HC Deb 12 March 1919 vol 113 cc1251-2
31. Lieutenant-Colonel POWNALL

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of paragraph 5 of the explanatory note issued with Army Order XIV., of 29th January, 1919, stating that it is intended to form an Army of 900,000 out of the 1,300,000 men given by the scheme, in considering who has first claim to release among the 400,000 men thus shown as surplus, he will take into consideration the claims of the Derby men who attested in 1915 under a contract to serve till six months after the cessation of hostilities, and who consider they should be free not later than the 11th May, 1919, but who, owing to their not having been actually called up till 1916, are liable to be kept for the Army of Occupation?

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Churchill)

The principles on which men surplus to requirements will be released are set out in the explanatory note referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend. Men who are attested under the Derby scheme were merely under a liability to serve until they actually joined the Colours for immediate or continuous service, and the test adopted by the Government is length of actual service with, the Colours and not length of the liability to serve. I regret my hon. and gallant Friend's proposal, which would completely alter every calculation on which the new scheme has been based, cannot be entertained.


Is the right hon. Gen-Gentleman aware that, in the contract of service of such men, there was a term that the service should begin to count at a certain time, and is it not a breach of contract not to carry that out?


I do not dispute the facts, but there is no breach of contract involved. The Government makes a proposal to retain certain classes of men. The classes we propose to retain are those which were not called up for service before 1st January, 1916. There is no breach of contract there.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that if a man is in hospital too ill to be discharged before the 30th January, 1919, but yet previously assured his release on the pivotal system, is now debarred from such release under Army Order 14 of last January, although employment may be awaiting him; and will he reconsider cases of this nature and grant them their release?


In such a case, if the man was registered by the War Office as pivotal before the 1st February, 1919, he is eligible for demobilisation under the Army Order in question.


The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the War Office. Does not the same Minister reply for the Labour Exchange?


No, Sir, I do not think so. The arrangement which we came to was that these applications from the Ministry of Labour which were in before a certain date—I think the 1st of February—should go through, even if the actual collection of the men stretched right through the month of February; but none coming after that date.