Expand cadet force to encourage youngsters to join forces, defence minister suggests



Britain’s cadet force could be expanded to encourage more youngsters to join the Armed Forces, a defence minister has suggested.

Lord Astor of Hever indicated that the Government would support spending more money on the cadet forces amid growing controversy over the Coalition’s plan to increase the number of reservists in the military.

He made the comments in response to a question by Admiral Lord West, the former First Sea Lord, who said that ministers should be “growing” the cadet forces because statistics show that 30 per cent of the youngsters go on to be Non-commissioned officers in the Armed Forces.

It came in a debate in the House of Lords about the Coalition’s controversial plans to replace regular soldiers with part-time reservists.

Ministers are hoping to use reserve forces to make up for around 30,000 full-time personnel being lost to defence cuts.

By 2018, the Coalition needs 30,000 fully trained Army reservists, 3,100 for the Navy and 1,800 for the RAF, a total of 34,900.

However, some defence chiefs fear the reserves cannot be expanded so quickly. Official statistics from the Ministry of Defence show the Future Reserve 2020 volunteer reserve now stands at 21,870, down from a year ago.

Admiral Lord West said: “Is not the real problem that we are spending far too little on defence? At this moment, we have HMS Daring doing a grand job in the Philippines, but it is one of only 19 destroyers and frigates.

“Is it possible to put more money into the cadet forces? They do a wonderful job by taking youngsters off the streets, looking after them, encouraging them and growing them; and 30 per cent of them end up as NCOs in our forces.”

See more: cadets, military in schools/colleges, recruitment, reserves