HC Deb 20 May 1952 vol 501 cc246-7
17. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement on the arrangements under which Service men in the Middle East are to be allowed home leave if they pay for their own air passages at a cut rate; how much the return fare will be; and how many private soldiers have applied for home leave under this scheme.

Mr. Head

There are no official arrangements for sending Service men home on privilege leave from the Middle East. Now that leave has started again in the Canal Zone, those who wish to come home may do so at their own expense. Concession return fares are at present available on British commercial air services as follows: £80 from Cyprus. £45 from Tripoli and £42 from Malta.

Mr. Driberg

Since it is obvious that extremely few other ranks—or, for that matter, officers—can afford even these cut-rate fares, would it not be better to allocate any surplus air space that is available on a basis of need, possibly by widening slightly the grounds for compassionate home leave?

Mr. Head

The available free air space is extremely limited and is, as the hon. Member knows, used for compassionate cases. I am prepared to look into the question of whether there can be any extension.

Mr. Profumo

Has my right hon. Friend approached the charter companies to see whether they could not tender more cheaply than the nationalised air corporations, so that it might be possible for the lower paid soldiers and airmen to get back at even cheaper rates than are at present available?

Mr. Head

I understand that certain unofficial arrangements are being discussed with the charter companies.