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Reservists (Release Arrangements)

Volume 496: debated on Tuesday 26 February 1952

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asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that on 21st December last reservists from Korea disembarked at Southampton from the "Empire Fowey" and were instructed to proceed to Newton Abbot for release, and after an all-day journey found on arrival they were not expected and most of the staff had gone on Christmas leave; and what steps he is taking to prevent a recurrence of such unfortunate proceedings.

I very much regret that the arrangements for the reception of these men went astray. Three days after this ship reached Southampton a further troopship was due there, from which it was decided to send all the men who disembarked immediately on leave in order that they might spend Christmas at home. Unfortunately, owing to an error in a teleprinter message, the unit at Newton Abbot was led to believe that the men from the "Empire Fowey" would similarly be sent straight to their homes. Arrangements were improvised to meet the unexpected arrival of these men and they were paid and sent off to their homes without delay.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these soldiers were told at Newton Abbot that they should have been discharged at Southampton and that they spent the night arguing, and the following morning they were given £2 10s. and a railway pass? That was for Christmas leave, and many of these men were family men. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] This is still a question. After Christmas these soldiers had to return—many of them from Yorkshire—to Newton Abbot for their discharge, wasting the time of the men getting a job and wasting public money. May I ask the Minister—

On a point of order, is an hon. Gentleman entitled to ask a very long supplementary of this sort, which is inappropriate as a supplementary question?

I did feel that the hon. Member's question was rather lengthy and was giving information rather than asking for it. It would help if hon. Members kept their supplementary questions short.

Will the right hon. Gentleman have an inquiry into this matter, as broad-based as the Prime Minister's political affiliations, and may I ask—[Interruption.]