HC Deb 01 August 1918 vol 109 cc579-81
Sir CHARLES HOBHOUSE (by Private Notice)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that in one of the British Divisions in Mesopotamia the total number of officers to be given leave this year is only five; whether this Division has been four consecutive summers in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia; and whether many of the officers have had no home leave for four years, and what steps can be taken to increase the amount of leave to such officers?


I have no definite information as to the accuracy of the statement contained in my right hon. Friend's question, but as I have frequently explained, leave for troops serving in the East is dependent upon transport facilities and the accommodation available is, unfortunately, very limited. Negotiations are, however, in progress, and I hope that in the near future it will be possible to increase to a great extent the numbers of troops granted leave from Mesopotamia end other theatres of war in the East.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries as to the particulars I have given him in this question, and, if they are accurate, as I am assured they are, will he endeavour immediately to extend leave to these officers, who have not had any for four years?


I would like to point out, as it has been frequently pointed out, that there is nobody more anxious to give leave to the officers and men than the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief. I have been in communication with him on this subject, and he expressed a wish that we should see what can be done on this side to provide transport to take the men home, and, as I have stated in answer to my right hon. Friend, we are in negotiation with the Shipping Controller, the Admiralty, and the other Departments concerned, so that we may be able to do as much as is possible in this direction.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that this difficulty is universal, and that it is experienced in even a larger degree by the men, and in making inquiries on the subject, will he take care not to limit inquiry to the case of officers, as is suggested in the question?


I cannot admit that there is any unfairness so far as leave is concerned between officers and men. I think that every General Officer Commanding-in-Chief is endeavouring, to the best of his ability, to be as equitable as possible in the granting of leave.


My right hon. Friend misunderstands me. I do not suggest that there is any unfairness. The question which I asked is: Is he not aware that this difficulty is universal, that it is experienced to even a larger degree by the men, and I would ask that he would not limit his inquiry to officers?


Certainly. The first person to resent my making any inquiries with regard to officers and leaving out the men would be the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief himself. I can assure the House that the inquiries which I make with regard to officers always include the men.


Will the right hon. Gentleman see that those forces which have been transferred to the Western Front, including those referred to by my right hon. Friend, will have an early chance of leave as soon as circumstances will allow?


Yes. I have answered at least two questions on that particular point last week. I saw one or two particular officers to-day at the War Office, and they told me that everything possible is being done to meet the exceptional case to which my hon. Friend refers. Common justice requires that these men should have leave as soon as possible.