New Clause 1 - Age of Recruitment

Part of Armed Forces Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 25th March 2021.

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Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education) 4:15 pm, 25th March 2021

It is interesting to hear Members talking about the positive experiences of young people. Many Members will know that I am a teacher by profession. A number of the young pupils I taught went on to join the Army at age 16. Some of them had an extremely positive experience, as I highlighted in my comments; however, we need to look at the 30% who are dropping out. Why is there such a high drop-out rate?

For that 30% of 16 to 17-year-olds, some of whom do not have the strongest educational or family backgrounds, all they have from joining the Army is another failure under their belt. They have missed out on educational opportunities in the period they have been in the Army, and it is difficult to rejoin the education system after having dropped out of the Army. Also, there are under-18s who are on active service. They might not be on the frontline, but they serve in the Royal Navy on submarines.

On new clause 2, the Minister said that up to the age of 18, people can drop out. We understand that, but the problem is that once they turn 18 the clock starts again, and it is then four years beyond that before they can drop out. That is what they are signing up to. Their entire service is a six-year commitment, essentially, rather than a four-year one. If we were to equalise the opportunity for the youngsters who are joining up in comparison to adults who join aged 18, they should be able to leave sooner. They should simply be committing to another two years, not another four.