HC Deb 21 February 2000 vol 344 cc1233-4
14. Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

How many serving members of the armed forces are aged under 18 years; and if he will make a statement on their deployment. [109413]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. John Spellar)

As at January 2000, 6,238 personnel under 18 were serving in the armed forces. The vast majority of personnel under 18 are situated in the UK. Of those overseas, there are 114 in Germany; 23 in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia; 15 in Cyprus; 12 in the Falkland islands; and seven on ships in the Gulf. I stress that they are all volunteers and have parental consent to join the armed forces.

Fiona Mactaggart

Have any of the 17-year-olds who are allowed to be deployed on active service in the armed forces in Britain been victims in armed conflict? Have any of them been killed or injured in conflict during the past 20 years?

Mr. Spellar

I fear that I should have required notice of my hon. Friend's question to reply to it today. I shall write to her.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Will the Minister confirm that many of those recruited at 16 are among the Army's most successful recruits? What discussions has he held with the German Foreign Minister on the matter?

Mr. Spellar

I must confess that I have had no discussions with the German Foreign Minister on that matter or any other—and who is he at the moment? [Interruption.] I know.

More to the point, the hon. Gentleman's question was relevant. Many of those recruited at 16 go on to have successful careers in the armed forces. We continue to recruit at 16 because we want to recruit among the best of our young people so that we can sustain our justified reputation for having the best armed forces in the world.