HC Deb 20 February 1940 vol 357 cc1129-31
29. Mr. Dobbie

asked the Secretary of State for War whether leave is still in operation for serving soldiers who are in France, and whether he intends to continue same until all the original British Expeditionary Force men who went out in September, 1939, have had a leave; and whether he is aware that there is grave unrest and disappointment amongst wives and relations of such men because of the long delay in such leave being granted?

Mr. Stanley

Leave is being and will continue to be given, subject to operational and other conditions. It is hoped that all the original members of the British Expeditionary Force will have had a term of leave by the middle of March. I am not aware of any grave unrest in the matter, and I think it must be well understood that leave must be spread.

Mr. Dobbie

Will the Minister give special consideration to men who are overseas and who did not get any embarkation leave before they left this country? Is he not aware of the grave unrest among, and hardship on, serving soldiers?

Mr. Stanley

The House will realise that in view of the fact that leave was suspended once owing to an emergency, and once owing to the weather, we are working through the original B.E.F. at a very fast rate. No one who knows anything of these matters believes that we can allow more than a certain number of men to have leave at any one time.

Mr. Lawson

Is the Minister aware that part of the grievance rests with men who apprehend that some men will get their second leave before the whole of the men get their first leave? Will he guarantee that this will not take place?

Mr. Stanley

I think that this could only happen to people sent out very recently.

39. Mr. Mathers

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will consider equalising the period of leave at home for all members of the British Expeditionary Force through adding to the period of leave the time taken to travel to the soldier's home and checking his arrival and departure as is done in France?

Mr. Stanley

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Gallacher), on 13th February last. It is necessary from the shipping point of view that the number of days spent in the United Kingdom should be constant.

Mr. Mathers

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this does work out unfairly on those who have long distances to travel once they reach these shores coming from France? Would it not be possible to adopt the French system of noting the arrival of men on leave at their own home towns?

Mr. Stanley

That is quite impossible. French troops going on leave do not have to travel by boat. It is essential that you should bring over a boat full and that you should know that on a particular date the same number of people will go back, and the boat be full again. Any other system might mean that we could bring far fewer people home on leave.