HC Deb 13 August 1919 vol 119 cc1293-5
67. Mr. SEXTON

asked the Secretary for War whether the Signal establishment in Egypt is being maintained on a war footing; whether, in the interests of national economy, it is now possible for the Egyptian State telegraph service to handle the military work now dealt with over the land lines; whether the wireless installation is capable of dealing with all the military work in any emergency; and whether, in view of the fact that the average number of messages per operator on the land lines has fallen to one-third of the January, 1919, figures, he will cause immediate inquiry to be made as to the reasons for the maintenance of the existing establishment?

71. Mr. F. ROBERTS

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, on the 12th ultimo, there were ninety signallers attached to the offices at general headquarters, Cairo, Kantara, and Alexandria; whether the average number of messages per man per day was sixteen; whether since that date, despite demobilisation, the reduction in traffic has continued; and whether he will arrange for the transmission of War Office messages by the normal civilian staff?


I will answer at the same time question No. 71. The Signal units in Egypt have been reduced as far as possible, and have, in addition, been diluted with Indian personnel. At the present time they are very much under establishment owing to the fact that a large proportion of their personnel has been demobilised, and there is difficulty in finding personnel to send out in replacement. The General Office Commanding-in-Chief in Egypt is being asked as to the possibility of manning the land lines by Egyptian civilians, and I will write to my hon. Friend on this point when a reply is received. I am afraid, however, there is no immediate likelihood of this suggestion being practicable. As regards the third part of the question, I am informed that, although the wireless installation may be capable of dealing with the most urgent military work in an emergency, it would by no means carry all the traffic, and there would be very considerable delay. With regard to the last part of the question, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief is taking all possible steps to reduce the number of Signal personnel employed, and a large reduction has already been effected.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these men are being kept there simply in order to serve the officers?


That is touched upon in the next question.

68. Mr. SEXTON

asked the Secretary for War whether it is to the personal financial interest of Signal officers in Egypt to maintain their establishments at the maximum strength; and whether, as it is not desirable that public interest should be subordinated to the individual interests of subordinate officers, he will personally investigate the whole problem, with a view to large economies?


The system by which all establishments are scrutinised by the responsible commander on the spot and again scrutinised by the War Office before receiving approval does not admit of officers commanding units maintaining extravagant establishments for their own financial interest. I can assure my hon. Friend that subordinate officers have not the power of deciding their own establishments. If, however, he or my hon. Friend (Mr. Hailwood) has any special information on the subject I should be glad if he would let me have it to inquire into.

72. Mr. F. ROBERTS

asked the Secretary for War whether he is aware that certain signallers at Cairo have been informed that, despite the repeated statements of the War Office representatives in the House of Commons, the regulations with regard to the release of all demobilisers and pivotal men who were applied for during January, 1919, have been cancelled; and whether, having regard to the increasing dissatisfaction, he will cause immediate inquiries to be made?


I am not aware that the men referred to by my hon. Friend have been so informed. The regulations regarding the release of pivotal men and demobilisers who were registered as such by the War Office prior to 1st February, 1919, are still in force, but it would appear that the men in question arc confusing pivotal men and demobilisers with slip men and contract men. The mere fact that the latter have received contractoffers of employment such as to obtain their registration as slip men does not entitle them to immediate release, but gives them a certain priority only, if otherwise eligible for demobilisation. In the circumstances no special inquiries appear to be called for.