HC Deb 15 April 1986 vol 95 cc712-3
2. Dr. Glyn

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what further proposals he has to encourage recruitment to the Army YTS by visits to schools; and what were the most recent figures of recruitment in the previous year.

11. Mr. Patrick Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the progress of the YTS in the armed services.

Mr. Stanley

Between the start of the scheme in August 1983 and February 1986 some 2,700 young people have been accepted for the armed services youth training scheme, and almost 950 trainees have subsequently transferred to regular engagements in the services. Some 900 young people were accepted for the scheme in the last year, of whom 129 were for the Army. We are continuing to promote the scheme actively, including through-school visits by all three services.

Dr. Glyn

Can my right hon. Friend say whether visits to schools are being increased? Does he agree that such visits are of great value?

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful for the question about the importance of visits to schools to promote the armed services youth training scheme. That is an important matter and one of the high priority tasks for the services careers information officers. I understand that this year they are planning to visit several thousand schools, colleges and universities.

Mr. Thompson

Having regard to the value that many young people could gain from a period of service in the armed forces and the fact that the youth training scheme has been extended for two years, will my right hon. Friend do more to promote the youth training scheme, particularly in relation to the Army? Is there any reason why more than 10,000 young people could not benefit from a scheme of this kind?

Mr. Stanley

I assure my hon. Friend that promoting the scheme is given an important priority. I hope that young people will be encouraged by the fact that the figures show that about one third of the young men and women who take part in the armed services youth training scheme have transferred to regular engagements in the services. They have moved from a temporary training scheme to very good full-time permanent jobs.

Sir Adam Butler

My right hon. Friend said that only 129 young people accepted for YTS had been recruited to the Army—an extraordinarily low figure. Does he agree that that low number stems from a reluctance by the professionals to take on what they might describe as conscripts? Will he do much more to encourage the scheme in the way described by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson)? Enormous benefits could flow from that.

Mr. Stanley

I stress that during the operation of the scheme the Army has made available many more places than there have been applicants who have met the requisite standards. So far—this may well change—people have been attracted particularly to the RAF and, to some extent, the Royal Navy. In the past year or so, the Army has had more difficulty in attracting applicants. We have been looking closely at that position and want to remedy it.