HC Deb 25 July 1939 vol 350 cc1239-41
61. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for War how many new chaplains have been appointed for service in the Regular Army during the past two years, and how many for the Territorial Army; whether there is a shortage of chaplains; what will be the increased ex- penditure due to extra chaplains; how many are part-time, and how many represent the Free Churches; whether he has approached, or will approach, denominational organisations with a view to securing their co-operation, and the voluntary service of clergymen, priests, ministers of religion, and others to meet the religious needs of militiamen if, and when, voluntarily requested; and whether militiamen who state their conscientious objection to attending a particular form of religious worship, or who state they are agnostics, will be allowed the alternative of attending, or forming, gatherings of an ethical and educational character?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

During the past two years, 14 extra Regular and 81 extra Territorial chaplains have been appointed, of whom one and five respectively represent the Free Churches. The extra cost involved in these appointments is some £8,000 a year. No difficulty is experienced in filling vacancies. In garrisons where there is an insufficient number of troops to justify the maintenance of regular chaplains, local clergy and ministers are employed as part-time officiating chaplains; in these, the Free Churches are included. Close co-operation is maintained with the authorities of the various churches, both depart mentally and through the Interdenominational Advisory Committee on Army Chaplaincy Services, and all nominations for chaplains of every kind are made by them. The spiritual care of militiamen will be maintained in the same manner as for Regular troops. Militiamen who have no religious belief will be permitted to make a declaration to that effect, and will not be compelled to attend the Divine Service of any church. There is: no objection to gatherings of an ethical and educational character, so long as the general regulations of the camp or station are observed.

Mr. Sorensen

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his answer, may I ask whether, in view of the new circumstances that prevail and the various innovations that he has introduced in the Army, he will consider the complete revision of the whole relationship between religious matters and the Army service?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

The hon. Member put down a question asking for detailed information, which I have given him. If, on studying it, he has any further questions to ask, perhaps he will put them down.

Mr. Macquisten

Why should recruits be made to say that they have no religious beliefs? I can imagine that a number of them might say, "I have deep religious beliefs, but I do not want to attend these particular services."