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Women in the Armed Forces

Volume 709: debated on Monday 21 February 2022

Women are an integral part of our armed forces and have thriving careers. The Defence Committee’s report on women in the armed forces made a number of important recommendations. Having tested them, the Ministry of Defence’s own service women’s network has adopted almost all the recommendations and in many cases has taken them further.

Women serving in the forces alongside their husband or partner have lost out on their military accommodation when they have reported incidents of domestic violence, because the Army has prioritised the needs of the male soldier. Women have also missed out on promotions or career opportunities as a result of reporting. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that victims of domestic violence are not further victimised by armed forces processes when they are brave enough to make a report against a serving soldier?

I am saddened to hear what the hon. Lady says. I would be delighted to meet her to discuss it; if she brings along the detail of the examples to which she refers, I will be very happy to sort this. No one should be disadvantaged for making a service complaint, or indeed a criminal complaint, whether they are male or female. We do not in any way tolerate domestic abuse or sexual abuse in the armed forces.

May I pay tribute to the appointment and work of our defence attaché in Vietnam, Bea Walcot, who may be taking up another south-east Asian appointment before long? Does the Defence Secretary agree that there is huge potential for women in such roles, which combine diplomacy and procurement as well as armed forces expertise?

Some of our best ambassadors are women, and I hope that soon even more of our best defence attachés will be women. Defence engagement is an extremely important part of defence. The defence Command Paper committed to investing in that network, not only with better infrastructure, but with better training and support. She does a fantastic job. I would like to see many more; I also think that it is a great career opportunity.