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British Army

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 17 May 1949

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Married Officers (Servant Allowance)


asked the Secretary of State for War what servant allowance is payable to married officers, serving at home or abroad, who cannot have the assistance of a batman owing to the fact that married quarters are not available.

On the introduction of the post-war code of pay and allowances on 1st July, 1946, servant allowance as a separate emolument was abolished and for married officers became absorbed into marriage allowance. Since that date married officers accompanied by their families serving at home or abroad, and whether living in or out of quarters, have accordingly not been eligible for any servant allowance when batman service in kind at public expense is not available.

I cannot quite understand the right hon. Gentleman's answer. Does it mean that if a married officer is so unlucky as not to be able to live in married quarters, as very many officers are unable to do, he cannot get the use of a batman and cannot have a servant allowance? Is not that a most anomalous situation?

They have the servant allowance, which was incorporated into the revised pay and allowances, an arrangement reached some time ago. They cannot have the services of a batman.

Could not the officers who find it a hardship to be without batmen, be provided with bowlers?

Married Quarters, Canal Zone


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the great disappointment of married officers and other ranks serving in the Canal Zone at the continued shortage of married quarters and the apparent lack of effort to remedy the situation; and by what date it is planned to provide sufficient married quarters in this area.

I am well aware of the disappointment of married officers and other ranks serving in the Canal Zone at the continued shortage of married quarters and every effort is being made to improve the situation. Unfortunately however, the Army is faced with an enormous programme of building of all kinds, and the available resources have to be apportioned between commands and between the different kinds of buildings needed, including accommodation for unmarried soldiers as well as married quarters.

Can the Secretary of State give any indication at all when there will be an improvement in what is a most disgraceful situation? Will he consider going out to the Middle East himself to see the appalling circumstances in which officers and other ranks have to live?

I know that the conditions are most unsatisfactory. They have been so for a long time. They are being improved, though not so rapidly as I should like.

As one who knew this district at one time only too well, may I ask the Secretary of State if he will look into this matter again? General considerations really do not apply here, because there is cheap accommodation. One of the things that militates against recruiting is the lack of married quarters.

I cannot say about recruiting. I have other opinions about it. The facts are all against the noble Lord. I can assure hon. Members in all quarters of the House that this matter engages my attention at all hours of the day. My staff are trying to improve the position.

Is the domestic building programme of the Army in the Canal zone concentrated upon Fayed?

Fayed is naturally included, being headquarters, but I would not say offhand that it is entirely confined to it.

Overseas Service (Training)


asked the Secretary of State for War what are now the minimum periods of training and service which a soldier must have completed before embarkation to the British Army of the Rhine, the Middle East and the Far East, respectively.

Before embarkation for B.A.O.R. a soldier must have completed the period of basic training appropriate for his arm and trade, for the Middle East 10 weeks' training and a total of 12 weeks' service, for the Far East 16 weeks' training, and a total of 18 weeks' service.

Will the Minister say since when these limits have been enforced and whether they are now strictly enforced?

They have been enforced and strictly enforced within the last two or three weeks.

Troopships, Aden


asked the Secretary of State for War what charge is made at the Port of Aden for the conveyance from troopships to the shore of formed bodies of British troops landing for the purpose of exercise; and from what funds such charge is met.

Regulations do not permit formed bodies of troops to land at Aden for the purpose of exercise. The Question does not therefore arise.

As it takes more than 36 days to get to Singapore, is it not very desirable for the health of the troops that they should be allowed under proper supervision to land at Aden for exercise purposes? Is not that in the interests of the Service and should not the State foot the bill?



asked the Secretary of State for War why the increases necessary to bring the rates of pension of Army schoolmistresses up to the revised Burnham Scale of 1948 have not yet been granted as promised; and, as the present pension rate of these schoolmistresses, namely, 3d. per day for each year's qualified service, is inadequate, if he will accelerate the grant of these increases.

The pension terms for Queen's Army schoolmistresses are under review, but I am not yet able to say what the result will be.

As these mistresses retire at the age of 50, which is much younger than the comparable age for civilian mistresses, will the right hon. Gentleman make an early announcement of new rates of pension, which should be comparable with those enjoyed by civilian mistresses?

We are having a review of the general position affecting Queen's Army schoolmistresses. I am not in a position to say when an announcement will be made.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether Army schoolmistresses who, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, are to be retired on reaching the age of 50 years, will be given any guarantee of further employment; or whether assistance in obtaining employment as teachers under local educational authorities will be given to them.

I regret that I cannot give a guarantee of further employment elsewhere for Queen's Army schoolmistresses after their retirement, but I understand from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education that suitably qualified teachers are experiencing no difficulty in obtaining further employment, although choice of locality cannot be guaranteed.

Has not the education given in Army children's schools always been of a very high order and ought not the Army in dispensing with the services of these excellent schoolmistresses, to ensure that they get further suitable employment?

I gladly pay a tribute to the work undertaken by the Queen's Army schoolmistresses in the past. We cannot, of course, guarantee suitable employment after their retirement. As I have said, the Minister of Education will do his best to assist.

In view of the excellent work that the Army school-mistresses do, will my right hon. Friend undertake to have a consultation with the Minister of Education about the transfer of these women, rather than that they should be expected to find posts for themselves? We are very short of women teachers and I am sure that such a transfer could be arranged.

I will take note of what my hon. Friend says. I think there is something in it.

Would the right hon. Gentleman also try to persuade the Secretary of State for Air to employ these schoolmistresses where the education of children is sadly lacking?

I have no doubt that the Ministers concerned will have taken note of these questions.

Scottish Soldiers, Hong Kong


asked the Secretary of State for War how many Scottish soldiers are being sent to Hong Kong.

The information asked for by my hon. Friend could not be given without a disproportionate amount of work.

Is the Minister aware that it has already appeared in the Press that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are being sent to Hong Kong? Can he tell us if these are conscripts or recruits, and if they have had the 16 weeks' training which he has stated is necessary?

German Ex-Prisoners Of War


asked the Secretary of State for War how many German ex-prisoners of war are serving in bomb disposal units or otherwise in the British Army; what is their status; and what are the terms of their engagement.

Six hundred and forty-five German former prisoners of war are employed with bomb disposal units in the United Kingdom. A further 550 German former prisoners of war employed by the War Department are serving as volunteer civilian workers in the Middle East. Those in the United Kingdom are paid at rates varying between 103s. and 113s. per week of 44 hours. When accommodated and rationed at public expense a deduction of 30s. a week is made. In other respects such as leave, sick leave, insurance and Income Tax, their conditions of service are comparable to those of British industrial employees of the War Department. Those in the Middle East are paid at monthly rates varying from about £14 for semi-skilled workers to about £36 for medical officers and garrison engineers. They work a 48-hour week, get free accommodation, rations and medical treatment, and pay only local taxes. Both categories are employed under contracts which expire on 31st December, 1949.

Yes, they are all civilians; they are what is described as "civilianised."

Bridging Camp, Halton


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give instructions that works of a permanent nature at the Halton, Lancashire, Bridging Camp, are to cease forthwith, in view of the fact that a public inquiry into the use of this site by his Department has been fixed for 30th June.

The works are designed to improve in certain essential respects, including sanitation, a camp which stands on land owned by the War Department since before the war and is required for training this year. The public local inquiry relates primarily to the continuance of a war-time extension of the training to other land. In the circumstances I do not regard these improvements as prejudicing the inquiry.