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British Army

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1949

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Stores (Losses And Thefts)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for War in view of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General on page vii of the Appropriation Account, 1947–48, paragraphs 25 and 26, in which he refers to losses and theft due to fraud and gross negligence, what steps he is taking to discover and take disciplinary action against the offenders.

The losses occurred mainly at overseas stations, many of them during or immediately following the war. Large quantities of stores and supplies were necessarily stored in the open or in inadequate accommodation, and sufficient reliable guards were rarely available. Whenever Army personnel were involved in the losses, Courts of Inquiry were held, and disciplinary action has been taken where appropriate. The hon. Member will, however, appreciate that the thefts were usually by local civilians.

Chelsea Pensioner (Maintenance)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War why the pension payable from the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, to a pensioner who is an inmate of a mental hospital is used for the maintenance of the pensioner in that institution, instead of being paid direct to his wife, as is the normal practice in the case of pensions paid by the Ministry of Pensions.

A Chelsea pension is not used for the maintenance of a pensioner of unsound mind. It may, in suitable cases, be diverted for the maintenance of dependent relatives. If the hon. and gallant Member has a particular case in mind, I shall be glad to investigate it.

Ex-Officer's Claim

21.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has considered the case of 224048 ex-Captain John Routcliffe Squire, M.B.E., Royal Engineers, which was forwarded to him on 21st April; whether, in this case, he is prepared to recommend any financial compensation for wrongful imprisonment; and if he will make a statement.

I understand that this ex-officer is taking proceedings forthwith in this matter. It must, therefore, be regarded as sub judice.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman tell the House and the public, who are taking such an interest in this case, whether some compensation is not allowable in a case of this sort, where a man has tried to clear his name and has spent much of his private income, apart from receiving insults about which I have told the Secretary of State? Cannot he tell the House whether some compensation is allowable?

This ex-officer is taking proceedings, and it would be quite improper for me to express an opinion at this stage.

I understand that proceedings are taking place in this case, and therefore we cannot discuss it. I should not have allowed the last question.

Detained Soldier (Discharge)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for War, in view of the fact that the hon. Member for Finsbury was informed by his Department on 29th March that discharge action had been taken in the case of 5433205 Private E. Tibbitts, why that soldier was not forthwith discharged; why he has still not been discharged; on whose authority has his discharge been cancelled; whether he is aware of the suffering this delay and these contradictory orders have caused both to the soldier and his wife and children; and what instructions he now proposes to issue.

This soldier's discharge from the Army was authorised towards the end of March. Before discharge could be carried out, it was necessary to review the sentence of detention the soldier was serving with a view to remitting the balance of the sentence. As soon as the competent authority authorised remission, discharge was carried out, and the soldier was released on 28th April.

I regret that there was some delay in reviewing the sentence. The desirability of giving immediate consideration to the remission of balance of sentence in such cases has been brought to the notice of the reviewing authority.

In consequence of the discharge having been carried out originally on 12th April, 1949, Mrs. Tibbitts' allowance order book was recalled by the Paymaster on 21st April. As soon as this was realised, the notification of discharge was cancelled, not with the object of holding up the discharge, but purely to permit the issue of the allowance up to the date on which the soldier was actually released from the detention barrack.

Will the Minister recognise that in this case, where no proceedings are contemplated, because this is only a working man ex-soldier, the month's delay between the inception of proceedings for discharge—which was understood by all of us to be discharge from his detention—has caused great anxiety to his wife, and would he not consider making an award of compensation in this case?

In the first place, I should like to say that I resent the inference that we treat the private soldier differently from the officer. It is quite untrue. As regards the delay, I am sorry that it took place, but I cannot see that any question of compensation arises.

On a point of Order. May I not make some response to the suggestion that there was an inference in my question? You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that in a previous question of a similar character, attention was drawn to the fact that there were proceedings taking place. No one in the world would ever dream of a Finsbury soldier having a private income to use in taking proceedings against the Minister. It is that to which I wish to draw attention.

Medical History Sheets

23.

asked the Secretary of State for War why, in a case of which he has particulars, the legal advisers of an ex-soldier were denied a copy of his medical history sheet.

A soldier's medical history sheet is maintained for strictly Service purposes, and copies are not furnished to individuals or their legal advisers. The disclosure of medical history sheets would be detrimental to the public interest, as tending to deter Service personnel from seeking medical treatment, and to impair the frankness of Service medical officers in reporting on them. It is the invariable practice to plead privilege for Service medical documents, a fact which is, I think, widely known.

Is the Minister aware that this particular ex-soldier was, in the course of matrimonial proceedings, seeking to disprove a serious allegation that he had contracted venereal disease while in the Army? In those circumstances, why would not the War Office help in a matter affecting the private, personal and moral character of an individual, where it could not possibly affect any question of privilege or security?

This case has now been settled, and I think we had better leave it alone.

Recruiting Campaign

24.

asked the Secretary of State for war how many officers and men are now employed on the recruiting campaign; what was the total cost of recruiting in the three months ended 31st. March; and how these figures compare with those for the previous quarter.

No serving officers or male other ranks are employed specifically on recruiting duties; the only serving personnel so employed are 53 noncommissioned officers of the W.R.A.C. in Army recruiting offices, the staffs of which otherwise consist of retired officers, ex-soldiers and other civilians. The staffs of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations and officers and men of the Territorial Army are of course also helping in the campaign. Records are not kept in a form from which figures of quarterly expenditure on recruiting could be produced without a disproportionate amount of work.

Is the Minister aware that the Minister of Defence has already given certain figures, and cannot he tell us what was the cost of this recruiting campaign?

If my right hon. Friend has already furnished figures to my hon. Friend, he ought to be satisfied.

Has the Minister made any attempt to get into touch with the leaders of the Communist Party in order to get advice on how to conduct a campaign?