BAFF submitted evidence to the Armed Forces Bill Committee in 2011 on a number of points, including the recruitment of young people into the armed forces. With MoD policy on that issue again coming under attack, below for reference is what the British Armed Forces Federation said at that time in part of our written evidence:
The Ministry of Defence went some way to meet our point, but not far enough in our opinion, by introducing the Armed Forces (Terms of Service) (Amendment) Regulations 2011. These regulations extended entitlement to Discharge as of Right (DAOR) to some trainees who would previously have lost their right to discharge before reaching 18. BAFF's view remains that under-18 enlistment subject to all necessary safeguards should not lightly be withdrawn from young people.
RECRUITMENT OF YOUNG PEOPLE
13. We note the evidence submitted by Mr David Gee and others about the recruitment of under 18 years olds into the armed forces. 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. We would not, therefore, support the raising of the minimum recruitment age to 18.
14. We agree with other witnesses, 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.
15. The present "unhappy minors" provision rightly allows a Service person under the age of 18 years to leave after completing 28 days of Service and having given the required 14 days' notice. Between their 18th birthday and attaining the age of 18 years three months, they can request permission to leave provided they have already registered, before their 18th birthday, their "clear unhappiness" at their choice of career. This procedure does not adequately provide informed consent as an adult. We were also surprised to learn that permission has been withheld from any individuals applying to leave at that stage.
16. It would be better to have a positive requirement for a Service person who enlisted at 16 or 17 to reaffirm their commitment at or shortly after their 18th birthday, but still be able to request permission to leave before they attain the age of 18 years three months.
17. An adjustment along the above lines would in our view deal with valid human rights and child protection objections to the present system. It would also be much fairer to parents for the Service person to be required to make a positive informed decision as an adult, rather than leave parents with the continuing moral burden of having committed their under-age child to four years adult Service.