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Cadet Units

Volume 590: debated on Monday 12 January 2015

We are on track to achieve our target of 100 new combined cadet forces in state schools by September 2015. That will ensure that, whatever their background or school, children will have a great opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of being in the cadets.

I am proud to have 1104 Pendle squadron air cadets in Nelson and Army cadet force units in Briarfield and Barnoldswick in my constituency, but we are yet to have any cadet units in schools. Will my hon. Friend update the House on the funding model for all combined cadet forces?

We decided that we would look at the current funding so that we could make sure that we were in a position to expand. We consulted people and I am grateful that they responded in the way that they did. We listened to what was said and as a result we will not change the funding model. We are confident about the expansion plan, which I hope will go into my hon. Friend’s constituency. I look forward to discussing that, and how we can assist further, with him. It is a good idea.

18. Will the Minister proactively promote youth cadets, particularly in our state schools, for which it is not such a natural course to follow? Will she also talk to her Cabinet Office colleagues responsible for the National Citizen Service as a way of getting more recruits into the uniformed youth services and of recruiting more youth leaders to help run them? (906913)

I absolutely endorse everything my hon. Friend has said. So far, there are 64 new cadet units of which 47 are up and running. I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a wonderful opportunity. It is particularly important that we expand the cadet experience into state schools, because it should not just be the domain of the private sector.

Tower Hamlets is the lead borough for police cadets. We also have fire cadets, a sea cadet unit is being set up on the Isle of Dogs, and I am president of the 31 Tower Hamlets air cadet training corps at Mile End. How much support will be given to cadet units that are not associated with schools, but that are based in the community?

We know that there are more community cadets. They are all equally important and we are determined to do everything we can not just to support them, but, as we have heard from Members on both sides of the House, to encourage more young people to take advantage of the benefits, opportunities and the fantastic experience that the cadets offer.

I strongly support the Government’s initiative for 100 new CCFs in schools across the land. It is a great idea, but the Minister mumbled over the question of the funding formula—[Interruption.] I apologise: she most certainly did not mumble. To put it a different way, I am a little unclear as to what she meant about the funding formula. Will she guarantee that she will not do what she originally planned, namely fund the CCFs by charging existing cadets up to £500 a year for membership?

That was a gracious withdrawal. I have periodically accused the Minister of things, fairly or unfairly, but I have never, ever accused her of mumbling and I cannot imagine ever doing so.

Some people wish I would mumble a bit more, Mr Speaker. Let me make the situation very clear, in case my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray) did not hear me, which I find astonishing. There will be no changes. We are determined to support all our cadet units, wherever they are, but we are particularly keen to see growth into the state sector. Everybody should welcome that, especially Government Members because we are the first lot to actually achieve it.

The House will know from the previous Question Time that I was in the combined cadet force when I was at Hampton school many years ago, but I understand that I will never be gallant. May I draw the Minister’s attention to the concerns of the recently retired children’s commissioner that people as young as 17 could serve in combat duties on the front line?

As a comprehensive schoolchild I never had the benefits of the CCF, which is why I am such a keen supporter of the scheme. I did not have the benefit of going to the independent school that perhaps the hon. Gentleman went to.

It was a grammar school. I will move swiftly on to answer his question. [Interruption.] The Hartland was a very good school—I think the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) and I both went to it. [Interruption.] Oh no, he went to another one. Anyway, the important point is that I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman). This is not about children being put on the front line. I am confident that our duty of care and the way in which we train everybody who joins our armed forces are absolutely right. We take our responsibilities very seriously. Nobody under the age of 18 goes on to the front line—we need to make that very clear.

I thank the Minister and the Secretary of State for listening during the consultation. The proposal was very nearly a disaster for the existing CCFs and they rescued it. I thank them very much indeed. Although I understand the desire to have CCFs in state schools, I ask the Minister not to lose focus on the Army cadet force as the policy continues.

I absolutely will not lose focus. It is worth saying that we listened to all the representations that were made. We also know and understand that we have a duty to live within our means as a nation and to keep within the Defence budget. That is why we always look at such matters with great care. We looked at the matter, we listened and, in this instance, we did not act. The policy will therefore continue and I am confident that it will do so with success.