The British Armed Forces Federation (BAFF) has been quoted again in Parliament.
Speaking in an Armed Forces Bill debate in the House of Lords, former Defence Minister, Lord Judd, quoted from BAFF's evidence earlier this year to the Armed Forces Bill Select Committee:
Finally, recognising that under UK law minors cannot have a contract enforced against them, it is important that recruits who enlist below the age of 18 should be required to re-enlist upon attaining legal majority. This is why my noble friends' Amendment 22 is so important. Indeed, the British Armed Forces Federation stated in its evidence to the Armed Forces Bill Select Committee that the current system
"does not adequately provide informed consent as an adult",
and suggested that minors should reaffirm their enlistment at, or shortly after, their 18th birthday. Such a system would ensure that all Armed Forces personnel are serving on the basis of free, informed adult consent. It would also relieve parents of the moral burden of responsibility for their child's service-a particularly poignant issue in the case of those who are killed or gravely injured.
In making its point about the need for informed consent, BAFF's evidence to the Armed Forces Bill Committee had stressed the benefits of under-age 18 recruitment both to the Army and to the people concerned, stating that "We would not wish suitable 16 and 17 year-olds to be deprived of the educational and training opportunities afforded by the two Army Colleges."
Lord Judd also spoke of his time as Navy Minister and a battle fought successfully to improve the welfare of naval personnel, against vested interests which felt threatened by reform:
I can remember clearly that issues were raised about the welfare of personnel in the Navy even back then in the early 1970s. The Seebohm report was produced by the distinguished man of that name, who wanted to put in place effective arrangements to ensure that there was proper provision for the welfare of naval personnel. In those days it was regarded as a very hostile concept.
There was a lot of defensive reaction within the service for which I was responsible because it was felt that it was undermining the responsibility of leadership in the services. [But] There were well informed and courageous officers at that time who were saying quite the reverse and that the responsibility of leadership is to make sure that things happen and are well done.
If we know that we do not have professional insights or experience that is relevant to proper provision, we have a responsibility as leaders to ensure that it is available. The report prevailed.