HC Deb 28 June 1988 vol 136 cc187-8
11. Mr. Knapman

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received seeking further action to combat bullying in the Army.

Mr. Freeman

I have received no such representations since I announced the measures to combat bullying to the House on 26 January. I last made a statement on progress in implementing these measures on 7 June.

Mr. Knapman

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and for the steps that he has taken to date. Will he say what are the costs involved and how many allegations of bullying have been made?

Mr. Freeman

The full cost of implementing the measures that I announced is approximately £2 million per annum. The Ministry of Defence has not shrunk from allocating the necessary resources for dealing with the problem. Over the past 18 months there have been about 130 allegations of bullying, of which 104 were investigated and 60-odd were found to be completely without foundation.

Mr. Bernie Grant

Is the Minister aware that two of the most obnoxious forms of bullying in the Army are racial harassment and racial abuse? In view of the recent exposure of the practice in the Army, what does he intend to do about it?

Mr. Freeman

I agree with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's statement. Racial harassment and racial discrimination are obnoxious. The Government's position has been made crystal clear on that subject. No racial harassment or discrimination is permitted or tolerated in the British armed forces.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a clear distinction between bullying and teasing, and will he assure the House that his Department will always carefully evaluate allegations of bullying in that light?

Mr. Freeman

Yes. I agree with my hon. Friend, but I am sure that he would not wish to suggest that bullying is something that the British Army should tolerate. It is absolutely obnoxious and unnecessary. One does not need to bully people in order to draw the best out of them and instil in them a sense of self-discipline.

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