HC Deb 11 March 1947 vol 434 cc1121-3
41. Mr. H. D. Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will now restore the prewar right of purchase of discharge to Regular soldiers, especially those who joined the Army at an early age and have served throughout the late war.

Mr. Bellenger

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Silvertown (Dr. Comyns) on 15th October, of which I am sending him a copy.

Mr. Hughes

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at this matter again, particularly in the case of boys who joined the Army under the age of 18, whose service under the age of 18 does not count towards their discharge, who have served right through the war, and who see absolutely no hope of release from the Army for a considerable number of years ahead?

Mr. Bellenger

I should like to look at this and be able to do something about it, as we did before the war; but I regret to say that the demands of the Army for manpower are such that I can hold out no hopes of this prewar custom being reintroduced at an early date.

Wing-Commander Millington

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that during the war there were some people engaged in agriculture and similar professions who, only with the highest patriotic motives, joined the Army in order to fight in the war, and could do so only if they volunteered for Regular engagement; and that many of these men are wanted back to work on the land, and are being misemployed if retained in H.M. Forces?

Mr. S. Shephard

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider the question of Regular officers, many of whom have served over 20 years, and are still unable or not allowed to resign? Will he give some indication as to the number of years after which an officer could now resign?

Mr. Bellenger

I am giving consideration to that; but, of course, an officer could not purchase his discharge like a private.

Mr. Hughes

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the number of men concerned, who joined the Army under 18 and served through the war, is very limited, indeed; and that, without restricting the manpower of the Army seriously, he could put an end to a great number of cases of extreme hardship?

Mr. Bellenger

Well, there is provision for the compassionate cases. I can give no general undertaking to reintroduce this prewar custom at an early date.

Sir J. Lucas

In view of the fact that these men joined the Army on the understanding that they could purchase their discharge, is there not a moral obligation on the War Office?

Mr, Bellenger

No, Sir,.1 think not. When they enlisted, I do not think it was in their minds that they were going to purchase their discharge.

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