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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Army bullying watchdog proposed
Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram
Mr Ingram said he would consider 'an independent element'
An independent watchdog could help to oversee complaints of bullying in the armed forces, the government has said.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said he was prepared to consider proposals for "an independent element" to be involved in the complaints process.

The proposals will be brought forward when the government introduces its Armed Forces Bill later this year.

Mr Ingram said that while the current rules were "comprehensive", he was "sympathetic" to calls for change.

At a Ministry of Defence news conference, he said: "A comprehensive redress procedure already exists, whereby complaints can be considered at successively higher levels.

"Also, in April of this year, we introduced changes intended to harmonise complaints procedures across the services and the MoD civil service.

"I'm sympathetic, however, to the arguments for introducing an independent element to the complaints system. There are several models for this and we are giving these further consideration".

Training 'must improve'

His comments follow an independent report in March which found the risk of bullying, self-harm, injury and early drop-out by recruits at armed forces' training centres remained "too high".

The Adult Learning Inspectorate urged training to be "better managed, better organised and better controlled".

The report was commissioned following the deaths of four soldiers at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey between 1995 and 2002.

The Commons defence select committee reached similar conclusions in its report published a week earlier, accusing the Army of failing in its handling of bullying.

Adult Learning said the armed forces' own data showed about one in 10 military personnel - or 20,000 across the three services - had suffered bullying or harassment.

"Much of this is condoned as 'traditional', even though it is officially forbidden," it said.

"The newest recruits, women and people from minority ethnic groups are particularly vulnerable."

Mr Ingram said at the time that both reports would be acted upon.

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