Armed Forces: Racial Discrimination

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 23rd June 2020.

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Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what estimate he has made of the number of reported complaints of racist incidents in the Armed Forces between (a) 2015 - 2016, (b) 2016 - 2017, (c) 2017 - 2018, (d) 2018 - 2019, and (e) 2019 - to 17 June 2020.

Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) recognises that unacceptable behaviour, including racism, still occurs. MOD and the UK Armed Forces are committed to taking action to eradicate it and have a zero-tolerance approach. Defence, like many other organisations, does not yet represent society and it is essential that it does. We recognise that the pace of change needs to quicken; that is why we are renewing our levels of ambition at the highest levels in Defence as we work to fulfil the key objective in our 2018-2030 Diversity and Inclusion Strategy to eliminate discrimination and improve diversity throughout Defence. We continue to implement all the recommendations made by Air Chief Marshal Wigston in his 2019 review into inappropriate behaviour.

All allegations of illegal or unacceptable behaviour are taken extremely seriously and investigated thoroughly; Service personnel have a number of routes to raise the issue, either with the police, within the Chain of Command or with Diversity and Inclusion Advisers. MOD is working to prevent unacceptable behaviour from occurring in the first place and has also designed an Active Bystander training so that personnel have the skills to challenge unacceptable behaviour effectively when it does occur.

The requested information is not available in the format requested and an answer could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Allegations of racism are captured through various mechanisms, including internal and external disciplinary proceedings, the Service Complaints system, informal complaints and the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey. Defence is working to improve its data capture of all unacceptable behaviour across the department.

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces (SCOAF)'s annual report does not provide a full picture for ascertaining levels of racism in the Armed Forces. The Ombudsman's report deals with issues of overrepresentation by BAME complainants, but these complaints do not only concern racial discrimination. However, information from the single Services' annual statistical returns on Service Complaints to the SCOAF indicates that in 2019, five per cent of all bullying, harassment or discrimination Service Complaints concerned racial discrimination.

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