HC Deb 25 October 1949 vol 468 cc1143-6
34. Mr. H. Hynd

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his intention to wind up the Polish Resettlement Corps at the end of September has been carried out; and what is now the position of ex-members of the Corps who are still not earning their own living.

38. Mr. Bramall

asked the Secretary of State for War to which Department he handed over responsibility for those members of the Polish Resettlement Corps who had not been settled on the disbandment of the Corps; how many members had not then been settled; and what arrangements he made for their maintenance.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)

I confirm that the Polish Resettlement Corps was wound up, as a military force, on 30th September, 1949. Ex-members of the Corps are living either in private accommodation or in the hostels of the National Assistance Board. Those in private accommodation may, if in need, apply for national assistance; those in hostels who are unemployed and have no resources are provided by the National Assistance Board with free board and lodging and pocket money.

Some 2,000 men whose engagement had not expired when the Corps was wound up are receiving from the National Assistance Board ex gratia payments based on what would have been admissible for their category had the Corps not been wound up. These payments, which are being made in accordance with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Estimates, will continue to be made to the Poles concerned until their original term of engagement would have expired, unless in the meantime they are found employment, emigrate or are repatriated.

Mr. Hynd

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "term of engagement"; was not there a definite understanding that this Corps was to be wound up on that date—which the House understood to mean that our payments to these people on the basis of their rank were to finish at that date; and are these people continuing to be paid on the basis of the rank they held when they were in Polish uniform.

Mr. Shinwell

Well, these people are not. After the term of engagement of these people with the Polish Resettlement Corps has expired they are looked after by the National Assistance Board, and I have no responsibility after that.

Mr. Bramall

Could my right hon. Friend say what is the latest date on which any of these people will still be under engagement with the Polish Resettlement Corps; and could he assure the House that none of the other people whose term of engagement has finished is being paid more than the normal National Assistance Board rate?

Mr. Shinwell

Obviously, there are bound to be some administrative tasks which have to be undertaken after the Corps has been officially wound up?

Mr. Osbert Peake

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman inform the House of the basis of these ex gratia payments which are being made to members of the Corps whose term of engagement, he says, has not yet expired? Cannot he really tell us the basis? Are they being paid upon a basis of need, or are they being paid upon some other basis?

Mr. Shinwell

As I have said, while the Corps was in existence I had the major responsibility now that the Corps is wound up we have transferred the obligation to the National Assistance Board. I shall endeavour to extract the information, if the House desires it, and if a Question is put down I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Gallacher

Why does not the Foreign Secretary pay them? He kept them here.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

What facilities or encouragement are offered to these men to find employment here or suitable emigration abroad? As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the condition of many of these men is very distressing.

Mr. Shinwell

I am only too anxious to be sympathetic in a matter of this sort. We accepted the obligation and we must see that it is carried out, but we had to wind up the Corps at some time, and that we have done. So far as we are required to look after these people, we must do so.

Mr. Austin

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the transfer of the financial liability from one Department to another is just not good enough; and will he therefore bring the scrutiny of the Treasury and the Chancellor to bear on this with a view to economy in the future?

Mr. Shinwell

As I have pointed out, the ex gratia payments are being based on the recommendations of the Select Committee on Estimates. I must say this to hon. Members: we cannot allow any prejudice against these people to influence us in showing them what sympathy we can. We accepted the obligation and we must see that it is properly carried through. I do not feel inclined to throw these people on the street without any assistance at all.

Mr. Hynd

Owing to the unsatisfactory reply I have been given, I give notice that I shall endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Forward to