The MOD has said that "young servicemen ... could leave at any time during their basic training". However, basic training, for those who join before 18 years, means a period of only five months, from the second to the sixth month of service.
Six months after signing a document which most of them do not understand, the 16-year-old soldiers are committed to full-time service at least until the age of 21 plus three months, and to Reserve obligation until the age of 40.
In 1996 Dr John Reid promised a delegation of which I was a member that, when Labour was elected and he became Minister for the Armed Forces, the recruitment contracts for under-18s would be reformed. He suggested keeping the present five-month recruit's right of discharge but giving an additional one-off chance to leave at the age of 18, with a financial bonus for those who remained.
Not only has this promise not been kept but the Government has intensified a recruitment campaign targeted at younger teenagers.
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