HC Deb 16 January 1945 vol 407 cc10-2
23. Mr. Leach

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware there is considerable unhappiness among soldiers in the Near East over the leave plan; and if he is now in a position to grant repatriation after four years' service to men in non-operational areas such as the Middle East.

1. Mr. Vernon Bartlett

asked the Secretary of State for War what are now the maximum periods of service overseas in the Middle East and Far East, respectively.

Sir J. Grigg

I will refer to the reply I gave a number of hon. Members on 26th September. The position has not altered since then except for the introduction of the short leave scheme announced by the Prime Minister on 17th November.

Mr. Leach

Is there not now in this non-operational theatre a sufficiency of men for a relaxation of the regulations in regard to leave?

Sir J. Grigg

I have already answered a question on that this morning. If this had been the case, I can assure the hon. Member it would have been done.

Mr. Leach

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this unhappiness does really occur?

Mr. Walter Edwards

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in many cases in Italy men have had no period of leave for 12 months; and will he go into the matter to see if it is at all possible to grant at least seven days' leave every three months?

Sir J. Grigg

The question of local leave in Italy is a quite different one. If the hon. Member has specifically identifiable cases which show that there is any general shortage of local leave in Italy, I shall be very glad to go into them, but it is a different question from that raised by the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach).

Mr. Woodburn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a considerable feeling of unfairness among the soldiers who have returned from Italy, that all the privileges seem to be granted to those who are in the Liberation Army on the Continent, and can he see to it that any privileges in this respect are given to troops from Burma and the Middle East?

Sir J. Grigg

That may be the impression but to the best of my knowledge there is not the slightest foundation for it.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that most of the complaints coming in our post-bags now are that there are very few allocations per 100 and that in a good many cases men who have been away three or four years are not benefiting by any scheme at all? That is the gravamen of their complaint. Cannot something be done to give the men confidence in the Prime Minister's scheme?

Sir J. Grigg

The Prime Minister's announcement made quite clear the magnitude of the scheme, and that it was of a limited character.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Can the right hon. Gentleman ensure that when these men do come on leave, the leave is not counted until they have reached home, because it is most unsatisfactory that this period should begin in the middle of the night when there are no trains until 4 or 5 hours later?

Sir J. Grigg

I think arrangements have been made to prevent that as much as possible, but in view of the vast variety of places to which the troops go, a certain number of incidents of that kind are bound to take place. However, we have taken steps to reduce them to the very minimum. I would not like to say for certain, but my impression is that in the calculation of leave, a reasonable allowance is made for travelling so that leave often starts from the time they reach home, but if the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question on that, I will give him an answer.

Mr. John Dugdale

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us to what period the average length of service abroad has been reduced, because there has been considerable irritation?

Sir J. Grigg

The period stands as stated in my answer of 26th September. I would be very grateful if the hon. Member would read that answer, because it was very carefully drafted. Answers which are given without regard to the qualifications, are telegraphed out to commands overseas and are apt to be misleading. If, after reading that answer, the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask any particular questions, I shall be glad to answer them.