§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he will state the exact terms of the clause which leaves the decision to the district commanding officer, or the commanding officer of a regiment, as to whether a recruit who may be under the age of eighteen, but who has given his age as over eighteen years, shall or shall not be set free from military service if he be unwilling to remain in the service; will he state the circumstances on which the decision of the commanding officer depends; is the consent of the parents of a youth, when his age is under eighteen years, necessary before he can enlist; if so, would the fact that a recruit has overstated his age alter the fact that he is under the proper age when he enlisted; and are recruiting sergeants instructed not to suggest to youths that they should overstate their age in order to be accepted.
The clause will be found in Table VI. of paragraph 1805 of the King's Regulations. The commanding officer would be guided by what is best for the public service and by the circumstances of the case. It has been decided in courts of law that the consent of the parents is not necessary. If, however, a lad states that he is under eighteen, then the written consent of the parents is obtained. Recruiting sergeants are instructed not to suggest to youths that they should overstate their age in order to be accepted. It is obvious that any decentralisation of business is impossible if the case of every recruit who chooses to overstate his age is to be decided at headquarters.