HC Deb 26 November 1970 vol 807 cc591-2
8. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will now make a statement on the Donaldson Committee considerations of boys aged 15 to 18 years who are recruited to the armed forces.

37. Sir E. Bullus

asked the Minister of State for Defence when he expects to receive the Donaldson Report; and if he will make a statement.

Lord Balniel

I would refer the hon. Members to the statement which I made to the House yesterday afternoon.—[Vol. 807, c. 442–9]

Mr. Allaun

I warmly thank the Minister, the Committee and the National Council for Civil Liberties. Since sailors at present are the worst affected and since the Donaldson Committee's recommendation was that they should not be phased in until 1977, why the delay in their case?

Lord Balniel

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's thanks to the Committee and to all who have taken a part in the decision, which I believe has been warmly welcomed in the country and in the Services. The Donaldson recommendations for boys will come in on 1st April, 1971. The recommendation which concerns the purchase of discharge from the Navy and which relates to adults will be phased in so that by 1977 the Navy will be in line with the other Services.

Mr. Ramsden

Could my hon. Friend confirm, if not now perhaps later, that there is plenty of extra room in the establishment for extra boy entrants if the Donaldson Report produces a stimulation in recruiting? Could he give some idea how many extra it will be necessary to recruit to make up for the added wastage as a result of the Donaldson recommendations?

Lord Balniel

Yes, I can confirm that there is room and that there are facilities for boy entrants. I cannot give exact figures for the wastage. My hunch—it can only be a hunch—is that the higher levels of pay, combined with this liberalised engagement structure, will create a more favourable image among parents, teachers and career advisory officers which will help recruiting.

Dr. David Owen

May I press the hon. Gentleman on the question of the delayed phasing, which in the Navy will mean 1977? This means that boy seamen could be held against their will for six years adult service from 1971–72 possibly until 1973. In view of the fact that the reluctant Serviceman actively impairs recruitment, would he look at the matter seriously and try to bring forward the date?

Lord Balniel

I must confess slight surprise about that question in that the step we are taking is so much in advance of that taken by the previous Administration. I therefore hoped that it would have been generally welcomed. It means reducing the period from 6½ years to three, and we think that this reduction is right in view of the grave manning difficulties which exist in the Navy at the moment.

Mr. George Thomson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Labour Government set up this Committee and that we gave a general welcome to its findings and the Government decision? That does not prevent us from saying at this point that there is a need for speeding up this long transitional period.

Lord Balniel

Of course, I accept that the previous Administration set up the Committee. I am making the point that we are implementing the Committee's recommendations.