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Sunday, 21 May, 2000, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Shell ban under fire
HMS Glasgow
Trainees shout "bang" instead of firing live rounds
An economy drive requiring trainee Royal Navy gunners to shout "bang" instead of firing live shells has been condemned.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said the procedure called into question the quality of their training, even if 5 million was being saved.

Recruits at the land-based HMS Cambridge near Plymouth, Devon, reportedly load shells and set their aim before shouting "bang" into a microphone.



There will be question marks about the quality of their training

Iain Duncan Smith

Mr Duncan Smith told GMTV's Sunday Programme if the claims were true it was neither "laughable" nor "good husbandry of resources".

He added: "I notice in Sierra Leone there are frigates there who are preparing to use their guns in support of British troops, ranges up to 15 or 16 miles which will cover the airport, and they will need to be accurate and well trained.

"If of course the people, let's say in two years' time, coming through are the same ones going "bang" instead of firing their guns there will be question marks about the quality of their training."

Mr Duncan Smith said the ban on live fire training should be seen in the context of the Government cutting 800 million annually from the defence budget.


Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith: unamused by cutbacks

He said there was also an annual 3% "efficiency saving" on top of that - which, he said, "many of us believe is just simply another word for a cut".

He described such a process as "damaging to morale."

The Ministry of Defence has insisted the procedure was standard while the Navy said live firing was no longer necessary and the forces had to give value for money.

The move comes after a series of reports of cutbacks in Britain's armed forces, including claims that navy ships were pulled out of exercises because they cannot afford the fuel.

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See also:

14 May 00 | Africa
UK ships near Sierra Leone
10 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Defence cash shortfall fear
10 Nov 99 | UK
Navy 'facing warship gap'
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