Skip to main content

Defence

Volume 529: debated on Friday 10 June 2011

Armed Forces: Young People

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make it his policy to give persons entering the armed forces under the age of 18 the right to leave on attaining the age of 18 if they consider at the age of 18 that they have been mistaken in their decision to enlist.

[Official Report, 10 January 2011, Vol. 521, c. 3W.]

An error has been identified in the written answer given to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on 10 January 2011.

The full answer given was as follows: (32635)

There are no plans to change the current policy. Service personnel under 18 years who have completed 28 days of service have the right to discharge at any time before their 18th birthday provided they give the required 14 days notice. A service person under the age of 18 years three months who registered before their 18th birthday, their clear unhappiness at their choice of career can request permission to leave the armed forces. They do not have discharge of right at this age but it is exceedingly rare for such an individual to be refused permission to leave. These safeguards help to ensure that young servicemen or women under the age of 18 years may, if they wish, leave the armed forces and that any commitment to service is both considered and voluntary.

The correct answer should have been:

There are no plans to change the current policy. Service personnel under 18 years who have completed 28 days of service have the right to discharge at any time before their 18th birthday provided they give the required 14 days notice, and are within six months of enlistment. A Service person under the age of 18 years three months who registered before their 18th birthday their clear unhappiness at their choice of career can request permission to leave the armed forces. They do not have discharge of right at this age but it is exceedingly rare for such an individual to be refused permission to leave. These safeguards help to ensure that young servicemen or women under the age of 18 years may, if they wish, leave the armed forces and that any commitment to service is both considered and voluntary.

For the sake of clarity, I should emphasise that neither the original nor the corrected answer reflects the current policy. In a written ministerial statement of 19 May 2011, Official Report, columns 24-26WS, I announced a change in the policy whereby the ability to be discharged should be a right up to the age of 18.