Amendment 28

Armed Forces Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 23rd November 2021.

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Lord Russell of Liverpool:

Moved by Lord Russell of Liverpool

28: After Clause 19, insert the following new Clause—“The minimum term for serviceIn section 329 of the AFA 2006 (terms and conditions of enlistment and service), after subsection (2) insert—“(2A) Where time is prescribed under subsection (2)(c) by reference to number of years from the date of enlistment, the age of the person on that date may not be taken into account.””Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment ensures that soldiers aged under 18 are not required to serve for a longer period than adult personnel.

Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 28. I do so in place of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, who would otherwise be here, but is indisposed. I thank her for having introduced this amendment and another one so ably in Committee.

In Committee, this was grouped with another one that came before it which talked about trying to achieve a total cessation of the recruitment of under-18s by the United Kingdom, a practice that we are singular among all the members of NATO in pursuing. In the event, because the two were grouped together, the former amendment took about 98% of the airtime of the debate and there was very little discussion of this one, which is in part why we have decided to bring it back here for debate today. I emphasise that this is for debate; I do not intend to divide the House.

I will try, together perhaps with some other noble Lords who have put their name to this amendment, to put a case for the Government to look very carefully at their current practice of asking junior entry soldiers to serve two years more than entrants at age 18. This is to see whether this is the right thing to do in the first place and, more profoundly, whether the entire approach to junior entry is fit for purpose.

In Committee, the Minister made it very clear that, up until their 18th birthday, junior entrants have a statutory right to ask for discharge. However, after 18, they are in for four years and, under the current system, no allowance is made for the first two years at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate. A judicial review in 2015 concluded that this is unequal treatment in law, but is not unlawful, since the Equality Act 2010 exempts the Armed Forces from its prohibition on age discrimination.

In 2015, the Army carried out a review and estimated that, if it equalised the minimum service period for all recruits, it would have to recruit and train approximately 40 additional personnel each year to compensate for the relatively small number of junior entrants who might choose to leave after four years. To put that into context in 2015 terms, 40 personnel would be 0.5% of the Army’s enlisted intake for that year, which totalled 8,020 individuals. While the Navy and Air Force both take on a small number of junior entrants, neither service chooses to discriminate in the same way as the Army.

The 2019 junior entry review, undertaken following a recommendation from the Defence Committee in another place, suggested an amendment to the terms of service to a Type S engagement, whereby 18 year-olds can either opt to leave or convert their engagement to a short career versatile engagement, which would recognise the first two years of service and count towards the four years’ minimum length return of service.

The review recommended that this approach be considered, saying that it

“could be deemed a positive change” and was

“unlikely to be contentious” to either a junior entry cohort or their “gatekeepers”—I assume that means the staff at Harrogate, although I am not sure how they would feel about that term. The review continued that

“any move to implement” the new terms of service on leaving the Army as an under-18 year-old

“would make the process … more transparent, which would bring an increase in the confidence of recruits and their gatekeepers.”

Its only caveat was whether this would enable the Army to achieve its desired manning balance along with other assessments of length of service.

In light of the announcement this year that the Army will be further downsized by 10,000 troops, does the Minister agree that this would be an opportune moment to institute the proposed new terms of service and put the matter to rest? Will she tell the House what the Government’s current thinking is? Can she inform us on any actions or, if not, tell us how she might consider progressing this? Will she undertake to come back to the House and report on any progress and timings?

There are two further issues I want to explore to test the MoD and Army’s thinking on the current junior entry structure and content. First, in 2021, is it recruiting the right people for today’s and tomorrow’s Army? This Government and our current, rather busy, Home Secretary frequently refer to an immigration policy that should be focused on attracting and admitting “the brightest and the best”. At the same time, the Army is increasingly conscious that it needs to recruit more young people who are interested and competent in STEM studies and in furthering their education, particularly the sort of technical education that the Army of tomorrow will need to manage challenges such as cyber warfare and the use of artificial intelligence.

