Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 110)



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.

Mr Cann

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?

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 that.

  (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 there?

  (Air Marshal Pledger) Specifically in reservists?

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 on recruitment?

  (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 identical.

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 much.

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