HC Deb 15 November 1949 vol 469 cc1841-2
25. Major Tufton Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the widespread hope that mess kit will be reintroduced in the near future; whether he has considered the possibility of making mess kit available through Army channels at cost price; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Shinwell

I am aware of the desire of the Army for a smarter alternative to battledress. It is, however, the policy of my Department to give prior importance to the introduction of No. 1 dress, which is suitable for evening wear in the mess, rather than to mess dress, which is at present in abeyance. All young Regular officers may buy No. 1 dress on appointment to first commission and there is a quota system whereby not more than 20 per cent. of other Regular officers may buy the dress each year as Service dress and the pre-war blue patrols wear out. In present circumstances, I cannot agree to the reintroduction of mess dress.

Major Beamish

Does that mean that the Secretary of State for War has dismissed the idea of reintroducing mess kit? Is he aware that blue patrols and No, I dress are both dull and unattractive, and does he not agree that a brighter uniform would be most desirable?

Mr. Shinwell

I have not dismissed any of the matters referred to by the hon. and gallant Member, but in present circumstances I cannot agree to the reintroduction of mess dress. When the circumstances change the matter will be reconsidered.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

If the Minister cannot meet the desire expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend, would he consider devising a mess kit suitable for the consumption of a dish of fish and chips?

Mr. Shinwell

If the hon. and gallant Member will make representations to me about the consumption of that very edible commodity, I will give them my sympathetic consideration.

Mr. Nally

In view of the obvious desire of my right hon. Friend to oblige the Opposition in their continued demands for economy, can we have a specific assurance from him that in no circumstances will public money be expended on providing a subsidy for evening dress for officers that is not worn more than once in every six weeks?

Mr. Shinwell

I am not prepared to give my hon. Friend that assurance. As I have said, we operate in accordance with circumstances.