The 2019 junior entry review highlights the heavy reliance—70% of the intake—on a segment of young people which is named Get-On Community Pride, not a particularly attractive brand. This cohort is described as unambitious, tends to live in poorer areas and is likely to be actively demotivated by the prospect of further education, which “would potentially jeopardise inflow”. The review further states that

“introducing more education/STEM into the JE scheme could potentially damage levels of attraction among the existing” core main target audience. Simply stated, the dilemma is that the Army is on the record as stating that it needs to recruit more females, more BAME individuals and more STEM-literate entrants and those interested in education, but is hamstrung by the fear—increasingly irrelevant and unhelpful, I think—of demotivating its current predominant recruiting pool.

I refer briefly to the recommendations made by the independent advisory panel, which works very closely with the college at Harrogate, and each year produces a report with some recommendations. These are the highlights of its recommendations. In its opinion,

“the relatively frequent change of Commanding Officers and other senior staff at”

Harrogate

“every two years, means that there is a loss of leadership momentum and organisational memory.”

Remember, this is an educational establishment. Imagine if in a school, every two years the leadership was recycled and completely new people came in, perhaps with little or no relevant experience. The report states:

“A longer period of command would be beneficial.”

Secondly, the panel sees “a strong benefit” in the leadership of the college itself having much “more input into the selection of key personnel”—that is, the people who will be recycled into replace them, because at the moment it appears that they have little or no say in whether those nominated to replace them are fit for purpose and will be good at that task. It also notes that

“the growing awareness of the emotional and mental health needs of a significant minority of young people” at Harrogate creates growing pressures and that Harrogate must do more to make appropriate provision. Finally, it says:

“We have observed over the last year”— this is 2018-19—

“a growing frustration at the number of JS who arrive at the College on reception days but who for either medical or other reasons leave very soon afterwards, sometimes within a matter of days.”

I was a headhunter for 30 years, and I would not describe that as a particularly effective or successful recruitment or screening policy. Does the Minister acknowledge this dilemma that is faced by the Army looking at its current junior entry strategy? Does she agree that the status quo is becoming increasingly untenable, and can she tell us what discussions and plans, if any, are evolving to deal with it?

Given the emerging research findings about the incidence of mental health issues and trauma experienced by some serving and retired Army personnel, mentioned in particular in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, is the Army certain that the support, training and guidance that the junior entry cohort currently receives is conducted using best practice and is not inadvertently causing some of them—who, in law, are children—harm?

The Minister asked for the relevant research to be forwarded to her by the noble Lord, Lord Browne. I suggest to her that these emerging findings, taken together with the findings and recommendations of the 2019 Wigston report on inappropriate behaviours in the UK Armed Forces, and some of the incidents and alleged incidents of bullying at the Army Foundation College, be looked at with great care and attention.

As I said earlier, I will not divide the House. I move this amendment in the spirit of wanting to work with the Government and with the Army in moving quickly to implement the new terms of service and to redefine and craft a junior entry policy that is fit for the 21st century and not the 19th century. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Labour 8:15 pm, 23rd November 2021

My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment and propose to speak for a few minutes in support of it. First of all, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, on the concise way in which he put the arguments for this amendment—he has exhausted nearly all my notes. I do not want to take up unnecessary time in the House this evening—we are running later than expected—as I think he made the arguments very well, but I want to reinforce a couple of them.

Before I do that, I want to go back to the genesis of my involvement in these amendments. I did not put my name to either of the two amendments debated in Committee, although I do support raising the minimum recruitment age for the Army to 18. I support that because, in studying and researching these amendments, I came across some quite persuasive evidence of an inappropriate level of potential damage to young people who had gone through that. I investigated further why that could be the case and learned quite a lot about the immaturity of people at 16 and their physical and mental ability to handle properly what they may have gone through in training. I have now discovered other things about this which worry me even more. I did not think that the benefit to our military, or to other young people, justified potentially damaging such a significant number of young people. That is why I spoke to it in that fashion in Committee.

This amendment was tagged on to that. When I looked at it, I honestly thought that, in this day and age, in the 21st century, there was no justification for continuing this discrimination. It seemed that we were on the wrong side of history on this, and there was no justification for pursuing or sticking with it—I thought it was a no-brainer. I was not surprised that there was not much debate about it; it seemed pretty straightforward, and I more or less said that.

When the Minister responded to the debate and seemed not to concede that this was even discrimination, I intervened and asked her a specific question about what the Army thought it got out of this and why it persisted in doing it. She again gave me an answer, which is to be found in Hansard at col. GC 461. She did not quite say that it was not discrimination but suggested that the Army was not intending to discriminate. She promised to write to me, and she did so today. Her letter expands on what the Army is intending to do.

