§ MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether, with reference to the recent attempted research into the ages given by recruits, they were given to understand that, failing accurate verification of their ages according to their statement, they would not be accepted for enlistment; and whether, in view of the evils of the existing system, the Government will attempt the experiment of only accepting recruits whose ages can stand verification.
§ MR. PIRIE
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether liability to punishment under Sections 33 and 97, Army Act, of youths under seventeen years of age who claim their discharge, or under Section 34 of persons under military law who are concerned in enlisting boys under the regulation age of eighteen, is ever enforced; whether he is aware that boys under seventeen, and therefore entitled to immediate discharge, who have often been persuaded to enlist by undue influence of the recruiter, are deterred from claiming that discharge from having fear of severe punishment hold out before them should they confess to having given a wrong age; and if, under such circumstances, liability to punishment as far as this offence is concerned could be withdrawn.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The punishment to which they are liable is not enforced at present, and there is no evidence to show that boys are deterred from claiming discharge owing to fear of this punishment. It is not intended to alter the Act of Parliament as suggested.
§ MR. PIRIE
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the unreliability of the stated ages of British soldiers, and that in a recent experiment as to verification of their ages accurate information could only be obtained in about 50 per cent. of cases; whether, in view of the increasing prevalence of enteric fever in India, as well as to the prevalence of other terrible diseases among our troops in India, he will take steps, on behalf of the Indian Government, that the regulations as to the age of twenty, under which no British soldier is supposed to be sent to India, shall be strictly observed; and whether he will in future require that every British soldier accepted for service in India by the Indian Government shall produce conclusive proof, by birth certificate or otherwise, that he is of the actual age stated on his attestation papers, and thus diminish the excess of fatality existing at present from the exposure of immature men to the ravages of those diseases.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Every care is taken to observe the rule that no soldier less than twenty years old shall be sent to India. No soldier is allowed to embark unless, after medical examination, he is declared fit to serve in that country.