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Armed Forces: Racial Discrimination

Volume 488: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what policies and practices are in place to counter sectarianism and racism in the armed forces. (248689)

[holding answer 19 January 2009]: The armed forces aim to create a working environment free from harassment, intimidation and unlawful discrimination in which everyone is not only valued and respected, but encouraged to realise their full potential, regardless of race, ethnic origin, religion, gender, social background or sexual orientation. All complaints of discrimination or harassment are taken seriously, investigated thoroughly, and, when proven, dealt with robustly.

Education is central to the drive to promote awareness of diversity and equality and to eliminate unacceptable behaviour. Diversity and equality training is undertaken at the Joint Equality and Diversity Training Centre and widely across all three services. Other measures include: confidential advice and support helplines; trained equality and diversity advisers in every unit; guidance, videos and briefings on diversity issues, harassment, bullying and complaints.

A Service Complaints Commissioner for the .Armed Forces took up her appointment on 1 January 2008. The Commissioner has the power to refer allegations of discrimination, harassment, bullying, and dishonest, improper or biased behaviour to the chain of command for action. The role of the Commissioner is to provide scrutiny and assurance that the complaints process is working effectively and that lessons are learned and implemented.