HL Deb 08 March 2004 vol 658 cc64-6WS
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach)

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Defence (Mr Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The chief constable of the Surrey Police has today published his report following the completion of the police examinations into wider issues identified during police investigations into the deaths of Privates Sean Benton, Cheryl James, Geoff Gray and James Collinson at the Princess Royal Barracks Deepcut between 1995 and 2002. We welcome the conclusion of the police investigation and the report. The report makes recommendations which we are considering carefully. I intend to make a further announcement on this subject in the near future.

Each of these four deaths was an individual tragedy in its own right and we very much regret the loss of these young lives. The police report acknowledges that we have been working energetically to ensure that lessons have been learnt and to improve the Army's care regime. It concludes by recommending that the Ministry of Defence considers a broader inquiry into how the care regime can be further improved and to provide assurance that the momentum that has developed will be sustained.

As the report highlights, one key element of the work we have undertaken has been the Army learning account, which is a continuous record of lessons learnt and the action taken as a result. The report also refers to work undertaken by the Directorate of Operational Capability (DOC) into the care of recruits in initial training, which I published last year. This was followed some five months later by a further report assessing progress in implementing recommendations (Hansard 10 February 2003 col. 35WS, and 16 July 2003 col. 42WS).

We are committed to continuous improvement in the training and care regime, and will look carefully at what benefits a broader investigation might offer and what form such an investigation might take.

The Army has co-operated fully with the Surrey police throughout all their investigations, and we have been as open as possible with the families within the constraints imposed on us by the ongoing police investigation. In recognition of the degree of parliamentary interest in the Deepcut deaths, the chief constable has asked that copies of his report be placed in the Libraries of both Houses: I am making the necessary arrangements to do so.