§ 3.12 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Questions was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can make a statement regarding future grants to Polish ex-Service men.]
THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, the Government decided towards the end of 1962 that a grant of £50,000, to be reviewed annually, should be made available to assist those Polish ex-Service men who might be in distressed circumstances. A grant of £50,000 was accordingly provided in the current financial year for this purpose, and it is proposed to increase this sum to £75,000 next year.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for his reply, and the Government for this increase, I would ask him whether he is aware that this grant has been administered as a public service by the British Legion? Secondly, is he aware that it has been given only to those ex-Service officers and men who are actually on Public Assistance; and that the individual grant has been merely 15s. a week, as anything higher is deducted from the Public Assistance grants? Is the noble Earl also aware that £75,000 is £12,000 977 short of the amount needed to give this minimal addition to these people. Lastly, does he think that to give 15s. extra to distinguished senior officers who are reduced to Public Assistance is really adequate compensation for the extraordinarily gallant services they gave to us in the war?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his thanks. I should like to repay the compliment and say that I am well aware of the considerable service that my noble friend has given to this particular cause. Having said that, I would acknowledge the debt of Her Majesty's Government to the British Legion in this matter, not only for undertaking this very considerable job for discharging it extremely efficiently and without any charge at all as a public service. We are grateful to them for having done that. This matter, as your Lordships know, has been debated at considerable length in your Lordships' House, and I will resist the temptation to be drawn too far along the road of arguments about the particular sums involved. I would only remind my noble friend that the grant will be increased in the forthcoming financial year. This shows that Her Majesty's Government are keeping this matter under close review.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Earl for the announcement of the increase. Those of us who had Polish Servicemen under our administration in the war can never cease to be grateful for the actual assistance they gave in all three Services. In the changed economic circumstances in the value of money for everybody in this country I think that what has been done is the minimum that could possibly be expected from us to show our honour to them. Another point (this is not really in the Question, and I ask your Lordships' pardon for putting it) is that I hope the Government will consider some means of assisting them to keep their centre of culture in this country. The history of Poland has shown how she was overridden by one country after another; yet always managed to come back and retain her Polish nationality and culture. I hope that we shall not fall down on that for the sake of a few thousand pounds.
My Lords, I have noted the noble Earl's observations and I will see that they are conveyed to the proper quarters. I should like to say, having seen in a humble capacity, something, of the Polish Armed Forces in the last war, how very much I endorse what he said about them.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, may I ask whether those who have reviewed the matter looked at the letter which the Commander-in-Chief, Fighter Command, wrote after the Battle of Britain in regard to the services which Polish pilots rendered during that period?
My Lords, I am quite certain that the record of the Polish Air Force and pilots is extremely well known round the whole world; but I will certainly see that this letter is brought to the attention of those concerned.