HC Deb 01 April 1925 vol 182 cc1413-9

In Section seventy-six of the Army Act (which relates to the limit of original enlistment), after the word "person," where that word first occurs, there shall be inserted the words "of not less than eighteen years of age," and for the proviso in that Section there shall be substituted the words, "It shall be the duty of commanding officers to return to their homes all young persons discovered to have enlisted before attaining the age of eighteen years."—[Mr. W. M. Watson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

In moving this Clause, I hope I shall meet with more success than has attended the other Amendments that have come from this part of the Committee. The Clause is one which ought to appeal to all parts of the Committee. We find in many cases that irresponsible lads, merely because of some little trivial diffi culty, run off and enlist in the Army before they have attained the age of 18, and I think the House of Commons would do well if it laid down a rule that, no lad can be kept in the Army, unless by his own wish and the wish of his parents, until he has reached the age of 18. We deny ordinary manhood rights to men until they have reached the age of 21, and we are merely asking in this proposed new Clause that it should be possible for young lads who have enlisted before they were 18 to be released from the Army.

I have had to take up one or two cases in which lads have enlisted before reaching the age of 18, and I should not have complained so much if the right hon. Gentleman had not laid it down that, unless in a case where there are extreme compassionate grounds, there is no possibility of getting a lad, even under 18 years of age, released from the Army. I think it should be possible for the Army authorities to get all the men that they require for the Army over the age of 18. The House of Commons has a right to take into consideration little trivial things that occur in the life of a young lad, such as differences of opinion between himself and his parents. We know how lads are built, and what ideas they have between the time when they begin to work, say at 14 years of age, and the age of 17 or 18. They consider that they are men; they believe that they are men they act as if they were men; and, consequently, they exercise the right of enlisting in the Army. I think that the Secretary of State for War would do well if he accepted this Clause, and made it a. rule that, in future, lads under 18 years of age will not be kept in the Army, but will be sent home to their parents, if they are discovered to have enlisted before attaining the age of 18.

8.0 P.M.

The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Captain Douglas King)

I think the Mover rather misunderstands

the effect of the Clause he has put down. In the first place, he says that boys under 18 should be returned home, unless their parents and they themselves wished them to remain. That is not permitted under the Clause which he has just moved. There it is to be the duty of the commanding officer, whether the boy wishes to remain and whether the parents wish him to stay there, to turn him out. With regard to the point of boys joining before they are 18 under misstatement of age, I think the hon. Mover does not realise that if a boy is actually under 17 years of age he is given his free discharge on request, and when he is between 17 and 18 he can get a free discharge if he proves real necessitous home circumstances. These are the two cases at the present time where they can be released if they have mis-stated their age before they are 18. Another effect of this Clause, which I think the hon. Mover and his supporters have quite overlooked, is the fact that the Army takes a very considerable number of boys to train as musicians and mechanics. He rules those out of existence altogether by moving this Clause. The War Office have found it necessary, because of the difficulty of getting skilled tradesmen in the Army, to set up technical classes for training boys to become skilled mechanics. I cannot imagine any of the hon. Members can object to such a system of training. It is on the same lines as the apprentieship system in the outside trades, and I know many Members on the benches opposite are very interested indeed in this scheme of training for boys. I think they must have overlooked the effect that they had ruled these out of existence altogether. Seeing it is a misunderstanding I will say no more, but will ask the Committee to oppose this Clause.


We do not suppose anybody desires boys to get into the Army at an early age, but whit we want is that any boy who joins under the age of 18 will be returned, and it will be the duty of the Commanding Officer to return him, if he has been enlisted under military service. That is the point we wish to put. I think it could be quite easily overcome if the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman who has spoken are willing to assist us in this matter. We think a boy under 18 is far too young to undertake military service. Remember this, that in these days boys are very much younger at 18 than they were some time ago. The school age has been extended and boys are younger at that age than they were. I do not think this Committee is asking very much if it asks that the lads will be returned by the Commanding Officer if they enlisted under military age.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 136; Noes, 276.

