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Adult Learning Inspectorate

Volume 457: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2007

Today I welcome publication of the second report by the adult learning inspectorate (ALI), into the conduct of initial training in the armed forces. In this report, “Better Training”, the ALI publishes its findings on the progress we have made in improving the initial training environment so as to reduce the risks to, and improve the welfare and wellbeing of, recruits and trainees.

The ALI’s initial review, “Safer Training”, published in March 2005 identified that training in the armed forces, and the care of young people undergoing training, were not sufficiently well managed. The subsequent report of Mr. Blake QC in March 2006 confirmed many of the ALI and, indeed, earlier HCDC findings.

Following publication of “Safer Training”, I gave my full commitment to delivering the improvements necessary to correct this situation; we had to ensure the right balance between robust preparation for frontline duties and the absolute necessity to treat our young people fairly and with due care. I also noted at this time that the transparency provided by independent oversight was vital in demonstrating to the wider community that we seek to improve. To that end, the ALI has continued to have unrestricted access to every aspect of our initial training whilst we have sought to implement the necessary improvements. External inspection has proved to be an extremely beneficial process.

I am pleased to report that substantial improvements have been made everywhere, with some very marked achievements. Against a backdrop of fiercely competing priorities, not least our operational commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have made substantial financial investment to date, with more planned in the coming four years. This investment, over and above that already committed to the training environment, is testament to our resolve. We recognise, however, that money alone will not suffice and have completely overhauled our policies, processes and training, notably for our instructors and commanding officers, to ensure that minimising the risks to trainees’ welfare is a core activity. The scale of our achievement thus far is recognised in “Better Training” and should provide Members of the House and the public with reassurance of the scale and depth of our determination to succeed in this critical area.

We fully recognise that there is still much to do and “Better Training” identifies a number of areas where performance can be improved. We will remain focused on addressing these issues, while maintaining the improvements already achieved. The improvement programme, vigorously pursued from the outset, has been difficult and demanding, but we are now beginning to reap the rewards. I am confident that our armed forces will continue to receive the training they need and deserve; robust in order to fully prepare them for operations, but delivered in an environment that is fair and sensitive to individuals’ needs.

I have today placed copies of “Better Training” in the Library of the House and Members may also access the report at: PolicyAndBusiness/DefenceNewsDaily.

I am grateful to the chief inspector, ALI and his team for assisting us in reviewing the changes that we have made and continue to make in the initial training environment.