HC Deb 09 December 1947 vol 445 cc830-2
19. Mr. Leslie

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that in a number of camps, where recruits are domiciled in damp huts, there are no fires except on inspection day; and will he see that heating is provided during the winter months, so as to safeguard the health and welfare of young lads.

Mr. Shinwell

The solid fuel available to the Army is not sufficient to maintain the standard of heating of barrack rooms which is necessary. However, in present circumstances it is only right that the Army should exercise the greatest possible economies, in the same way as all other users of fuel.

Mr. Leslie

Does the Secretary of State think it right that on the day when a brigadier goes down to inspect a camp the fires are lit whereas they are not lit on other days? That happened at Shrewsbury.

Mr. Shinwell

I am not aware of this particular incident, but I accept what my hon. Friend says about it. I do know, however, after inspecting some of the barracks and huts, that heating arrangements are most unsatisfactory, and I am doing all that I can to have them put right.

Squadron-Leader Fleming

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in these damp camps there may be insufficient fuel to heat them, but that if the drainage systems were properly operated by the troops themselves it would help to make the camps less damp—if they were properly trenched?

Mr. Shinwell

The troops are very self-reliant in these matters and do adapt themselves to difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, the position is very bad.

Mr. Symonds

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have had this morning a letter from Heathfield Camp, Honiton, saying that in the recent cold spell the men woke up to find their boots frozen to the floors of the huts?

Mr. Shinwell

I will make the necessary inquiries in respect of that question, but I am very well aware of the facts, and I am disturbed about them.

Major Guy Lloyd

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the case of a camp he inspected a fortnight ago, where he commented on how cosy and warm the huts were, the fires were lit for the very first time that day, and that as soon as he had gone they were put out?

Mr. Shinwell

I commented in accordance with the circumstances, and no one would expect me to do otherwise. I am aware that sometimes they may put on a full dress show when some important person goes.

Mr. McGovern

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some officers have been saying to recruits who have complained, that there would be more coal if the late Minister of Fuel had provided more during his term of office?

Mr. Shinwell

That only proves that one discovers stupidity in circles other than those that are to be found in this place.