HC Deb 19 February 1917 vol 90 cc970-1
69. Mr. LYNCH

asked the Attorney-General whether he will state the minimum age at which recruits may be taken for the Army; and whether any difference exists between the age in Ireland and the age in England?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)

There is no legal minimum age in cases of voluntary enlistment. The earliest date at which recruits can be required to report for Service under the Military Service Acts is the 30th day after attainment of the age of eighteen. For special employment in particular branches youths under that age are accepted for direct enlistment if they otter themselves voluntarily. In respect to the minimum age of enlistment there is no difference between Ireland and England. A limited number of boys are enlisted as such for training as bandsmen, tailors and artificers, etc. Boys selected for enlistment as such must be fourteen years of age and under sixteen years, and possess certain educational qualifications.


Has the War Office the legal right to keep a boy in the Army in spite of the protests and requests of his parents?


There is no legal minimum age in the case of voluntary enlistment. It actually does happen that a boy under eighteen years of ago, but probably over sixteen years, from highly patriotic motives comes forward, and enlists, and is passed by the doctor.


Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that a pledge was given in this House that no boy under seventeen years of age should be retained in the Army? Is it not a fact that the War Office undertook six months ago to release on application every boy who proved to be under seventeen years of age?


The hon. Member is quite right. My right hon. Friend did give such a promise, but that promise applied to existing conditions. Since then we have issued new Regulations.


Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the new Regulations only reduces it by six months, and in spite of that the War Office allow these things to go on?


The new Regulations say that none of these boys will be discharged. If a boy is under seventeen years of age he will not be discharged, but will be placed on the Reserve.


Will a boy be kept in the Army if documentary evidence can be given that he is only fifteen?


The only promise I can definitely make according to the Regulations is that no boy will be sent abroad until he is nineteen years of age.


If a boy under seventeen years of age be in delicate health and if his father apply for his discharge will it be granted?


I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised a particular question like that. We are always prepared to discuss and investigate a particular case on its merits. If a case such as my hon. Friend brings to my notice is brought to the notice of the Director of Recruiting I feel sure that the boy would be able to be discharged.