asked the Secretary of State fen whether service in the Army prior to 18 years of age is reckoned as service towards limited engagement but not as qualifying service towards pension; if so, whether he is aware that a warrant officer who enlisted as a boy of 14 may be compelled to retire at the age of 35 with a pension of about £1 4s. per week, whereas one who enlisted at 18 can remain until he is 39 and retire with a pension of about £1 13s. per week: if so, whether he will state the justifica- tion for penalising soldiers to the extent of 1s. 4d. per day for the remainder of their life because they enlisted as boys; and whether he is aware that the great majority of boys who enlist are soldiers' sons, born and bred in the Service, often with several gene rations of service tradition behind them?
It is the case that service under the age of 18 reckons for the purpose of fixing the date, but not the rate, of pension, and in given circumstances the effect of the regulation might be as stated in the question. I cannot agree to alter the rule that boys' service is not rated for pension as the equivalent of men's service, and the only question that arises is whether a soldier with service under the age of 18 can be permitted to serve beyond the termination of his 21 years' engagement. As explained to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West, on 14th March last it has up till now been impossible to allow continuation in the service beyond 21 years for the sole purpose of making up the period of boys' service, but I have arranged for a relaxation of the rule forbidding extensions in the Service beyond 21 years in proper cases, and soldiers with service under the age of 18 will be eligible for consideration for such extension.