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Vow over culture of drinking in armed forces

A DEFENCE minister vowed to curb a culture of "drinking to the point of oblivion" in the armed forces as she faced calls to scrap subsidised alcohol in military bars.

Anna Soubry said her fears about the impact of drink had been heightened by the suicide of one serving member.

She told MPs she was not a killjoy and recognised from her time as a barrister that people with stressful jobs needed to let their hair down.

However, she said the "vast amounts" consumed by the armed forces were unacceptable and must be scaled back.

During a hearing of the defence select committee, she said: "I am not convinced that we couldn't do more about the culture of drinking in our armed forces.

"I'm not some killjoy. But sometimes there has been an attitude in the past that it was acceptable, as part of that destressing process, to all go out and consume vast amounts of alcohol as part of that camaraderie and that letting down of the hair."

She suggested that her determination to act had been strengthened by the death of a serving member of the armed forces.

Pressed on what specific action she would take, she said a senior commander's guide to alcohol was to be refreshed in the light of research into alcohol abuse in the armed forces which was due to be published soon.

However, she acknowledged that a cultural shift could not be encouraged purely by rules and regulations.

She said: "You can't just put out edicts to change a culture."

Labour MP Madeleine Moon said ending the "high level of subsidy" enjoyed at military bars would contribute to curbing consumption.

She said she got the "fright of my life" when she was charged only £1 for a triple gin and tonic while visiting forces in the Falkland Islands two years ago.

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