asked the Minister of Defence if, before a final decision is taken on the question of the number of free travel warrants issued to Service men, he will consider the inequality between man and man caused by the present cut in the number of warrants, the hardship to those posted far from their homes, the increased cost to Service men of cigarettes and other amenities, and the consequent lessening of incentives to voluntary enlistment; and if, in view of all these considerations, he will revert to the wartime practice of allowing four free warrants a year.
I have been asked to reply. All the factors mentioned by my hon. Friend will certainly be taken into account in deciding the annual number of free travel warrants for Service men, but my right hon. Friend can hold out no hope of reverting to the wartime practice of issuing four such warrants a year.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the Civil Lord of the Admiralty was pressed about this matter last week, he seemed to be somewhat impressed by the argument put forward by several hon. Members that this is particularly hard on naval ratings whose homes are in Scotland or in the North of England, and who are mostly stationed in the South of England?
Yes, Sir, I am also impressed by the argument, but then, I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a few arguments, too.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what sum is involved in this matter, and how much saving there will be by cutting down on these warrants?
Quite a considerable sum. It may surprise the House to know that this wartime concession was one of the most costly of the welfare amenities given to Service men.
Would not this difficulty be overcome, so far as naval ratings in Scotland are concerned, by locating a naval base in Scotland?
Partly; but, of course, the Navy does have to go to sea
Will not my right hon. Friend agree that when a young man is taken from his home, it is in his moral interests that he should be able to go home at least four times a year?
I could not accept that suggestion entirely, although I am bound to say that the Services' leave provisions and free travel arrangements are generous when compared with what the men get in civil life.