The truth is, of course, that there was a review in 2015, and the Army put its best case forward at this attempt at judicial review. Two things came out in that very clearly, particularly in the evidence of the brigadier who was then the Army’s chief witness—whose name does not really matter but whose evidence is in the public domain.

It was about force level—about the ability, for a longer period, to take advantage of people in whom they had invested a lot of training. It seems from the noble Baroness’s letter to me that it is now more about what the recruits get out of this than what the Army gets out of it; that is a welcome development. We could go back to the debate about whether it is justifiable for some of these recruits, with the potential for damaging others, but I do not want to rehearse all that.

We debated all this on 8 November. The issue was not been raised in the debate at all, but Corporal Kimberly Hay was convicted of punching two recruits in the very establishment that everybody was singing the praises of just a couple of days later. I was surprised. I had no knowledge of this, obviously, but it had not been mentioned. That incident led me to delve into this issue a bit more. I discovered that, between 2014 and 2017, 50 cases of assault went to court martial but with no findings of guilt. This seemed to have been for process reasons rather than because any witnesses were deemed not to have been telling the truth. The criticisms made about the unsatisfactory nature of the prosecution were about the way in which the Army police had investigated the matter, rather than that any of the many witnesses who gave evidence against some 17 trainers had not been believed. Around the same time, between 2014 and 2020, there were 60 complaints by trainees or parents about the way in which trainees were treated at AFC Harrogate.

None of this seems to have been reflected in the debate or the information given in the debate. That certainly makes me want to reconsider many of the things said in support of AFC Harrogate and what it was actually doing with these young people. My suspicion is that this issue will not go away—that, like many issues over the last 10 years that have become apparent about institutions, it will be a slow burner but eventually much more will come out. Of course I cannot ask noble Lords to make decisions about changing legislation on the basis of an argument as weak as that, but history tends to suggest that there is something there that needs to be investigated.

My final point is to ask what the Army in the current circumstances gets out of this. Over the last decade, the size of the Army’s core recruitment pool— 16 to 24 year-olds—in the United Kingdom has remained steady at about 7 million potential recruits. I am not suggesting that the Army seeks to recruit them all, but that is the cohort. The stability of this demographic is projected to continue—it will not go down—but the targeted strength of the Army has reduced by 29% from 102,000 in 2011 to a planned 72,500 by 2025. In broad terms, for every four new soldiers the Army needed to recruit and retain a decade ago, it needs only three now, drawn from a demographic that has stayed about the same size.

The Army’s own evidence to the judicial review—which failed because of the terms of the Equality Act, not because the distinction was not discrimination—was that, if it lost those recruits for those extra two years, it would then need to recruit 40 more recruits each year. That was the evidence that it put in. I cannot take all these complicated figures to their logical conclusions, but it suggests to me that the problem is solved for the Army. I do not see what the justification is now for continuing with this discrimination. The Army should follow the logic of its own junior entry review of 2019, which is to change the terms in which they sign up 16 year-olds into the service.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 8:30 pm, 23rd November 2021

My Lords, I will speak very briefly. I was not able to take part in the debate on these amendments in Committee because I was at the COP 26 climate talks, but at Second Reading I very much majored on the issue of the recruitment of 16 and 17 year-olds into the Army in particular. I would have attached my name to the amendments in this group had there been space. I am following two extremely powerful and important speeches, which I really hope the Government are going to listen to, approached in a very constructive, positive spirit.

I want to make one point. The noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, outlined for us how the judicial review found that this was unequal treatment, but that the Army was not covered by the Equality Act. The fact that there is a legal exemption does not mean it needs to be used. The Army could choose to say that it will accept, at least in this manner, to follow the Equality Act. That would be a step towards justice for young people, many of whom come from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds and are trying to find their best way forward in life. We need to give them that opportunity.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords)

I will make a very brief comment based on what the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and my noble friend Lord Browne have just said. There was some debate in Committee about raising the age of recruitment, and there was disagreement about that. It is incumbent upon the Government to take very seriously the points that the noble Lord, Lord Russell, and my noble friend Lord Browne have made, about the allegations and reports there have been, whatever the rights and wrongs of that. Also important is the point raised in the amendment about the length of service and what is taken into account.

