HC Deb 25 January 1949 vol 460 cc728-33
13. Mr. Bramall

asked the Secretary of State for War how many Poles now remain in the Resettlement Corps, showing general officers, field officers, junior officers, N.C.O.'s and other ranks separately.

27. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give the number of Poles who now remain in the Polish Resettlement Corps, showing each rank separately; and what is the rate of payment for each rank.

Mr. Shinwell

As the answer contains many figures I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table showing the numbers in the Polish Resettlement Corps at 1st January. As regards their pay, I would refer to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on 1st March last.

Mr. Bramall

Can my right hon. Friend say what is the total number of those still in the Resettlement Corps?

Mr. Shinwell

The total number of officers is 6,202, the total number of other ranks is 6,978, making a grand total of 13,180.

Mr. Beswick

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the continued payment of public funds to these men represents a public scandal and that part of the trouble is that the responsibility is divided between different Ministers; would he recommend to the Prime Minister that one Minister be put in charge to clear up the situation?

Mr. Shinwell

I am fully conscious of the need for liquidating this corps and providing alternative employment. Negotiations have been proceeding for some time between my Department and the Ministry of Labour and National Service on this subject, and considerable progress has been achieved. We are very anxious to bring this matter to an early end and I hope that we shall succeed.

Following is the table:

Ranks Male Female
Lieutenant-General 11
Major-General 37
Colonel 136
Lieutenant-Colonel 309 3
Major 629 13
Captain 1,273 70
Lieutenant 1,742 191
2nd/Lieutenant 1,755 33
Total 5,892 310
Ranks Male Female
Warrant Officer I. 217
Sergeant-Major 632 14
Staff Sergeant 1,155 34
Sergeant 1,223 24
Corporal 949 41
Lance-Corporal 912 50
Private 1,605 122
Total 6,693 285

The above figures do not include members of the Polish Resettlement Corps. (R.A.F.).

14. Mr. Bramall

asked the Secretary of State for War whether any time limit has been given to the members of the Polish Resettlement Corps by which they must enter civilian employment or be deprived of military rates of pay.

Mr. Shinwell

A man's period of service in the Polish Resettlement Corps is either two years, or one year, according to the date on which he entered the Corps. If at the end of this period of service he has not entered civilian employment, he is discharged from the Corps, and ceases to draw military rates of pay. So far most members of the Corps have entered civilian employment, or applied to emigrate, well before the end of their period of service. A member of the Corps who without justification refuses a reasonable offer of civilian employment during his period of service, is discharged forthwith and thereupon ceases to draw military rates of pay.

Mr. Bramall

Can my right hon. Friend say what is the latest date at which any of these people will have completed their period of two years' service; and will he also say whether it has been made clear to the senior officers that, although they may expect to have a livelihood provided for them, they cannot go on being paid at these comparatively high rates?

Mr. Shinwell

I require notice of the first part of the supplementary question. In regard to the second part, we have discussed these matters with the body responsible for the administration of the Polish Resettlement Corps and we have made it clear to them that alternative employment must be accepted. On the whole we have succeeded, but hon. Members must bear in mind that a fairly large number of members of this Corps are elderly and infirm persons, and that presents a different problem.

Mr. Henry Usborne

Can my right hon. Friend say how many people in this Corps now drawing their ordinary pay have been in the Corps for longer than the one or two years normally allowed?

Mr. Shinwell

I should require notice of that question.

General Sir George Jeffreys

Can the Minister say what happens to the man when he is discharged from this Corps for not having taken up employment?

Mr. Shinwell

I am afraid that, unless he has means of his own or can rely on the charity of friends, he must go to the Public Assistance Authority.

Mr. Driberg

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is widespread indignation about this situation—much of it justified, some of it perhaps unjustified—and will he do his best to hurry up a settlement in the best interests of the Poles themselves, in order to prevent the spread of mere xenophobia, which is always wrong?

Mr. Shinwell

I can assure my hon. Friend that I have given personal attention to this matter. I have visited some of the depots and I have assured myself that all possible progress is being made.

Sir Peter Macdonald

Is it not a fact that thousands of these Poles had volunteered for work in the mines, but that they were not allowed to go there because of the trade union's refusal?

Mr. Speaker

The question dealt only with a time limit, not with whether they should work in the mines or not.

Mrs. Leah Manning

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary some time ago stated that, when men refused various alternatives offered to them, they would be expatriated? Has that idea now been dropped, because his answer will, I am sure, cause great disquiet in the country as to what will happen to men who leave the Resettlement Corps without having any work?

Mr. Shinwell

In some cases, arrangements have been made for expatriation, but it has not been possible to do that in every case.

Mr. Gallacher

Will the Minister consider inaugurating a campaign to get these men to return to their own country, in view of the exposure of the fraudulent campaign which was used to keep them here?

26. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for War how many dependants' allowances are now paid to members of the Polish Resettlement Corps and at what rate; and how the present figures compare with those at a convenient date in 1947.

Mr. Shinwell

Dependants' allowance as such is not payable to members of the Polish Resettlement Corps. Married members of the Corps are paid marriage allowance for wives and children resident in the United Kingdom at the rates in force for British officers and men before the marriage allowance increases announced on 24th November, and under the same conditions, except that where public accommodation and food are provided for the family no marriage allowance is paid. There are at present 2,632 members of the Corps receiving marriage allowance as compared with 3,161 in August, 1947.

31. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for War how many members of the Polish Resettlement Force are at the same time engaged in remunerative private business.

Mr. Shinwell

Members of the Polish Resettlement Corps are not forbidden to undertake remunerative work during their spare time. I cannot say how many in fact do so. If, however, it appears in any particular case that the man is able to support himself his relegation to the Reserve is considered in consultation with the Ministry of Labour. Three such cases are under consideration at present.

Mr. Beswick

Is not the point that the whole of the time of these men is spare time, and is it not a fact that in these days it is almost as rare to see a Polish Resettlement officer without a bulging brief case as it used to be before the war to see an S.S. man in Berlin without a Mercedes car?

Mr. Shinwell

If a member of the Polish Resettlement Corps goes about with a brief case, it must not be assumed that he is engaged on some alternative employment.

Mr. Bramall

Is my right hon. Friend telling the House that while the time of these men is paid for at the same rate as that of British officers and men, that is, on the basis of 24 hours a day at the disposal of the Government, they can use that time as they like for pursuing their own remunerative ends?

Mr. Shinwell

I have said nothing of the sort. I said that, so far, we have only discovered three cases, and are dealing with them.