Division No. 70.] AYES. [8.8 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Harney, E. A. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Adamson, W. M. (Stan., Cannock) Hayday, Arthur Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillebro') Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Ammon, Charles George Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Sitch, Charles H.
Attlee, Clement Richard Hirst, G. H. Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Baker, J. (Wolverhamton, Bilston) Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Smillie, Robert
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Barnes, A. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Barr, J. John, William (Rhondda, West) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Batey, Joseph Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Snell, Harry
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Jones, Henry Haydn, (Merioneth) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Broad, F. A. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Bromfield, William Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Stamford, T. W.
Bromley, J. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Stephen, Campbell
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Kelly, W. T. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Buchanan, G. Kennedy, T. Sutton, J. E.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Kenyon, Barnet Taylor, R. A.
Cape, Thomas Lansbury, George Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Charleton, H. C. Lawson, John James Thurtle, E.
Cluse, W. S. Lee, F. Tinker, John Joseph
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Lindley, F. W. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Livingstone, A. M. Varley, Frank B.
Connolly, M. Lowth, T. Viant, S. P.
Cove, W. G. Mackinder, W. Wallhead, Richard C.
Crawfurd, H. E. MacLaren, Andrew Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Dalton, Hugh Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Warne, G. H.
Day, Colonel Harry March, S. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Dennison, R. Maxton, James Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Duncan, C. Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Dunnico, H. Montague, Frederick Welsh, J. C.
Fenby, T. D. Murnin, H. Westwood, J.
Gibbins, Joseph Naylor, T. E. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Gillett, George M Oliver, George Harold Whiteley, W.
Gosling, Harry Owen, Major G. Wignall, James
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Palin, John Henry Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Paling, W. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Greenall, T. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Ponsonby, Arthur Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Potts, John S. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth,. Pontypoel) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Windsor, Walter
Groves, T. Riley, Ben Wright, W.
Grundy, T. W. Ritson, J. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W.Bromwich)
Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.) Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hall, F. (York, W. H., Normanton) Robinson, W. C.(Yorks, W.R., Elland) Mr. Hayes and Mr. Allen
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Salter, Dr. Alfred Parkinson.
Hardie, George D. Sexton, James
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.
Ainsworth, Major Charles Brass, Captain W. Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips
Albery, Irving James Briscoe, Richard George Cooper, A. Duff
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Brocklebank, C. E. R. Cope, Major William
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Brown, Maj. D.C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Crook, C. W.
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Brown, Brig. -Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)
Atholl, Duchess of Buckingham, Sir H. Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)
Atkinson, C. Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Bullock, Captain M. Curzon, Captain Viscount
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan Dalkeith, Earl of
Balniel, Lord Burman, J. B. Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.
Barclay-Harvey C. M. Burton, Colonel H. W. Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)
Barnett, Major Richard W. Butt, Sir Alfred Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Campbell, E. T. Doyle, Sir N. Grattan
Benn, sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Cassels, J. D. Drewe, C.
Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish- Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Eden, Captain Anthony
Berry, Sir George Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Edmondson, Major A. J.
Bethell, A. Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Edwards, John H. (Accrington)
Betterton, Henry B. Chapman, Sir S. Ellis, R. G.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Charterls, Brigadier-General J. Elveden, Viscount
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.) Christie, J. A. England, Colonel A.
Blades, Sir George Rowland Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)
Blundell, F. N. Clarry, Reginald George Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith
Boothby, R. J. G. Clayton, G. C. Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Everard, W. Lindsay
Fairfax, Captain J G. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Knox, Sir Alfred Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stratford)
Fermoy, Lord Lamb, J. Q. Ropner, Major L.
Fielden, E. B. Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R. Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Finburgh, S. Leigh, Sir John (Clapham) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Fleming, D. P. Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Salmon, Major I.
Ford, P. J. Loder, J. de V. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Forestier-Walker, L. Lord, Walter Greaves- Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Forrest, W. Lougher, L. Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Foster, Sir Harry S. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Sanderson, Sir Frank
Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Lumley, L. R. Sandon, Lord
Fraser, Captain Ian MacAndrew, Charles Glen Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Frece, Sir Walter de McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)
Galbraith, J. F. W. Macintyre, Ian Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.D.Mcl.(Renfrew, W.)
Ganzoni, Sir John McLean, Major A. Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Gates, Percy Macmillan, Captain H. Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Shepperson, E. W.
Gee, Captain R. Mac Robert, Alexander M. Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Bt. Hon. Sir John Makins, Brigadier-General E. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst.)
Goff, Sir Park Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Skelton, A. N.
Grace, John Margesson, Captain D. Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Greene, W. P. Crawford Mason, Lieut.-Colonel Glyn K. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Meller, R. J. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Grotrian, H. Brent Merriman, F. B. Smithers, Waldron
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Meyer, Sir Frank Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Milne, J. S. Wardlaw- Spender Clay, Colonel H.
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Sprot, Sir Alexander
Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)
Hanbury, C. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Harland, A. Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Harrison, G. J. C. Moreing, Captain A. H. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Haslam, Henry C. Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Hawke, John Anthony Murchison, C. K. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C, M. Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Neville, R. J. Templeton, W. P.
Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P. Nicholson, O. (Westminster) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Henn, Sir Sydney H. Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Nuttall, Ellis Turton, Edmund Russborough
Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A. Oakley, T. Waddington, R.
Herbert, S. (York. N. R., Scar. & Wh'by) O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Hilton, Cecil Oman, Sir Charles William C. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Pennefather, Sir John Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Holt, Capt. H. P. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Wells, S. R.
Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Perring, William George White Lieut.-Colonel G. Calrymple
Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Hopkins, J. W. W. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome) Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Hore-Belisha, Leslie Philipson, Mabel Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)
Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N. Pielou, D. P. Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Howard, Captain Hon. Donald Pilcher, G. Winby, Colonel L. P.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Hudson, R. S. (Cumb'l'nd, Whiteh'n) Price, Major C. W. M. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Hume, Sir G. H. Radford, E. A. Wise, Sir Fredric
Huntingfield, Lord Raine, W. Womersley, W. J.
Hurst, Gerald B. Ramsden, E. Wood, Rt. Hon. E.(York, W.R., Ripon)
Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Iliffe, Sir Edward M. Rawson, Alfred Cooper Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).
Jacob, A. E. Rees, Sir Beddoe Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Jephcott, A. R. Reid, D. D. (County Down) Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Kennedy, A, R. (Preston) Rhys, Hon. C. A. U. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Kidd, J. (Linlithgow) Rice, Sir Frederick
Kindersley, Major Guy M. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
King, Captain Henry Douglas Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint) Colonel Gibbs and Major Sir Harry Barnston.