§ 12. Mr. Driberg
asked the Secretary of State for War how many R.A.S.C. clerks in groups 68, 69, and subsequent groups, serving in M.E.L.F., are to be affected by the impending deferment of their release; by what authority the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, has extended the principle of deferring the release of individual key men, whose services are operationally vital, to cover whole groups numbering many hundreds each; and what steps were taken to make such group deferments unnecessary by training extra clerks in good time.
§ 14. Mr. Symonds
asked the Secretary of State for War how many R.A.S.C. clerks in groups 70, 71 and 72, serving in East Africa Command, are to have their release deferred two months or more; and on what authority deferments are made of whole groups at a time without individual consideration of each case.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
As my right hon. Friend said in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on 23rd March, it is not possible to forecast how many R.A.S.C. clerks in group 68 and later groups serving in the Middle East, including East Africa Command, may have to be deferred. It is not the case that whole groups are being deferred. Cases are dealt with individually, a minimum working strength being assessed for each unit. It was not possible to avoid the necessity for deferments by training extra clerks because the present difficulties have arisen partly owing to acceleration of the release programme generally, and partly owing to the situation in Palestine.
§ Mr. Driberg
Is my hon. Friend aware that it is simply not true that each case is dealt with individually? Is he further aware that whole groups are being deferred, not in the sense of age-plus-service groups, but in the sense of groups numbering several hundreds of clerks?
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that what my hon. Friend has in mind is that all R.A.S.C. clerks in group 67 in this theatre were warned that they were liable for deferment, but of those about 25 per cent. have already been sent back to this country. The procedure of individual deferment and the opportunity for appeal are being maintained in every case.