HC Deb 20 February 1945 vol 408 cc600-2
3. Mr. Woodburn

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction in the Middle East Army at the small numbers now apportioned to leave; whether the recent increase of the proportion allotted to compassionate leave could be achieved without cutting down the numbers allotted to long service abroad; and whether he can make a statement as to the present position.

4. Mr. Quintin Hogg

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has now completed his investigation of the allegations that the monthly leave scheme is being used for the purpose of compassionate cases and not for the purpose for which it was devised.

32. Dr. Little

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give special consideration for leave to members of His Majesty's Forces serving overseas who are worried about matters at home which they are anxious to have adjusted at the earliest moment.

Sir J. Grigg

I have looked into this Question and cannot accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) that the overseas leave scheme is not being used for the purpose for which it was designed. I am aware that, in the exercise of the discretion vested in them, commanders-in-chief overseas do in some cases take into account compassionate circumstances when selecting the most deserving cases for leave to the United Kingdom. Such cases are only included if they are not grave or urgent enough to justify a definite posting, as distinct from leave, to the United Kingdom. In this connection I would refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave to a number of hon. Members on 6th February. Even if "compassionate grounds" do tip the scales between two soldiers of approximately equal and equally meritorious service I do not think I should regard this as inconsistent with the object of the scheme.

Mr. Woodburn

I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman was answering my Question, but if his answer was supposed to refer to the point I raised may I ask is he aware that the increase given, out of the total number for compassionate leave, has reduced the number for ordinary leave? Will he restore the number to get ordinary leave?

Sir J. Grigg

From the beginning, the Middle East have devoted about one-sixth of their quota to compassionate cases.

Mr. Hogg

While not criticising the line which has been taken, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not a fact that this represents a clear deviation from the scope of the scheme originally announced, because we were assured that the home leave scheme would be used for the purpose of giving leave to people who had been abroad for a long time, and not for the purpose of supplementing the compassionate scheme?

Sir J. Grigg

No, Sir; what I think I said was that the primary purpose of the leave scheme was to leave commanders-in-chief with discretion in the matter. They were exhorted to have regard to good service in face of the enemy and to long service abroad. Those were the primary factors. If compassionate circumstances were taken into account as a subsidiary factor I do not think that that is inconsistent with the scheme.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the Minister aware that men who have been overseas—I am talking about Cairo and the North Africa area—for five years feel very aggrieved that the prospect of their getting leave has been diminished by an increase in compassionate leave?

Sir J. Grigg

That is not so. Until this scheme was announced—and this element was a factor in the Middle East scheme from the beginning—they had no leave as opposed to repatriation at all. There has been superimposed on the repatriation scheme a small but rather valuable leave scheme.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Is it not a fact that the British Government have entered into so many commitments abroad that commanders-in-chief cannot be as humane as they would like to be in granting leave?

Sir J. Grigg

For once in a while I do not dissent from what the hon. Member has said.

16. Sir Robert Young

asked the Secretary of State for War whether soldiers serving with the B.L.A. who have had compassionate leave for funeral or other domestic purposes are debarred from the privilege leave which began on 1st January, 1945; and, if so, will he say what period of time must elapse before such compassionate leave is not a deterrent to the granting of the said privilege leave.

Sir J. Grigg

The answer to the first part of the Question is, No, Sir, unless the period of compassionate leave exceeds 7 days. If it does exceed 7 days the officer or man is not considered again for leave until he has spent a further six months with the B.L.A.

Sir R. Young

Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration that some of these leaves are periods of anxiety and sorrow and the men are not able to enjoy them?

Sir J. Grigg

The main object of the leave scheme is to enable a man to resume contact with his family.

26. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that men serving in North Staffordshire units in S.E.A.C. are discontented at the number of leave vacancies allotted to their units as compared with the number allotted to other units; if he will inquire into the reason for this discrimination and take further steps to ensure that the system on which leave is allotted is understood by all ranks in a Command.

Sir J. Grigg

As I have repeatedly stated, the detailed application of the leave scheme is a matter for the Commander-in-Chief concerned and I should be most reluctant to interfere in favour of individual units unless I had clear evidence that there had been discrimination against them. I have, as I stated in my reply to a number of hon., Members on 6th February, suggested to Commanders-in-Chief that they should take steps to make sure that officers and men have had the scheme explained to them and that they know what their local arrangements are.