The stress–elastic strain relationship is studied for a composite under a plastic deformation. The constitutive law of each component is described by a deformation theory of strain gradient plasticity which introduces an internal length scale. The conventional deformation plastic theory is obtained when the internal length scale tends to 0. The Hashin–Shtrikman upper bound for a two-phase composite governed by a power law is derived. It is predicted, by differentiating the bounds, that in most cases, the stress and the elastic strain follow a non-linear relation immediately after the elastic range. However, for some particular values of the ratio of the internal length scale and the micro-scale of the composite, this relation is linear. The prediction is illustrated by various numerical examples.