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Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons the UK is not participating in the Erasmus military officer training programme. (269192)

The European Initiative on the Exchange of Young Officers Inspired by Erasmus, sometimes known as military Erasmus, is focussed on European exchanges at the initial officer level.

The UK’s initial training for officers is conducted at separate single service institutions. These three different courses all last approximately one academic year. The training has a strong focus on UK specific elements such as legal issues and specialist equipment training, with the aim to prepare officers for the next stage in their training on more specialist military courses. It would therefore not be practical to train officers at other nations’ institutions.

The importance of education in international issues is recognised and is included in initial training for junior officers, but is covered in more depth later as officers’ careers begin to include more staff appointments and as they begin to attend staff officer training such as the Intermediate Command and Staff Course, typically undertaken between the ages of 29 and 32. Similarly the higher proportion of, and the opportunity for, exchange training for UK officers comes later in officers’ careers.

While the UK acknowledges the Erasmus initiative as a method of improving the understanding and awareness of other nations’ services and cultures, we do not wish to participate in current circumstances for the practical reasons outlined above.