HC Deb 22 February 1965 vol 707 cc22-4W
87. Mr. Currie

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the non-commissioned officer stationed at Chelsea Barracks, whose name has not been disclosed, was afforded the services of a defending officer to advise him prior to his discharge from Her Majesty's Forces.

88. Mr. Woodnutt

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if the non-commissioned officer who attended the political meeting at Leyton was charged under Queen's Regulations; and what the court of inquiry found.

89. Mr. Mawby

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what part of Queen's Rules and Regulations were breached by a non-commissioned officer stationed at Chelsea Barracks; and what were the findings of the subsequent court martial.

90. Mr. Dance

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if there has been a court of inquiry into the political activities of a non-commissioned officer stationed at Chelsea Barracks; and what were the recommendations.

Brigadier Clarke

asked the Secretary of State for Defence on what charge a non-commissioned officer was discharged from Her Majesty's Forces for participating in a Parliamentary by-election.

Mr. Mulley

Soldiers whose retention in the Service is considered undesirable on account of persistent petty breaches of discipline may be discharged under paragraph 503 (XIX A) of Queen's Regulations for the Army, 1961. A soldier whose discharge under this regulation is under consideration has to be warned by his commanding officer three months before the application is submitted to the competent military authority, the brigade commander in this case, that discharge under the regulation is being considered. When this warning is given, and if it is practicable, the soldier is transferred to another company, or equivalent sub-unit, within his own unit. If the breaches of discipline continue, the commanding officer may submit an application for the soldier's discharge before the three months warning period has expired and, where the brigade commander considers it essential for disciplinary reasons, an immediate discharge may be authorised.

This soldier, then a non-commissioned officer, went absent without leave and on 17th November last, was summarily convicted and punished by his commanding officer. Because of this, and previous unsatisfactory military conduct, he was warned as to his future conduct, under the previously quoted regulation. He signed an acknowledgement of this warning and was posted from the regimental headquarters to the 1st Battalion of his regiment.

On 21st January, the soldier was interviewed by his commanding officer because he had been distributing political literature to his comrades. At the same time, he also admitted that he took part in the disturbance at Leyton Town Hall on 7th January. He was warned that he must desist from political activities and given a further warning as to his future conduct. Paragraphs 672–677 of Queen's Regulations for the Army, 1961 deal with political and non-military activities.

Subsequently there was clear evidence that the soldier had again been spreading political propaganda during training exercises. This disobedience of orders was a continuance of breaches of discipline within the warning period and soon after the return of his company from training, the soldier was again brought before his commanding officer, who recommended that the soldier should be discharged as soon as possible. On the same day, the competent military authority authorised the soldier's immediate discharge.

The soldier was dealt with by his commanding officer and thus no board of inquiry or court martial was necessary: the question of a defending officer does not, therefore, arise.