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British Army

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 12 July 1949

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Far Eastern Drafts (Training)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for War the conditions of training and of service which have to be fulfilled before a National Service man is ordered to serve in the Far East; and, in particular, the length of unexpired service required prior to embarkation.

22.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give an assurance that no men will be sent to the Far East who have less than nine months' service to complete.

As I have stated on a number of previous occasions, a soldier must have completed 16 weeks' training and a total of 18 weeks' service before embarkation for the Far East. As regards the length of unexpired service required prior to embarkation for the Far East, the normal rule is that National Service men must have not less than nine months' unexpired service to complete on arrival in the theatre, that is about 10½ months on embarkation. There are, however, occasions when it is found necessary, owing to operational requirements, to reduce the minimum period of unexpired service on embarkation to about 7½ months. All the men may expect to return to the United Kingdom in time to be released with their age and service groups.

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at a case, if I send it to him, where a man has less than six months to serve before he is to return from Hong Kong?

If the hon. and gallant Member sends me a case which he wants me to look into, I certainly shall do so.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say for what percentage of the total number of men sent out to the Far East this year a period of less than nine months' unexpired service has been accepted by the Army authorities for operational reasons?

If I send details of a lad of 17½ who I understand is being sent to the Far East with very much less than 12 weeks' training, will my right hon. Friend look into the matter at pretty short notice?

There should be no cases, so far as I am aware—certainly, if there are such cases, they are contrary to the instructions I have issued—where men have been sent to the Far East recently without having had 18 weeks' service and a minimum of 16 weeks' training.

In addition to training at home, do men sent out go to a base camp and have further training before being sent up the line?

Special Campaign Pension

17.

asked the Secretary of State for War why Mr. W. F. Marriott, of 21 British Grove, Chiswick, W.4, has had his special campaign pension, which was granted to him for service during the Boer War, reduced by 5s.; and whether he will now reconsider the policy of applying a means test to such pensioners, in view of their age and loyal service, and of the hardship thus inflicted upon them.

When Mr. Marriott's old age pension was increased, he ceased to be eligible for special campaign pension under the normal rules, but so much of his special campaign pension has since been continued as is necessary to maintain his income at its former level. This amount was, on recent review, found to be 5s. a week only and his pension was, therefore, reduced to that rate from 1st June, 1949. The answer to the last part of the Question is "No."

May I ask my right hon. Friend two questions? First, was this reduction in this particular pension part of the general arrangement; and secondly, does he not realise that these men regard the reduction as rather mean and cheeseparing, particularly in view of the age of the people concerned and the services they have given to the country, and in those circumstances will he reconsider his plan?

If I say that this is part of a general arrangement which was agreed a long time ago, I think that would be the complete answer. The persons concerned will not suffer financially or he any worse off than they were before.

Is it not a fact that this is a means test of the most tyrannical character?

No, the fact is that the special campaign pension is itself based on a means test.

Officers, Malaya

19.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that officers in Malaya who are required to undertake increased responsibilities in connection with the campaign against the guerillas are given promotion with increased pay.

Officers in Malaya are serving on standard field force establishments. The gradings of appointments are assessed on a responsibility basis.

Does that mean that where a post carries a higher responsibility than the substantive rank of the officer carrying out the job, a higher rank or temporary rank can be given?

If the post carries a higher responsibility, it is generally assumed that it carries a higher rank.

Overseas Service (Medical Categories)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for War which medical categories qualify soldiers for service at Hong Kong.

The fitness of soldiers for service overseas is assessed under the "Pulheems" system of medical classification which has replaced the former medical categories.

Would the right hon. Gentleman kindly answer the Question? Even under his new system, there must be some kind of description which can be given and may we have that description?

The description is all embodied in the term "Pulheems." It is rather complicated, but if the hon. Gentleman is anxious to have a full description and a complete definition of the words represented by the initials contained in the word "Pulheems," I will have it inserted in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Surely, all we want to know is how physically fit a man has to be before he goes to Hong Kong?

In order to ascertain whether a man is physically fit, he has to undergo several tests, all of which are contained in the medical classification embodied in the term "Pulheems."

