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Officers' Wives (Overseas Accommodation And Travelling Expenses)

Volume 641: debated on Sunday 7 May 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for Air what would be the approximate cost to the Exchequer if facilities for accommodation and travelling expenses were granted to enable wives to join their husbands who are officers of the Royal Air Force stationed abroad, and whose ages range between 21 years and 25 years.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that this amount is rather small in comparison with the total cost of conveying officers abroad? In view of that fact, will he not now consider accepting the principle of equal travelling and accommodation allowances for equal responsibility?

No, Sir, I am afraid not. The consideration in our view has never been a financial one. As the hon. Gentleman points out, the sums at stake are relatively small. We take the view that in the early years of an officer's service it is better for him to be unmarried, and we do not therefore want to give an incentive to early marriage.

But does not the Minister realise that young men today are getting married earlier, that they have the responsibility of married life and that they would be far happier than they are at the present time if their families were transported abroad with them?

We have very carefully considered all the considerations at issue here, and, while I see the hon. Gentleman's point, I am afraid that we have reached a different conclusion.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give further serious consideration to this? Hon. Members on both sides have indicated that they are disturbed at this brutal separation of newly married officers from their wives. Under present conditions they are left with a thoroughly harsh choice between celibacy and impoverishment.

I see the hon. Gentleman's point, but we have looked at this carefully and we came to a different view.