For those of us who, like me, do not support raising the age of recruitment, it is particularly incumbent upon us to ensure that reports and allegations of the sort we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Russell, and my noble friend Lord Browne, alongside some of the other concerns raised, are taken very seriously by the Government. They should address them as quickly and urgently as possible and report the results of their deliberations into the public domain.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

My Lords, I do not quite support this amendment but will speak in rather the same spirit as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. From the Liberal Democrat Front Bench, in Committee, I also spoke against raising the age of recruitment, but of course that is not what this amendment seeks to do.

The debate has focused on three issues: first, the age of recruitment, which is not formally the subject of this amendment; secondly, the question of the minimum term for service, which is, officially, what is in the amendment; and, thirdly, the issue of Harrogate, which has been discussed at some length. The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, suggested that everyone spoke in laudatory terms about Harrogate in Committee; while the noble Lord, Lord Lancaster, spoke in laudatory terms, I think the rest of us were very much looking forward to the Minister facilitating a visit, so that we could understand what happened at Harrogate a little better—although I think the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, might have visited.

There is clearly a need to separate three different issues here, one of which is how the current facility works. The sorts of cases that the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, mentioned clearly need to be looked into. It would be very helpful if the Minister could explain what the MoD is doing to investigate the sorts of cases that are currently hitting the headlines and reassure the House that appropriate action is being taken. That needs to be separate from whether or not we believe that the age of recruitment is actually right.

However, it is important to consider the age of recruitment and what happens to 16 and 17 year-olds when we look at what is in this amendment. It may be only a probing amendment, but it is nevertheless one where we need to look at what is actually understood by “service”. It is very clear that there is a difference in the language that is used by those who oppose recruitment at 16 and the arguments against child soldiers, for example, which seems to suggest that, somehow, 16 year- olds are being allowed to go off to the front line—they are not; you cannot go to the front line until you are 18, and then only if you have been trained.

What do the Government understand by “service”? Is it that 16 and 17 year-olds can be recruited and trained, but that somehow that does not count as service for the purposes of the minimum service requirement? If that is the case, could the Government make it very clear? If Harrogate, or whatever an appropriate equivalent might be, is about training, is it seen as an appropriate alternative to continuing education in school or a further education college, which, as some of us believe and as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, argued in Committee, can be very relevant for some 16 and 17 year-olds who want not to go back to mainstream education but to do something different? Clearly, if that is the case, what is happening for 16 and 17 year-olds needs to be appropriate.

All of us must surely agree with the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Russell, that we need to craft a recruitment policy fit for the 21st century and not the 19th century. Could the Minister reassure us that what is available is fit for the 21st century, and that what is happening at Harrogate has been investigated and we do not have anything to worry about? Can she explain to us the Government’s understanding of service that is accrued from the age of 16 to 18, inclusive?

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My Lords, I know that you are all waiting agog for my response to what has been a wide-ranging and very interesting debate, but I am required to make a correction in relation to our previous debate on Amendment 26. I have been informed that the process that I described is slightly different. The precise fees payable are made through both the affirmative and the negative resolution procedure, which is different from what I may have read out from the speaking notes. I am pleased to put that correction on the record.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for raising this issue, which is important and which we are all interested in. Clearly, some of your Lordships have concerns about it. As I said, it led to a very interesting debate. The essence of the amendment is that your Lordships are concerned that those who join the Armed Forces before their 18th birthday are obliged to serve longer than those who join after it.

Obviously, this is a bit of reprise of what I said in Committee, but I clarify that this is a matter not of length of service but of discharge. The statutory “discharge as of right” rules allow all new recruits, regardless of age, to discharge within their first three to six months of service, depending on their service, if they decide that the Armed Forces is not a career for them. In addition, service personnel have a statutory right to claim discharge up to their 18th birthday, subject to a maximum three-month cooling-off period. These rights are made clear to all on enlistment. Ultimately, all service personnel under the age of 18 have a statutory right to leave the Armed Forces up until their 18th birthday, without the liability to serve in the reserves, which would be the obligation on an adult aged over 18 who was leaving the services.