Is it not true that the term "Pulheems" means that there are certain categories of the establishment? Are we to take it from the Minister that there are certain categories which mean that men can be sent to the Far East, and certain others which mean that they cannot? May we know which they are?

Perhaps, in order to satisfy the natural curiosity of hon. Members, I had better explain what the word "Pulheems" means. It starts, as is obvious, with P for physical capacity; U is for upper limbs; L for locomotion; H for hearing; EE for eyesight; M for mental capacity; and S for emotional stability. If a soldier passes this categorical test, he is sent to the Far East.

Would the problem not be solved by allowing only volunteers to go to Hong Kong?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what comes out at the end of this? Is it a soldier, or what?

It is obvious what comes out at the end. There comes out at the end a person who emerges having satisfied the full medical requirements of the Army.

Will the Secretary of State ask his right hon. Friends voluntarily to undergo this test?

This is really not a matter for me to consider, though if hon. Members generally wish to undergo this test, I will see what I can do.

Nurses (Conditions And Pay)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied with the present strength of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Auxiliary Nursing Corps; and when he expects to make an announcement regarding the new conditions of service and pay of this corps.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No." The Army, like the civil hospitals, is having considerable difficulty in securing the services of nurses. The strength of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps is more than 900 below establishment and civilian nurses are being employed as a temporary expedient. I hope that it will be possible for a statement on the new conditions of service to be made shortly.

Is the Secretary of State aware that an inquiry into the pay and conditions of service of these nurses was started in December, 1946, and that, in February of this year, he said he would expedite the matter? Is he also aware that this delay is having a most unfortunate effect on those in the service and on recruiting as a whole?

The first two parts of the hon. and gallant Member's supplementary question are accurate. With regard to the third, it is not having such an unfortunate effect as was anticipated, very largely because of the devotion to duty and loyalty of the nurses.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether civilian nurses are paid more or less than Army nurses?

As hon. Members are probably aware, there has been recently some suggested readjustment of pay and conditions of civilian nurses, and we are hoping for the best.

Is the Secretary of State aware that devotion to duty would be much assisted by better conditions of pay than they have at present?

Parade Regulations

25.

asked the Secretary of State for War what are his regulations dealing with the action to be taken when soldiers faint on parade.

There are no specific orders laid down. Such matters are left to the discretion of the officer commanding the particular parade. The normal practice is for the nearest non-commissioned officer to fall out and detail two other ranks to remove the individual to the rear, loosen the collar and belt, and arrange for medical attention.

As there are no specific regulations for dealing with these cases, will the right hon. Gentleman consider regulations preventing the recurrence of the incident which occurred at Shrewsbury last week, where a woman was left helpless on the ground and a photograph was taken of her?

So far as the photograph of the incident is concerned, I regard it as regrettable. It was of no advantage to anybody. As regards dealing with the soldier, or whatever rank is held by the unfortunate individual who suffers this discomfort, we must leave it to the discretion of the commanding officer, who is responsible.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the photograph was a correct portrait of what actually took place, and that the "couldn't care less" expression on the faces of those around this poor girl has been very disturbing? May I further ask him whether any penalty attaches to a woman who goes to the rescue or assistance of another in such circumstances?

I must reject the suggestion that the comrades of this sergeant who suffered in this fashion were unconcerned. They were very much concerned about their colleague, but naturally fainting is usually unexpected and it is not very easy to decide what should be done.

Will my right hon. Friend refute or comment on the suggestion that any person in that condition cannot be dealt with until the review has ended?

This is a matter which must be left to the discretion of the commanding officer, and it is quite impossible for me to interfere in matters of this sort. All I wish to repeat is that I think it is deplorable that an incident of this kind should have been depicted in the Press in the way it was.

Reserve (Strength)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War what were the strengths of sections A, B and D, respectively, of the Army Reserve on 1st January, 1938.

Four thousand, seven hundred and ninety-nine, 79,917 and 40,232 respectively.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if his Parliamentary Secretary had had the courtesy to answer the Question I asked him last week, I need not have bothered him for these figures?

I will not accept that at all. The Parliamentary Secretary is most courteous in his replies to Questions.