HC Deb 10 April 1951 vol 486 cc814-7
30 and 31. Mr. Oakshott

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) what arrangements exist for leave in Japan for British Commonwealth officers and other ranks serving in Korea;

(2) to what extent British officers on leave from Korea are allowed to use the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces Leave Hotel at Ito, Japan.

Mr. Strachey

To the extent of the available transport, front line officers and other ranks of the British Commonwealth Forces in Korea are being given five clear days' leave respectively in a hotel and a hostel in Tokyo, where amenities equivalent to those of a first-class hotel are provided. The leave hostel at Ito is not available for officers from Korea as it is fully occupied with the normal leave of the occupation personnel for whom it was established. The establishment of a much larger scheme to provide for all British Commonwealth forces in Japan as well as in Korea is being planned.

Mr. Oakshott

Does that answer mean that exactly the same facilities are available for troops who have been fighting in battle as for those engaged in peaceful occupation in Japan? Do those from Korea get fully equivalent facilities for leave as occupation forces in Japan?

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir, equivalent, but not the same. They do not go to Ito but they go to these hostels, which I am assured are first-class accommodation.

37. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for War if, in his communication to the Commander of the British Forces in Korea on the subject of a local overseas allowance, he made specific reference to the fact that the prices of some Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes' goods are related to their prices in Hong Kong; and what reasons were advanced by the Commander for his opinion that there was no case for a local overseas allowance.

43. Mr. A. R. W. Low

asked the Secretary of State for War what communications he has had with the Commander of British troops in Korea about local overseas allowances in Korea; what increases in the allowances have been made; and from what date.

Mr. Strachey

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low), to my reply on 3rd April. N.A.A.F.I. prices were specifically taken into consideration by the Commander of the British Commonwealth troops in Korea in arriving at the opinion that the overall cost of living for troops in Korea is definitely not higher than that in the United Kingdom, and that there is, therefore, no case for a local overseas allowance.

Mr. Low

Is the right hon. Gentleman quite satisfied that in getting the advice of the Commander of the British troops in Korea he did not so phrase his questionnaire letter that the Commander's advice was open to misunderstanding, because from his own statement N.A.A.F.I. prices are clearly higher than those in other parts of the world?

Mr. Strachey

No, Sir. I should have thought that we rather went the other way in soliciting from the Commander an application, if he could make any case, for a local overseas allowance. We really invited him to make such a case. I have no doubt that he would have done that if he could have possibly done so.

Brigadier Head

Is the Minister aware that one of the reasons advanced for the high prices of N.A.A.F.I. goods in Korea is that they are based on Hong Kong prices and that, if the right hon. Gentleman intends to deal with the matter on a square basis, there are two alternatives—to reduce N.A.A.F.I. prices or put the troops on the Hong Kong allowance? As neither has been done, it seems to the House very anomalous that the hardship should be borne by the troops.

Mr. Strachey

N.A.A.F.I. prices in Hong Kong are only one, and a comparatively small, element in the general cost of living. I should like to see made out a case which we could sustain to the Treasury for some allowance in Korea. It is disappointing, to say the least, that the Commander in the field cannot furnish us with such a case.

Mr. Driberg

When my right hon. Friend says that the N.A.A.F.I. prices are only one, and a comparatively small, item in the general cost of living, can he say what else the troops in Korea can spend their money on?

Mr. Strachey

I said Hong Kong.

39. Major Tufton Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a full statement on the breakdown of the group system in providing officers and other ranks for units now in action in Korea; and what modifications he proposes to this system.

Mr. Strachey

The speed with which it was necessary to despatch 27th Infantry Brigade to Korea made it necessary to attach officers and men from other battalions in Hong Kong, regardless of the group system. In order to provide the necessary reinforcements for Korea it has been necessary to draw on shadow groups, which are groups with a close territorial affinity to the groups directly concerned. Such arrangements, however, are an integral part of the group system and are designed to cater for just such a situation as that in Korea.

Major Beamish

Is it not a fact that some units in Korea have had to draw reinforcements from as many as 10 or 12 or even more regiments. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman says about "shadow groups," how can he, in those circumstances, say that the group system is working?

Mr. Strachey

I do not say that in the case of the troops drawn from Hong Kong, which I think is a special case, but in the reinforcements drawn from this country that procedure was envisaged under the group system.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Will the right hon. Gentleman make quite certain that this group arrangement will work under the stress of war? Will he see that there is no risk of a breakdown in regard to reinforcements occurring on the scale on which it occurred in the last war?

40. Major Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for War what report he has received from Korea regarding the fitness of reservists for the strenuous type of fighting they have to undertake; why infantry other ranks over 30 years of age were sent at a time when the numbers in the Army are large and few are committed on active service; and if he will now take steps to replace all infantrymen who by reason of their age are not suited to active service Korean infantry operations.

Mr. Strachey

Reports from Korea indicate that reservists have stood up to the conditions as well as men of other categories. The suitability of infantry soldiers for active service is determined by their medical fitness rather than their age and many men over 30 years of age have given excellent service both in the 1939–45 war and in Korea. If any man serving in Korea is found unfit, on account of his age or for any other reason, he is brought before a medical board, down-graded as necessary and posted in accordance with his revised medical category.