HC Deb 08 April 1971 vol 815 cc663-4
19. Mr. John

asked the Minister of State for Defence what proportion of Service recruits are, after recruitment at a careers information office, sent on unpaid leave; what is the average duration of such leave; and what proposals there are for converting such leave to paid leave.

Lord Balniel

In the case of the Navy and R.A.F., none. In the case of the Army some recruits spend a brief time on unpaid leave, but statistics of the numbers doing so are not maintained. For adults and young soldiers this period has been reduced to an average of four days, and we plan to reduce it further. For juniors it is 14 days. I have no plans to convert such leave to paid leave.

Mr. John

While welcoming the hon. Gentleman's assurance that this period is being reduced, may I ask him whether he would not think again about it, because if recruits have to wait for the Army's convenience—and after they have been received upon their recruitment, they are waiting for the Army's convenience—they ought to receive pay during that period?

Lord Balniel

No. I would not accept the views which the hon. Gentleman has put forward, but I will consider them in the light of what he has said. I am satisfied that the number of recruits who decline to be enlisted because they will not receive pay during this very short period is really totally insignificant.

Major-General James d'Avigdor-Goldsmid

Would the Minister not agree that when a recruit who wants to join the Army enlists certain inquiries have to be made as to his credentials and his character, and that for that reason there is a delay before he is finally recruited?

Lord Balniel

My hon. and gallant Friend has pointed to a very significant factor which leads to this short delay.

Mr. Brian Walden

But, if that is the case, why is it necessary for the Army but not, apparently, for the other two Services?

Lord Balniel

For exactly the same reasons which operated when hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for these affairs.