In its recent evidence to the Armed Forces Bill Committee, the British Armed Forces Federation (BAFF) praised the educational opportunities provided to suitable 16 and 17 year olds through the two Army apprentice colleges, and said we did not support calls from elsewhere for the raising of the minimum joining age to 18. BAFF also submitted, however, that "There is an issue about 16 and 17 year olds entering into binding commitments, enforceable by criminal sanctions under Service law, to continue serving for at least four years in adult service." We therefore welcome the announcement by Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans Andrew Robathan that:
Following a review of discharge policy I am pleased to announce that, for those under the age of 18, the ability to be discharged will in future be a right up to the age of 18, subject to an appropriate period of consideration or cooling off.
My officials are currently finalising the policy details and these will be brought forward shortly in secondary legislation.
We hope that recruitment of under-18s will continue in much the same proportions as at present, including 16 and 17 year olds attending the Army apprentice colleges, in spite of continuing defence cuts.