HC Deb 12 December 1944 vol 406 cc1023-5
19. Mr. Touche

asked the Secretary of State for War whether there is such a shortage of skilled signals troops in S.E.A.C. that men in the Royal Corps of Signals in that command are excluded from the repatriation scheme; and whether he can make a statement on the subject.

18. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Secretary of State for War if he has considered the letter from the wife of a soldier serving in the Signals Corps, S.E.A.C., sent to him by the Member for West Fife, and, in view of the strong feeling at the exclusion of these men from the repatriation scheme after four years' service, will he reconsider his decision and include them in the scheme.

Sir J. Grigg

The hon. Members state that men of the Royal Corps of Signals serving in S.E.A.C. are excluded from the repatriation scheme. In this they are misinformed. As I explained in my reply to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Quintin Hogg) on 5th December, for operational reasons their repatriation will be delayed for a few months.

24. Wing-Commander James

asked the Secretary of State for War how many officers are now serving who have got five plus, six plus and seven and upwards years continuous overseas service; and whether irrespective of their applying for transfer to home service such officers will, in default of their express wish to stay, be transferred to home establishment as soon as possible.

Sir J. Grigg

The number of British service officers who have been continuously overseas for more than five years, and who wish to return to this country, must be very small. In one theatre I have heard that officers are expected to apply for repatriation instead of being offered it, and I am inquiring into this.

Wing-Commander James

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are officers and N.C.O's who have not applied for return, in spite of being many years overseas? Can we have an assurance that they will be posted home?

Sir J. Grigg

I would rather not, at the moment, go beyond promising the inquiry into this one theatre, which I mentioned in my answer. In this theatre quite a number of people have made it clear that they do not wish to come home. In other cases I think it is true that they have not been offered facilities, and that they thought it none of their business to put forward their claims.

38. Mr. Quintin Hogg

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, to remove anxiety, he will state the effect of the new leave scheme under the Python repatriation scheme, on the rights of men enjoying its benefits.

Sir J. Grigg

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to the suggestion which appeared in a daily newspaper that the new leave scheme would diminish the number of soldiers sent home under the repatriation schemes. This is not so, and the matter is made clear by the following passage from the Prime Minister's announcement of 17th November: Of course the existing arrangements for posting home of men on urgent compassionate grounds will continue unaffected by this leave scheme, as will also the entitlement to repatriation of men who have served continuously overseas for those periods which my right hon. Friend indicated in this House on 26th September as the present objective in the reduction of the overseas tour of service in the Army. This is in addition to, and not a substitution for anything going on now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1944; Vol. 404, c. 2240.] Perhaps I might take this opportunity of correcting another misleading suggestion contained in the same article namely that soldiers will lose their claims under the repatriation scheme because the scheme for release at the end of the German war will supersede and cancel it. This is not so and it has never been intended that it should be so. I should like to make an appeal to the Press to be very careful before they put in circulation stories which are likely to cause unnecessary perturbation to soldiers and their families. Given the man-power position we are not able to reduce the overseas tour as much as we should like and a certain number of hopes are bound to go unrealised. But it is bad for morale generally and unnecessarily distressing to relatives if conditions are made out to be worse than they in fact are.

Mr. Hogg

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his very reassuring reply, may I ask will he see that his answer has widespread publicity in overseas theatres, as letters have already reached me complaining of the points that he has reassured us about?

Sir J. Grigg

I will certainly see that they are sent out and I will try to see that they are published in the theatre newspapers.