HC Deb 30 May 1962 vol 660 cc1342-3
19. Mr. Paget

asked the Secretary of State for War what criterion is used to assess the exigencies of the Service when considering applications from officers and other ranks for discharge for the purpose of nomination to Parliamentary elections.

Mr. Profumo

As nominations for Parliamentary elections of members of the Armed Forces have so far been rare, it has been possible to give a generous interpretation to exigencies of the Service.

Mr. Paget

I know that there was a precedent in the case of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) referred to as making a private convenience of the Mother of Parliaments— but that was to get into the Army, not to get out of it. In this case, now that it is becoming clear that there is a cut-rate back door to the Army, at £ 150 instead of the more usual £ 200, are not ballot papers for by-elections about to get a bit unwieldy?

Mr. Profumo

It seems to me that if I am to exercise my powers correctly I should not put any undue difficulties in the way of people who genuinely want to stand for Parliament, when serving in the Army—

Mr. W. Hamilton

Especially Liberals.

Mr. Profumo

I do not know about Liberals. It may well be that I shall have to offer a bounty to hon. Gentlemen opposite later on. However, I think it would be wrong for me to try to interpret this anything but loosely. Therefore, I shall be very anxious not to change the present Regulations unless there were widespread misuse of the privilege.

Mr. Lipton

Is it within the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman that in 1945 Service candidates were given three weeks' leave of absence without pay if they wanted to be candidates, and that if they got into the House they went out of the Army, and that if they did not get into the House they reported back for duty— an excellent arrangement by which the Army and the House of Commons both benefited? Cannot we have the same system now?

Mr. Profumo

I do not know that I can go the whole way with the hon. Gentleman, but that was under special war-time legislation. If the hon. Gentleman would prefer to go back to that he should consult his right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who changed the Regulations and brought them into line with what I have just announced.

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