HC Deb 22 September 1948 vol 456 cc879-80
49. Mr. Granville Sharp

asked the Minister of Defence what is the total number of deserters from the Armed Forces; approximately how many of these have deserted since 1945; and if he will give an estimate of the total number considered likely to be in the United Kingdom, Eire, and elsewhere, respectively.

Mr. Alexander

On 31st July the recorded number of deserters, excluding men who failed to answer call up notices, was 19,700. Of this number, between 6,000 and 7,000 deserted in the last three years. Of the total of 19,700, over 10,500 have home addresses in Eire. Of the remainder, nearly 1,000 are known to have deserted abroad. Making allowance for deaths and multiple desertions by individuals, I would say that the number still in the United Kingdom is, at the most, 8,000 and may be less.

53. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Defence whether Service men will be allowed to purchase their discharge during the temporary suspension of Class A demobilisation.

Mr. Alexander

Yes, Sir. But I must make it plain that the Service authorities have always had discretion to refuse applications for the purchase of discharge by men serving on regular engagements; this discretion must clearly be exercised in accordance with the demands of the present situation.

Mr. Digby

Does that mean that the number of specialists who have already been refused is likely to be materially increased?

Mr. Alexander

I am very anxious not to cancel the arrangement which has been restored as a right to the regular serving man to apply for his purchase out of the Service, but I must have each case considered by the responsible Service authorities on its merits in the light of the present circumstances.