HC Deb 06 February 1945 vol 407 cc1898-909
59. Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is yet in a position to make any further statement about the benefits to be given to men and women released from the Forces under the scheme announced in Cmd. 6548.

Sir J. Anderson

I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend to await the statement which I will make at the end of Questions.


Sir J. Anderson

This is the answer to Question No. 59.

As was indicated in the White Paper referred to by my hon. Friend, members of the Forces, when released in their turn, will have 56 days' paid leave, in addition to foreign service leave on the approved scales for those who have served overseas for six months or more. Those who have served in the ranks since the 1st January, 1942, will receive in addition as a release benefit the post-war credits announced in Command 6336 of February, 1942. Provision has been made on a comprehensive scale for reinstatement in civil employment, for further education or training, and for the completion of apprenticeships. Moreover, the final details are now being worked out, and will shortly be announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service, of a scheme of resettlement grants up to £150 to ex-members of the Forces wishing to re-start in business on their own account, and to ex-members of the Forces who are attributably disabled and wish to start in business for the first time. These release benefits alone, apart from the other extensive resettlement measures, but including the Service Post-war Credits and the civilian outfits which are being provided in cash or kind for all members of the Forces on their release, will mean a capital expenditure approaching £500,000,000.

The aim of the Government has been to design the provision for resettlement so as to cover all the needs of members of the Forces on their return to civil life; and they have had in mind for some time past to complete their arrangements by a scheme of gratuities somewhat on the lines of that which was in force after the last war. It is of course the case that the provision made for the Forces in other ways was much less generous after the last war than the schemes which the Government have already announced for forthcoming releases from the Services. The wider ambit and different approach of the present schemes have regard to the changed circumstances of the times; but in the view of the Government it would not have been right to omit from their plans a scheme of gratuities—of which indeed there has been a general expectation. They have now determined, after careful consideration and in the light of all the circumstances, to supplement the sum of £500,000,000 which I have mentioned by making available a further sum, of the order of £200,000,000, for the purpose of providing war gratuities for Service men and women after the present war. The gratuities will depend on length of war service as well as on rank, so that any unexpected prolongation of the war will inevitably involve some increase over estimates based on present expectations. Legislation will be introduced to exempt the gratuities from tax.

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT an outline of the scheme (which will be more fully elaborated in the regulations to be made by the Service Departments), together with the scale of gratuities for each rank. I am also circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT some typical examples, showing the extent of the financial benefits which will be received on release. Regular and ex-regular officers and men are included in the scheme of war gratuities. The issue of war gratuities, which will be in the form of depositis in the Port Office Savings Bank, will begin as soon as possible, for those who are released in their turn, after the start of releases under the Reallocation Scheme announced in Command 6548. Gratuities proportionate to their length of service will be granted also to officers, ratings and other ranks who have been honourably discharged before that date. Proportionate gratuities will similarly be payable to the estates of those who have died and who were otherwise eligible. In the case of members of the Forces who have been discharged or who have died in or since leaving the Service, written application in a prescribed form will be invited on or after a date to be announced on the wireless and published in the Press when the time arrives. Payment will be made as soon as administratively possible after the receipt of the forms.

This scheme of war gratuities rounds off the Government's comprehensive plan for the resettlement of all men and women on their return from the Services to civil life. The plan is incomparably wider in scope and more liberal in its benefits than the arrangements made after the last war, and I am glad to have had this opportunity of presenting to the House a complete picture of the provision which is being made.

Sir A. Lambert Ward

Are we to understand that the benefits as well as the gratuities will also be paid free of any deduction of Income Tax or Surtax?

Sir J. Anderson

No, Sir, the benefits, in so far as they take the form of capital payments, will not be subject to tax. The benefits which take the form of leave pay and allowances will be dealt with under the ordinary law applicable to pay and allowances. The gratuities might be regarded as payments by way of income and therefore legislation will be necessary to exempt them from Income Tax.

Mr. Arthur Greenwood

May I put this point to my right hon. Friend? I gather that in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow there will be a statement whch is now not within the knowledge of the House and in those circumstances I see little value in pursuing questions and answers on it now. Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the desirability, whenever the House has had an opportunity of considering the full statement, of some discussion in the House of Commons prior to the formulation of the regulations to which my right hon. Friend refers?

Sir J. Anderson

Yes, Sir, but, of course, discussion in the House is a matter for arrangement in the ordinary way. I thought I had given the impression, which I intended to give, that the Government have made decisions and have drawn up a scheme, the details of which will be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Greenwood

May I then press this point? The scheme exists. My right hon. Friend has made that perfectly clear. My point is that before any regulations which are to be submitted become operative the House might in its wisdom wish to have a discussion on the effects of any regulations there might be on the operation of the scheme. It is a matter which affects a very large number of people and the House naturally would desire to discuss it before it became operative.

