asked the Secretary of State for War what inquiries he makes before a Regular soldier completes his engagement about the family accommodation he will need on being compelled to vacate his Service quarters.
All married soldiers are reminded annually to register with their local housing authority as long as possible before they leave the Army. Where help is needed, the Royal Army Educational Corps take up the man's case locally and my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and Minister of Housing and Local Government have been most co-operative in using their powers of persuasion in difficult cases.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is not the slightest bit of good asking soldiers to register with local authorities for 12 months, or, indeed, any length of time, before their service is up because the local authority will not accept applications from them? Does he not realise that it is an entirely wrong procedure to leave it to the soldier with so little help from the authorities at the War Office?
I do not think that is quite fair, because what we do is to remind the soldier about registering. I am aware of the difficulties, and also of the fact that many soldiers do not know under what local authorities they will live because they do not know what their job will be. I was asked what steps we are taking to deal with this matter, and I have given the answer.
Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to ensure that the serving soldier is given the same rights in connection with local authority housing as he would have had had he not joined the Forces?
That arises on the next Question.
The Minister has stated that the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Scotland do their best in individual cases, but can they not ask the local authority to give soldiers some kind of preference in this matter?
That also arises on the next Question.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what examination is given to the men before they are allowed to drive a motor? I had the case of a man escaping from an asylum who was found driving. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was the last Question."]
asked the Secretary of State for War what proposals he has for ensuring that Regular soldiers can be admitted to the housing waiting list of the local authority of their choice before they are compelled to vacate their service accommodation at the end of their service.
This matter is outside my control and largely rests with the local authorities concerned. I have, however, approached my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and he is considering a further approach to the local authorities.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is quite the most important welfare matter in the later stages of a Regular soldier's career, and how can my right hon. Friend say it is no concern of his? Will he not consider making some approach to the associations of local authorities to try and get a coordinated pattern in dealing with this matter?
I am very well aware of the importance of this matter, but it would be quite improper for me to approach local authorities direct—that I must do through my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. My right hon. Friend is very well aware of the importance of this, but no one can compel local authorities to do anything on this subject without further legislation.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider asking his right hon. Friend to take legislative powers to place serving soldiers on the same basis in housing and education as would have been the case had they not joined the Regular Forces?
I have stressed the importance of this subject to my right hon. Friend, who is aware of it and is eager to help.
What about doing something?
It is all right for the hon. Gentleman to say, "What about doing something," but it is not so easy to solve when the responsibility lies with the local authorities.
Will the right hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to represent to the Croydon Borough Council that they should not deny to an ex-Service man residential qualification because he happens to work in London? Sometimes it is a good idea to come down on one's own local authority.