HC Deb 30 January 1951 vol 483 cc693-4
4. Mr. Low

asked the Secretary of State for War what voluntary engagements are open to men aged 35 years or more, with pervious experience, in the Army.

Mr. Strachey

With the exception of applicants for the Royal Army Educational Corps, bandsmen and special tradesmen in the Royal Signals, the upper age limit for enlistment as other ranks on normal Regular Army engagements is 30 years. But men over that age with former service may be accepted for enlistment as special cases. Released officers over the age of 35 years, other than retired Regular officers in receipt of retired pay, may apply for re-employment in all arms except the Royal Artillery. The age limits vary as between different arms, but the average is 45 years.

Mr. Low

Has the right hon. Gentleman had a look at this matter recently, in view of the importance of having men of experience to help to build up the strength of the Army?

Mr. Strachey

Yes, and we are making more and more of these special cases.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that that age limit must apply in terms of rank? There must be senior officers over that age who would be of infinite value to the Service.

Mr. Strachey

As I have said, we make no rigid rule and we can make special cases for individuals who may be of service.

Brigadier Head

Would the Secretary of State consider looking at this matter again because, in view of expansion and the shortage of manpower, there are a large number of older men who would like to come back to the Army very much and would do the job perfectly well and who would free others for a more active rôle.

Mr. Strachey

Yes, certainly.

Mr. Vane

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these older men with previous experience—senior N.C.O.s and warrant officers—are discouraged from coming back because he can offer no assurance that they will be given their old or similar rank in a short time?

Mr. Strachey

I think it must be a question of the individual case. I do not think we could give an overall assurance.