Under-Age Recruits (Discharge)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th April 1967.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Surbiton 12:00 am, 12th April 1967

asked the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether, in future, he will allow under-age recruits to the Services to opt for a discharge a year after enlistment instead of only three months after enlistment as at present;

(2) whether he will allow under-age recruits to the Services to opt for a discharge when they reach the age of 21 years.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

As the hon. Member knows, my right hon. Friend is at present looking into these and related matters. I cannot anticipate the result of his investigations.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Surbiton

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.

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

As the Answer consists of a table of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford 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?

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

Has the hon. Gentleman any proposals to reduce the time before families can join married soldiers in Germany, which we found a cause for great concern over there?

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

The percentage is not very high but we are naturally anxious to cut down the time whenever we can.

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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.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I assure the hon. Gentleman that all these points are receiving urgent investigation.

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?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I fully accept that there is great concern. This is not a new matter. It has gone on for a long time, but we are looking at it with urgency.

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

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.?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

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.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

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?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

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.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Mr. Kenneth Lewis, Question No. 46.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Longden Mr Gilbert Longden , South West Hertfordshire

On a point of order. May I have the opportunity to ask Question No. 45?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I am sorry, I thought that that Question was answered with No. 28—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

My apologies. The hon. Gentleman was not called. Mr. Longden, Question No. 45.