HC Deb 19 October 1943 vol 392 cc1197-8
24. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can make any statement about the delay that occurred in considering Captain Douglas-Home's application for permissson to stand as candidate in St. Alban's by-election?

41. Sir H. Williams

asked the Secretary of State for War through how many persons' hands the request of 22nd September made by Captain the Hon. William Douglas-Home passed before it reached the Army Council on 4th October?

Sir J. Grigg

The time taken in getting a reply to Captain Douglas-Home was the result of a chapter of accidents. The application, which was dated 21st September and gave no indication of the date of nomination, was forwarded through the usual military channels, and did not reach the War Office till late on Friday, 1st October. It went first to the Registry. Owing to the fact that at the week-end there is necessarily a reduced staff, that it was not realised that the letter was an urgent one and that the Section dealing with these matters is not housed in the main War Office building it was not until 4th October that the necessary permission was telephoned to Command Headquarters. I have no precise figures of the number of hands through which the application had passed but it must have been considerable. Unfortunately the unit was then on exercise and, in fact, in the course of that exercise Captain Douglas-Home had been made a prisoner of war and his whereabouts were not known until he returned to his unit on 6th October, when the permission was conveyed to him. I understand that Captain Douglas-Home has, on three pre- vious occasions, had applications to stand for election dealt with satisfactorily, and I much regret that on this occasion things went astray. But in order to prevent a similar mischance in future, arrangements are being made for this type of application to be sent direct from the applicant's unit to the War Office.

Sir H. Williams

Would it not be very much better if a great many more things were sent direct, and does not the fact that the document passed through so many hands show that many Government Departments are over-staffed?

Mr. McKinlay

Would it not be better to file this application to ensure it being there when a vacancy occurs?

Mr. Shinwell

Are we to understand that the whereabouts of a prisoner of war in this country as a result of a military exercise is unknown? Is something wrong with the organisation?

Sir J. Grigg

Not in the slightest degree. This was an exercise which tried to simulate the actual conditions of war.