§ 12. Mr. Canavan
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is satisfied with the recruitment procedure of the Armed Forces.
§ Mr. Canavan
In view of the very bleak employment prospects faced by young school leavers in many areas of the country, will my hon. Friend issue instructions to recruiting officers not to use undue pressure to exert unfair advantage on young people, many of whom are possibly faced with the dilemma of joining either the Forces or the dole queue? In particular will he do something about the recruiting officers who go into schools to lure young people into the Forces with the help of audio-visual aids which often give a misleading and exaggerated view of life in the Forces, because such practices are often tantamount to baby snatching?
§ Mr. John
In so far as I follow the burden of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, the situation is that we accept only one in three of all applicants who come before the Service Recruiting Agency. I should have thought that that was sufficient rebuttal of his point that we are anxious to snatch whoever comes into a recruiting office.
Secondly, Service officers and personnel go into schools, as do other careers advisers, to give factual information about careers open to young people. I am anxious that they should give as realistic a picture of life in the Forces as possible. It does not suit our book to have glamorised pictures which the reality does not match.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
Will the Under-Secretary tell us the present cost of recruiting a soldier? Secondly, in his review of recruiting has he decided to close any of the recruiting centres?
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
The hon. Gentleman said that the hard facts were issued to persons who were being recruited. Does he agree that one of the vital hard facts concerns the roof over the head of a Service man when his term of service is over? Is the hon. Gentleman aware of my oft-repeated suggestion that Service men should be treated no less favourably than civilians by being given the right to have their names put on the local authority housing list of their choice on entry or on marriage, whichever happens later? Is he aware that that suggestion has been welcomed by Members of Parliament of all parties, whatever their views? Is it not time that the Ministry of Defence now came out with some hard facts on what it proposes to do about the mountainous problem of local authorities with bases in their areas which cannot accommodate the men who have served for many years and have nowhere to stay at the end of their service?
§ Mr. John
The hon. Lady, not for the first time, is under a complete misapprehension about the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence. The Department of the Environment, the Welsh Office and the Scottish Office are responsible for housing in this country. I could understand what the hon. Lady's comments would be if the Ministry of Defence was responsible for Scottish housing.
§ Mr. Woodall
Is my hon. Friend aware that recruiting officers for any branch of the Services go on to school premises only with the express permission of the school governing body and that the more enlightened governing bodies, such as in my area, always consistently refuse to give that permission?
§ Mr. John
I am sorry to hear that my hon. Friend's local education authority refuses to give permission. In my view, no education authority or anyone else should seek arbitrarily to deny the choice of a career to young people. What they have a right to ask for, and what we merely present, are the facts about a career in the Forces. It is then left to the young men and women concerned to choose that career if they wish.