HC Deb 03 October 1944 vol 403 cc745-7
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

(By Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention had been drawn to the allegation that 12 men of the Airborne Division recently engaged in the Arnhem operation arrived at Salisbury Racecourse on Saturday last with collecting boxes inviting contributions to the Airborne Forces Security Fund; whether he has any information as to the officer who gave authority for this action; whether the fund in question is recognised by his Department and what steps he proposes to take regarding an action which is deeply resented by many members of the Airborne Division at present in this country and must be repugnant to public opinion.

Sir J. Grigg

I have seen the newspaper account of the collection on Salisbury racecourse to which my right hon. Friend refers, and I have called for a report on the incident. I have not so far been able to discover who gave instructions for the collection_ The Airborne Forces Security Fund is registered under the War Charities Act. The War Office is not represented on its Board of Management, and the fund is and always has been completely outside its control. It is quite separate from the Regimental Funds of the individual regiments or corps represented in the Airborne Forces. There is no King's Regulation under which I can take any action in this mater. I can have my own opinion on the question of taste involved and can make it clear to those who are ultimately shown to be responsible for the incident. I will also consider whether a Regulation specifically prohibiting such methods can appropriately be made.

Mr. Bellenger

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a serving officer of high rank has his name associated with this fund, and may I ask whether the Secretary of State has any control over serving officers in these matters?

Sir J. Grigg

I really do not know that there is any reason in law why a serving officer should not he associated with a Fund which fulfils the conditions of the War Charities Act.

Mr. Greenwood

Would my right hon. Friend make it quite clear to the public that he, as Secretary of State for War, regards it as most reprehensible that within a few days of a great operation, and after my right hon. Friend had paid a great tribute to those who took part in it, men should go round making these begging collections with collecting boxes?

Sir J. Grigg

It was my purpose to express that view. If the weight of my feeling was not sufficiently expressed by my reply to this Question, my right hon. Friend's supplementary question has given me an opportunity to remedy it.

Earl Winterton

Will my right hon. Friend consult with his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the question whether the War Charities Act is at present a sufficiently efficacious measure to prevent the starting of war charities, often to the personal advantage of the person who starts them, which often conflict with other war charities or with the money which is provided out of public funds for a particular purpose?

Sir J. Grigg

I will certainly discuss that matter with the Home Secretary, whose business it is primarily.

Mr. A. Edwards

Would the Minister not go further and make it plain that the Government want to abolish all war charities?

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

We are getting a long way from the Question which was originally asked.