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Detained Soldier (Discharge)

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1949

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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.