HC Deb 13 March 1951 vol 485 cc1274-5
12. Mr. Keeling

asked the Secretary of State for War for what reasons the minimum age of soldiers in Malaya is nine months less than that of soldiers in Korea.

Mr. M. Stewart

The requirement that soldiers must be 19 years of age before embarking for Korea derives from the practice general in the last war that soldiers should not be posted to a theatre of war before reaching that age. Service in Malaya, in operations in aid of the civil power, involves danger and hardship, but is not service against a fully constituted and equipped enemy. It is essential to ensure that troops sent to Malaya are adequately trained, but it is not considered appropriate that the age limit should be raised to 19.

Mr. Keeling

Can we assume that, in practice, these very young men in Malaya will not be sent on operations?

Mr. Stewart

There is already a minimum age at which a man may be sent to the Far East. My right hon. Friend has already explained to the House the steps taken for training, both before he goes and after he arrives there, and I do not think that I can add to that.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Does the hon. Gentleman remember that his right hon. Friend told us on a previous occasion that he would review this period of training, especially before sending troops to Malaya? Has that review already taken place, and, if so, can he give us any information?

Mr. Stewart

I cannot add anything at present.

Mr. Butler

When will the hon. Gentleman be able to give us a more useful answer?

Mr. Stewart

Very shortly, I hope.

Brigadier Thorp

May we take it that the fact that Malaya is not considered an active area of operations does not affect pensions being paid following fatal casualties?

Mr. Stewart

I would ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to study the actual words I used about operations in Malaya. No one has questioned the serious nature of the operations there, but the phrase I used was to the effect that it is not a case of operations against a fully constituted and equipped enemy.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Will the hon. Gentleman amplify his statement in answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Brigadier Thorp)? Will pensions be paid to the relatives of men killed in Malaya as they are in the case of men killed in Korea? What is the subtle difference between being killed in Malaya and being killed in Korea?

Mr. Speaker

We seem to be getting on to pensions, whereas the Question asked was about the minimum age, which seems to be rather different.

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