HL Deb 22 July 1941 vol 119 cc916-7

My Lords, I beg to ask the first question standing in my name.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government whether it is the practice to permit enemy aliens serving in the Pioneer Corps to apply for transfer to a combatant unit and, if so, how many such transfers have been effected.]


My Lords, enemy aliens are normally enlisted for service in the Pioneer Corps only. The rule governing transfers of all Army personnel is that transfers shall be in the interests of the Service. As aliens perform most useful work in the Pioneer Corps, there are few cases in which transfer to a combatant corps would be of any advantage to the Service. There is no absolute rule against such transfers, but applications are not encouraged, as only in very exceptional cases could they be granted. No such transfers have so far been carried out. This does not apply to enemy aliens with technical qualifications, who are eligible for transfer to special workshops of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.


My Lords, arising out of that answer will my noble friend say whether that does not conflict with a statement previously made that, when weapons become available, these men, who did such splendid work at the time of Dunkirk, would be allowed to enter a combatant unit?


My Lords, if I may have your Lordships' permission to do so, I will answer the noble Lord's supplementary question. I do not think that my answer is in any way contrary to the fact that we have stated—and so far as I know there is no change in the policy—that when we have a surplus of arms over those which are required for the expanding combatant forces of this country, there is no reason why they should not be handed to the Pioneer Corps. I have always been in favour of that being done.