HC Deb 11 February 1947 vol 433 cc172-3
35. Dr. Stephen Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for War under what conditions a boy of 14 years of age can voluntarily enlist in the Army for 16 years' service; and whether such conditions permit of any break in that service.

Mr. Bellenger

With regard to the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 9th July, 1946, to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg), of which I am sending him a copy. Premature discharge from a voluntary engagement in the Regular Army is not at present permitted, except that enlisted boys may claim discharge by purchase within three months of enlistment.

Dr. Taylor

Does that answer mean that it is possible for a boy of 14 years of age to enlist voluntarily for 16 years?

Mr. Bellenger

Speaking from memory, I know that he can enlist for a certain period, which I think can be up to 12 years, but I think my hon. Friend is referring to boys' service, which is not counted in the Regular engagement.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Do I understand that it is possible for a boy of 14 years of age to be enlisted in the British Army?

Mr. Bellenger

Only with the permission of his parent or guardian.

Mr. Michael Astor

Does the right hon. Gentleman think some legislation might be introduced to safeguard a child aged 14—an irresponsible age—from the decisions which he might take?

Mr. Bellenger

Speaking as a parent, I think that the biggest safeguard is the fact that the parent has to agree.

Mr. Rankin

Will my right hon. Friend bring the age in this case into line with the new school leaving age which takes effect on 1st April?

Dr. Taylor

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Motion for the Adjournment.