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Derek Twigg: The minimum age of entry into the UK armed forces is 16 years. The services provide challenging and constructive training and employment to many young people and enable them to learn valuable transferable skills. In financial year 2006-07, 30 per cent. of all new recruits were under 18 years of age.
No young person under the age of 18 years may join the armed forces unless the application is accompanied by the formal written consent of his or her parents or guardian. Throughout the recruit selection process, the staffs at the Armed Forces Careers Offices (AFCO) provide comprehensive written and verbal guidance to all potential recruits, in particular those under 18 years of age and their parents or guardians, regarding their terms and conditions of service, the commitments that they would be undertaking, and their rights to discharge.
Defence policy is that service personnel under the age of 18 are not to be deployed on any operations outside of the UK that would result in them becoming engaged in, or exposed to, hostilities. In addition, in line with UN policy service personnel under 18 are not to be deployed on UN peacekeeping operations.
In accordance with established rules covering both service and civilian staff, non ministerial members of the Army Board using official cars for official purposes may be accompanied by their spouses,
where appropriate. A spouse may also use official transport free of charge when travelling to represent their partner at official ceremonial and formal functions or where special transport is required for medical appointments.
Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost was of providing dress uniforms for all military members of the Army Board in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Derek Twigg: For the purpose of this question, dress uniform has been taken to mean the blue frock coat, great coat and trousers (overalls), worn by certain personnel, including members of the Army Board, as well as Number 1 Dress.
The blue frock coat, great coat and trousers (overalls), are pool items and not the personal property of the General Officer. They are returned on cessation of the entitlement to wear them. The total cost of purchasing one set of these items is approximately £1,900.
The purchase of Number 1 Dress is an individual responsibility for which an allowance of up to £463 is paid to entitled officers, provided that no such allowance has been paid in the previous 12 years. Additionally, there are grants available to officers on promotion to cover the cost of new rank insignia, which is also purchased by individual officers. At the higher echelons, these grants are as follows:
|Flow during||Total inflow|
1. The inflow figures are for UK Regular soldiers only. They exclude full-time reserve service personnel, Gurkhas, the Home Service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment and mobilised reservists.
2. The data are based on the number of soldiers joining the untrained strength of the infantry during the period 1 March 2006 and 28 February 2007. The figures also include untrained soldiers returning from being long-term illegally absent.
3. UK Regular forces includes nursing services and excludes full-time reserve service personnel, Gurkhas, the Homes Service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment and mobilised reservists. It includes trained and untrained personnel.
4. All data have been rounded to the nearest 10. Due to the rounding methods used, totals may not always equal the sum of the parts. Numbers ending in 5 have been rounded to the nearest multiple of 20 to prevent systematic bias.
5. Due to ongoing data validation following the introduction of the new joint personnel administration (JPA) system, there is no information after March 2007 currently available.
|Flow during||Total outflow|
1. Figures show all outflow from UK Regular Army forces to civil life including recalled reservists on release and outflow to the Home Service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment from the infantry. The figures exclude outflow of illegal absentees i.e. those personnel removed from the reported strength of the Army having been deemed long-term illegally absent.
2. UK Regular forces includes nursing services and excludes full-time reserve service personnel, Gurkhas, the Homes Service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment and mobilised reservists. It includes trained and untrained personnel.
3. All data have been rounded to the nearest 10. Due to the rounding methods used, totals may not always equal the sum of the parts. Numbers ending in 5 have been rounded to the nearest multiple of 20 to prevent systematic bias.
4. Due to ongoing data validation following the introduction of the new joint personnel administration (JPA) system, there is no information after March 2007 currently available.
Derek Twigg: The Defence Communication Services Agency (DCSA) ceased to exist on 6 April 2007, when it was absorbed into the Defence Equipment and Support organisation. As at April 2007, Directorate General Information Systems and Services, the part of Defence Equipment and Support which carries out the functions of the former DCSA, employed one full time press officer. This individual also performs general public relations and community liaison duties.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 29 June 2007, Official Report, column 879W, on Departments: non-departmental public bodies, why the Fleet Air Arm Museum is classified as a public corporation. 
Derek Twigg: The decision to classify the Fleet Air Arm Museum as a public corporation is a matter for the independent Office for National Statistics. However I understand that it was based on the fact that more than 50 per cent. of the museum's operating costs are met by market income.
Des Browne: From 16 to 19 July I was in London where I had various meetings, including with ministerial colleagues and officials from the MOD and the Scotland Office. On Monday 16 July I also met with the British High Commissioner to Australia, answered oral questions on Defence issues in the House and attended a BBC Proms performance in support of Sailor, Soldier, Airman Family Association. On Tuesday, I attended Cabinet and appeared before the Scottish Affairs Committee for an oral evidence session on the Scotland Office Annual Report. That afternoon I also met representatives of Oracle Residential Ltd. to discuss defence accommodation issues. On Wednesday I met with the British High Commissioner to Pakistan. On Friday 20 and Saturday 21 July I was in my constituency in Scotland.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons funding for the Duke of York's Royal Military School's upgrade programme for boarding accommodations has been withdrawn; and if he will make a statement. 
Derek Twigg: Approximately four years ago funding was allocated to The Duke of York Royal Military school to build sixth form accommodation. Regrettably, plans were not finalised within the specified time frame and the money was reallocated to another project. However, The Duke of York Royal Military school is currently preparing a main gate business case to upgrade boarding accommodation at the school. If successful this would be for the financial year 2008-09.
Before being part of any EU Battle Group package, nations are required to certify that their contribution meets the defined standards and
criteria as set out in the EU Battle Group concept. As such, UK military units participating in an EU Battle Group are nationally certified following a number of Battle Group level exercises to assess and validate their competencies and readiness.
Des Browne: The UK commitment to provide a European Union battle group on standby from January to June 2005 was covered by the Joint Rapid Reaction Force. Once the characteristics of any appropriate EU operation were known, the most appropriate units would have been selected from those forming the Joint Rapid Reaction Force at the time. This included 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles as the Spearhead Land Element (replaced by 1st Battalion the Royal Green Jackets in April 2005, now 2nd Battalion The Rifles), and 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment who provided the airborne taskforce capability throughout.
Des Browne: Member states contributing to the EU battle group are required to certify one month in advance of the standby period that their battle group package meets the battle group standards and criteria. Any UK military units expected to participate in the UK commitment to provide an EU battle group on standby from July to December 2008 should therefore be certified by 1 June 2008.
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