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Armed Forces

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 23 July 1947

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Service Personnel (Indian Wives)


asked the Minister of Defence approximately how many British Service men have married Indian women in India during the past three years; how many of these wives have come to reside in this country or are known as desiring to accompany their husbands on repatriation; and whether permission to marry Indian women has to be granted to Service men by military or other authorities.

I have been asked to reply. The information asked for in the first two parts of my hon. Friend's Question is not available. As regards the last part, there is no provision in Service law which prevents marriages of Service personnel to Indian women, though if the Service authorities considered it to be in a man's own interests there are a variety of steps which they could take to dissuade him from such a marriage.

Could my right hon. Friend give some rough idea of the number of Indian women who are married to British Service men?

Does that mean that none of the Services has any particulars at all regarding these marriages?



asked the Minister of Defence what numbers of men and women were serving in each of the three Services on 30th June, 1947, or on the latest date for which such information is available; and what are his estimates of the corresponding strengths at 31st December, 1947.

I have been asked to reply. On 30th June there were 188,100 men and women in the Royal Navy, 806,200 in the Army and 307,000 in the Royal Air Force. As to the second part of the Question, I would ask my hon. Friend to await the promised statement of the release programme for the last quarter of this year following which it will be possible to give an estimate of the strength of the Forces at 31st December next.

I have an idea that it may be tomorrow, but, at any rate, it will he very soon.

Free Travel Warrants


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?

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.

Releases (Industry)


asked the Minister of Defence whether he has considered, or is considering, proposals for lending Servicemen to industry whilst retaining them in the Services and if he will make a statement; and whether he will bear in mind the prior claims for release through demobilisation of men in the early release groups.

I have been asked to reply. No, Sir. The wartime scheme for lending men to industry from the Services was discontinued in June, 1945, on the institution of the release scheme for the Forces, which made provision for the out-of-turn release of men urgently required for reconstruction work. In the circumstances, the second part of the Question would not appear to arise