HC Deb 15 March 1938 vol 333 cc189-91
14. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for War whether recruits who have been ordered by magistrates to join one of the armed Forces as an alternative to imprisonment have to undergo the usual examinations before being accepted into the Army?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

Every person enlisting in the Army has to undergo examination as to his suitability and is asked to give the name of a responsible person, if possible his late employer, who can furnish, in writing, a certificate of character. Magistrates generally are aware that recruits for the Army must be of good character and repute, and a person with a criminal record would not be accepted as a recruit if the facts were known. I should like to dispel any suggestion that the Army knowingly enlists bad characters.

Mr. Strauss

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that for magistrates to tell a man that he must either join the Forces or be sentenced to imprisonment is a deplorable method of recruiting for the Army, and will he make it quite clear that he does not desire magistrates to act in this way?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

All magistrates have been informed, and the Army Council desire it to be widely known, that they consider it a matter of importance that all recruits should be of good character and repute, and that, therefore, magistrates should not suggest or in any way encourage the suggestion that a defendant whom they have found guilty on a criminal charge should offer himself for enlistment.

Mr. Thorne

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that this question refers to a youth of 17 years of age, and was not this action against the Enlistment Act?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

The question was a question in general terms, and I have answered it.

15. Mr. Day

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give particulars of any increase in recruiting that has occurred as a result of the recent efforts to popularise the Army?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

During last month the intake of recruits for the Regular Army was 44 per cent. greater than in the corresponding month last year. The average increase for the period from 1st August last as compared with the corresponding period in 1936–37 was 33 per cent.

Mr. Day

Have recruits any special opportunities for enlistment in their county regiments?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

Certainly. They can apply to be enlisted in any regiment they may desire.

Mr. Seymour Cocks

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the way to increase the number of recruits is to tell people that we intend to resist aggression, and not to run away any more?

16. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to the case of a soldier named Wilkinson, aged 22, who received a sentence of six months' imprisonment at Oxford and who was stated to have a bad record, with nine convictions, dating from 1925; and why this man was accepted as a recruit in His Majesty's Army?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

A certificate of character was obtained in respect of this man in accordance with the Recruiting Regulations. The recruiting officer was unaware of the recruit's record. I should add that under the Seamen's and Soldiers' False Characters Act, 1906, it is an offence for any person to make a written statement as to the character or previous employment of any man which he knows to be false in any material particular, and which he allows, or intends to be used for the purpose of entry or enlistment into His Majesty's Forces.

Mr. Bellenger

As the reference which was given in this case was a false one, will the right hon. Gentleman say what action is to be taken?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

The character which was given in this case was an extremely good one and made no reference to any previous conviction. Had there been any such reference the man would not have been enlisted. Anyone giving a false character to a person is liable to prosecution.

Mr. Bellenger

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is prima facie evidence that this was a false character, and does he propose to take any action?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

The character was certainly misleading, either through ignorance or malice, and the proper proceedings will be considered.

Mr. J. Davidson

Can we take it that recruiting will not be confined to the Salvation Army in future?