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British Army

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 31 May 1949

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Bakeries (Costs)


asked the Secretary of State for War why a detailed analysis of costs of producing bread in Army bakeries is no longer available as it was before the war.

The limited staff available for costings work is fully employed on works services.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the study of such costs is an essential part of the check upon efficiency, and is he further aware that when these figures were published before the war they reflected considerable credit on his Department?

I agree with my hon. Friend about the need for undertaking this task, but the staff is over-strained with other activities and cannot undertake additional work at the present moment.

Officers (Transfer Allowance)

8, 9 and 10.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) on what grounds payment out of public funds for storage of furniture belonging to officers and their families who are moved from one station to another is not considered justified for Army personnel who are unable to get unfurnished accommodation on being moved from one station to another;

(2) if, in view of the considerable expense incurred by officers in moving themselves and families to new stations where there are no married quarters, he will allow appropriate travelling allowance for a preliminary visit to the new station or £2 in lieu if no visit is made, as is customary in the Civil Service;

(3) if he will conform with the practice in the Civil Service of granting a subsistence allowance to an officer and his family during a move to a new station pending occupation of permanent headquarters.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on 13th April to a Question by the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low).

Does not the Secretary of State for War agree that, if these various allowances and helps are given to civil servants, as a matter of principle it is equally right that they should be given to Army personnel, because Army personnel, with the moving they have to do and the obtaining of furnished or unfurnished accommodation, which is not supplied to them, are put to very great hardship?

No, Sir, I do not agree, because conditions are dissimilar, and a very full reply was given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the main point of the reply to me by the Minister of Defence on that occasion was that the allowances had recently been looked into, and that he was not prepared to look into them again? Now that he has had these Questions asked by my hon. Friend, will not the right hon. Gentleman go to the Minister of Defence and say that it would be in the interests of recruiting for the Army if the allowances were now changed?

The fact that Questions are asked by hon. Members is no substantial reason why there should be any revision.

Is not the Secretary of State aware that it is in these grievances and in hardships such as these that one of the main deterrents to voluntary recruiting lies? He has ignored that constantly, despite our representations upon the matter.

I do not agree at all. Voluntary recruiting is at a higher level than before.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise the matter on the Adjournment as early as possible.



asked the Secretary of State for War what is the percentage of their earnings from civilian engagements which Army bands are required to hand over to the War Office or the Treasury.

Officially authorised Army bands pay to public funds a percentage of their net annual profits on military band engagements. The amount is 10 per cent. of the first £1,000 in the case of regimental bands and of the first £2,000 in the case of Staff bands, and 15 per cent. of the remainder in both cases.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why the War Office makes this deduction when the Air Ministry does not make any similar deduction in respect of Air Force bands, and the Admiralty makes no such deduction in respect of naval or Marine bands?

I should imagine that that Question should be addressed to the Secretary of State for Air.

Would the right hon. Gentleman take up the question with the Minister of Defence and try to get some co-ordination?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two Questions very quickly; first, why this percentage is deducted, as it never used to be, and secondly, whether there is any direction to commanding officers as to how the part which they receive shall be spent?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this 10 per cent. represents an agent's commission for the War Office?


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has yet decided which Territorial Army units of Royal Artillery will be allowed to have bands.

Is it not about time that this matter was settled, in view of the fact that the problem has been in existence for two years? Surely it should be within the power of the War Office to make up their minds in that period, since nothing has changed?

I agree that these negotiations have gone on long enough, but there were certain conflicting claims in regard to the allocation of bands, and we are not responsible for the conflict.


asked the Secretary of State for War why he has refused to make a special grant or to recognise the old established pipers' bands of the London Scottish and London Irish Regiments.

All infantry battalions of the Territorial Army are authorised to form military bands on separate establishments. An initial grant is made for the purpose and a subsequent annual grant is made for the maintenance of instruments. In addition, all infantry battalions are authorised to form drum, pipe or bugle bands within the unit establishments. These bands are not regarded as substitutes for military bands and no grant-in-aid is given, but they are provided with instruments free on an authorised scale, and Scottish and Irish battalions are also allowed one pipe major and five pipers extra to normal establishment.

is it not a fact that the special grant previously authorised before the war has been discontinued, and is it not as a result of the discontinuance of that grant that both these regiments are incurring private costs which they should not incur?

