HC Deb 21 November 1946 vol 430 cc1013-5
49. Mr. Driberg

asked the Prime Minister by approximately how many the number of those still in the Forces at the end of December will exceed the target figure of 1,100,000.

The Prime Minister

The target figure in the White Paper on Defence published in February was 1,100,000 plus 100,000 in training—a total of 1,200,000, This target will be exceeded by about 185,000.

Mr. Driberg

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this figure, coupled with the very slow group releases forecast for next year, will cause widespread dismay? Is he aware that hon. Members are getting a large number of letters on this subject, and is he satisfied that every step has been taken to secure economy in the use of manpower in the Forces both in home establishments and overseas?

The Prime Minister

Yes; Sir, certainly. My hon. Friend will realise that the target figure was put forward on the basis that certain commitments would have been got rid of in the course of the year. The long delay in fixing the treaties has meant that our troops have had to be abroad longer than we had expected. There was no target laid down exactly for each individual group. There has necessarily been a certain slowing down, but I have looked into the matter myself, and I am quite sure that there is no waste of manpower.

Mr. Shurmer

In view of the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) regarding the large postbag of hon. Members on this subject, will the Leader of the House arrange for a Debate at an early date, so as to give reasons for this slowing up, in order that the men may know why they are kept in the Army months longer than they should be?

The Prime Minister

I cannot answer the question put by the hon. Member in the last part of his supplementary question. That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Sir W. Wakefield

What steps are being taken by the Services concerned to inform the troops and airmen of the reasons for this delay? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that if something of that kind could be done, it might decrease very greatly the postbag of hon. Members?

The Prime Minister

I will certainly look into the question whether something more can be done to inform the troops on this matter?

Mr. Keeling

Especially about requirements in Palestine?

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend consider taking steps, such as were taken in 1915 by Statute, to increase these figures by revising the numbers of those who are at present in gaol for Services offences?

The Prime Minister

That does not seem to me to have anything to do with the question.

Mr. H. D. Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend look into the question, or ask the Service Ministers to look into the question, of the very uneven length of service required from men in the Army compared with men in the other Services, as this is one of the causes of dissatisfaction of men in the Army?

The Prime Minister

We are trying to keep the three Services exactly in step, but it is quite impossible to keep them absolutely and exactly in step.

Mr. Stephen

Will the Prime Minister request the Service chiefs to reconsider this and to provide a general statement which hon. Members will be able to send to people in the Forces from their Divisions?

The Prime Minister

I am considering a more convenient time to make a statement covering the three Services.

54. Mr. Pritt

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will now make a statement as to the prospects if carrying out the aim of the Government to release, during 1947, all men called up before 1st January, 1944.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs)

The prospects are very good.

Mr. Pritt

Can the Minister tell us why the prospects are very good?

Mr. Isaacs

I should have thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman would have been satisfied. He asks what were the prospects of carrying out our aims, and I said the prospects are very good.