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Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:21 pm on 29th March 2006.

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Photo of The Bishop of Worcester The Bishop of Worcester Bishop 4:21 pm, 29th March 2006

My Lords, I add my condolences to those that have already been expressed. To hear the Statement and the debate cannot make any of us feel very good. I pick up the issue to which the Minister has just referred: a public inquiry. I entirely understand that Mr Blake has concluded that that would not be helpful in this particular set of tragic incidents. However, I think that there is a need for some public reflection on the recruitment of under-18s into the armed services and some public reflection on the fact that we are likely to recruit a disproportionate number of young people with very few life choices open to them. That in itself is a kind of coercion. I am not suggesting it is real coercion, but it is a kind of coercion to hold out to people the possibility of entering a career that is fundamentally an adult choice when they do not have many life choices open to them due to the factors highlighted in Mr Blake's report and in the Statement.

I suggest to the Minister that there is an urgent need to reflect publicly and openly on whether we as a society feel comfortable with the recruitment of under-18s into the armed services. If we do feel comfortable about it, we need to consider with passion as well as prudence how we protect particularly those who may have had very few life choices and who have therefore found themselves in a situation the demands of which they may not have fully understood.