Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 920 - 935)



  920. We have little time but it is of very limited utility—
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) I am trying to answer your question.

  921. —to hear hearsay evidence which is not backed up.
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) It is not hearsay. I repeated to you what was his opinion—

  922. Let me ask you another matter, Mrs Gwyntopher, and see if you have any facts on this. You state in your memorandum, which I read with interest, that "one reason for the continual demand for young recruits is the policy of discharging experienced adults unless they are promoted." You go on to say that this is normal policy and they are the people who get very good reports and who are discharged involuntarily as a result. Have you got any statistical evidence?
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) We do not have statistics. We only see the tip of the iceberg. We certainly do have clients in this situation.

  923. How old are these clients of yours?
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) Usually once they are in their twenties then they are vulnerable. If they are not promoted then they are vulnerable. For instance, a corporal who will complete her 15 years' service in September who wishes to continue her service has been medically downgraded because of a diagnosis of Crohn's disease which is not active. She has had no sick leave since 1993. I do not think there are many of us that can claim that. She wants to complete 22 years' service and she is told she cannot because she is not of sufficient rank. She has glowing reports recommending her for promotion from her superiors—I have seen those reports—but she will not be allowed to. We have adult soldiers. We do not get as many. When you say statistics, we have only our own statistics of the people who come to us. As I say, we are a small organisation. We get more people trying to get out of the Forces than any other category and they are mostly young, but in recent years we have been getting gradually creeping up the numbers of adults being discharged in circumstances that would be unfair dismissal. They are discharged for very trivial reasons. If there is a manpower shortage why on earth are they discharging all these adults?

  924. The case you have just mentioned is one in which somebody had been medically downgraded. Without going through whether or not that diagnosis was professionally competent and whether she should have been downgraded or not, clearly if somebody is medically downgraded that is a very relevant criterion for their future service, is it not? What I am interested in getting at is whether some of these decisions are really dysfunctional, really irrational, really perverse and whether you can back up your statement in your memorandum to us that the Army is getting rid of good people who want to stay.
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) If the Army writes on the discharge papers that somebody is competent, conscientious—

  925. And has no medical problems?
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) No medical problems at all, no disciplinary problems—

  926. Can you tell us how many such cases you have come across?
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) I am not a statistician.

  927. You do not need to be a statistician, you need to be able to do simple arithmetic and simply add.
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) I am sorry I cannot on this occasion tell you how many such cases, but if it is of interest—

  928. It would be of interest.
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) As I said, it is not the biggest category. If I remember our last breakdown, it was about the fifth largest category of enquiry that comes to us. If you want numbers the Ministry of Defence has statistics; we do not have access.

  929. It would help us in our deliberations to have whichever concrete cases have come to your attention which fall into exactly the category I describe where you say people have had a first-class report, there is nothing wrong with them medically, they want to stay and complete their term of service, and they have been thrown out apparently for no good reason. If there is one or two or five or ten or 15 or 250 or 10,000 such cases it would be very kind if you could let us have a note on that.
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) With permission. We do always advise such people to contact the Member of Parliament but very often because these are people in the Army who want to stay, they are unwilling to do because of the belief that if you make waves—

  930. Will you take on board my request, Mrs Gwyntopher?
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) I will take on board your request but we can give you no case histories without the permission of our clients.

  931. Perhaps you could seek such permission. Maybe you can give them to us disguising their identities. I leave you with the thought that if your comments to us this morning are going to have any force they ought to be backed up by some concrete examples.
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) We certainly can do that. I could recite a number of cases but I think the Chair has indicated that she does not wish me to do that.


  932. We would be very happy to have some written examples of cases which highlight the point. Also, picking up on Mr Davies' point, we would be interested to at least have some statistics about how many cases, referrals you deal with in a year, say.
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) Yes, it is very small.

  933. If you can provide them over the last five-year period since the last review of discipline and also some kind of percentage indication of the different categories, whether for instance 40 per cent are under-18s going absent without leave, 5 per cent are these officers that you were talking to Mr Davies about.
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) You will appreciate—

  Chairman: I do not want to go into detail. It would just be useful to have.

Mr Davies

  934. Can I just explain, Mrs Gwyntopher, I am afraid to say at least in my eyes, and probably in the eyes of other members of the Committee and the public, that you have undermined your credibility this morning by drawing conclusions which are clearly not based on fact. You said that the AWOL rate in the British Army is higher than other armies and you obviously do not know what the figures are—
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) I never said it was higher than other armies.

  935.—It follows that I am sceptical about any conclusions which you draw this morning. So I would ask you if you wish us to take your points seriously to go back and see if you can back up with some sort of statistical or specific information the statements you have made about the Army's waste of manpower because that is basically the second allegation you have made in answer to my questions this morning. Have I made myself clear? I know we cannot go on very long but so long as my points are clear, I would be grateful if you would consider them and think about them and respond accordingly if you feel minded to do so.
  (Mrs Gwyntopher) We are all volunteers and I do not want to commit someone else to work. We had a statistical return done for our last Annual General Meeting last October by a statistician with the different categories that we have. If that would be acceptable, we can let you have that almost immediately. We did not have it this way because we did not think it was relevant. The figures for how many people go AWOL, the figures for how many people are discharged, we do not have access to, but the Ministry of Defence has and can assist you on that. We can tell you about the few that we know about.

  Chairman: Thank you, Mrs Gwyntopher. Thank you very much indeed for coming along and for waiting so long. It is clear you feel very strongly and have campaigned for many years on the issues which you have raised with us this morning and in written evidence and certainly I think it would assist us in giving full consideration to your concerns, and those of other organisations that support certainly your key points about under-18s, if we can get hold of some facts and figures and case examples to back up your points. Thank you very much and thank you, Mrs Johnson.

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