I am advised that it was never the practice to provide pipe bands, but just ordinary military bands, and presumably there is a distinction between them. After all, in view of the fact that the War Office provide instruments, one pipe-major and five pipers, we are very generous.

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will look into the question of putting military bands above pipe bands in connection with Highland and Lowland regiments, because military bands are secondary to the pipe bands in Scottish regiments?

If the hon. and gallant Member is trying to convince me of his preference for pipe bands as against ordinary military bands, I would not seek to quarrel with him.

Would the Secretary of State say whether there is any instrument grant to enable the right hon. Gentleman to blow his own trumpet?

Married Officers (Batmen)


asked the Secretary of State for War for how many hours per day married officers of the rank of lieut.-colonel, major, captain and lieutenant, respectively, have the use of a batman; and how much he estimates that such assistance is worth to officers who would otherwise have to employ civilian help.

Batmen are not provided on an hourly basis. They are provided for duties of a personal nature such as the cleaning of the officer's uniform and equipment when the officer is accommodated in single or married quarters. They are not wholly employed in these duties: they have to perform other military duties. A lieut.-colonel in a field force unit is allowed a batman, but other lieut.-colonels and more junior officers have to share batmen. The monetary value of a batman's assistance would therefore vary, but it would be small.

Why is the right hon. Gentleman so continuously reluctant to give me a straight answer to a straight Question? How can he possibly justify a situation in which married officers who are lucky enough to live in married quarters can have the services of a batman, while married officers unfortunate enough not to live in married quarters, because there are none available, cannot have the services of a batman?


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now issue a servant allowance to married officers who, owing to the fact that married quarters are not available, cannot have the assistance of a batman.

On the introduction of the post-war code of pay and allowances on 1st July, 1946, servant allowance ceased to be paid as it was absorbed into the marriage allowance of married officers and the lodging allowance of single officers, and it is not intended to alter this. On the other hand, I do not propose to alter the practice whereby married officers in quarters may have the services of available batmen.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he finds so very funny about the fact that a lot of officers are living in great hardship as a result of this regulation, and can I not appeal to him to show a little more human sympathy and to look into the matter a little more carefully?

I did not detect any humour in the Question, and there is certainly none in the answer.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain the anomaly by which the married officer for whom no married quarters are available has the worst of both worlds, because he has neither a batman nor a servant allowance?

The reason is that we have not sufficient batmen to go round, so we use them in the most appropriate fashion.

That is no reason for denying to the married officer for whom no married quarters are available a servant allowance.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the best way to overcome this difficulty would be to remove batmen altogether?

No, Sir. I could not agree with my hon. Friend. If batmen can be made available without difficulty to married officers in quarters we shall certainly do so.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that he has not sufficient batmen available, is he supposing that when more married quarters are available the Army will increase by so many more batmen so as to make sufficient men available?

In order to satisfy the Opposition completely, will my right hon. Friend give a guarantee to the House that the needs of the Service will never be allowed to interfere with the convenience of officers?

In view of the frivolous way in which the right hon. Gentleman has answered these questions and the utterly unsatisfactory nature of the replies, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Land Acquisition, Lanark


asked the Secretary of State for War how many military officers attended officially the recent public inquiry into the proposed acquirement of 4,823 acres of land near Lanark.

Were they accompanied by their batmen, and could the Minister explain why none of these eight officers gave evidence or were questioned by counsel for the local authority, and will he say whether there was an instruction to that effect?

Various interests in the Scottish Command had to be represented and it was thought desirable that these officers should be present.

Married Quarters, Glen Parva


asked the Secretary of State for War for what reason the wives and families of men of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Leicestershire Regiment, who have been sent to Hong Kong, have received notice to vacate their married quarters at Glen Parva Barracks; why the notice was not issued until after the men had left; and if he is aware of the effect of such treatment on recruitment for the Regular Army.

