HC Deb 07 June 1946 vol 423 cc2409-12

24 p.m.

Martin Lindsay (Solihull)

I am very grateful indeed for the courtesy shown by the Parliamentary Secretary in making his remarks brief in order to give me the last few minutes in which to make a protest against the miserable statement which was made by the Financial Secretary to the War Office about the possibility of soldiers' families going out to Germany. I was bitterly disappointed at that statement and, what is more important, the men out in Germany and their families in this country will be bitterly disappointed. It appears as if the situation had got worse. When the Financial Secretary answered some questions on this subject not long ago in the House, be was much more optimistic in his forecast as to when the families might be able to go out. All he did today was to tell us that it is a difficult problem, and that he is sympathetic. He said nothing more definite than that. It is most disappointing to the men in Germany, and to their families, at this time, over a year after the war with Germany has ended, to be given nothing more than a statement of that nature.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a case in which there has been incompetence. I was in Germany about two months ago, and I visited the Headquarters, Rhine Army. If I could have the attention of the hon. Gentleman to whom I am making this protest, I would be much obliged. I discussed this very matter with Headquarters, Rhine Army. I was specifically told by a very high ranking officer that the War Office had ordered a complete cessation of all the plans and preparations which were being made for the families to go out. The officer did not know the reason; he thought it was a financial difficulty raised by the Treasury. It is a fact, and the Financial Secretary and the Minister know it, that two months ago the Headquarters of the Rhine Army were told to stop making plans for these families to go out to Germany. We have never been told the reason, and I would very much like to know it. But why has not the Secretary of State for War himself been out to Germany to see? It is only two hours' flying from this country. I cannot understand a Secretary of State for War, who is in charge of a great Army in Germany, and who does not go out to see that Army.

Mr. Ballenger

I think I ought to say this about my right hon. Friend. It is not because he has no desire to travel. He gave evidence of that as soon as he took office by going out, in a very difficult period of the year, to S.E.A.C. My right hon. Friend is a Member of the Cabinet and I am afraid, like other Members of the Cabinet, he is under heavy pressure in this country and cannot leave Whitehall to go out there.

Mr. Lindsay

I cannot regard that explanation as being in the least satisfactory.

Dr. Morgan

On a point of Order. May I have your assurance, Major Milner, that this Debate is really in Order? It seems to me that my time was unduly cut, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health gave a very brief reply. We are now coming back to a. subject which was finished, after the Minister had replied.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is perfectly in Order. No one else rose to speak on the hon. Member's subject.

Mr. Lindsay

I am very grateful Lo you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Dr. Morgan

I propose to raise this matter again.

Mr. Lindsay

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) spoke for 22 minutes, while we had only 18 minutes on this subject, including the reply of the Minister. In my last two minutes I desire to say, with all the force at my command, that I cannot regard the explanation of the Financial Secretary, as to why the Secretary of State for War has not been out to Germany, is at all satisfactory. He has great responsibilities connected with the Rhine Army. I cannot believe that his work in the Cabinet and at the War Office is so great that he cannot give his attention to the Rhine Army in the form of a personal visit, and look at this very important problem himself. I am driven to the conclusion that he finds his work at the War Office so difficult that he cannot get through it, and that is why he has lot the time to go to Germany. This is the third occasion on which I have raised this matter in the House, and the sooner the Secretary of State for War is replaced by someone who is more competent and capable of looking after the British Army of the Rhine, the better it will be for the Army.

4.27 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)

>: I am sorry the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) should have made a personal attack on the Secretary of War following the excellent case he made out in the first part of his speech. I agree with him entirely that there is something very much wrong about this business of sending soldiers' families over to Germany. I ask my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office to look into it again. It is something which ought to have come to a head long ago. The families ought to be going there by now. We know the Financial Secretary has been to Germany. In that regard I make no complaint such as was made by the hon. Member for Solihull. I do not think that is terribly important. What I do think is important is that the administrative difficulties which are in the way of getting families out there should be removed; I believe they could be removed if there was a will. I make this appeal to the Financial Secretary, that he should deal with this problem, and that we should have an early announcement some time after Whitsun that we can get these families out there.

4.29 p.m.

Mr. Grimston (Westbury)

In the moment that remains I would like to remind the Financial Secretary that the tone of the reply which he gave to Questions a month ago was far more hopeful than what he has said this afternoon. It is obvious that something has happened, and we should like to know what.

It being Half past Four o' Clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order, till Tuesday, 18th June, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.