HC Deb 03 August 1966 vol 733 cc445-6
14. Miss Lestor

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will conduct an inquiry into the present system of obtaining release from the Armed Services; and if he will end the practice of encouraging young men aged 16 years to contract nine-year engagements.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

I do not think that such an inquiry is necessary; but I do think it undesirable that recruits should be allowed to commit themselves irrevocably to long engagements before they know what they are in for. Army and R.A.F. recruits already have the right to buy their discharge during the first three months of service, and I have now informed the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill that by regulation under the Bill when it becomes law we propose to bring Navy practice broadly into line with the other two Services.

Miss Lestor

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree with me that there is one case, about which I have made representations to him, concerning a young man who now has permission to enter a university and who will lose his place because of the obstacles being placed in the way of his obtaining his release? Will my hon. Friend look into this?

Mr. Mallalieu

I know that case very well and I have considered it, as has my noble Friend, with the greatest sympathy. Had the man concerned not deserted for a period, he would have been out by now.

Mr. Fisher

As the young man, Mr. Mayhew, from whose case this Question arises, is a constituent of mine, may I ask the Minister whether he would agree with me that a reluctant soldier is seldom a good soldier and that this young man might be better employed on a university course, for which he has qualified, rather than missing it altogether as he will if he is not very soon released from the Forces?

Mr. Mallalieu

I have great sympathy with this case which I have considered very carefully, but people cannot jump the queue. He will not miss his place at university.