HC Deb 17 March 1947 vol 435 cc6-7
3. Brigadier Low

asked the Under. Secretary of State for India how many British officers now holding Regular commissions in the Indian Army will be accepted for appointments in the British Army in the same arm or branch of the Service as that in which they are now serving; how many in a different arm or branch of the Service; how many have opted to remain in the Indian Army, following the final transfer of government to Indian hands; and how many will be left without any appointment in either Army before the normal time comes for their retirement.

Mr. A. Henderson

I regret that I am not at the present time in a position to give the exact figures which the hon. and gallant Member requires, but the War Office have made it clear that, to a very large extent, officers of the Indian Army who transfer to the British Service will have to accept employment in a different arm or branch of the Service. No specific option has yet been offered to the officers of the Indian Army, and it is not possible to say how many officers would be willing to accept offers of employment under an independent Government, nor is it at present possible to answer the last part of the hon. and gallant Member's Question.

Brigadier Low

Are not steps being taken to find out whether the officers wish to exercise the option in one way or another; and is the right hon. and learned Gentleman pressing the case of these officers upon the War Office, or is he going to lie down without taking any trouble on their behalf?

Mr. Henderson

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman need be under no misapprehension as to the effort that will be made to secure justice for these officers. I am not in a position to say what steps are being taken by General Headquarters in India to ascertain the views of individual officers.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise the extreme difficulty that will arise with Indian Army officers coming into British regiments, and the position of the British officers who have to receive these Indian Army officers in their regiments, whereby promotion and everything else will be upset?

Mr. Henderson

Anyone with any experience of the Army knows the difficulties that are likely to arise, but a considerable period will elapse before these officers actually have to be placed, and I am quite sure that the War Office will be alive to these difficulties.

Brigadier Low

Is this not another example of the fact that the India Office is completely out of touch with what is happening in India? Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman know that officers have been asked, some three or four months ago, to exercise their option on paper?

Mr. Henderson

No, Sir. I think that, with regard to officers of under 20 years' service, the difficulty still remains that it will not be possible to place a good many of them into the same branch of the Service as that in which they are now serving, because most of them are infantry officers, and this would mean a surplus of infantry officers in the British Army.

Brigadier Mackeson

Are these officers allowed to retire now, if they wish, or are they being kept on in the Indian Army whether they like it or not?

Mr. Henderson

No, Sir. It is not usually the case that Regular officers are entitled to retire when they desire.