Armed Forces: Diversity and Inclusion

Defence – in the House of Commons on 21st February 2022.

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Photo of Jane Stevenson Jane Stevenson Conservative, Wolverhampton North East

What steps his Department is taking to improve diversity and inclusion in the armed forces.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

The Ministry of Defence puts diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do: we regard it as mission-critical. Our ambition is a 30% inflow of women by 2030. Army recruitment for ethnic minorities is currently at 11.7%. We know that we must build a diverse force to tackle the diverse threats that our nation faces.

Photo of Jane Stevenson Jane Stevenson Conservative, Wolverhampton North East

Improving recruitment in areas such as Wolverhampton would really help diversity in the armed forces. Wolverhampton also has a very high rate of unemployment. What more can the Department do to ensure that every young person in Wolverhampton is aware of the fantastic opportunities open to them in the armed forces?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

I should put it on record that Wolverhampton has a long and very proud tradition of people in the armed forces. What we can do is point out that recruiting is undergoing constant improvement. I invite my hon. Friend to visit her Army recruitment centre on Queen Street in Wolverhampton to celebrate the amazing careers on offer for young people.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Defence)

Improving diversity and inclusion in the armed forces must also mean supporting disabled veterans. The veterans mobility fund closed last year, passing the financial burden to charities such as Help for Heroes to fund essential mobility equipment that is not available on the NHS. As forces charities face funding pressures, does the Minister feel that that decision is fair?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

Of course we face constant pressures, but I should put it on record that we have doubled the amount that normally goes into supporting our magnificent armed forces charities. It is only right that we work in partnership with those magnificent people.

Photo of James Sunderland James Sunderland Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill

On inclusion, the Defence Secretary will be aware that several parliamentarians have been lobbying hard, but privately, to get visa fees abated or preferably culled completely as a function of service. Please may I ask where we are with the consultation and with any announcements that may be forthcoming?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

We acknowledge with gratitude my hon. Friend’s active role in the debate. He should wait for news this week on that issue.