Sir J. Anderson

That seems to be very reasonable. I do not wish to give the impression that I dissent in any way.

Sir W. Davison

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that any benefits or gratuities payable to men in the Forces on their discharge are paid promptly on their discharge, as is the case in both the American and Canadian Forces; will he see to it that they are not paid after considerable delay, which prevents men taking up employment or new businesses?

Sir J. Anderson

No doubt my right hon. Friends who are responsible for the Service Departments will be responsible for the details and the matter will be borne in mind.

Mr. Graham White

Having regard to these provisions, which the Chancellor has rightly described as being much more complete and also more substantial than those after the last war, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the large number of schemes made by civic and other authorities throughout the country who are proposing to do much the same kind of thing?

Mr. Bellenger

Would my right hon. Friend clear up one or two points in his statement which were not quite clear to me? He mentioned that the Minister of Labour would issue re-settlement grants. Do we understand that these will be in the nature of loans?

Sir J. Anderson

No, I said "grants"—payments outright.

Mr. Granville

In view of the fact that HANSARD has a limited circulation, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the issue of some form of White Paper, and give an assurance that it will contain at least the details which were published in the whole of the Sunday Press and in the "Daily Mail" this morning?

Sir J. Anderson

It is the intention of the Government to put all this information together in one document in a convenient form, so that it may be available not only to Members of this House but to those likely to be concerned. It is in hand and will be available shortly.

Major C. S. Taylor

My right hon. Friend stated that those who were honourably discharged from the Services will also get the grants. Can he say whether the sums of money due to them will be paid now, or whether they must wait for them until after the war, because many of those who have been honourably discharged want to set up in business now and the grants will help them to re-establish themselves in industry?

Sir J. Anderson

I really think that at this point I should leave hon. Members to gather for themselves from HANSARD the full bearings of the scheme.

Mr. Bowles

May I ask just two questions? The first is whether the amounts paid to the estates of deceased serving men will be exempt from any death duties—that was not mentioned; and the second is, Will the Chancellor give an assurance that they will make no difference at all to the pensions drawn by the dependants of deceased serving men?

Sir J. Anderson

I think those are questions of detail which had better be dealt with separately. I cannot answer them now.

Mr. Stokes

The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that after the last war there was discrimination against the Regular Serviceman, who got less benefits than the temporary. Can he assure the House in a general way that there will be no such discrimination on this occasion?

Sir J. Anderson

I purposely included the statement that the scheme will apply to Regulars.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

May I ask whether the scheme of credits will extend to native troops like the King's African Rifles and others of that type?

Sir J. Anderson

I do not know. That is not a question for me, but should be put to the Colonial Secretary.

Mr. Driberg

With regard to the 56 days' discharge leave, which the Chancellor dealt with early in his statement, could he reconsider the position of men who have to spend those 56 days ill in bed in hospital and, therefore, feel to some extent cheated of the benefit? Would he consider in this connection the practice in the Canadian Forces?

Sir J. Anderson

I will certainly look into the point.

Earl Winterton

May I ask whether we are to gather from the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the last question but one that this very important matter of the African and Indian troops who are within the pay of His Majesty's Government has not been discussed by him with the two Cabinet Ministers concerned? Many of us attach great importance to these people being properly provided for.

Sir J. Anderson

I have no doubt that my noble Friend will not be surprised to hear that the details of this plan have been the subject of discussion amongst all the Ministers concerned. The statement which I have made on behalf of the Government is confined to the case of members of Forces for which His Majesty's Government are directly responsible. It does not include the others.

Following is the scheme in outline:

War gratuity on the scale set out below will be granted to officers and men who have had at least six months' approved war service and who are released or honourably discharged from the Forces. The gratuity will be assessed on the total period or periods of war service in the Forces, on full Service pay, from the 3rd September, 1939, up to the date of release from a dispersal centre (or from the unit, etc., for those who do not pass through dispersal centres). Periods of unmobilised service in the reserves and other periods without Service pay, and service which has been forfeited and not restored, will not count.

The basic rate of gratuity for ratings and other ranks will be 10s., and for the lowest rank of officer 25s., for each complete month of service as above. Officers and men who have held paid rank above the lowest will qualify for higher rates of gratuity, based upon the substantive or war substantive rank held at the date of release, or, if more favourable, upon the highest paid rank held during the war for a period or periods amounting to not less than six months in all. Where service has been given both in the ranks and as an officer the gratuity will be calculated separately for each period of service. Women members of the Forces and nursing officers will in general receive two-thirds of the rate for corresponding male ranks. Boys, including naval boys before draft to sea, will in general receive half the rate for privates and equivalents: naval boys after draft to sea will receive the rate for ordinary seamen.