36. Mr. Robertson
asked the Secretary of State for War if he has looked into the refusal of an application for compassionate leave for one only of six sons 1029 of a resident in Streatham, of whom particulars have been sent to him, all serving overseas, to visit their mother, who lay dying.
§ Sir J. Grigg
As the answer is necessarily rather long I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his Department did not even acknowledge a written application, and that when I intervened I was told that this exceptional case was entitled only to the lowest priority, and that there was no possibility of getting leave?
§ Sir J. Grigg
I think it was a case where the application was delivered in person, and I am told that in those cases, when the applicant is satisfied that the application has been so delivered, an acknowledgment is not sent. As regards the question of priority, I think the words were—I looked them up carefully last night—"a low priority," not the lowest. I would, however, be grateful if my hon. Friend would read my answer. If he then wishes to raise the matter again I should be quite willing to discuss it with him.
Further to that explanation, does not my right hon. Friend appreciate that common humanity requires that an answer should be sent to an application of this kind? Is he further aware that this dying woman was asking day by day for news, and had no acknowledgment at all?
§ Sir J. Grigg
The application was delivered in person to one of the branches of the War Office, and it was quite clear that she was in a position to know that it had been delivered. After that, an application has to go to the theatre of war concerned, where the Commander-in-Chief has the final voice in the matter. But, as I have said, I would be grateful if my hon. Friend would read my answer and then raise any extra points he wishes to raise.
§ Following is the answer:
§ Under the existing practice applications for compassionate leave on account of the illness of a parent are only forwarded to commanders-in-chief with a high priority assessment when there is a 1030 chance that the son's presence would save the parent's life or when he is an only child or when all the children are abroad. The reasons for this are of course that it has only been possible to grant compassionate leave or repatriation in a limited number of cases, particularly from distant theatres, and that there are, unfortunately, very numerous instances of family misfortune even more distressing than the mortal illness of a parent. There are, for example, the cases of the serious illness of a wife with young children or the serious illness of a child.
§ The case in which my hon. Friend is interested was that of a dying mother. All six sons were serving overseas but there were two daughters living with her at home. There was no prospect that the son's presence would save the mother's life.
§ My hon. Friend was, therefore—I think correctly—informed that in forwarding the application to the Commander-in-Chief it could only be assigned a low priority. I am afraid that this was inevitable in view of the thousands of applications we receive and it would be wrong of me to hold out the hope that similar cases in future can be assigned higher priority. On the other hand the recent institution of leave schemes—as opposed to repatriation—for the principal overseas theatres may make it possible to send home a larger number of compassionate cases, particularly from the B.L.A. As no doubt my hon. Friend knows, the final decision in all such cases is left with commanders-in-chief.