HC Deb 22 April 1964 vol 693 cc1288-9
5. Mr. John Page

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many railway warrants each member of the Armed Services receives each year when in a United Kingdom station; whether he will consider making one of these warrants transferable to a wife or a dependent relative; and what would be the approximate cost of allocating an extra warrant for such a purpose.

Mr. Kirk

Each member of the Armed Services may receive up to three free return warrants each year for leave journeys in the United Kingdom. Warrants are also issued for sick leave and embarkation or disembarkation leave, and for compassionate leave when the free annual leave warrants have been exhausted. Wives and children of Service men are permitted by British Railways to travel at concessional fares. The cost of issuing an extra warrant would be just over £1 million each year. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the present arrangements are fair and sees no justification for extending them at extra cost to public funds.

Mr. Page

While thanking my hon. Friend for a lot of information, may I ask whether he would recognise the possibility of the use of one of the basic warrants by a close member of the Service man's family? Would not a great morale advantage accrue to the Armed Services when they are serving a long way from home if a member of the family could use one of these warrants to get back to see the immediate family?

Mr. Kirk

The great problem here is that it would be almost impossible to restrict this to the United Kingdom, as my hon. Friend suggests. If we had to extend it to overseas stations a considerably increased financial obligation would rest upon us.

Mr. Willis

Would not the hon. Gentleman look again at this question of warrants for wives and families, because the more the Government do to meet the reasonable needs of Service families the more they will help to persuade men to sign on again?

Mr. Kirk

We are aware of this, but concessional arrangements are given by the railways for wives and children.

Sir Knox Cunningham

To what parts of the United Kingdom are travel warrants issued for air travel? Will my hon. Friend consider issuing them across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland?

Mr. Kirk

Service men on leave may travel by air at public expense between the Hebrides and the nearest airport on the mainland, which I understand is Glasgow, because of the infrequency and uncertainty of the steamship services. There is also a concession for air travel at public expense between Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. because there is an irregular service in the summer and no service at all in the winter. We have no plans to extend either of these.