Before a soldier is allotted a married quarter he has to sign a certificate included in which is a statement that he understands that he will be required to move his family when he is posted from the station and alternative accommodation is offered. The married quarters occupied by the wives and families of men of the 1st Battalion The Leicestershire Regiment at Glen Parva Barracks are required for occupation by soldiers serving at the station who are awaiting married quarters so that they can be united with their families. I am looking into the matter to see whether there are any exceptional features in this case.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that alternative accommodation will be provided for these people, and will he explain how the Government reconcile their attitude towards the men and families in Government quarters with what is supposed to be their policy towards tied cottages?

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the assurance was given to the wives of these men that they would not be disturbed until their husbands came back, because that has been stated, and will he see that the wives have an opportunity of making contact with their husbands before they make any further move?

So far as I am aware, no such assurance was given, certainly not by myself or anybody at the War Office. I can say that we are viewing this matter very sympathetically.

Is my right hon. Friend able to confirm the opinion held by some of the wives at Glen Parva Barracks that they had been promised that they would be allowed to stay in the barracks until they travelled to their husbands in Hong Kong, and is it the policy of his Department to send wives to Hong Kong in the present situation?

No promise could have been given in view of the condition attached to the occupancy of married quarters, to which I have referred in my original answer. On the question of sending wives and families to Hong Kong, that is a matter which requires to be very carefully considered.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether this conditional regulation dates from a time when the housing shortage did not exist and whether, under present circumstances, it ought not to be reconsidered; also, is the alternative accommodation offered to these women in a transit camp?

The practice to which I have referred is the normal practice which has been in operation for many years. As regards the alternative accommodation, we have offered hostel accommodation, most of which is satisfactory, but I am looking into the matter to assure myself that the accommodation is such as can be reasonably offered to these wives and families.

In view of the fact that Scottish soldiers are being sent to Hong Kong and in view of the housing difficulties in Scotland, will the Minister give special consideration to the matter before agreeing to any evictions in Scotland?

Aqaba (Accommodation)


asked the Secretary of State for War what is the estimated expenditure on barracks at Aqaba; and how long British forces are to remain in occupation there.

No expenditure has been incurred on barracks in Aqaba. Some £20,000, however, has been spent in providing temporary accommodation to minimum essential standards. A further sum may have to be spent on additional works services for the hot weather. It is not possible to say how long it will be necessary to retain our Forces there.

Is not £20,000 a large sum to be spent on temporary quarters, and cannot the Minister give an assurance that we are not to be permanently in occupation?

Within reasonable limits, no sum is too large to be spent in providing decent accommodation for our troops. In regard to the latter part of the Question, I cannot say at present how long it will be necessary to retain our Forces there.

Will the right hon. Gentleman deny the implication in the last supplementary question that we are occupying Aqaba and will he make it clear that we are there in honour of our obligations to Transjordan?

Burlish Camp


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give up possession of that part of Burlish Camp, Stourport-on-Severn, which is at present occupied by squatters, in order that the urban district council may put the water supply and sanitary arrangements in order, and use some of the huts for temporary housing accommodation.

Negotiations are in progress with the Ministry of Health with a view to their accepting transfer of that part of Burlish Camp which is at present occupied by squatters.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long these negotiations are to continue, in view of the fact that they have been going on for months?

No 1 Dress


asked the Secretary of State for War whether any decision has yet been reached in regard to the pattern and issue of the new serge walking-out dress; and whether it is intended to confine this uniform to Regular troops.

As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major T. Beamish) on 22nd March last. It is hoped eventually to extend the supply of No. 1 dress to the Territorial Army.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the War Office have received any representations regarding the men's preference for rolled collars rather than stick-up collars?

I have not heard of any, but the matter of the appropriate design of future dress is constantly under consideration.

Casualties, Malaya


asked the Secretary of State for War how many officers and men have been killed or wounded in action in Malaya since operations were commenced against the Communists; and what is the minimum period of training at home, excluding training on board ship, and training in jungle conditions, respectively, that any such officers and men had received before being killed or wounded.

Between 1st May, 1948, and 31st March, 1949, nine British Army officers and 27 other ranks have been killed, or died of wounds, and 10 British Army officers and 44 other ranks have been wounded in Malaya. The information asked for in the second part of the Question is not available and to obtain it would entail a disproportionate amount of work.

