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Recruits (Discharge And Wastage)

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 17 May 1961

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22.

asked the Secretary of State for War what percentage of recruits was discharged on medical grounds during the last two quarters of 1960 and the first quarter of 1961.

27.

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps he is taking to improve the medical examination of recruits, in view of the fact that about 16 per cent. of those enlisted in 1959 have already been discharged on medical grounds.

The percentage of recruits discharged on medical grounds during the last two quarters of 1960 and the first quarter of 1961 are 3·6 per cent., 5·5 per cent., and 2·9 per cent., respectively. The percentage of those enlisted in 1959 who have since been discharged on medical grounds is about 96 per cent.—not 16 per cent. We are talking here about men who have left the Service over a period of more than two years. The annual rate is about 4 per cent. of intake.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this pressure to get recruits puts a great temptation on recruiting offices to accept recruits without the same discrimination as heretofore? Will he give an assurance that there will be no lowering of the medical and intelligence standards required in recruits?

I can certainly give that latter undertaking, and I hope the House will take heart from the fact that although the recruiting campaign is beginning to speed up and we are getting more people into the Army, nonetheless there were only 2·9 per cent. discharged on medical grounds in the last quarter. This shows that we are gaining on the problem.

If I were increasing the number of people who come into the Army and the standards were lower, would not the hon. Gentleman expect to find that the number of people who are being "hoofed out" on medical grounds was lower and not higher?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the figure in Question No. 27 is based on an answer which was given last week? If the corrected figure is 9½ per cent. of those who enlisted in 1959, surely this is still too much and some steps ought to be taken to correct it?

Last week my hon. Friend quoted not 16 per cent., but 14 per cent. He said that 14 per cent. were accounted for on medical grounds and other reasons. My answer here refers only to medical grounds. Of course, we will do all we can to watch the matter very carefully, but I take heart from the fact that the figure is going down steadily.

26.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has carried out an investigation as to why about 9 per cent. of recruits enlisted in 1959 have bought themselves out; and what steps he is taking to remedy this wastage of volunteers, who are urgently needed by the Army.

As I said in the Estimates debate, and as my hon. Friend reminded the House only last week, the Army Operational Research Group is making an extensive study on the question of wastage.

Are not these figures rather high? Is my right hon. Friend taking fully into account the Report of the Resettlement Board? Is it not possible that there is anxiety about a second career after these men leave the Army, and can my right hon. Friend say how the figures compare with those in the other two Services?

I cannot give a comparison with the figures in the other two Services. I am taking this matter very seriously indeed, and we are improving the situation by degrees. We are devising ways and means to try to introduce to the Army people from civilian life in a modern and contemporary way.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that while there may be a wastage in this respect in the Army, it is no greater than in industry in general? Does he not believe that so long as we have a free society, nothing should be done to prevent men having this facility?

I have not said that we would do anything to prevent the men having this facility, but I should like the situation in the Army to be close to that in industry, and when it is I shall be satisfied.