Hon. J. L. RALSTON (Minister of National Defence):
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) referred to the matter of spring leave. He mentioned two points. One, he suggested that there was some lack of uniformity in administration and, two, that more promptness might be exercised in dealing with applications. With regard to the matter of uniformity, I should like to say what I said at the time the present method of granting spring leave was put into effect. There is bound to be a certain lack of uniformity when applications are being dealt with by the different district officers commanding instead of being sent to national defence headquarters. That method was adopted deliberately because it was felt that there would be considerable delay in having everything sent down here. There were some complaints last year in that regard, and so the new order was put into effect. I do not think hon. members or the country generally would want us to revert back to the other method whereby everything had to come to national defence headquarters. It was decided that instead of referring these applications to national defence headquarters, which might ensure uniformity, they would be referred to the general officers commanding in chief and the district officers commanding. It was felt that these officers, being on the ground and having had some experience in connection with requests for agricultural leave, would be in position to appraise the applications and deal with them more quickly.
I think generally speaking that that has proved to be true.
Now, regarding the time taken to handle these applications, there were some complaints that sworn declarations were being required to substantiate particular cases. To meet that situation, instructions were sent out on April
II to this effect:
Complaints have been received that applicants for spring leave are required to submit with the applications supporting evidence in greater amount than might reasonably be con-
sidered necessary or of requiring such supporting evidence to be in the form of a sworn declaration.
While it is not desired to restrict in any way the discretion given to G.O.'s and D.O.'s C. in satisfying themselves that applications for spring leave are meritorious, it is pointed out that no particular form of evidence is required.
It will be appreciated that in many rural areas difficulties are experienced in securing declarations under oath and it is therefore suggested that except where doubt exists this should not be insisted upon especially when the supporting statements are made by responsible municipal or other officials or are those of persons of known standing in the community.
And! then there was this paragraph, and this in regard to the matter of speed:
It was intended by the order authorizing spring leave to make available all soldiers eligible under the terms of the order for this type of leave who could possibly be spared, and it is desirable in order to meet urgent labour requirements that applications be disposed of as expeditiously as possible.
I could refer the house also to what was said in the previous order, but I think that that is sufficient to indicate that headquarters are doing everything they possibly can in this respect.
I just want to say this further, that if there are any specific cases my hon. friend has in mind, and he will refer them to me, I will have them looked into immediately.
Subtopic: FARM LEAVE-HOUSING-WELCOME TO RETURNING MEN