21. Mr. G. MURRAY
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that dispersal officers are, in many cases, discharging non-commissioned officers and men from overseas serving in Imperial units under Group 45 A without satisfying themselves that such non-commissioned officers and men have sufficient means on which to live pending repatriation;whether, in view of the danger of such non-commissioned officers and men being stranded, he will give instructions that they may be given the opportunity of being transferred from Group 45 A to Group 45 B for immediate repatriation; 1560 whether he is aware that dissatisfaction exists in the West Indian Colonies at the delay in repatriating non-commissioned officers and men who gave up their work to join His Majesty's Forces, and are now urgently needed for the development of the trade and industries of those Colonies; and whether he will give instructions for the repatriation of such non-commissioned officers and men to be expedited?
Non-commissioned officers and men who came from overseasand enlisted in the British Army are entitled under Army Order 300 of 1915, and Army Demobilisation Regulations, to elect to take a deferred passage on discharge or demobilisation provided that such passage is claimed within six months from the termination of their Army service. Those electing a deferred passage, i.e., Group 45 A, are notified before leaving their unit that they must be in a position to maintain themselves and their families and dependants (if any) after dispersal whilst awaiting embarkation, and even if they do elect for a deferred passage they are nevertheless given the option of transferring, if they so desire, to Group 45 B, i.e., to remain in the Service until passage is provided. On arrival at the dispersal station the personnel of Group 45 A are again asked and notified that their pay and allowances will cease at the expiration of the twenty-eight days' furlough, and areagain given the option of transferring to Group 45 B if they so desire. The majority of the battalions of the British West India Regiment are now concentrated at Taranto, and the remainder will be sent as soon as accommodation is available. Preparations are being completed for their return journey, and it is hoped that the embarkation will commence early next month. The shipping problem is a difficult one owing to the number of different islands in which the men are domiciled, which necessitates the sorting and regrouping of the men to suit the various ports at which they will be disembarked.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these non-commissioned officers and men are unable, of themselves, to determine whether they have sufficient means to keep them pending the period of repatriation, and what I ask is that some special inquiry should be made into their cases by the dispersal officers in order to ascertain whether they have means at their disposal?
§ Lieutenant-Colonel Sir NORTON GRIFFITHS
Will the six months cover the men discharged twelve months ago?