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British Army

Volume 466: debated on Tuesday 21 June 1949

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Transfer Expenses

1 and 2.

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) why travelling allowances are not permitted to personnel who are transferred to a new station to enable them to return to their old station to superintend removal of furniture, as is allowed in the Civil Service;

(2) if, in view of the excessive cost to personnel and their families of moving from one station to another, he will consider the granting of excess rent at new station over rent at old station as granted to the Civil Service.

As in the case of similar Questions addressed to me by the hon. Member on 31st May, I would refer him 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).

Is not the Secretary of State for War aware of the grave concern felt by the personnel at the cost of moving stations, and is he really not going to do something to mitigate this expense, as has been done in the case of the Civil Service? Why cannot the Services have the same consideration shown to them as that shown to members of the Civil Service?

Because, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said, and as I endorse, the conditions are not comparable.

Is it not the case that conditions are certainly not comparable because the moves of the Army are far more frequent and far less expected than those of other services, and is it not necessary that some consideration should be given to these people who have no settled homes and who are put to this unnecessary expense?

I am very glad to have the hon. and gallant Gentleman's endorsement of the principle I have enunciated.

Fylingdale Moor (Grazing Rights)


asked the Secretary of State for War the reason for the delay in settling the compensation for grazing rights on Fylingdale Moor.

Compensation on the original basis of assessment has been paid regularly and punctually. No doubt, the hon. Member is referring to claims for reassessment with effect from February, 1948, on the basis of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1948. A number of claims have been received through the Breeders Association, but action was deferred because it was thought desirable to await receipt of the bulk of all of those outstanding so that they could be dealt with together. It has, however, recently been suggested to the Secretary of the Association that it would be more convenient to leave the claims over for settlement when the financial terms for the purchase of the area by the Department are being settled. A reply is still awaited. We are, however, prepared to proceed to negotiate the claims at once if the Association so desire.

Is the Minister aware that the delay in settling these claims is causing great hardship to a group of very small sheep farmers, among whom great difficulty is created by this requisitioning, and will he do all he can to expedite the settlement of these claims?

We are doing all we can to expedite the settlement, and I regret if any inconvenience is caused by the delay, which I hope will be removed very shortly.

Special Campaign Pensions

asked the Secretary of State for War what was the number of Special Campaign Pensions in payment as at 31st March in the years 1939 and 1949, respectively; how many new applications for such pensions were granted in the 12 months ended 31st March, 1949; and if he will review the basis of qualification.

The numbers were approximately 13,500 and 5,000 respectively, and 54 new awards were made during the year ended 31st March, 1949. The answer to the last part of the Question is "No."

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a man cannot qualify for one of these pensions if his income exceeds 19s. a week, which means that no ex-Regular soldier over the age of 65 can qualify? Does not my right hon. Friend think that the matter should be reviewed in view of the greatly changed circumstances?

Families, Glen Parva Barracks


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has yet reached a decision in connection with wives and families of the 1st Leicestershire Regiment living in married quarters at Glen Parva Barracks, Leicestershire.

There are 18 families in Glen Parva Barracks belonging to the 1st Battalion The Royal Leicestershire Regiment. Four of these families will be offered other married quarters in Northamptonshire and three will be offered alternative accommodation at married families hostels. As there is no other alternative accommodation to offer at the moment, the remaining 11 families will remain in their present quarters until alternative accommodation is made available.

Tank Training (Petrol Allowance)


asked the Secretary of State for War why the petrol consumption of an armoured unit in Tripoli is limited to 20 miles per armoured car per month; and whether he is satisfied that Regular and National Service men can receive proper training on this basis.

The mileage of armoured fighting vehicles in the Middle East has to be restricted to keep wear and tear and the need for repair and overhaul within the financial and manpower limits available, but the petrol allowed is sufficient for an average mileage of substantially more than 20 miles a month, and is considered adequate for training purposes. The unit to which I think the hon. Member refers, but which is in fact equipped with tanks, not armoured cars, has, I understand, exceeded its allotment of petrol earlier in the year and is now trying to economise.

Does the Minister think that it is in the interests of general efficiency that this unit should be deprived of petrol in future months? Will it not result in some national service men not receiving proper training? Cannot the right hon. Gentleman take some other action in such cases?

I think that the units are getting rather more petrol than the hon. Member suggested, although perhaps not sufficient. On the whole, however, we think it is adequate, having regard to the other resources made available. If we find that men cannot be trained because of inadequacy of petrol supplies we will look into the matter.

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it was proved between the wars that there is no more false economy than to cut down the petrol or any other thing which is necessary to train troops properly?

That may well be, but there is no advantage in supplying petrol if we have not the manpower available for adequate training.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give further consideration to this matter, in view of representations which have been made to several of us, quite apart from those which have been made to my hon. Friend the Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low), by people quite unconnected with the unit in question?

But as the noble Lord will, no doubt, have noted, the information which his hon. Friend received was not quite accurate.

Is it not desirable that some opportunity should be given for training men in the repair and maintenance of these vehicles? Therefore, should not opportunity be given for their further use?

Medals And Decorations


asked the Secretary of State for War how many officers and men are estimated to be entitled to campaign stars or medals for war service; and how many have now applied for these decorations.

