Local Overseas Allowance (Korea)

Oral Answers to Questions — British Army – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th June 1951.

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Photo of Miss Elaine Burton Miss Elaine Burton , Coventry South 12:00 am, 19th June 1951

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT a copy of the Treasury questionnaire on the cost of living used to determine whether or not a local overseas allowance should be granted to His Majesty's forces overseas:

(2) what are the specific items of expenditure on which decisions concerning the granting of local overseas allowances are based.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

I will, with permission, answer Questions Nos. 20 and 29 together.

Photo of Miss Elaine Burton Miss Elaine Burton , Coventry South

On a point of order. May I ask for information, Mr. Speaker? An hon. Member may have two Questions down and not agree that they are the same type of Question. Am I in order in asking whether I may protest against the suggestion of the Minister that both should be answered together?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

Yes, the hon. Member is in order. She may get the same answer to each Question, but I cannot help that.

Photo of Miss Elaine Burton Miss Elaine Burton , Coventry South

Even so, may I have them taken separately, Mr. Speaker?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

Perhaps my hon. Friend would care to hear the answer first? The answer is: I presume that my hon. Friend has in mind the questionnaire issued by the Service Departments. It is a very long document, but I am arranging for two copies to be placed in the Library of the House. The assessment of local overseas allowances takes into account expenditure on toilet requisites, haircutting, postage, newspapers, stationery, drinks, cigarettes, transport, recreational activities, civilian clothing, laundry and shoe repairs, outside meals, holidays and, in the case of personnel accompanied by their families, expenditure on food and household maintenance.

Photo of Miss Elaine Burton Miss Elaine Burton , Coventry South

My right hon. Friend has been good enough to give me a copy of this questionnaire. Might I ask him if, in addition to the facts he has already stated, it does not include practically every conceivable phase of living, except that obtaining in Korea, under items such as cinemas, restaurant prices, club membership and so on? Would my right hon. Friend not agree that there should be either a different form of questionnaire or a different form of overseas allowances for men serving in places like Korea, where conditions have never been harder?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

The local overseas allowance, as my hon. Friend has suggested, is given in respect of the higher cost of living over this very wide field. It is true that in Korea there is very little a soldier can spend his money on, except at the N.A.A.F.I. A comparison of N.A.A.F.I. prices in Korea has been given in the House on several occasions in the past, and I do not think that N.A.A.F.I. prices in Korea, taking one item with another, compare badly with the prices in this country.

Photo of Mr Anthony Head Mr Anthony Head , Carshalton

Is the Secretary of State aware that what it boils down to, so far as the troops in Korea are concerned, is that they find themselves paying higher N.A.A.F.I. prices because there is not a super-cinema in Korea which will justify a higher allowance?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

I cannot agree that they are paying higher N.A.A.F.I. prices. I should have thought that the prices already given to the House, taking into account important factors like cigarettes. are not higher.

Brigadier Clarke:

Is it not a fact that last week-end the Secretary of State for War was advocating on Labour platforms a higher Socialist society? Will he instead look after the conditions of British troops?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

I do not think that the two occupations are incompatible in any way.

Brigadier Clarke:

Then make them compatible.

Photo of Sir Toby Low Sir Toby Low , Blackpool North

Was it the Treasury questionnaire which the Commander-in-Chief in Korea was asked to answer when he specially wrote to the Minister about a further overseas allowance in Korea, or was it a special questionnaire sent by the Secretary of State for War himself?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

No, Sir. He had this questionnaire in front of him, and we asked him to give his opinion on the matter. He did so in a telegram.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I sent him some weeks back a whole list of N.A.A.F.I. prices which were far in excess of those being charged here? Will he look at it and let me have a reply?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

I did give a reply to my hon. Friend in the House. It is in the OFFICIAL REPORT, a list of comparative N.A.A.F.I. prices. Although some are higher, some are considerably lower.

Brigadier Clarke:

asked the Secretary of State for War what representations there have been from officers commanding units in Korea to higher authority for the issue of overseas allowances to men fighting in Korea.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

So far as I am aware, no such representations have been made.

Brigadier Clarke:

Is the Minister aware that I have received many representations from junior officers who are finding it extremely difficult to live? Will he please see that this is implemented?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will let me have any representations that he has received.

Photo of Miss Elaine Burton Miss Elaine Burton , Coventry South

asked the Secretary of State for War what are the specific items of expenditure on which decisions concerning the granting of local overseas allowances are based.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

I have already given my hon. Friend a full list of these items in answer to Question No. 20. It is a long list, and it will appear in the Library. She will see that practically all the items of personal expenditure are taken into account.

Photo of Miss Elaine Burton Miss Elaine Burton , Coventry South

I persisted in asking for a separate answer so that I might have your permission, Mr. Speaker, to ask a further supplementary question. Does the Secretary of State for War realise that in the N.A.A.F.I. lists which were published in HANSARD on 27th February at column 1912 there were 19 articles and that for those 19 articles the man in Korea paid 1s. 7d. less; in other words ld. less for each article. Presumably that was why he was not qualified for a local overseas allowance. In making a comparison between the hardships experienced by men stationed in Hong Kong and men stationed in Korea, will he adopt some other basis for determining allowances for the men stationed in Korea?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

That raises the question of another form of allowance—a campaign allowance, campaign pay, danger money, or something of that sort—and that is another question. It raises a very important issue of principle, and there are grave objections to that course.

Photo of Sir Walter Fletcher Sir Walter Fletcher , Bury and Radcliffe

Would not the right hon. Gentleman get a much better view of this matter if he were to send a few copies of the questionnaire out to Korea to be filled up by the troops, whose clarity of expression is well-known?

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham

Does not the whole difficulty in this matter arise from the persistent refusal of the Government to recognise the fact that we are fighting a war in Korea and, in consequence, our men are treated there worse than in any other war?

Photo of Mr Evelyn Strachey Mr Evelyn Strachey , Dundee West

It is precisely because the tradition of the British Army is against special campaign pay, though there have been instances of it, and against special rewards for being on active service, that the question of principle I mentioned just now arises.