HL Deb 12 April 1967 vol 281 cc1281-3

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is more difficult for a sailor than for an officer to resign for per sonal reasons from the Royal Navy; and if so, why.]


My Lords, the legal basis of the service of ratings and officers respectively is very different, the one depending upon Statute and the other upon the Royal prerogative. The difference goes back into history, and it would be trying your Lordships' patience to recount it. But let me assure the noble Lord that in compassionate and certain special cases officers and ratings may leave the Navy with equal facility. Compassionate grounds—say, the need to be available at home to look after a parent or wife—must establish that the individual's presence at home is vital. Special cases cover such reasons for wishing to leave the Service as conscientious objection, or a wish to take Holy Orders or become a Member of Parliament.

When there are no special circumstances the same principles are applied to both officers and ratings, but the rating has to wait longer to leave because the smaller number of officers wishing to go can be more easily spared. The much greater number of ratings involved must be more firmly held to their engagements if the Navy is to be manned to carry out its role.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for that very full reply which I wished to elicit because of the public interest in the matter at this moment. I am grateful.


My Lords, may I again ask my noble friend a question? I apologise for doing so. He mentioned conscientious objection. Will the Government reconsider the present system, whereby a conscientious objector has to disobey orders and serve a term of imprisonment before he can go before a tribunal? Will the Government consider the giving of a right to go straight to a tribunal rather than going through that procedure?


My Lords, I will convey my noble friend's point of view to the appropriate Minister.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he thinks that pursuing a different policy for ratings and officers is calculated to improve discipline?


My Lords, I have no evidence that the difference of statutory basis under which the two engagements are made is detrimental to discipline.