On a point of Order. With regard to the statement now about to be made, I understand that certain copies have already been distributed to private Members. I want to ask whether it is not a breach of Privilege for copies to be so distributed.
It is within my knowledge that there is a copy on this very Bench. The Department which is responsible for distributing this document ought to state to this House how copies have got out in advance of the statement.
Is it in Order for replies to Questions which have been put on the Paper by Members, or statements made in lieu of those replies, to be given to other Members of this House before the Question is answered?
What I have in mind, Mr. Speaker, is this: Is it in Order, when an hon. Member has put a Question on the Order Paper, for the Answer to that Question, or for a statement which is to be made in lieu of the answer to that Question, to be given to other Members of this House before the Question is, in fact, answered on the Floor of the House?
It may perhaps be convenient if I say at the outset that, in view of the fact that I was proposing to deal to-day in the House with representations that had been made to me by a deputation, I thought it courteous last night to address two letters to hon. Members who had taken a leading part in those proceedings. I communicated by those letters, not the exact text of what I was going to say, but a statement giving the substance of what I was going to say. I thought it was only right that I should do so, as a matter of courtesy. The hon. Members to whom I addressed my letters were my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), to whom I wrote in the absence of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet), who led the deputation, and the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) who attended with the deputation but who left with me a separate memorandum. Those letters were written last night.
In view of the importance of this subject, perhaps hon. Members will not mind if I take up a few minutes of their time. As promised, His Majesty's Government have given careful consideration to the representations made by hon. Members in the course of the Debate on the pay and allowances of members of the Forces which took place on 10th September; in addition, the late Lord Privy Seal and myself have since received a deputation of Members of the House, which raised a number of further questions on this subject. As a result of a comprehensive review of the matters raised both in the House and by the deputation, His Majesty's Government have decided to introduce a number of special war-time modifications and improvements in Service conditions.
On one of the subjects concerned an announcement has already been made. The Secretary of State for War gave particulars to the House on 10th November of improved conditions in regard to acting and temporary rank. The further changes which I now have to announce fall under four main heads. The first concerns rates of pay of junior commissioned officers in the Navy. Improvements in the pay of naval acting sub-lieutenants and sub-lieutenants were announced by the then Lord Privy Seal on 10th September, to take effect concurrently with the improved promotion of second lieutenants in the Army and pilot officers in the R.A.F. Rank for rank, however, the initial pay of junior naval officers remained lower than that for junior Army and R.A.F. officers, and the Government have come to the conclusion that the special features relating mainly to differing promotion prospects, which justified these differences in peace time have lost their force in war conditions. They have therefore decided that the basic rates of acting sub-lieutenants, sub-lieutenants and lieutenants in the executive branch of the Navy shall be brought into line with the rates paid to the corresponding ranks of second-lieutenant, lieutenant and captain respectively in the Army. The full details of the new rates of certain incidental adjustments will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. All of these pay changes will take effect on 1st December.
The second improvement which I have to announce relates to officers' outfit allowances. The present rates of allowance are normally £35 for the Army and £45 for the Navy and Air Force, the higher rate being intended to take account of the need for an additional suit of Service dress in the Navy and R.A.F. in place of the Army officers' battle dress. The Government have reviewed these rates, having regard to current prices and to the needs of newly commissioned officers, and have decided to increase them in each case by £10. They have also decided to raise the additional allowance given to officers required to equip themselves with tropical outfit from £5 to £10. These changes also will take effect on 1st December. The amount by which the outfit allowances in the women's Services require to be increased to meet current conditions is being reviewed separately and will be announced shortly.
The third improvement which the Government have now decided to make relates to expenses arising before the birth of a child. The Service codes differ from civilian wage systems in that they vary the remuneration of the serving man to take account of his personal domestic circumstances. Representations have been made in this House and elsewhere asking that this system should be extended by assisting the father in the Forces to meet the special expenses incurred prior to the birth of a child, just as an addition is made in respect of maintenance of the child after it is born. The Government have felt considerable sympathy with this suggestion, and after reviewing a number of possibilities they have decided to meet this particular need by an arrangement under which children's allowances will be payable to the wives of soldiers, sailors and airmen at the appropriate rates by the Service authorities from a date three months before the expected date of birth of the child, instead of from the date of birth itself. Claims for allowances on this basis will, of course, have to be supported by medical certificates. Arrangements for giving effect to this change in the basis of children's allowances are now being worked out by the Service Departments with a view to their being put into force with effect from 1st December.
Finally, the Government have given careful consideration to representations which have been made concerning War Service Grants, and in particular concerning the effect on those grants of the recent increases in children's allowances. As hon. Members are aware, it has repeatedly been urged that the needs of the soldier's family should be met to the greatest possible extent by way of regulated allowances which are drawn irrespective of personal circumstanes, and that the War Service Grants machinery should be more strictly reserved for exceptional cases in which special supplementation is still necessary. The Government were influenced by this view when they decided to make considerable improvements in the rates of children's allowances from 1st October last. When the increased allowances were announced, it was explained that they would be taken into account as and when individual War Service Grants came to be reviewed. The Government have given very careful consideration indeed to the suggestions which have been made that they should modify this principle; they have come to the conclusion that they cannot do so. It seems to them that in assessing the need of individual families for supplementation of their Service allowances by reference to their special circumstances it is essential to take account of the actual amount of Service allowances received.
