friend's difficulty about derequisitioning premises, would he say whether the administrative arrangements to which he refers have been put into effect and when their effect will be felt?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the end of September Government Departments were in possession of 138,000,000 square feet of industrial premises, and that industry very badly wants those premises back?

That may be so. We are endeavouring to clear them as soon as possible, but I am sure the hon. Member realises that there are difficulties of labour and the rest that must be looked into. We cannot do the whole thing in a week or two.

Military Court, Berlin (President's Statement)

47.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy ofLancaster whether his attention has been drawn to an attack delivered upon the conduct of an Allied Power by the president of the military court in Berlin which is trying the ex-mayor of the Tiergarten district; and whether, as the words used go far beyond the judicial office and tend to destroy public confidence in the fairness of the trial, he will make inquiries, and, if necessary, take steps to secure that the trial is properly conducted.

On a point of Order. I desire to raise the question as to the admissibility of this Question under the rules of Procedure. Would you prefer, Mr. Speaker, that I should put my point after Questions or should I raise it now?

After Questions. We have got on so slowly that I do not think the right hon. and Noble Lord should raise it now.

:I assume that the hon. and learned Member is referring to various statements appearing in the Press concerning the failure of certain witnesses to appear before the Court. It would, of course, be the duty of the President of the Court to see that the defence should be given every opportunity of having its witnesses present. With regard to further alleged statements, whilst I have no reason to believethat this trial has not been properly conducted, if reports which I may receive should suggest the contrary, I would, of course, take such action as may be required.

Later

I desire to raise a question arising out of Question 47 on the Order Paper, and I would ask hon. Members to be patient with me while I put a point which is slightly complicated. I should like to say that in raising this point, Mr. Speaker, I make no reflection upon you or upon the hon. and learned Member who put the Question, but it seems to me that a fresh Ruling is required from the Chair on this matter. Question 47 makes a charge against the president of an Allied military court in Germany. Actually it is a British military court, but it has the status of an Allied military court. I would call your attention to Section 155 of the Manual of Procedure, which lays down that a Member whilst speaking on a Question must not reflect upon the conduct of the King or certain persons in high authority. There is a footnote to that which says that the persons in question include the Heir to the Throne, the Viceroy of India, the Governors-General of Dominions, the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means and—and these are relevant words for the purpose of my point of Order—Judges of the Superior Courts of the United Kingdom, including persons holding the position of a judge, such as a judge in a court of bankruptcy or a county court. I would say that, on any reasonable interpretation, if it is not in Order to comment upon something said by a county court judge in the course of his work, surely a fortioriit should not be right to put a Question in this House re- fleeting on the conduct of the president of a military court in Germany, who has, I understand, almost the powers of life and death and is trying a civilian. This question could never arise in the time of any of your predecessors, when these Rulings were given, and in the circum stances—

:We cannot have two points of Order at the same time. The Noble Lord must be allowed to make his case and then the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) can raise his point of Order.

As the Noble Lord does not give way the hon. and learned Member cannot interrupt him.

But, Mr. Speaker, the point of Order on which the Noble Lord's observations were made—[Hon. Members: "Order."] It is a point of Order.

:The hon. and learned Member is in error. He cannot interrupt on a point of Order whilst a first point of Order is being put. He cannot intervene as if it was an orderly Debate. We must have a statement from the Noble Lord first.

The hon. and learned Member must not interrupt. I have called upon the Noble Lord. That is my Ruling and it must be obeyed.

I was going to suggest, with great respect, that in accordance with precedent—andI think there is precedent for the suggestion which I am going to make—as this is, so to speak, a novel situation which has arisen in consequence of the setting up of these Allied courts in Germany, you, Mr. Speaker, should give a considered answer to my question. I beg to submit that point of Order.

:What I had desired to submit as a point of Order I will now submit as a point of substance, and I say that it is grave breach of the most elementary courtesy—

The same situation arises here. The hon. and learned Member has risen to a point of Order—[Hon. Members: "A point of substance"]—and he must be allowed to make his case.

:I am astonished. I gave my Ruling perfectly clearly when the Noble Lord was speaking, and I have now called upon the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) to make his point of Order, and no one else must interrupt in the meantime.

:The first point I wanted to make on this point of Order was that there has been a grave breach of elementary courtesy in connection with the raising of this somewhat complicated point submitted by the Noble Lord. The Question has been on the Order Paper for a day or two, and my point is that he has given me no notice whatever of what he intended to do, so that I am called upon to answer this very complicated point without any sort of preparation or warning. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule, in whatever way is most convenient, that this point should be taken at a later date when I shall have had time to prepare myself. But if you do not want to make a mountain out of a noble molehill, and if it is for the general convenience of the House—and, after all, there are more serious things to come forward—that the question should be dealt with at once there are two things—

Perhaps it would be better if I gave my answer now to the point raised by the Noble Lord.

:Before you do so, Mr. Speaker, I should like to raise a point of Order. I should like to ask you whether it is not wholly contrary to the practice of the House that when a perfectly proper point is put forward an hon. and learned Member should refer to another hon. Member in the terms of the greatest discourtesy. [Laughter.] Perhaps hon. Members will listen before they indulge in their ignorant laughter. I would ask whether it has not been held again and again by your predecessors that in putting a point of Order a Member has no right to attack another Member in that way. It is a gross insult.

Obviously this is a somewhat complicated matter. I was not aware that it was to be raised and, further, I am bound to say that I did not see the Question on the Order Paper myself. I cannot, alter reading through some 150 Questions quickly, claim to have mastered and understood all the implications, and I prefer tohave time to consider it before I give a definite Ruling.

:May I on a point of Order, and failing that, on a point of personal explanation, most respectfully submit to you, Sir, that the reason I rose was not because I wish in any way to challenge your Ruling that points of Order could not be interrupted, but merely because, according to my hearing, which other hon. Members besides me support, the hon. and learned Member said he was not raising his point on a point of Order but as a matter ofsubstance?

That escaped my notice. I think all the same that it was more or less on the same point of Order, and came under my previous Ruling.

Members Of Parliament (Telephone Trunk Calls)

48.

asked the Chancellor of theExchequer whether he will give favourable consideration to the introduction of free telephone trunk calls from the House of Commons to the respective divisions of Members of Parliament.

I will give consideration to this suggestion, but I cannot promise that it will be favourable.

:Is there any valid reason why this should not be done? Surely the right hon. Gentleman cannot wish to handicap or cause hardship to hon. Members who live many miles from Westminster?

:A number of proposals are being put forward now, all designed to assist hon. Members in one way or another. I think we had better take them all together and have a comprehensive review. That is what is proposed to be done.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman when, and why the delay? The Government can get on with nothing.

National Finance

Bank Of England (Building And Site Value)

49.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can state the market value of the site of the Bank of England and the estimated cost of replacing the buildings with its equipment.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is the most valuable commercial site in the world and the building is one of the most modern and valuable; and what does he propose to give to the Bank in exchange for this most valuable asset?

War Gratuities (Payments)

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in order to give the maximum of opportunity for investment in Savings Certificates, Defence Bonds and other Government loans before the end of November and forother reasons, he will expedite the payment of gratuities to demobilised members of the Forces.

:Gratuities are credited to Post Office Savings Bank accounts at the end of release leave and I think it will be best to continue this arrangement.

:Is there any reason why, in view of the fact that all the information necessary for assessing the amounts of gratuities is available not later than the date of demobilisation, the gratuities should not be credited earlier?