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Armed Forces: Recruitment

Volume 482: debated on Tuesday 4 November 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes have been made to the standard pre-recruitment information pack for the armed forces following the review conducted in 2007; what information is available to parents of recruits on access to the Service Complaints Commissioner; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the information pack. (230910)

Information about the role of the Service Complaints Commissioner (SCC) is communicated through a number of means. Joint Service Publication 831 Service Complaints (Redress of Individual Grievance) sets out the policy and process for making and handling Service complaints, and includes a chapter on the role of the SCC. This is available on the Defence intranet and to all serving personnel. A booklet covering the main points of the complaints process, with a leaflet explaining the role of the SCC has been issued for distribution to all Service establishments. A team profile is under development on the Defence intranet to make information relating to Service complaints available electronically. This profile will also provide a link to the SCC's website. The SCC has visited establishments of all three Services, and continues to do so regularly, to meet serving personnel and the chain of command to raise awareness of her role.

There is no standard tri-Service pre-recruitment pack and the three Services have different approaches to providing information to recruits about how to make complaints in confidence:


During Phase 1 training Royal Navy and Royal Marine Rating and Other Ranks recruits at each establishment are briefed on both equality and diversity related complaints and Service complaints generally.


All recruits and trainees receive briefings that inform them of the function of the complaints procedures and the various channels which are available to raise a complaint. These include: the chain of command, Women's Royal Voluntary Service, the Padre, the Unit Welfare Officer, a Medical Officer and the confidential Support Line.

This is currently in the process of being reinforced by the inclusion of detail covering the role of the SCC in the "Army Recruiting and Training Division Code of Conduct and Behaviour for Recruits," leaflet and the Recruiting Group publication, "A Guide for Guardians and Parents". With the Commissioner's agreement, a paragraph outlining her role will be included in letters sent to parents.


There are two training establishments for the RAF, Cranwell and Halton.

At RAF Cranwell, the Officer and Aircrew Cadet Training Unit is responsible for conducting the initial training of all officers and non-commissioned aircrew.

Since January 2008, all cadets at RAF Cranwell have been briefed during their first week of training on the role and contact details of the SCC.

At RAF Halton, comprehensive measures are in place to ensure that new recruits are aware of the complaints procedures. These include two 45-minute briefings on the RAF's Equality and Diversity Policy, and the distribution of a booklet entitled “Combating Bullying and Harassment in the Royal Air Force” to all recruits. The issue is also addressed in the Station Commander's Supervisory Care Directive, which is mandatory reading by all instructors at RAF Halton and is available to all recruits.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will set a date on which the minimum age for the voluntary recruitment of persons into Her Majesty's Armed Services will be raised in accordance with the terms of the United Nations Optional Protocol on the Rights of Children in Armed Conflict. (232347)

The minimum age for entry to the UK armed forces is 16, which reflects the normal minimum school leaving age. All recruitment to the UK armed forces is voluntary and recruitment of those aged under 18 requires parental consent. The Government made clear in their interpretive declaration when ratifying the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict that the armed forces would continue to recruit from age 16, but made a clear commitment to take all feasible measures to ensure that those who had not yet reached the age of 18-years-old did not take a direct part in hostilities. The Government remain committed to meeting their obligations under the protocol and there are no plans to change the interpretive declaration.