Schools: Cadet Expansion Programme - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:51 pm on 18th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Freeman Lord Freeman Conservative 5:51 pm, 18th June 2019

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Lingfield on ensuring that we could have this debate and I pay tribute to the service that he has provided over many years to the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ associations comprising the many organisations that make up the group. He has achieved a great deal during his long service by engendering enthusiasm and determination on the part of schools, councils and government to make sure that schools and families encourage children to take up the opportunity of serving in the organisations which train cadets. They provide discipline and a sense of pride and determination to serve the community. Again, I pay tribute to what he has achieved. The noble Lord will probably remember that when I was serving in office with the organisation responsible for the recruitment of cadets, the University of Northampton produced a report entitled the Social Impact Resulting from Expenditure on Cadets. I agree strongly with the at least two other speakers in the debate who said that the social impact of the discipline involved in being trained and making a contribution to society is extremely important.

The social impact that cadet forces deliver is vastly greater than their annual cost. It is the responsibility of all noble Lords in this House who have a direct connection, either elected or unelected, with schools and local authorities to make sure that encouragement is given to those who wish to serve and train to enlist, take the opportunity to travel, be with their fellow students and see the great advantage of serving their country—indirectly, perhaps, but ultimately by joining the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces face a great challenge in making recruitment an attractive proposition. It can be not immediately attractive in terms of pay, opportunities or travel, but in my experience it has been a powerful and positive influence on the lives of the men and women who continue to serve after their school experience.

I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said about the wider attraction to state schools of recruiting students to take part in the activities, and about the approach of the teaching profession. Sometimes it has not been all that enthusiastic, but the ultimate gain of that experience easily outweighs the interruption, if you like, to a well-planned school organisation.

We must encourage leadership skills, which can increase proper job prospects. Those leadership skills are very often connected to service in the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces have a particular responsibility to encourage the young people who join the junior organisations to make their own decisions, encourage others and follow the leadership of those in command of that group.

My main concern is the limitation of capacity and the location of camps for young people going out to enjoy training—hopefully in decent surroundings and properly organised and controlled. That capacity is limited by the amount of money available from central government and the Ministry of Defence to support schools, but it is essential. That experience has fired enthusiasm for the Armed Forces among a great number of young people I have come across.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, for his initiative. When he was president I served with him, looking after the Reserve Forces and Cadets organisation between 1999 and 2001, which seems a long time ago. Vocational qualifications are important, and I pay tribute to his contribution.