That reply is really not good enough, in view of the very great public interest in this matter. How can it entail a disproportionate amount of work when the details must be actually available in the War Office?

I am afraid the information is not readily available, but we are taking appropriate steps to ensure that men are not sent out without being adequately trained, and that, when they arrive at their destinations, they undergo an additional form of training.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say how many months' training had been given to one man whose name he notified to me in a letter the other day, and who was killed in Malaya after only five months' service?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why 150 men were taken off a draft for the Far East the other day by him, and whether it had anything to do with their training?

Is it not clear from that reply, when the right hon. Gentleman says that steps are now being taken to ensure adequate training before sending men away, that in the past, since action started in Malaya, officers and men have been in action with inadequate training?

I do not agree, and in any event it is a matter that rests very largely in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief on the spot, upon whom we rely.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an officer who left his O.C.T.U. unit at the end of March is now on embarkation leave?

I beg to give notice that, as this is a matter of very wide public interest, and as the Secretary of State refuses to answer my questions, I shall raise the matter on the Motion for the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Compassionate Releases


asked the Secretary of State for War how many applications for release from the Army on compassionate grounds were dealt with in his Department in 1947, 1948, and up to the most recent convenient date in 1949; and how many such releases were granted.

The approximate numbers of applications received in 1947, 1948 and up to 26th May this year were 12,800, 5,500 and 1,550 respectively. Of these, approximately 4,000, 1,300 and 400 were granted.

Can my right hon. Friend give me an assurance that each of these applications is dealt with strictly on its merits, that there is no question of granting only a certain limited proportion or percentage of the applications, and that, in fact there is no ceiling to the number that can be granted?

So far as I am concerned—and I have to decide what should be done in these matters—every case is dealt with on its merits.

Field-Marshal Von Manstein (Trial)


asked the Secretary of State for War what steps have been taken to provide Field-Marshal von Manstein with competent British counsel for his forthcoming trial; and when does he expect the trial will commence.

The answer to the first part of the Question is none so far as I am concerned. This officer has engaged very competent German counsel with previous experience of war crimes trials, and as regards assistance of British counsel or currency to pay them, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 1st February last to a similar Question by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and to the further reply given to the same hon. and learned Member on 7th February by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

As regards the last part of the Question, the full charges with supporting evidence were served on Field-Marshal von Manstein on 24th May, and his counsel must be allowed a reasonable time to prepare their defence. Until I know how long they will require, I cannot say exactly when the trial is likely to begin.

Does my right hon. Friend's answer to the first part of the Question mean that currency will become available, if it is required, for British counsel; secondly, can he assure the House that whatever time, within reason, is asked for by the defending counsel will be allowed before the trial takes place?

On the subject of currency, I am afraid that I cannot change the form of my reply, but on the second part of the supplementary question I think I can meet my hon. Friend.

Will the court be reminded that this officer has already suffered four years imprisonment in regard to this crime?

Yes, but we must bear in mind that if the allegations can be sustained—I repeat, if they can be sustained—many other people suffered.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the witnesses upon whose depositions these charges are framed have already been hanged?

Territorial Army (Pay And Rations)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether marriage allowance is included in the pay and allowances of Territorial Army personnel who attend weekend camps, where periods of continuous training exceed eight hours; and whether he is aware that this allowance has not been paid in respect of the Easter camp from 14th to 18th April to non-commissioned officers and men of the Westminster Dragoons.

Before September, 1948, pay and marriage allowance were issuable for training periods exceeding 48 hours' duration, and for periods of 48 hours or less no pay or marriage allowance was issued but an allowance to cover incidental expenses was payable with a maximum of 4s. 6d. a day in the case of a private. Out of this he had to pay for his food.

Under the new arrangements which I explained in answer to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) on 3rd May, men are eligible for pay and free rations for training periods in excess of eight hours. Marriage allowance is not issuable, the reason being that the man's civil pay covers family expenses.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the training pamphlet, "Spare Time for Britain in the Territorial Army," which presumably was issued by his Department, there is under the heading of "Pay and Allowances" the sentence, "These will be at Regular Army rates while attending annual camp and for periods of continuous training which exceed eight hours"; that it has been on that assumption, to a large extent, that men have joined, and that he is now ruling that that is not the case?