HC Deb 19 February 1946 vol 419 cc931-7
6. Major Digby

asked the Secretary of State for War how many officers of the R.A.S.C. in the Middle East have been deferred a second time; and how many groups of these officers would have qualified for home leave, under the L.I.A.P. scheme, if these deferments had been duly foreseen in September, 1945.

Mr. Lawson

I am making inquiries and as soon as they are completed I will write to my hon. Friend.

Major Digby

Is it not a fact that R.A.S.C. officers of Group 23 were refused leave five months ago on the ground that they were to be released soon and that since then that release has twice been postponed?

Mr. Lawson

I am making inquiries upon this matter, but they are in no different position from that of other ranks on this matter.

7. Captain Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that officers in C.M.F. have been informed that for the purposes of L.I.A.P. all officers in age and service Groups 24-29 would be considered as deferred; and whether he has any statement to make.

Mr. Lawson

There is no question of any general deferment of the release of all officers in Groups 24 to 29 serving with C.M.F. It is, however, possible and reasonable that officers in these Groups should be debarred from L.I.A.P. on the grounds that they would be unlikely to be able to give a useful period of service after their return from leave before they become due to go home for release. This would be within the discretion of the Commander-in-Chief, who must make an estimate of the probable dates of release of various Groups in order to interpret the L.I.A.P. scheme reasonably.

8. Captain Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for War the dates for release, in the United Kingdom, of officers and other ranks in C.M.F. in age and service Groups 25 and 26.

Mr. Lawson

The programme for release in the United Kingdom of officers and other ranks serving in C.M.F. is the same as for other stations at home and overseas.

13. Mr. Garry Allighan

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that time-expired men who are released in Class B lose the 28 days' S.E.W.L.R.O.M. leave to which they are normally entitled; and whether, in order to encourage all men to accept Class B release when it is offered, he will remove this disability.

Captain Crowder

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Could I ask if you could discourage Members from using so many initials in their Questions? I am sure many Members do not know what S.E.W.L.R.O.M. means.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps it would make the Question too long if all these words were inserted.

Captain Crowder

It does not make sense.

Mr. Lawson

I must say I had to inquire about this matter myself, and 1 think anyone else in my position would have had to do so also. S.E.W.L.R.O.M. means Special End of War Leave for Regular Officers and Men. Twenty-eight days' special end of the war leave is only given to Regular soldiers who have at least a further 12 months to serve. Time-expired men who have not re-engaged or deferred their release are not eligible for this leave, and the point raised in my hon. Friend's Question does not therefore arise.

28. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement on the current or the proposed deferment of release of R.A.S.C. officers.

38. Major Symonds

asked the Secretary of State for War what extra period of deferment is being applied to the release of R.A.S.C. officers in the Middle East, over and above the deferment already announced for offices of other arms.

41. Lieut.-Colonel Byers

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that Captain G. Barnett, R.A.S.C., 3 Field Ambulance, M.E.F., who is in release Group 25 has been informed that he is to be deferred for three months; whether he will state the number of officers in release Group 25 who are being similarly deferred; and whether he will reconsider such deferments.

44. Colonel Stoddart-Scott

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that R.A.S.C. officers in age and service Group 23 in the M.E.F have had their demobilisation deferred en bloc; what other groups have been deferred and for how long; is it confined to M.E.F.; and when will the release of R.A.S.C officers catch up with the general release plan.

Mr. Lawson

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) on 5th February.

Mr. Driberg

Could my right hon. Friend say, approximately, how long it takes to train an R.A.S.C. officer? Is it not a comparatively short time, and does that not have some bearing on this deferment?

Mr. Lawson

I cannot answer that now, but if the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question, I will do so.

29. Mr. Norman Bower

asked the Secretary of State for War why release Group 27 has been deferred; and how long he anticipates the deferment will continue.

Mr. Lawson

Group 27 has never been deferred. The release of other ranks in this Group is due to begin on 7th March and to be completed by 20th April. The release of officers is due to take place between 6th and 22nd May.

Mr. Bower

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that men serving with the B.A.O.R. who are in Group 27 have been informed that their release is to be deferred? If I send him particulars of such cases, will he look into them?

Mr. Lawson

Yes, certainly. I am not aware of any such order.

30. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Secretary of State for War when serving men in Groups 26 and 27 will leave India; and by what date it is anticipated that they will arrive in the United Kingdom and be demobilised.

Mr. Lawson

I hope that all men in Groups 26 and 27 serving in India will arrive back in this country in time for release within the periods laid down for their groups, but the exact date of the arrival in England and the departure from India of any individual must, of course, depend on the particular ship in which he sails.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of these lads are getting very concerned about whether they are going to get back in time or not, and will he make it known that there will be no difficulty about bringing them home in time?

Mr. Lawson

I am aware that men do get disturbed about these matters and that rumours get abroad. The soldier is subject to rumour where there is no definite information to be had, but the answer is that no difficulty will be put in the way.

Mr. Gallacher

The Minister has got it the wrong way about. I would not have known about this if the soldiers had not written to me; I did not write to the soldiers.

