HC Deb 13 March 1951 vol 485 cc1275-7
19. Mr. Vane

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give an assurance that the fighting efficiency of units overseas, or expected to proceed shortly overseas, will not be reduced by the withdrawal of instructors or other non-commissioned officers who, through previous experience as miners, are entitled to claim to be returned to industry.

20. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for War whether commanding officers have discretionary powers to release or retain in the Army ex-miners who are eligible and have indicated a willingness to return to the mines.

Mr. M. Stewart

Soldiers may not be released in order to return to the mines unless they are below the rank of acting sergeant and last enlisted from civil life after 1st January, 1949. I am satisfied that their withdrawal is not likely to affect the fighting efficiency of units overseas or about to proceed overseas. Commanding officers have no discretionary powers in this matter provided the soldier fulfils the conditions which have been laid down.

Mr. Vane

Cannot the hon. Gentleman give the assurance asked for in the Question? Will he confirm that senior n.c.o.s can be withdrawn from units in certain theatres overseas, and from units at home due shortly to proceed overseas, under his present scheme?

Mr. Stewart

No, Sir. I have just told the hon. Member that soldiers cannot be released to return to the mines unless they are below the rank of acting sergeant.

Mr. Hamilton

In view of the vital importance of getting every ton of coal that we possibly can, will my hon. Friend undertake to review the matter in order to release every miner in the Forces?

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

In view of the fact that the total numbers involved here are not large, would not the hon. Gentleman look at this matter again? Is it not easier to produce sergeants than to produce miners?

Mr. Stewart

The scheme has been examined both with regard to the needs of the Army and the needs of the mining industry, and we have endeavoured to reach a solution that meets them both, as far as that is possible.

Mr. H. Hynd

May we take it from the information which my hon. Friend has given that ex-miners are not to be released if they are not below the rank of acting sergeant, if they are serving in Korea, if they are National Service men, if they are Regular reservists or if they did not enlist after a certain date? In that case, how many are left? Why has the statement previously made been scaled down in this way?

Major Guy Lloyd

Is it not a fact that inquiries have elicited the fact that the great majority of miners in the Forces would far rather remain where they are than go back to the mines under nationalisation?