Examination of Witnesses (Questions 920
TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2001
920. We have little time but it is of very limited
(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
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 superiorsI have seen those reportsbut
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
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
(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
(Mrs Gwyntopher) I will take on board your request
but we can give you no case histories without the permission of
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
(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
(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
(Mrs Gwyntopher) You will appreciate
Chairman: I do not want to go into detail.
It would just be useful to have.
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
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.