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Army Ends Zero-Tolerance Drugs Policy

The policy was introduced last November by former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Anonymous British soldiers boots

The Defence Secretary has confirmed government plans to scrap a zero-tolerance approach to drugs within the Army.

Ben Wallace told the Conservative Party conference in Manchester it should be up to commanding officers and not the Government to expel personnel who have tested positive for drug use.

In November 2018, then-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson introduced a zero-tolerance drugs policy to the Army, saying such substances were "incompatible" with a "world-class military".

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has now removed the policy, suggesting young officers dismissed from the armed forces for taking drugs could be given a second chance.

Anonymous British soldier
Before the introduction of the zero-tolerance drug policy in November, those dismissed for illegal drug use were able to rejoin after two years (Picture: Crown Copyright).

"I took the view that some people are young and irresponsible, and it should be up to their commanding officers to decide... whether they should be allowed to remain in the Armed Forces or not," Mr Wallace said.

"People who have left and want to rejoin, the same should apply to them as well.

"That doesn't mean to say you should be able to do drugs in the Armed Forces."

The decision as to whether Army personnel should continue serving after committing the offence now lies with military staff.

When pushed on what limits will be imposed, Mr Wallace added that individuals should be allowed to remain in the Army "if it is appropriate".

Whether personnel had medical problems or had made a "mistake" were also mentioned by Mr Wallace as points for consideration.

The decision to scrap the policy shortly follows the introduction of a smoking ban for recruits at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate - the service's principle training centre.

Earlier this year, the Government was accused of "running down" the British military after figures showed a decrease in trained personnel across the services.

Data published by the Ministry of Defence showing the full-time trained strength of the Army was 74,440 as of 1 July, compared to the workforce requirement of 82,000 - a deficit of 9.2%.