HC Deb 16 March 1925 vol 181 cc1883-5

I now propose to deal with the two vitally important questions of recruiting and reserves. The strength of the Army on 31st March is expected to be within about 3,000 of the establishment. The extent to which strengths approximate to establishments depends primarily on the steady intake of recruits up to the required number and of the required type. The adequacy of reserves depends similarly on a steady run-off of time-expired men of the various categories in the proportions required at such a pace as to replenish wastage in the reserves. It is calculated that during the current financial year we shall obtain about 30,000 recruits, as against 34,000 required to replace the normal loss and to provide 7,500 men to be prematurely transferred to the Army Reserve. As a result of the shortage we shall be able to transfer only about 6,000 to the Army Reserve. In the Memorandum which I have circulated I have dealt at some length with the importance of the policy of premature transfers, and I need not now elaborate it. But I am disquieted over the number of would be recruits who have been rejected on physical and medical grounds. During the last recruiting year no fewer than 49,245 men were. rejected. That is to say, that out of every eight who presented themselves for enlistment five had to be rejected on medical or physical grounds. Five rejections out of eight would-be recruits is an astounding proportion.

Besides ill-health, the next most important obstacle to recruiting is the unemployment benefit, which, I am afraid, induces many who are unemployed to prefer the unemployment benefit and no work to the full support and liberal pay of a soldier with a soldier's work and duties. There is also a disinclination on the part of some parents to allow their sons to join the Army, perhaps because it may mean a sacrifice to the parent of whatever part of the unemployment benefit the son had handed over to the parent while living at home. I am trying to meet this point. Hon. Members who have read the Memorandum will have noticed that arrangements are being made whereby a soldier can remit. allotments to his parents automatically through his accounts, and I have no doubt that many will take advantage of the facility which we are giving them and will save themselves the trouble of buying postal orders and making remittances themselves. I hope the parents will realise that it is better for their boy to make a contribution to the home expenditure in this way than to do so out of the unemployment benefit.