HC Deb 29 June 1949 vol 466 cc1287-9
46. Mr. Elwyn Jones

asked the Minister of Defence what sums a member of His Majesty's Forces is obliged to pay on demobilisation for articles of uniform he is permitted to retain; and what the estimated cost to the Exchequer would be if demobilised members of His Majesty's Forces were permitted to retain such articles of clothing without payment.

Mr. Alexander

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the articles of clothing which National Service men are permitted to retain when they are released, together with the prices charged. If this clothing were issued free to all such men the estimated cost in the current financial year would be approximately £750,000.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

In view of the comparatively small amount involved, would it not be an excellent gesture to these demobilised ex-Service men to enable them to retain their partly worn clothing? There is a good deal of feeling about this amongst demobilised men, and surely it is an occasion which calls for a handsome gesture?

Mr. Alexander

As a matter of fact only about 30 per cent. have asked to have the clothing. We are not anxious to issue more of this clothing for two reasons. First we do not want a widespread use of Service uniform in private life. Secondly, we want to use the clothing as it comes in after service as much as possible because of the difficulty and cost of getting new stocks. A further point is that in view of the numbers asking for it, if we adopted the suggestion of my hon. Friend I think we should be issuing a large number of articles of clothing to people who would never afterwards use them.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

While we agree that it is most desirable that these men should have under-clothing, is it not most undesirable that battledress should be used by civilians, since one does not know whether it is a civilian wearing battledress or a badly turned out soldier, and that brings the Army into disrepute?

Mr. McGovern

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a boy in my constituency had £2 5s. 0d. deducted from his pay because, in order to go home, he had to retain for the purpose of decency a battledress nearly two years in service? Does not the Minister think that in view of the fact that civilian clothing is being refused, this kind of action is inclined to endanger the dignity of the Service, of the country and of the Government?

Mr. Alexander

I should say that the figure mentioned by my hon. Friend would seem to be for more than the actual battledress, but I would like to discuss that matter.

Mr. Emrys Roberts

Would not the Minister's point about not wishing to allow Service dress to be worn generally be met by the issue of free civilian clothing to all men on demobilisation? Would he not reconsider his attitude on that?

Mr. Alexander

I have already dealt with that in answer to a Question on 6th April, as the hon. Member knows. It would cost something over £1½ million a year, and I cannot promise to do that.

Mr. Chetwynd

Does the calculation of my hon. Friend include the garments that men are allowed to retain free of charge?

Mr. Alexander


Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Would not the Minister consider having battledresses dyed before issuing them? That would get over the difficulty.

Mr. Alexander

Many are so dyed.

Following is the list:

All Services £ s. d.
Pair of shoes, shirt, tie and underclothes and socks, in possession at time of release Free
*Greatcoat 1 5 9
Uniform suit:
(a) if dressed as seamen 13 6
(b) if not dressed as seamen 1 3 0
*Greatcoat 1 18 9
Battledress 1 12 0
Royal Air Force
*Greatcoat 1 18 0
Battledress 1 12 0
*National Service men are at present allowed to retain a greatcoat during the winter months only. The estimated annual cost (£750,000) of free issues of Service clothing assumes that all such men would be issued with a greatcoat irrespective of the time of release.

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