The noble Lord, Lord Russell, referred to a specific example, and I confess that I was not familiar with it. I understood that he referred to the RAF, but if he would care to write to me with the details, I will certainly look at that in detail.

The noble Lord, Lord Russell, was specifically concerned about the perceived unfairness to the under-18 group who serve longer than a new start of 18 years or over if they pursue a career in the Armed Forces. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, alluded to some extent to the letter I sent him in an endeavour to explain what these arrangements are about and the rationale behind them. I reiterate for the benefit of the Chamber that the policies in place covering the recruitment of young people below the age of 18 are designed carefully to be lawful, fair and fit for purpose, both for the individual and the service they volunteer to join.

The primary reason for the minimum period of service in the Army for those under 18 is that the Army must ensure that it maintains the right workforce levels to enable it to deploy personnel over the age of 18 on operations at home and abroad. Recruits under the age of 18 are not fully deployable on operations, and their notice period therefore runs from the point at which they become fully deployable alongside those who enlist after their 18th birthday. This minimum period of service for those under 18 also allows the Armed Forces to provide our young people with world-class training. It develops well-rounded junior personnel, both morally and conceptually, and, in turn, all this quite simply brings huge benefit to the individual, the Armed Forces and wider society. I feel that is positive and something that we should celebrate.

I acknowledge the recent reports of entirely unacceptable behaviour at the foundation college resulting in the conviction of an instructor, and the noble Lords, Lord Russell, Lord Browne and Lord Coaker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, referred to this. That is something we all deplore. It indicates to me that there is a system which works: that if somebody behaves absolutely unacceptably in a criminal fashion, they are dealt with within the system. I do not think we should be complacent about this in any way. I was as disturbed to read that report as anyone, but it suggested to me that there are systems in place.

I think the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, particularly sought reassurance about this. I want to reassure her and your Lordships that for under-18s any reports of bullying are taken extremely seriously, and tough action is taken against those who fall short of the Army’s high standards. The duty of care for all our recruits, particularly those aged under 18, is of the utmost importance, and we recognise the need to treat under-18s differently.

The Armed Forces foundation college—

Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Labour

I am very much obliged to the noble Baroness for giving way; she is very generous. However, at this point I think it is appropriate to ask her specifically if it is true that there were 60 complaints between 2014 and 2020 from parents or trainees about bullying behaviour at AFC Harrogate. Is that true?

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I do not have that information before me. I will certainly undertake to investigate, and I will write to the noble Lord with whatever I find out.

Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Labour

With respect, if it is true, will the noble Baroness also express in that letter whether she is concerned that that does not appear to have been reflected in the inspections of AFC Harrogate? If it had been, I am sure the noble Baroness would have shared that when we discussed this in Committee.

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

As I said to the noble Lord, all I can offer to do is to look at Hansard and the detail of what he said, and to check that out and see what I can ascertain. I will undertake to do that and write to him, and I will offer any comment that seems appropriate depending on what I find out.

What I was going on to say, particularly in response to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, is that—as the noble Lord, Lord Browne, has indicated—the foundation college, alongside all phase 1 and phase 2 training organisations, is subject to Ofsted inspection on a routine basis. Ofsted is an independent inspectorate. I and the Government have no control over what it says and does; it is for Ofsted to enter establishments, ask its questions, make its inspections and come to its conclusions.

What I can say to the noble Baroness is that the college was independently inspected by Ofsted in May 2021 as part of the 2020-21 inspection cycle into welfare and duty of care in Armed Forces initial training. Harrogate was awarded an overall grade of outstanding by Ofsted at the inspection, which followed the outstanding grade it received in October 2017. That grade was awarded due to the excellent standard of provision of duty of care and welfare encountered by Ofsted at the college.

As I said, I read the news report of the conviction of an instructor with great concern, as everyone in this Chamber would, but I have simply to set before your Lordships the broad context of the environment of the college. I will look into the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Browne, to see what I can find out and I shall respond to him. As I indicated, we are also satisfied, because of our awareness of and concern with our duty of care to under-18s, that there are systems in place at the college whereby young people can have a voice and speak out. Contact with parents is maintained. Parents who are concerned will have a point of contact with the college and one would expect any parent who was concerned to activate that contact. Notwithstanding the negative aspect of that newspaper report, I still commend the college to you all and repeat the invitation to those who would like to visit it. I would be very happy to co-operate and co-ordinate that to make it possible.

