Fatalities in military training a '˜concern', says Portsmouth MP

THE number of deaths and serious injuries among armed forces personnel during training exercises is a '˜concern', armed forces minister Penny Mordaunt has admitted.

Thursday, 3rd March 2016, 6:00 am
An Army recruit in training

The Portsmouth North MP was giving evidence yesterday to the Defence Select Committee as part of an inquiry into the government’s duty of care to military personnel.

This comes after figures revealed a total of 134 people have died while on training across all three branches of the UK’s military since 2000.

During the inquiry at the House of Commons. committee chairman Madeleine Moon said there was a ‘blasé’ attitude towards safety during exercises.

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‘We have been told that there is a higher rate of injury and fatalities while practising for war than in combat,’ the Labour MP said.

Responding, Ms Mordaunt explained the government did all it could to mitigate risks, but said illnesses such as an undiagnosed heart condition – the cause of some fatalities – were hard to judge.

She added: ‘Unless you have training that is rigorous enough and also exposes people to the kinds of things they will experience in theatre, you are failing in your duty of care to them on operations, which is why we support live fire exercises.

‘If you don’t take some risk in training, you pile on risks in your theatre of operations.’

Ms Mordaunt disagreed with the comment about there being a ‘blasé’ attitude towards safety. She said she visited military training establishments on a weekly basis and was ‘generally impressed’ with the safety culture.

However, when asked by Mrs Moon whether she was concerned about the death rates on exercise, the Tory minister said: ‘Yes, I am concerned about that.’

Questions were asked of General Sir Richard Barrons, Commander of Joint Forces Command, over whether the pace of conflicts in the Middle East had contributed to the death toll in training.

He said this wasn’t the case and told the committee training had to be tough to properly prepare troops for the reality of frontline fighting.

‘It is fundamentally important to the health and effectiveness of the armed forces that training is set to the level that warfare demands and not conditioned to one particular source of operation,’ he said.

To do this, he added, would be a ‘huge error’.

Of the 134 to die during training, eight were from the Royal Navy, with 15 in the Royal Marines. The army has suffered 89 deaths since 2000, while 22 people serving with the RAF died while on exercise.