HC Deb 27 May 1952 vol 501 cc1135-7
19. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a full statement of the grounds on which compassionate leave is granted in the Army.

Mr. Head

Compassionate leave may be granted on the death, imminent death or dangerous illness of a wife, husband, child, parent or other next of kin. It may also be granted for urgent and exceptional reasons in order to mitigate domestic hardship.

Mr. Swingler

The right hon. Gentleman made that statement last Thursday. Will he make perfectly clear that he himself has discretionary power in dealing with applications, and that he is not in any way attempting—I say this in order to correct any wrong impression that may have been given last Thursday—to narrow the use of the discretionary power which the Secretary of State possesses?

Mr. Head

Of course, I have discretionary power, but what I should point out again is that there is a scheme which lays down definitely in respect of whom, as relatives, men can apply for compassionate leave. They apply within that scheme, and within the scheme I have discretionary powers. The point that I made last week was that if I widened that scheme immensely, I should be increasing very considerably the liability, which already is running at about the rate of over 20 cases a day of compassionate leave throughout the Army.

Mr. Manuel

In connection with the scheme and the Minister's discretionary powers, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it applies equally to all ranks and whether the discretionary powers are allowed to go outwith the scheme on occasion when circumstances of individual cases are such as to warrant doing so?

Mr. Head

The scheme applies to all ranks. My point is that if I were to go outside the general principles as regards relationship which are laid down for the scheme, I should have to apply those powers to other similar cases of a similar kind of relationship, which would open up a very much larger and wider field of applications.

Mr. Driberg

Has the right hon. Gentleman yet had the opportunity of considering, as he promised to do, the possibility of widening the scheme very slightly to use any surplus air space that there might be on aircraft returning from the Middle East?

Mr. Head

Yes, I am making inquiries into that.