HC Deb 28 January 1947 vol 432 cc770-2

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper;

119. Mr. LIPSON,—To ask the Secretary of State for War if he is now able to say that, henceforth, marriage allowances will be paid to soldiers under 21.

123. Mr. GEORGE WALLACE,—To ask the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement on the payment of marriage allowances to soldiers under 21 years of age.

124. Mr. CHETWYND,—To ask the Secretary of State for War if he is now in a position to agree to the payment of marriage allowances to soldiers under 21 years of age, including members of the Regular Army.

At the end of Questions

Mr. Bellenger

With the permission of the House, I will answer Questions Nos. 119, 123 and 124.

It has been decided that married soldiers under 21 years of age shall be eligible for marriage allowance at the same rates and under the same conditions as men over that age, but that they will not be entitled to any other married benefits such as provision of quarters or passages to overseas stations. The decision will apply equally to the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, and will take effect from 1st February, 1947. Payment will begin as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made. The question of the application of this arrangement to men called up for compulsory service from 1st January, 1949, is under consideration.

Mr. Lipson

While thanking the Minister for the concession which he has announced, may I ask him whether his answer means that payment will be made retrospective, in view of the fact that the families of some of these men have had to incur debts?

Mr. Bellenger

No, Sir. I said that payments would start from 1st February, 1947. I think I should dispose of the point which has been put by the hon. Member, and by other Members, on more than one occasion. So far as my information goes, there has been no wide incurring of debt by these soldiers.

Mr. Wallace

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he has come out of this back bench battle with distinct personal credit? Further, is he aware that the country will take this as an indication of the earnest intentions of His Majesty's Government 10 improve Service conditions?

Mr. Bellenger

I ought to say, and I hope it will not embarrass him, that some of the credit is also due to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Churchill

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the estimated expense of this concession?

Mr. Bellenger

I have not the exact figure, but because war service grants, by which many of these men get an allowance, will cease, I think it will balance out fairly evenly.

Mr. M. Lindsay

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to remedy the anomalous position of married officers under 25?

Mr. Bellenger

It is not proposed to abolish the present age limit of 25 for officers, but the existing provisions for them are now under consideration.

Mr. Chetwynd

Is it quite clear that this applies to soldiers who are Regulars? As officers are, presumably, soldiers, would not this provision apply to them as well if they were married between 18 and 21?

Mr. Bellenger

It applies to all soldiers, Regular or otherwise, but in the terminology of the War Office officers are not soldiers.

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