Select Committee on Defence Third Report


1. The primary purpose of training in the Armed Forces is to produce sufficient, capable and motivated Service personnel to meet the military needs of the nation. The Minister of State for the Armed Forces told us that initial training provides "an essential foundation element" of military capability,[1] which encompasses a wide range of roles, such as peace keeping and support, as well as fighting wars. The training organisations within the United Kingdom's Armed Forces undertake the transformation from civilian to operationally capable Servicemen and women, quickly and in large numbers. More than 20,000 recruits pass through the training organisations each year.[2] The United Kingdom's Armed Forces are considered by many to be the most effective in the world. The training regimes have produced individuals that have created that reputation for military excellence. The training of those who embark on a career in the Services must be sufficient to maintain the high standards essential for front-line forces to carry out the diverse tasks assigned to them.

2. Our inquiry was prompted by individual deaths of recruits and trainees at initial training establishments especially the deaths of four young soldiers, between 1995 and 2002, at the Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut, Surrey.[3] Following the death of Pte James Collinson in 2002, Surrey Police re-opened the investigations into the earlier three. In autumn 2003, they submitted a report on each of the four deaths to the Surrey Coroner. In March 2004, Surrey Police published its Final (fifth) Report on wider issues and concerns about the Army's care regime that had arisen during those investigations.[4]

3. The Final Report recommended "a broader enquiry" to "provide assurance that the current momentum in the development and implementation of regime improvements [in the Army] is sustained", and to "consider the need for independent oversight of Army recruit training to support the Army in striking the right balance between tough training and the control of avoidable risk". According to Surrey Police "evidence of bullying" also supported "the case for a broader enquiry".[5]

4. Following publication of Surrey Police's Final Report, we considered the contribution a select committee inquiry could make to improving MoD's duty of care. On 19 March 2004 we published the terms of reference for our inquiry.[6] From the outset we have acknowledged that this inquiry was particularly sensitive because of the interest of the families of those who have died at initial training establishments. We are also aware of the media's keen interest in this subject. We have been clear throughout this inquiry that we would not be investigating individual deaths, at Deepcut or at other initial training establishments. In this report, we have not questioned the findings of the police or of the coroner in relation to the circumstances of specific deaths. We have, however, drawn general conclusions relating to the role of the police and the coroner in non-combat deaths. We have continually emphasised that our inquiry was not an alternative to the public inquiry that has been called for by the families of some of the trainees who died at initial training establishments. Instead our intention was to inquire into how effectively the Armed Forces discharge their duty of care to their trainees and, if necessary, to make recommendations for improvements.

Previous work of the Committee

5. Our concern for the welfare of men and women in the Armed Forces is not new. Some of the issues discussed in this report have previously been considered by this Committee, our predecessor Defence Committees, and associated Defence-related Select Committees. In 1988, our predecessors produced a report on Ethnic monitoring and the Armed Forces, which included recommendations to MoD on collecting data, monitoring, harassment and bullying.[7] Similar issues were considered in Defence Committee reports in 1992 and 1993 on the Statements on the Defence Estimates, as well as recommendations on tackling sexual harassment.[8]

6. Our predecessor Committee's report on Military Training, published in September 1994, highlighted several duty of care issues. The report is included in the chronology in Surrey Police's Final Report.[9] Some members of the Defence Committee also served on the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, in 1996, which criticised MoD's lack of progress in relation to recruiting ethnic minority recruits.[10] Our predecessor Defence Committee's report in 1998 on the Strategic Defence Review and particularly its 2001 report, Strategic Defence Review: Policy for People noted improvements to MoD's policies for dealing with some duty of care issues but pressed for further improvement.[11]

Scope of the inquiry

7. Our terms of reference for this inquiry are as follows:

8. We have taken a tri-Service approach to our inquiry. Since the establishment of the post of Director General of Training & Education (DGT&E) in 2002, training policy has become increasingly tri-Service in nature, and it is important to judge whether that change that will result in improvements. However, a substantial amount of the information available has solely related to the Army. The Army is the largest Service, it has the largest training organisation, and it is also the Service in which duty of care concerns have most regularly been raised. A large proportion of this report therefore deals with the Army. Where we have made recommendations we would expect MoD to consider their tri-Service applicability as appropriate.

