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Strategic Equality Objectives

Volume 634: debated on Monday 15 January 2018

The MOD increasingly strives to become a more diverse and inclusive organisation. The defence diversity and inclusion strategy is currently being reviewed to ensure it is continuing to have the desired impact on the organisation. I look forward to publishing a paper later this year.

Having more diverse armed forces clearly adds to their effectiveness, but, unfortunately, the latest figures show that the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic regular personnel has risen only 0.5% since 2015. What specific initiatives does the MOD have to improve on this?

The hon. Lady will be aware of the latest advertising campaign that is going through. She is absolutely right that, if we are to reflect society, we must be able to recruit from right across society, and that includes BAME people and women as well. We have this target of 10% for BAME and 15% for women by 2020, and I hope we will achieve that.

I strongly support the Minister’s ambition to encourage more BAME people and women to join the armed forces, but what has led him to the conclusion that the new advertising campaign to which he alluded a moment ago, which is rather less than robust in my view, will be any more successful in doing that than the good old-fashioned “Be the Best”?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s question. He will be aware that the “Be the Best” campaign continues, but he will also be aware that we must recruit from a diverse footprint. That means that we have to dispel some of the messages that are out there, and that is exactly what this new campaign is seeking to do.

What assurances can the Minister give workers in Rosyth, in my constituency, about the future work programme for the dockyard there, following the carrier completion contracts? Would he be able to meet me in the constituency to discuss that future work programme with unions and the management?

Order. I struggle to identify the relationship between the question posed and that of which the House was treating, but I will charitably attribute this to my inability fully to hear the hon. Gentleman. If the Minister wishes to blurt out an extremely brief reply, I think we should indulge the fella.

I hope I never blurt out anything in this Chamber, Mr Speaker, but I will say with courtesy to the hon. Gentleman that, if he would like to meet my hon. Friend the new procurement Minister, I am sure they can come to some arrangement.

That all sounds very encouraging. Now, on the matter of equality and diversity, let us hear from a Lincolnshire knight.

Of course the armed forces should be welcoming and open to all, irrespective of their gender, race or sexuality, but is it not better to state this in general terms? After all, we are all part of a minority—as you have alluded to, Mr Speaker, I am part of many minorities in my views—and the armed forces should be representative of the whole nation.

They should be, and that is why, even within the time of this Government, we have seen the number of women in one-star postings or above increase from 10 to 20, for example, and why we have opened up every role in the armed forces to women as well.