HC Deb 03 April 1996 vol 275 cc264-5W
Mr. Soley

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review the alcohol awareness policy for the armed forces(a) in the United Kingdom, (b) in Cyprus and (c) in other overseas ports; and if he will make a statement. [24473]

Mr. Soames

The armed forces have a comprehensive alcohol awareness policy. Each service has in place a comprehensive system of education and training on alcohol-related problems. Pamphlets, films and lectures are used to make all personnel aware of the dangers of abuse. Education on alcohol abuse is given to all new recruits on entry and this is continued in units regularly and prior to deployment overseas. Commanding officers are encouraged to limit the number of bars in their units, and opening hours are controlled and monitored. Instructions are published regularly in unit orders to remind personnel of their responsibilities in these matters and the pursuit of sport and other leisure activities is actively encouraged as a means of preventing personnel becoming bored and spending too much time in bars. Officers and non-commissioned officers are trained to recognise symptoms of abuse and all three services offer rehabilitation programmes for those with alcohol-related problems.

Misconduct in relation to alcohol is dealt with as a disciplinary issue. Drunkenness is a specific offence under the Service Discipline Acts and charges are brought where appropriate.

The policy applies equally at home and overseas, but local commanders may carry out additional awareness training as may be necessary to cover local conditions.

In Cyprus all new arrivals, service, civilians and dependants over 18, as well as all visiting personnel and units, are briefed on the dangers of alcohol abuse. This message is reinforced regularly through a rolling programme of alcohol abuse briefings, through routine orders and other orders and the chain of command. The Soldiers, Sailors and Air Force Association further reinforces this message through an active command health promotion programme. The commander, British forces Cyprus keeps the policy on alcohol abuse under constant review, imposing, as necessary, restrictions such as out-of-bounds arrangements or requirements for personnel to sign out and sign in when leaving and returning to barracks in off-duty time. In the wake of the Louise Jensen trial, the commander, British forces Cyprus has begun a full and radical review of what more might be done.

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