The difficulty with a debate such as this is that there will be some Members of your Lordships’ House who just do not like the idea of young people aged under 18 having anything to do with the Armed Forces. I accept that that is a view that they might wish to hold and of course they are entitled to hold it. I do not agree with it. I happen to think that what we do with these young people is positive and beneficial. In fact, the Armed Forces remain one of the UK’s largest apprenticeship providers, equipping young people with valuable transferable skills for life. Some of them might leave before they become 18, but they do not leave with no equipment. They will at least have received instruction in numeracy and literacy. Irrespective of age, all recruits who need it receive education in these key skills of literacy and numeracy. Also irrespective of age, more than 80% of all recruits enrol in an apprenticeship programme, equipping them with the skills they need to succeed and which they will continue to build on throughout their careers. They will serve them well when they leave.

As I said, there is probably a fundamental divergence of view on this. I, on behalf of the MoD, think that this is a good system for young people aged between 16 and 18. It serves them well and is good for the Armed Forces. I totally understand the natural interests in issues of governance, well-being and welfare where this training is provided. I absolutely accept that and it is right and proper, but it would be quite wrong to cast this college in a negative light. The evidence is that it has been doing a very good job and a lot of young people have benefited as a result of their attendance at it.

I am probably not providing the answers that the noble Lord, Lord Russell, wanted to hear, but that is the Government’s position. I hope that, with that explanation, he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Deputy Chairman of Committees 8:45 pm, 23rd November 2021

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response and all noble Lords who took part in this brief debate. I must confess that, as I listened to the Minister and I reflected on her response to the previous amendment, I was reminded of the saying that is often used about ourselves and the United States of America, which is that we are two countries divided by a common language. On many occasions I felt that the discourse coming from all sides of the House seemed to be of a different nature or dialect from the response we received from the Front Bench.

To be clear, Committee saw an end to the argument—certainly for this Bill—about the rights and wrongs of recruiting junior entrants at 16. That is not what we are talking about.

The point I was trying to make was to probe the Ministry of Defence on whether it has actually thought and reflected on whether what it is currently doing with its junior entry programme is fit for purpose. I could imagine that, if you are dyed deep blue right the way through and support the Conservative Party, you might regard the Army Foundation College as a particularly wonderful example of what is known as “levelling up”. It is taking a cohort of young people, primarily young men, from difficult neighbourhoods and complicated backgrounds, who are completely unenthused by conventional education and find attraction and allure in going into the military.

But, as we have seen from the evidence, the process the Army goes through to select these individuals appears to be seriously flawed on two counts. First, as we heard from the independent appraisal, the number of young people who are leaving within days of arriving in Harrogate does not speak very highly of the efficacy of the recruitment process. So at the very least I think the Army should look carefully at that.

The second point I come back to is more fundamental. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, echoed my appeal to try and think of a junior entry programme that is fit for the 21st century rather than the 19th century. I have every sympathy with the cohort in question, which takes up 70% of the intake. But the size of our Army is reducing and the technical challenges we are faced with are increasing. Your Lordships may have read about this slightly alarming supersonic missile that has apparently gone around the world at five times the speed of sound and apparently has the Americans very rattled. That is the state of the world we are moving into and, with the best will in the world, even the most outstanding students among the cohort the Army is currently recruiting from are unlikely to be of great help in trying to deal with the sort of warfare that the remainder of the 21st century may expose us to.

I do think there are some fundamental questions that the briefing notes—which the Minister has followed assiduously—do not seem to have prepared her for. So what I would ask her to do is, at a minimum, reflect on some of the comments that have been made, particularly some of the more profound questions about looking at the current junior entry strategy, and try to see whether it is fit for purpose.

At the very least, I would have hoped there was an acknowledgement in the briefing of the junior entry review that was conducted at the request of the Defence Committee in the other place, which had inside it a suggestion of new terms of service that would solve what this amendment asks for. The fact that it was not even referred to, either in her briefing notes or in her response to me, is disappointing, and I would ask that she and her officials look carefully at the content of what has been discussed, isolate those questions that have been asked and undertake to write back to us with answers. I would be most grateful. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 28 withdrawn.