Conduct of the inquiry

9. We received a substantial amount of written evidence in relation to this inquiry, most of which was supplied by MoD and the Armed Forces. We have noted and welcomed MoD's readiness to assist the Committee and provide us with the information requested. This has not always been the case in the past.[13] Although we acknowledge that we have requested extensive amounts of material from MoD for this inquiry, we are disappointed that on occasions the material provided in response to our requests has been convoluted or ambiguous. We suspect that in many cases this is due to failings in recording or monitoring procedures. We return to this issue later in the report.

10. We received submissions from professional bodies, welfare organisations, academics and other interested parties. We also received written submissions from the families of several of those who have died in initial training establishments and elsewhere in the Services. In addition, we have received submissions from serving and former Service personnel. We are grateful to all those who submitted written evidence, and in particular to those families and individuals who provided us with a personal perspective on some of the particularly disturbing and distressing aspects of this inquiry.

11. We held ten public evidence sessions, during which we heard from 37 witnesses. We held our first oral evidence on 26 May 2004, with Lieutenant General Anthony Palmer, the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel), Rear Admiral Simon Goodall, Director General Training & Education (DGT&E), Colonel David Eccles, Chief of Staff, Army Training and Recruitment Agency (ATRA) and Mr Julian Miller, Director General of Service Personnel Policy, MoD. Over the following months we heard evidence from academics and professional bodies,[14] from welfare providers[15] and the Adult Learning Inspectorate.[16] We took evidence from Mr Dennis O'Connor CBE, formerly Chief Constable and Chief Superintendent Craig Denholm of the Surrey Police. Brigadier Mungo Melvin OBE, Director of Operational Capability, and Group Captain Stephen Howard, RAF, Assistant Director of Operational Capability gave evidence to us, accompanied by Rear Admiral Goodall.

12. Brigadier Melvin and Group Captain Howard provided us with evidence on the three reports into Armed Forces initial training establishments produced by the Directorate of Operational Capability (DOC), which reports to MoD, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) and the Minister for the Armed Forces. DOC's three reports—an appraisal in the autumn of 2002 and two follow-up reappraisals in 2003 and 2004—recommended substantial improvements to be made in the duty of care regimes. We have referred in this report to DOC's reports as DOC(1), DOC(2) and DOC(3).[17]

13. We took evidence from the families of recruits who died at ITC Catterick,[18] and at Deepcut barracks.[19] We also held a public informal meeting with families whose children died overseas, or were no longer trainees, and therefore fell outside the terms of reference of this inquiry, but whose experiences the Committee considered relevant to some of the wider issues. At our final evidence session, on 15 December 2004, we took evidence from the Rt Hon Adam Ingram MP, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Colonel David Eccles, Chief of Staff, ATRA and Martin Fuller, Director, Service Personnel Policy, Service Conditions, Ministry of Defence.

14. We visited 15 training establishments where we met a large number of Service personnel, including recruits, instructors, supervisors, military and civilian welfare staff and officers.[20] Our overall impression of initial training and many of our conclusions and recommendations have been informed by views we heard in the course of these visits. We offered recruits the opportunity to contact us in confidence by e-mail with their experiences of life in initial training. We received three responses to this invitation, but we wish that more serving personnel had felt able to give us their view of initial training. We also visited the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre and the Defence Centre of Training Support at RAF Halton to observe the courses at these establishments. We visited the Peel Centre at Hendon Police College to discuss duty of care issues in a comparable, disciplined service. The Chairman attended the five day Army trainers' course at Lichfield.

