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Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 19th December 2011.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats 2:30 pm, 19th December 2011

What support is available at higher and further education level for young people who want to join the armed forces; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

Further education support is provided to people who join the services, generally through apprenticeships which include nationally recognised vocational and academic qualifications. For those young people who wish to join the armed forces and have aspirations to continue in higher education, opportunities include the defence sixth-form college at Welbeck; bursaries and scholarships in secondary and further educational establishments; the defence technical officer and engineer undergraduate scheme; and cadetships for students reading degrees in specific professions, such as medicine or the law.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats

That is very welcome, but it is not as well known as it ought to be. Given that next month is the first cut-off date for people applying to go to university next year, will the Minister see if he can make sure that all those who have shown an interest in joining the armed services are told about the support opportunities open to them if they go into the services but also want to carry on in formal education?

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I take the right hon. Gentleman’s point entirely and I agree with him, but those opportunities are quite well known. Some 41 years ago I took up a university cadetship at university, which was very welcome. People who wish to join the armed forces now know that they can get assistance at university and at other educational establishments.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

I, too, thank the Minister for his response. I am a member of the armed forces parliamentary scheme who has had the opportunity to attend many Army camps at locations across the United Kingdom. We were told that the MOD had a bursary scheme for those aged 16 to 18, and none of us was aware of that. Can the Minister assure us that it is his intention to raise awareness of the scheme across the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland?

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

Certainly. We are not contemplating broadening the scheme to the armed forces parliamentary scheme, but bursaries do exist. I take the hon. Gentleman’s point on board, as I did the previous point. We should give the bursary scheme good publicity. However, I think he will find that there is considerable over-subscription to the bursary scheme, not under-subscription, because young people know about it and are a bit quicker than I am.