There are two separate Questions, of course. On the first, would the hon. Gentleman agree that three months is rather a short period—in the Navy boys would not even have been to sea—in which to expect a young boy to Army of the Rhine, the number of married men and the number of married men whose families live with them; and if he will state the equivalent numbers in the Far East.
Is it not a fact that, if there were a big rundown through demobilisation or curtailing recruitment, most of the single men would return to their family homes and there would be relatively little need for new housing in Britain?
make a long-term decision covering the next 10 or 12 years of his life? On the second Question, surely, especially if a boy has not received any special training, he should be allowed the option of discharge at the age of 21, when he has gone into the Service without really knowing what was involved in the first place.
Mr. J. T. Price:
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a good deal of public disquiet about this matter of juniors who enlist in the Armed Forces not being allowed to opt out? How do the Government continue to justify the discrimination in this matter, when under the ordinary civil law of this country, no minor under 21 can make a contract which is not for his own personal benefit?
Has my hon. Friend seen the publicity given to the case of Airman David Arnold, who was sentenced to 56 days detention following disobedience of orders while seeking his release from the R.A.F.?
This illustrates the difficulty of the matter. I am sorry that this happened to this young man, who fits into the category about which the country is concerned, but if he had applied for his discharge at one point, he would have had it. He applied only when he was down for an overseas posting, and this immediately altered the case. If he had applied at the earlier point, it would have been possible for him to be discharged, because it is not the case in every instance that a young man has to serve out his time.
Would not the hon. Gentleman at least agree that, when a boy has gone into the Service at 15 and has done a long term of service, he should come out within a year or 18 months of his normal discharge if he so requests?
I can only promise that this and all allied subjects, in the light of changes in apprenticeships and so on in recent years, are being investigated closely by my right hon. Friend.