HC Deb 11 February 1947 vol 433 cc166-8
13 and 14. Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether he approved the arrangements made by the general officer commanding the 53rd Division in the British zone of Germany for requisitioning, in connection with a private party, the ss. "Mainz," and for her towage to the Hüllstrung Harbour, where a specially constructed landing stage is to be erected to connect her with Düsseldorf Yacht Club; and whether, in view of the effect of these plans on German public opinion, he will have them cancelled;

(2) whether it was with his approval that the general officer commanding the 53rd Division in the British zone of Germany recently ordered the closure of a section of the Autobahn for use as a car park and extensive alterations to be made at the yacht club at Düsseldorf, both in connection with a private party.

42. Mr. H. D. Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for War the expenditure of manpower, transport, food and drink, in the celebrations of the transfer of 53rd Welsh Division to 2nd Infantry Division at Düsseldorf.

Mr. Bellenger

No prior approval was or needed to be sought from me for this private celebration of an important stage in the history of a division with a great record. There was no expenditure from public funds involved, the celebrations being paid for from the private mess funds. The ship "Mainz" was not requisitioned but was hired commercially, as was the landing stage. No section of any Autobahn was closed but a former military car park was reopened temporarily. Certain alterations that were made at the club formed part of the long-term plan to improve the amenities there, the only special provision being the erection of the usual temporary awnings.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Does the Minister not agree that the holding of this party at all was most undesirable? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] In view of the conditions in which it was held.

Mr. Bellenger

Generally speaking, I have no objection to private parties either military or civil. As far as military parties are concerned in Germany, I am certainly of the opinion that there should be no ostentation, and I think hon. Members in all parts of the House would agree with the statement I have made in that respect.

Mr. Hughes

While I do not wish to detract from the very fine record in the war of this division, in which I had the honour to serve, will the right hon. Gentleman take further steps, in view of the last part of his final reply, to circulate to all military units in Germany instructions that there shall be no lavish display and expenditure on food and houses while the conditions of life are such as they are today?

Mr. Bellenger

Although I have no reason to believe that such is the case, I shall certainly be only too glad to make that representation to the General Officer Commanding the Rhine Army.

Mr. King

Can the Minister say if any Germans were deprived of accommodation which they previously possessed in the "Mainz," and if so, how many?

Mr. Bellenger

Not arising out of this party.

Mr. Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware, whatever his other information, that this affair was vulgarly advertised? Will he impress upon the occupying Force that their business is to be available but invisible, and not to induge in these Herrenvolk activities?

Mr. Bellenger

I would ask my hon. Friend, who himself served in the Force, to try to view this matter in its right perspective. As I have said, any blatancy is to be deprecated but, on the other hand, I do not think that this celebration took in any way the form in which it has been presented in the Press, as something of an orgy.