HC Deb 24 February 1948 vol 447 cc1747-9
13. Mr. Collins

asked the Secretary of State for War why R.A.S.C. clerks of the Middle East Land Forces, who are in Age and Service Group 67, have had their demobilisation deferred for a further two months.

17. Mr. Charles Smith

asked the Secretary of State for War why the release of Clerks G.D. and T.M.T. (R.A.S.C.) in group 67 serving in the Middle East has been postponed; when this shortage was first foreseen; and what steps were taken to train additional men to perform these duties.

29. Mr. Asterley Jones

asked the Secretary of State for War why the release of R.A.S.C. clerks at G.H.Q. 2nd Echelon M.E.L.F. is being deferred for two months.

34. Mr. David Renton

asked the Secretary of State for War why R.A.S.C. clerks of Group 67 and higher serving in the M.E.L.F. are having their release deferred; and whether he will take steps to bring men in that category into line with the general rate of release.

39. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the concern caused to men serving in the M.E.L.F., and their relatives, by the news that the release of R.A.S.C. clerks in Group 67 is to be deferred for two months; what other corps, trades, or theatres are affected; whether the release of later groups is also to be deferred; what is the reason for this deferment; how many men in all are concerned; and if he will reconsider the period of deferment with a view to mitigating this hardship.

Mr. Shinwell

I will circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Collins

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the demobilisation of these men will be delayed for some nine groups beyond those of the people who are alongside them?

Mr. Shinwell

This is an exceptional Measure we have to take because of the shortage of men in certain arms of the Service. For the most part they are specialists, but the deferment is not prolonged. It continues over a very short period.

Mr. Asterley Jones

Will my right hon. Friend also take into account that replacements for some of the men serving have already arrived, that there is evidence that existing men are seriously under employed, and also that R.A.S.C. clerks are employed on R.A.O.C. duties and that the R.A.O.C. are not being deferred?

Mr. Shinwell

I am not aware of these details, and no doubt my hon. Friend will furnish me with such information as will enable me to take appropriate action.

Mr. Driberg

In view of the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones), will my right hon. Friend say whether the answer to the last part of Question No. 39 in his circulated statement is a satisfactory one? Is he able to reconsider the matter if new evidence is brought to his notice?

Mr. Shinwell

If information is brought to me I will consider it.

Following is the statement:

The release of Group 67 in the R.A.S.C. is not due to be completed until 24th March. No man of this Group has, therefore, yet been held beyond the period during which he was due to be released. There is, however, a very serious shortage of R.A.S.C. clerks, and the Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East may find it necessary to defer the release of certain individual clerks for short periods. It is not yet possible to say exactly how many men will be involved.

The probability of shortages in this and indeed in many other trades has been foreseen for a long time and all possible steps have been taken to train replacements. In the present circumstances, however, and with the rapid run-down of the Army there are not nearly enough specialists to go round.

Commanders-in-Chief in all theatres have the power to defer the release of individual men in any corps or trades for short periods if their services are essential and they cannot be replaced. This power is very sparingly exercised, but without it the present overall very rapid rate of release could not be maintained.