Armed Forces: Drugs

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 13th July 2021.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what the rules are on dismissal of Service personnel for a single offence of drug abuse; if he will list the criteria for allowing a second chance before dismissal; whether there is a consistent policy on dismissal for a first offence across all (a) units and (b) Services; what provision is made for personnel summarily dismissed to access a standardised, monitored and evaluated care pathway giving the individual time to find alternative (i) accommodation and (ii) employment; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) deems substance misuse within the Armed Forces unacceptable. It threatens the efficiency and discipline of the Services, where individual responsibility and teamwork are essential to operate highly technical, expensive, and potentially lethal equipment. The Services campaign against substance misuse and have a comprehensive education programme to inform personnel of the dangers and consequences of substance misuse, including dismissal. This is complemented by the Compulsory Drug Testing programme that reinforces our stance that substance misuse is not be tolerated.

A standard tri-Service policy governing the handling of substance misuse is in place across the Armed Forces via Joint Service Publication (JSP) 835: Alcohol and Substance Misuse and Testing:

Personnel who misuse substances will be removed from the Services by disciplinary or administrative means following a single offence, except in exceptional circumstances where it is determined that the retention of an individual is desirable and achievable. There are no plans to change the current zero tolerance policy.

Personnel dismissed from Service for substance misuse are able to access pastoral and welfare support via their unit and retain access to their Service accommodation up to the point of dismissal. Unless there are individual circumstances which may mean the individual becomes a burden on the state once they are discharged, dismissal is swift. If an individual has particular health needs, including mental health needs, the process can be slowed to ensure smooth transition into NHS care. Access to Defence Transition Services, which provides tailored advice and support, is also retained following dismissal.

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