HC Deb 02 April 1946 vol 421 cc1073-7
2. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for War why his Department consistently refused to announce a definite scheme of demobilisation for H.C.T. troops, when a definite scheme was offered to British troops; when the first of these H.C.T. troops were demoblished and reached their homes; how many are still on service in the Middle East; how many are now in transit camps; and when the whole of these troops will be repatriated.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Lawson)

It is not usual for the War Office to announce release programmes for locally enlisted forces, as this is a matter left to the Commander-in-Chief concerned. I understand that the first party of H.C.T. troops to be demobilised reached their homes on 26th August last. All H.C.T. troops have now left the Middle East except for 42 soldiers in hospital or serving sentences of imprisonment. It is expected that these men will have left by the middle of April.

Mr. Stewart

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the lack of a definite scheme of demobilisation, such as that announced for British troops, is the cause of great unrest among these troops and their friends in their native country, and does the right hon. Gentle man say that it is not the responsibility of the War Office to attend to that matter?

Mr. Lawson

I realise that there has been some difficulty about this matter, but I am afraid it will have to be left to the Command concerned to deal with it.

Mr. Ronald Chamberlain

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is considerable evidence that these men are being sent back to their villages without sufficient medical examination and are arriving back home in a deplorable state? Furthermore, is he aware that there is a new recruitment scheme for these men, and does he think such a scheme desirable in view of the shortage of food and manpower in this territory?

Mr. Lawson

I am sorry to hear the statement made about the conditions under which these men return home. I will certainly have the matter examined, because it would leave a very bad impression.

Mr. Chamberlain

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the second half of my supplementary question?

7. Flight-Lieutenant Crawley

asked the Secretary of State for War why, since the number of men to be released this year has been decided, any slowing up in the speed of that release is necessary.

Mr. Lawson

The rate of release decided upon for the period up to 30th June, 1946, is the most rapid possible, having regard to current commitments, to bring the Army down to the target figure for that date. The programme of releases for July-December, 1946, is still under consideration, but it, too, will be governed by the extent of commitments during that period.

Mr. Charles Williams

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if there is any chance of an acceleration, because the men are rather concerned about this matter?

Mr. Lawson

I am hoping that acceleration will be possible, but the Army has its commitments and one has to be very careful before making a decision.

Mr. Williams

When are we to have a statement of our commitments?

Mr. Walkden

If it is true that we are evacuating, or likely to evacuate, our troops from Indonesia, and, possibly, from Greece, and that we may, further still, be bringing our troops out of Italy, would that figure be considerably accelerated by August or September?

Mr. Lawson

The Secretary of State for War, more than most people, desires to see this fact accomplished and, if it is, there would be no happier person.

8. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that difficulties of communication cause delay in the offer of Class B release reaching men serving in S.E.A.C., he will arrange for the offer of block release under this scheme to be extended to higher release groups in the case of men serving in the Far East than in the case of men serving nearer at home.

Mr. Lawson

I am looking into this matter and will write to my hon. Friend.

9. Mr. Vane

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the opportunity of electing Class B release has yet been offered to carpenters in age and service Group 38 under the block scheme; and what is the highest group to which this opportunity has been offered.

Mr. Lawson

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) on 12th March.

17. Mr. Gaitskell

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will state the minimum period for which a man must have served before he can be considered for release on compassionate grounds.

Mr. Lawson

There is no minimum period for which a man must have served before he can be considered for release on compassionate grounds.

34. Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown

asked the Secretary of State for War, when he will issue directions for all farm workers, who have been in the Forces over 12 months, to be offered Class B release.

38. Mr. Hurd

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give an assurance that he has now given instructions to all commands that will ensure that agricul- tural workers with one year's service are offered immediate release under Class B block scheme.

76. Commander Maitland

asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent offers of Class B release are being sent by his Department to men with over a year's service in the Army whose Service records show them as agricultural workers.

The Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Bellenģer)

No special instructions to commands are necessary'. Individual authorities for the release of all those eligible have been or are being issued. To meet the demands received from the Ministry of Labour and National Service for agricultural workers it has been necessary to offer release to all releaseable men with over a year's service in the occupations concerned.

Mr. W. J. Brown

Can the hon. Gentleman bring this to the notice of commanding officers, as it does appear that many of them do not know about it?

Mr. Bellenģer

I think commanding officers know all about this. It has already been brought to their notice.

Mr. York

Are all release groups sent forward at the same time. or are releases sent forward by demobilisation groups?

Mr. Bellenģer

No, Sir, each case is dealt with individually.

Mr. Turton

Can the Minister say whether he has published an Army Council instruction yet?

Mr. Bellenģer

I shall want notice of that question. Some instructions have been issued to all commands, and therefore to commanding officers of units in those commands.

Major Leģ ģe-Bourke

In view of his last remark, that all cases are dealt with individually, does the hon. Gentleman mean to say that each individual has to be applied for separately?

Mr. Bellenģer

No, Sir, but individual instructions are issued by the War Office in each case.

66. Briģadier Low

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps have been taken to replace essential specialist officers of R.E., Royal Signals, R.A.S.C. and R.A.O.C. in M.E.F., who are due for Class A release; when these steps arc likely to bear fruit; and whether, as a result, sufficient specialist officers will be available for the needs of this theatre without deferring any releases.

Mr. Bellenģer

The steps being taken include the transfer of officers to the Middle East from other theatres, the attachment to the technical arms of officers from other arms in which the shortage of officers is not at present so acute, and, in certain arms a reduction in the length of officer cadet training. All these measures are bearing fruit.