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Armed Forces (Numbers And Distribution)

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 1 November 1945

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In the absence of the Prime Minister, may I ask the Leader of the House what information he is in a position to give about the numbers and distribution of the Armed Forces at home and abroad at the present time?

I think it was made clear to the right hon. Gentleman on Tuesday that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was only too anxious to meet him if he possibly could. I understand that the following figures will give the information for which he asks. There are about 2,300,000 officers and men in the three Services overseas, and about 2,160,000 serving at home. Of those at home, over 600,000, excluding the Royal Air Force, are training staff, are under training, or already trained to replace those about to be released.

On a point of Order, I would like to know how it becomes permissible for a right hon. Gentleman on the other side to put such a Question at such a moment? If I desire to put a Question seeking such information, can I put it at the end of Questions?

:The hon. Gentleman evidently did not hear my reply to the same sort of Question put yesterday. It is the custom of this House for the Leader of the Opposition not to ask many Questions but to ask those which are of an urgent important character, and he never puts a Question on the Order Paper but puts it by Private Notice. That has been the custom.

What I had been hopeful of learning was the numbers in this country, West of Suez and East of Suez, but the Government wish to state the numbers abroad in one global form. That is not all the information I desired to have, but I am obliged for the instalment which has been given by the right hon. Gentleman and I shall endeavour to digest it to the best of my ability, because I think it will be necessary for us to return to the question of demobilisation and to have a further Debate on the subject, either on the Adjournment Motion or on a definite Motion, some time before the end of the month of November.

We do not know where the enemy are now; they tuck themselves away in such funny places.