15. We commissioned a review of reports into duty of care and related issues from Mr Ivan Zverhanovski of Kings College London, with the aim of identifying common themes and the implementation of recommendations.[21] We are grateful for his contribution to this inquiry; and for the assistance of our specialist advisers: Rear Admiral Richard Cobbold, Professor Cary Cooper, Professor Christopher Dandeker, Professor Michael Kerfoot, Air Vice Marshal Professor Tony Mason, Professor Stephen Palmer and Brigadier Austin Thorp.

1   Q127 Back

2   Ev 235 Back

3   Pte Sean Benton (1995); Pte Cheryl James (1995); Pte Geoff Gray (2001); Pte James Collinson (2002). Back

4   The Deepcut Investigation Final Report, Surrey Police, 2004 hereinafter Surrey Police Final Report. Back

5   Surrey Police Final Report, paras 1.24-1.33, 4.17-4.18. Back

6   Defence Committee press notice, no. 17, 19 March 2004. Back

7   First Report from the Defence Committee, Session 1987-88, Ethnic Monitoring and the Armed Forces, HC 391 Back

8   First Report from the Defence Committee, Session 1992-93, Statement on the Defence Estimates 1992, HC 218; Ninth Report from the Defence Committee, Session 1992-93, Statement on the Defence Estimates 1993, HC 869 Back

9   Ninth Report from the Defence Committee, Session 1993-94, Military Training, HC 93 Back

10   Special Report from the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, Session 1995-96, HC 143 Back

11   Eighth Report from the Defence Committee, Session 1997-98, The Strategic Defence Review, HC 138-I; Second Report from the Defence Committee, Session 2000-01, The Strategic Defence Review: Policy for people, HC 29-I Back

12   Defence Committee press notice, No. 17, 19 March 2004 Back

13   See Third Report from the Defence Committee, Session 2003-04, Lessons of Iraq HC 57-I, paras 17-21 Back

14   Mr Lawrence Waterman, President-Elect and Mr Jeremy Corfield, Corporate Member, Institution of Occupational Health (IOSH); Professor Geoff Chivers, Director, and Mr Tom Mulhall, Director of Security Programmes, Centre for Hazard and Risk Management (Charm), Professor Keith Hawton, Director Centre for Suicide Research and Professor of Psychiatry, Oxford University, and Professor Simon Wessely, Director, Kings' Centre for Military Health Research and Professor of Psychiatry, King's College London; Ms Sandra Caldwell, Director, Field Operations Directorate, Ms Elizabeth Gyngell, Head of Division, Better Working Environment Directorate, Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Back

15   Mrs Denise Murphy, Head of Services & Welfare & Customer Services Director, and Mrs Morag Antrobus, Senior Operations Manager, Services Welfare, Womens Royal Volunteer Service, Commodore Paul Branscombe CBE, Deputy Controller, Service Support and Mrs Kate Burgess OBE, Director of Social Work, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help. Back

16   Mr David Sherlock, Chief Inspector, Ms Lesley Davies, Assistant Director of Inspection, and Ms Barbara Hughes, Inspector, Adult learning Inspectorate. Back

17   Directorate of Operational Capability, Appraisal of Initial Training, December 2002, hereinafter DOC (1); Directorate of Operational Capability, Re-appraisal of Initial Training, July 2003, hereinafter DOC (2); Directorate of Operational Capability DOC Reappraisal of Initial Training (DOC 3) Oct 04, October 2004 hereinafter DOC (3). Back

18   Mrs Lynn Farr, Mrs Janette Mattin, Ms June Sharples, Mrs Claudia Beckley-Lines, and Mr Justin Hugheston-Roberts, Solicitor Advocate, Mssrs Rose Williams and Partners. Back

19   Mr Des and Mrs Doreen James, Mr James and Mrs Yvonne Collinson, and Mr Geoff and Mrs Diane Gray. Back

20   The list of visits is published as Annex A to this report. Back

21   Published as Annex B to this report. Back

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