HC Deb 27 May 1941 vol 371 cc1685-6
13. Mr. Bernard Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that soldiers, at two camps of which he has been informed, of religious persuasion other than the Church of England, are compelled to attend the Church of England parade; and will he take steps to prevent this occurring in future?

Mr. Law

King's Regulations provide that no officer or soldier will be obliged to attend the service of any religious denomination other than his own. At the two camps to which my hon. Friend refers, men of other denominations were apparently detailed to attend the Church of England parade, although it was explained to them that they were not obliged to enter the church or attend the service. The local military headquarters took immediate steps to stop this practice as soon as it came to their notice, and orders to this effect were issued on 5th May.

Captain John Dugdak

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of commanding officers interpret this particular instruction as permitting them to compel troops to match to the door of the church and to march away from the church, and that the only right the men have is to wait outside the church, possibly in the rain, while the service continues?

Mr. Law

If that is the understanding of the commanding officers, it is an erroneous one, and I will see what steps can be taken to bring this to their notice.

Mr. Cocks

Is it correct for a commanding officer to say that if a man does not attend church parade, he will not have leave? Does that have the support of the War Office?

Mr. Law

I cannot speak of that. The church parade is obligatory on the soldier. The only point raised in the Question, which I want to make clear, is that there is no obligation on a soldier to attend the church of any denomination except his own.

Mr. Bellenger

What does the hon. Gentleman mean? Does he mean that the soldier must attend his church parade? The hon. Gentleman gave the impression in a previous answer that this was not so.

Mr. Law

The soldier is not obliged to attend the church of any denomination other than his own.

Forward to