Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 6 DECEMBER 2000
SPELLAR MP AND
100. Could we have the figures again?
(Mr Spellar) Yes, of course. The Army
is at 2.2%. That is a dramatic increase I have to say and moving
upwards. I do not have the percentage for the Navy but it has
been a 34% increase in take-up, and the RAF is a take-up figure
of 13.9%. There are big differences across the three Services
but all of them are indicating a considerable interest. I will
ask Air Marshal Pledger to talk about the involvement or engagement
or the role played by the CO in that, but actually all the indications
are that this has been an initiative that has been welcomed, and
one that has been increasingly taken up. We will be looking at
how this moves in the next couple of years to see what further
developments take place. It does enable people to acquire more
qualifications but it should not be seen just on its own. It is
part of an overall package of enabling people to take portable
qualifications, ones they can take out into civilian life, let
alone improving their own qualifications and aspirations as well.
I think it is moving along. One can always ask, "Can more
be done?" and I am sure that there can, particularly in terms
of the explosion that is taking place in distance learning. It
is quite interesting to see that people, particularly when they
are deployed overseas, are undertaking periods of study while
they are doing that as well. So I think there are a number of
encouraging trends and we will obviously need to evaluate those
as we move through them.
(Air Marshal Pledger) The numbers you were given relate
specifically to the take-up of SLAs. They do not relate to the
number of people involved in accumulating what I would call "transferable"
skills, which is considerably greater, not least because basic
recruiting now covers features like key skills and basic skills
which all have NVQ equivalents so they are transferable. The majority
of our training courses are accredited by one body or another
and again give individuals transferrable skills.
101. What sort of body?
(Air Marshal Pledger) There are 25 different
awarding bodies out there in the United Kingdom and I know that
the Royal Navy, for example, uses every one of them, but City
& Guilds is a classic example.
102. If I was in the Services and I did one of
your courses as an electrician and used that service for you,
would that be the equivalent when I came out to allow me to work
as an electrician in the civilian sector?
(Air Marshal Pledger) Again, as I say,
if there was an identification in the civil sector at that level,
yes, it would. We are trying to accredit things in that way but
I cannot say that every one of our courses are devised to give
you a qualification for civil employment. We are simply saying
that where they can be or where components of them can be accredited
to civil qualifications, then they are.
(Mr Spellar) The answer on your electrician is yes,
but I think what has been important is that there are a whole
number of areas of skill which our people acquire during the course
of Service life which did not have that necessary civilian equivalent
in the way that electricians do, but where we have been in discussions
in order to be able to get certificated recognition of the skills
that people have acquired which then gives them a much more portable
qualification that they can take when they go back into civilian
life. That has been quite a significant development from the traditional
skills and the qualifications for those.
103. You could not do a course for a prospective
bouncer for £145. I would be interested to know what you
get for your new figure, Minister. It does not get you a Master's
Degree in business adminstration.
(Mr Spellar) It is, of course, cumulative
which means over a period of years you can get a more substantial
figure in order to be able to deal with it.
104. The Air Marshal said "where we can".
We should be saying, should we not, "where we should"?
Service life is like a footballer; unless you get a lot of stuff
on your shoulders, you are out fairly early and you have got a
life to live and, therefore, we should be equipping people as
part of our recruitment and retention to know that when they come
out of the Services they have got a recognised skill they can
sell in the private sector.
(Air Marshal Pledger) I think I also
said there are basic and key skills that everybody will get that
have got NVQ equivalents. I would also draw your attention to
our re-settlement process which fits people for employment after
retirement from the Armed Services.
Chairman: Could you stay for five more
minutes, Minister. Laura Moffatt?
105. Firstly, forgive me for being late, I was
detained elsewhere. I bet when you saw Julian Brazier leave, you
thought you had got away with the Reserves thing, did you not?
No; it is down to me. I wanted to ask a couple of key questions,
if I may, just in the last five minutes. I do not think my local
TA centre, 103 REME, would forgive me if I did not raise the issue
of training days in our Reserves. Could you tell us what is happening
there? They would argue that there has been a reduction and that
they are suffering and they want to do more. When we go out in
Kosovo and Bosnia we seen them fitting in extremely well and we
want them to continue that job, and, clearly, training is very
much a part of that. I wonder if you have something to say on
(Mr Spellar) Indeed they do and the Reserves
provide something like 10% of our forces in Bosnia. There are
balances going on between different units and the allocation of
that. Certainly we can look at the individual case and we would
be more than happy to see where the area of difficulty is arising.
In a number of those specialist units I think it fair to say that
we have put quite a bit of new equipment in, certainly in some
of those I have visited, and it is not because I have been directed
to visit the ones where equipment has got in. There have been
upgrades and they are working on more relevant equipment and therefore
equipment that trains them for the work they would be undertaking
with the Services. But we can certainly look at any individual
ones as to the difficulties on training days.
106. I think there would be a few of us that
would love you to do that, if you do not mind. I know that officer
training is something that they are experiencing difficulty with
and I think the target is only about a third of those that should
be going through that programme are doing so. What is the problem
(Air Marshal Pledger) Specifically in
107. Particularly in reserves. If you cannot
answer now it would be great to have a note on that.
(Air Marshal Pledger) Who are not given
the opportunity or who are not available?
108. Probably both but if you can let us know
we would be most grateful. It seems that the reserves do extremely
well with recruitment. I think they do better than the regular
forces. Are there any initiatives to understand why that is or
if there is anything that the regular forces can learn from our
reserve forces? I think that visibility is one of those issues.
It is crucial to see them in and around town. I am so pleased
in Crawley when I see uniformed people walking about. That is
a very important move and an influence on recruitment. The open
days are also tremendously successful and provide a real shop
window for not only what the reserves can offer but ultimately
the regular forces. Is there any co-operation between the two
(Air Marshal Pledger) There is no significant
difference in what I would call the local level of recruiting
process between the TA and the regular Army for example. Much
of it goes down to the particular CO and they use their resources
prudently in order to attract these individuals. Yes, I think
a lot of reserve units currently are fully manned but, of course,
that is at a time when there has been a declining number, whereas
we are in a slightly different situation in the regular forces
where we are building up, so the challenges are not necessarily
109. What about sharing best practice? You said
it was crucial on the part of COs.
(Air Marshal Pledger) I referred earlier
to the Adjutant General's initiative in regional recruiting whereby
he is doing exactly that. It is not just between the TA and the
regulars but between regulars in that particular region to make
sure we are taking best practice, and he did report against that
when he appeared last time.
Laura Moffatt: Thank you.
110. Thank you. I should congratulate you, Minister.
Your Opposition campaign on regulating wheel clamping is coming
to fruition in the Queen's Speech.
(Mr Spellar) Only eight years after I
first introduced it.
Chairman: You latched on to my private
security regulation which is 27 years so you have got away very
easily with waiting eight years. Thank you very much for coming.
It is a fabulously interesting subject and one that is as important
or more important than any other we consider. We appreciate the
briefings we have had over the last few months and the way in
which you have presented your case this afternoon. Thank you very