§ 1. Mr. Hale
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty to what extent boys joining the Royal Navy at the age of 15 years have the right to terminate their engagements on reaching a more mature age; and if he will bring the regulations relating to naval service in this respect into conformity with the other Services.
§ The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas)
I would refer the hon. Member to my hon. and gallant Friend's Answer of 27th October, 1954, about the option available to boys of 18 to transfer to a shorter engagement. There is no right to terminate an engagement after this age, but all applications for discharge by purchase, or on compassionate grounds, are carefully considered. The position is the same in the other two Services.
§ Mr. Hale
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that recently there has been a General Election and that we now have a new Parliament? Does he not know that the continued reference by Ministers to past Answers given in the last Parliament, sometimes by other Ministers, is something that ought to be deplored? Will he bear in mind that in the case of this particular individual, to which I have called his attention, there are special reasons why the lad may be very unhappy in the Service? Would not the right hon. Gentleman wish the Royal Navy to be good employers, and not compulsorily retain the services of lads of 16 and 17 who may wish to go back into some other form of employment?
§ Mr. Thomas
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, although the right does not exist, the machinery does exist to release these boys who are obviously unsuited to the Navy in the early stages, and they are considered sympathetically. 561 There were 53 applications for discharge for this reason and 34 were approved in the 12 months ended last May.