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Sexual Harassment against Women in the Military

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 13 July 2022

We are doing a huge range of work right across defence, both institutional and cultural, to ensure that sexual harassment is not an issue. We have taken the complaints procedure out of the chain of command, and established the Defence Serious Crime Unit to tackle any criminal wrongdoing. We will introduce training right across defence to ensure that we generate a military culture that respects women. That is all the more important because women can now serve in every single role.

If the Minister has not already done so, I recommend that he make contact with the excellent organisation Salute Her, which I visited in North Tyneside. It supports women veterans, many of whom suffered sexual abuse in the armed forces, and their stories are harrowing. I remind the Minister that, shockingly, a recent Ministry of Defence survey showed that one in seven women in the armed forces has been subject to sexual harassment in the past 12 months alone. What more can he do to work with colleagues throughout the armed forces to root out that dreadful culture?

I have met Salute Her, and we pay attention to its recommendations. The work being done following the Wigston review is hugely important, and I commend the work done by my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton). That body of work, and the recommendations that we have overwhelmingly accepted, will be carried out at pace across defence.

I remain extremely concerned about the plight of LGBTQ+ service people who before 2001 were routinely court-martialled,

dismissed, or lost their pensions or the right to wear their medals and so on. That is bad enough, but it remains the case today. What more can the Minister do to put that demonstrable injustice right? It is no good setting up a committee—we want it sorted.

I share my hon. Friend’s frustration. The Government look forward to the recommendations of the independent reviewer, Lord Etherton. They will be credible, and we will take them very seriously.