The Government have, however, reviewed the operation of the War Service Grants machinery in general, and have come to the conclusion that it is desirable to make a change in what is known as the minimum unit standard of 16s. The House is familiar with this standard, which was explained in Command Paper 6318, and is the minimum standard of maintenance, after reasonable commitments have been met, below which a Serving man's family should not be allowed to fall during his service. It has been decided to raise the figure from 16s. to 18s. per unit, each child under the school-leaving age being, as hitherto, counted as a half unit. This new standard will affect chiefly the families of men on the lowest rates of pay or those who before enlistment were in receipt of low wages. Existing grants will accordingly be reviewed in the light both of the increased children's allowances and of the new unit standard, and any adjustments necessary will be made from the date when the individual case is dealt with. The process must of necessity be a lengthy one and will take several months to complete. No action will be necessary on the part of recipients of grants, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions particularly asks that they should not write and ask when their grant will be reviewed and with what effect.
In many cases under the procedure which I have outlined grants will remain unchanged, in some they may be increased, in others there will be a reduction; but unless other factors have also to be taken into account, the amount of any reduction made will generally be less than the amount of the increases in childen's allowances. In regard to other matters raised, including the question of the special allowance to residents in the London postal district, referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson), the Government, after careful consideration, have not seen their way to make any change. The improvements announced to-day will, taken together, place a new charge of some £5,500,000 a year on the Exchequer, in addition to the major changes announced on 10th September which cost £43,000,000 a year.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for the very satisfactory answer which he has given in that statement, as there are bound to be points which Members will want to raise, and as it is difficult or inconvenient to raise them by way of Question and answer at the present time, may I ask whether the Government are prepared to allow a short time, either on the Motion for the Adjournment or on some other occasion, for a general discussion on the statement of my right hon. Friend?
That is not a matter primarily for me, but may I very respectfully suggest that it might be well for hon. Members to take a little time to consider the statement which I have made, and then perhaps communications might be opened through the usual channels in the sense suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend?
Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to safeguard those officers who are in O.C.T.U. areas against exploitation by outfitters and tailors who may again increase the cost of clothing and take the £10 which has been granted to those officers through increased charges?
The Government recognise that this is a very important point, and they hope to be able to meet it by a very considerable' extension of the facilities that are now available to officers to obtain articles of outfitting and clothing at minimum rates through quartermasters' stores.
In view of the admitted anomalies which arise from the present restriction of the additional allowance of 3s. 6d. to the London postal area, will my right hon. Friend say upon what ground the Government have come to the conclusion that those anomalies should not now be remedied?
The view of the Government after careful consideration is that the special conditions in the Central London area which justified the special allowance now payable to families resident in the London postal district no longer apply. The allowance continues as a historical survival, but in the view of the Government there would be no justification for extending it further in the Greater London area.
The right hon. Gentleman has made reference to War Service Grants. Has no account been taken of the necessity for continuing the grant to the widow of a serving soldier in cases where the grant was made for a particular purpose?
As far as I recollect, that question was not raised by the deputation. The hon. Gentleman will perhaps allow me to make some inquiries and communicate with him.
Am I right in calculating from the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has given that the concessions made to the Forces will amount roughly to £1 per man per annum?
I would not like to work out that sum on the spur of the moment, but the concessions are very substantial and go a long way to meet the representations which have been made.
May I ask whether a further statement will be made on the question of anomalies in the pay of private soldiers? It is common knowledge that there are about 200 different rates of pay and that very often the man with the least risk gets the higher rate of pay. May we expect another statement in the near future on this point?
I cannot promise my hon. and gallant Friend another statement in the very near future, but I assure him that the Government are as anxious as any hon. Gentleman is to get rid of these anomalies as far as possible.
As it is obvious that we cannot hope to deal with this very comprehensive subject by means of questions and answers, and as my right hon. Friend knows that suggestions of considerable substance were made by the deputation to which he has given no answer, may I ask the Leader of the House to consider the provision of time so that hon. Members can raise in the House matters on which my right hon. Friend has given no answer to-day?
I think it would be wise to follow the suggestion which my right hon. Friend has already made and allow hon. Members time to examine these proposals, and then, if there is a general demand for a discussion of them, we can consider the position.
The rates for the three ranks will become 11s., 13s. and 16s. 6d. a day respectively, in place of the existing rates of 9s., 11s., and 13s. 6d. The rate for midshipmen will at the same time be raised from 5s. to 6s. 10d. a day. Corresponding improvements, details of which will be announced by the Admiralty, will be made in the rates of pay of officers in the Engineering, Accountant, and Royal Marine branches of the Navy. Further, a review of the relative position of junior commissioned ranks in the three Services generally has shown that lieutenants and captains in the Army are somewhat less favourably situated than the corresponding ranks in the other two Services in respect of increments of pay for length of service. It has, therefore, been decided that the Army lieutenant shall receive an increment raising his pay from 13s. to 14s. 6d. a day after three years' commissioned service and the Army captain an increase from 16s. to 17s. 6d. a day after three years in the rank. A corresponding increment will be given to naval lieutenants after three years' service in the rank instead of after four years as at present. In order to preserve parity of treatment between flying personnel in the Fleet Air Arm and the R.A.F., it will be necessary to reduce the flying pay of acting sub-lieutenants from 6s. to 4s. a day and of midshipmen from 4s. 6d. to 4s. a day. Flying pay for sub-lieutenants and above will be unaffected.