It is estimated that approximately 4,012,000 male and female officers and other ranks are eligible to qualify for medals and campaign stars. Applications for these have been received from or on behalf of approximately 1,378,000.

Has the right hon. Gentleman formed any opinion as to what has happened to the other three million? Was there a bad estimate by his Department, or a reluctance on the part of those entitled to claim?

Could the right hon. Gentleman take steps to expedite the delivery of the medals on application?

We will certainly expedite the delivery of medals to those entitled if they claim them.

Austria (Milk Supplies)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that British infants in Austria are the only ones unsupplied with fresh milk, although the nutritional situation in the country has greatly improved since this self-denying measure was introduced; and whether he will consider the addition of fresh milk to British rations in Austria by purchasing it in sterling and thus continuing the policy of avoiding increases in occupation costs charged against the Austrian Government.

I will look into this matter in conjunction with the other departments concerned, but I am advised that from the nutritional point of view powdered or evaporated milk is equal to fresh milk and it has the advantage that there is no risk of contamination or problem of storage in hot weather.

While thanking the Minister for his reply, may I ask him to bear in mind that none of the people concerned in Austria shares his opinion about the preferability of powdered milk?

Officers (Political Comments)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he authorised General Sir G. Ivor Thomas to inform Service men leaving for Hong Kong that if we hold Hong Kong it will another blow to Communism and an advance in the cold war; and to what extent the statement was based on Government policy.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No." The second part does not, therefore, arise.

In view of the statement of Government policy which was made only a week or so ago by the Minister of Defence, that it was the desire of the Government to have friendly relations with the Government of China, whichever party was in power there, is it not the case that this senior officer has made a statement which is detrimental to this policy? What steps will the right hon. Gentleman take to prevent such further statements being made?

Perhaps it would be better if high ranking officers did not indulge in political comment.

Will the right hon. Gentleman issue a statement to the effect that when a senior officer makes a political speech, rank and file soldiers will be quite in order in telling the officer what they think of him and of his policy?

Will the right hon. Gentleman continue to allow the generals to explain to the troops the tasks ahead of them, and thus get better results?

All officers are entitled to explain to the troops under their command the tasks that lie ahead of them, but I deprecate any political comment which is subversive of Government general policy.

Are we seriously to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that the fact that a general warned the troops that there was Communism in Asia is to be taken as an expression of political opinion?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that millions of British people who despised the Tory appeasement policy before the war, volunteered and fought for this country in 1939 and 1940 when we had a Conservative Government?

Surplus Huts, Cambridge


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will subdivide the camp site at Donkey's Common, Cambridge, and hand over those huts, which are surplus to military requirements, to the local authority for emergency housing purposes.

I regret that I am unable to release any of the hutting in the main camp at Donkey's Common, Cambridge. There are, however, some huts on the opposite side of the road to the main camp which are surplus to War Department requirements and these have, in accordance with the normal procedure, been notified as redundant to the Ministry of Works.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a former public footpath goes right across this camp and that 40 per cent. of the living huts are admitted by his own Department to be empty; and, as the path could be used as a dividing line, would he reconsider this decision and prevent somebody acting as a dog in the manger?

I understand that only a few of the huts are vacant at present. If we do not require them, we shall certainly hand them over to the appropriate Department.


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will hand over to the local authority for emergency housing purposes that part of the former United States Army Camp at Milton Road, Cambridge, which is now unoccupied.

I regret that I am unable to release any of the hutting in the former United States Army Camp at Milton Road, Cambridge.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that figures supplied by his own Department indicate that this camp, built originally to hold 850 on wartime scales and 700 on peacetime scales, now holds only 100 people?

I am aware of that, but the fact is that there are valuable stores in the neighbourhood and we require the huts in the same vicinity. In addition to that, there is a possibility of flooding in this area and we must have accommodation, if at some time we require the presence of soldiers.

Gun Salute, Edinburgh


asked the Secretary of State for War what were his reasons for the cancellation of the gun salute for his visit to Edinburgh.

Although King's Regulations provide that salutes will be fired for the Secretary of State for War at certain stations, I am advised that the practice of the last 40 years has been for these salutes to be dispensed with at stations at home, though they have on occasion been fired at stations abroad. There was accordingly no intention on the part of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Scottish Command to have a salute fired, and neither he nor I knew anything of the matter until we saw the evening papers on Monday, 13th June. The announcement that the salute would be fired which was issued to the Press that day was due to a misunderstanding: the staff of Edinburgh Castle immediately concerned with ceremonial matters, acting in all good faith, issued the announcement in the belief that the salute would be fired as a matter of routine in accordance with King's Regulations. The matter was rectified when the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief returned to Edinburgh that night from Glasgow, where he had spent the day with me visiting units in the area.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that these ancient and picturesque ceremonials, although characteristically allowed to fall into desuetude under Conservative Governments, would provide colour in these necessarily austere times? Is my right hon. Friend aware that he will be not unpopular in the title rĂ´le of "Mannie get your gun"?

Is not the appropriate salute for the right hon. Gentleman "Two hoots"?

It is amazing to me that nobody in Scotland thought of that. If it had been for the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) it would have been a collection of rude noises.

May I ask the Minister if it is not the case that the cancellation was brought about through a suspicion that a Communist might get at one of the guns?