HC Deb 08 July 1959 vol 608 cc1335-7
18 and 19. Mr. Hale

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) for what reason the Oldham soldier, whose name has been communicated to him, has been refused compassionate release from National Service or compassionate leave, notwithstanding that his wife who is living alone with her recently born first child is suffering from a serious nervous condition originating from a nocturnal felonious breaking in of the home with a view to an assault upon her;

(2) to what extent it is the practice of the War Office on application for compassionate release by a National Service man due to the illness of his wife to advise that the home should be disposed of and the wife should go to live with relatives.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)

I have every sympathy with this family whose house in Oldham was broken into last October. They have been treated with every consideration by the Army. At the time of the house breaking the soldier was serving in Hong Kong. As soon as the War Office heard of the incident the soldier was flown home and given compassionate leave, which was extended over three months.

In view of his wife's anxiety, he was not sent back to Hong Kong at the end of his leave but posted to the nearest possible unit to his home, where he will remain for the rest of his service. He is allowed to sleep at home save for the occasional night on duty, when I understand that his wife stays elsewhere. Parents on both sides of the family live in the district.

As to the advice which was given, it was suggested by the unit and by local welfare officers that it would help this soldier's wife if she could get away from the house which was broken into and live nearer her husband's unit, or elsewhere in Oldham or with relatives.

Mr. Hale

Is the Minister aware that with regard to Question No. 18, which is a quite separate question, he is perfectly right in saying that the commanding officer treated this man with great understanding and with great consideration, but that this man has served 12 months and is travelling 30 or 40 miles a day backwards and forwards after duty at his own expense to visit his wife, who is seriously ill, with a young child, and living alone? Does this conform with the undertaking which was given to the House?

With regard to the second Question, is he aware that the Financial Secretary wrote to me twice and suggested that the wife should leave her home and go to live in a "two up and two down" house which was fully occupied, leaving the soldier with no home to which to return after his service? Is that the way in which these things are handled?

Mr. Soames

In reply to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, there is nothing very unusual about this. A lot of soldiers who have sleeping-out passes choose to live at home, and a lot of them travel much further than this soldier does on a regular basis to and from their homes. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have been into this case very deeply and that I have seen a number of them in all three Services in the past four years. I do not think it warrants the discharge which the hon. Gentleman wants, though it does warrant the not inconsiderable pains which have been taken in order to facilitate the situation and the life of the family as a whole. I will continue to watch it and, if circumstances change, I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will review the matter.

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