Mr. Lawson

I am in no doubt about this matter. I am merely pointing out that I am only too well aware how these rumours get abroad. I realised that when I was in the Far East.

Mr. Steele

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a considerable amount of correspondence is being received by hon. Members in reference to an article which appeared in the "Daily Express"? That article may be the source of the rumour.

Mr. Lawson

I gave an answer to that a few days ago.

31. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Secretary of State for War how many men and of what Groups have left India for return to the United Kingdom for demobilisation since nth December, 1945.

Mr. Lawson

Ten thousand and three officers and other ranks left India during the period nth December, 1945, to 6th February, 1946, for release in the United Kingdom. I have no information as to the number in each age and service group.

34. Mr. Renton

asked the Secretary of State for War when it will be possible for 14868612 Gunner R. D. Wayland, to be released in order to help in his father's building business.

Mr. Lawson

This case has been investigated but it is not one where compassionate release would be justified. No application for. this soldier's release under Class B has been received from the Ministry of Labour and National Service.

Flight-Lieutenant Beswick

Would it be in Order, Mr. Speaker, for all hon. Members to put down individual cases?

Mr. Speaker

It would be in Order, but I would deprecate unnecessary Questions of this kind without due cause.

Mr. Renton

Arising out of that point of Order, may I point out that the facts of this case have been presented by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) to the right hon. Gentleman's Department on three or four occasions since last August, and that is the reason why the Question has been put down again?

37. Major Symonds

asked the Secretary of State for War the planned release group dates for officers up to 30th June, 1946.

Mr. Lawson

I will, with permission, circulate the information in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the information:

The present planned release dates for officers under the provisional programme announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service on Thursday last covering the period up to 30th June, 1946, are as follows:

Group 24–20th February to 13th March.

Group 25–14th March to 9th April.

Group 26–10th April to 5th May.

Group 27–6th May to 22nd May.

Group 28–23rd May to 31st May.

Group 29–1st June to 8th June.

Group 30–9th June to 16th June.

Group 31–17th June to 23rd June.

Group 32–To start on 24th June.

40. Major Wise

asked the Secretary of State for War if instructions have been issued or will be issued without delay, to all overseas commands including C.M.F., relative to Class B block releases for agricultural workers.

Mr. Lawson

The procedure for the release of agricultural workers under Class B is the same as for the bulk release of other classes of men, and I do not see any necessity for issuing any special instructions on the subject.

Mr. Turton

Could not the matter be speeded up as the Class B block releases are working extremely slowly? Could there not be another release group for agricultural workers?

Mr. Lawson

All I can say is that we are dealing with them with despatch.

Mr. Turton

Where, then, does the delay occur?

43. Mr. William Wells

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will confirm that the power to retain officers and other ranks, due for release in their age and service groups, remains vested in commanders-in-chief only and may not be delegated by them to, or exercised by, subordinate officers.

Mr. Lawson

The competent authorities to authorise the retention of officers or other ranks beyond their normal release date on grounds of military necessity are laid down in release regulations. They are: the War Office; the G.O.C.-in-C. of a Command in the United Kingdom; the G.O.C.-in-C. or G.O.C. of an overseas Command and the C.-in-C, India. The overseas authorities may, at their discretion, delegate their powers to any officer not below the rank of Brigadier.

71. Captain Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that notices have been posted in orders in M.E.F. to the effect that it is estimated that Group 38 will not be released before the end of October, 1946; whether these notices have been posted with his authority; and whether he has any statement to make.

Mr. Bellenger

I am sure that no such notices would have been published with the authority of the C.-in-C. Middle East. At the same time when allotments are made for granting leave to soldiers during their foreign tour, the overseas theatre has to estimate the progress of release some months ahead in order to ensure leave is granted to such men only as have a reasonable period to serve in the theatre on completion. In making such an estimate all units are reminded that this estimate is based on incomplete information and liable to error. There would be no effect on the despatch to this country of men shortly due for release.

Captain Swingler

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that several of the unofficial broadcasts on demobilisation have appeared in Army Orders in the Mediterranean Forces? Will he issue instructions that this practice should cease?

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Before the Minister replies, may I ask him whether it is not an extraordinary coincidence that similar information has been circulated in S.E.A.C. and India at the same time as this information was circulated as is mentioned in the Question?

Mr. Bellenger

I should think units everywhere are making unofficial guesses at the progress of release in the future. They must be governed by something of this nature in order to make their plans for sending their men home on L.I.A.P.

Mr. Walkden

Why are the Forces' newspapers, which we control, allowed to circulate information of this kind, which is mischievous and dangerous?

Mr. Bellenger

There is a difference between- official information and unofficial information We control official information as far as we possibly can.

Major Bruce

Can the hon. Gentleman assure the House that incorrect information of this kind is kept out of official Orders?

Mr. Bellenger

Yes, Sir.

Captain Blackburn

Will the hon. Gentleman make it quite clear that any such estimate mentioned in the Question must be utterly wrong and represents an incorrect rate of release?