HC Deb 18 June 1940 vol 362 cc13-5
22. Mr. Sloan

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that men of the British Expeditionary Force who arrived in England from Dunkirk were not supplied with railway vouchers to visit their homes; that many of them had to walk and to borrow money and beg food on the way; that parents had to sacrifice by sending some of their fares, while thousands of them have been unable to visit their homes; and whether he intends to prevent a similar scandal in future?

27. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction caused by the refusal of commanding officers to grant free railway passes to men returned from Dunkirk who have been given leave to visit their homes; and what steps he is taking to deal with the matter?

30. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for War whether arrangements were made to enable the members of the British Expeditionary Force who had returned from Dunkirk and were given 48-hours leave, but had not the money to pay their fares home, to visit their families?

31. Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that men of the Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery, back from the British Expeditionary Force, had to produce the money for their fares home before they were granted their 48-hours leave; that they had had no pay-day for some time owing to conditions in Belgium and in Dunkirk; that the majority were only able to proceed by borrowing from comrades who had not been overseas, and they had no money for food en route; and whether he will see that men can have a free railway warrant issued in future in similar circumstances?

32. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for War whether all evacuated men of the British Expeditionary Force have been able to secure a brief period of leave; whether they will receive compensation for personal losses sustained during recent service; whether these Service men will be reimbursed for any unexpected fares they had to pay; and whether all delays in pay have now been overcome?

Mr. Eden

The normal rule is to allow two free travelling warrants a year for leave. In view of the exceptional circumstances of the present case and of the fact that some men might have already exhausted their entitlement, I thought it necessary to make an exception, and on 7th June, instructions were issued that a free travelling warrant should be granted for leave given to men who were evacuated from ports north of the Somme on or after 11th May, and that travelling expenses incurred by such men before receipt of the instructions should be refunded. This applies also to the troops recently evacuated from Narvik. It will perhaps be appreciated that, in the circumstances attending the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force, normal facilities were not immediately available for those who wished and were permitted to visit their homes, but I hope that, except where the exigencies of the Service have made it impossible, all the men concerned either have been or will be granted a period of leave. As regards payments to the troops, arrangements were made immediately for paymasters to be sent to the areas in which the troops were collected, and it is reported that these arrangements proved to be satisfactory. Compensation will be given in respect of loss of kit, equipment and personal necessaries under normal regulations.

Captain Bellenger

Is it not a fact, in reference to Question 32, that personal losses in kit and equipment in the case of men are made up free, but in the case of officers detailed claims have to he put in; and will the right hon. Gentleman consider removing all that red-tape and giving a flat-rate payment to officers in respect of kit which they have lost?

Mr. Eden

I think my hon. and gallant Friend is right in his analysis of the difference between officers and men, but I would like to consider further the suggestion he has made.

Mr. Sorensen

May I ask whether all delays in payment have now been overcome?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. This was not a question of delay in payment. It was to supply men with no money with an immediate sum of cash to enable them to go on leave.

Mr. Sloan

May I ask whether any discrimination was made between soldiers whose homes are in Scotland and those whose homes were much nearer their military centres, and whether the Minister was aware that considerable indignation was felt in Ayrshire about what was felt to be scandalous treatment of members of the R.S.F.?

Mr. Speaker

The question must be put in proper language.

Mr. Sloan

May I have an answer then to my question?

Mr. Eden

I can assure my hon. Friend that there was no possible question of discrimination against Scotland. On the contrary, it was largely because I had in mind the position in which Scottish troops were placed that I issued those instructions.

Mr. Sloan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these soldiers had to receive relief from public assistance committees?