§ Mr. Stinchcombe
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the impact of the Army Terms of Service (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1999 on the ability of young people in the armed forces to leave after enlistment; and what is the minimum period of service for which such young persons will have to enlist. 
§ Mr. Spellar
All recruits to non-commissioned service in the Army enter on an Open Engagement of 22 years reckonable service from age 18 or the date of joining, whichever is the later. The Army Terms of Service (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1999, which came into effect on 1 November 1999, increased the minimum commitment period for newly recruited soldiers from three to four years. Those enlisted after this date will, therefore, serve for an additional year before they have the right to discharge to the reserve.
The Army Terms of Service (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1999 have no effect on the statutory right to discharge provisions. A recruit under the age of 18 can leave the Army free as of right within the first six months of service (having served at least 28 days and having given 14 days notice); for those aged over 18, the statutory right to discharge ends three months after joining for duty.
New recruits who do not exercise this right are committed to serve for four years from their 18th birthday or 4.25 years after attestation, whichever is the later. Provision does, however, exist for personnel of any age to be discharged from the service at any time for a number of reasons, including compassionate.