HC Deb 09 February 1998 vol 306 cc8-9
6. Mr. Boswell

If he will make a statement on recent changes in the level of educational attainment by armed forces personnel. [26100]

Mr. Spellar

Service in the armed forces offers many thousands of young men and women the opportunity to obtain educational, professional and trade-related skills and qualifications which will serve them in good stead through life. While there has been no significant change in the recent levels of educational achievement, all three services continue to promote a varied and comprehensive range of training and education opportunities for their personnel.

Mr. Boswell

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he agree that over the years the armed forces have built an enviable record in the education, training and motivation of young adults coming from widely varying prior levels of attainment? Does he feel that it might even be appropriate to consider sharing some of their experience with both his and their civilian counterparts, and that there may be something for the rest of the education sector to learn from what they have achieved?

Mr. Spellar

On behalf of the services, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his tribute to their work. We have one of the best-trained work forces in the country, if not the world. We are also looking at undertaking more work with youngsters and, from September 1998, the Army foundation college at Harrogate will accept school leavers. There has been a great deal of extremely good work, particularly in educational techniques. If they can be applied elsewhere, it will be a tribute to the work carried out in the forces over a number of years.

Mr. Maginnis

Will Ministers ensure that consideration is given to any new proposals in respect of the relative periods that the Royal Irish Regiment spends on operational duties, training and leave so that soldiers who have spent 28 years on continuous operational duties are better able to benefit from the educational opportunities available to other regiments?

Mr. Spellar

Yes. Tours of duty are being considered as a key part of the strategic defence review and we shall bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's comments in the light of that.