HC Deb 07 December 1998 vol 322 cc5-6
6. Mr. Fabian Hamilton (Leeds, North-East)

What targets his Department has set for increasing recruitment among Britain's ethnic minorities. [61342]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Doug Henderson)

Recruiting goals for this financial year are for 2 per cent. of all new recruits for each service to be from the ethnic communities. Those goals will rise annually by one percentage point until reaching 5 per cent. by financial year 2001–02.

Mr. Hamilton

I thank my hon. Friend for his response. I realise that these are—rightly—demanding targets, but can he tell me what progress is being made towards their achievement?

Mr. Henderson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this important question. I can tell him that a comprehensive recruitment strategy is in place, involving the targeting of communities in which there are greater possibilities of increasing the number of black, Asian and other ethnic recruits. I am pleased to say that that strategy is already showing results. During 1997–98, there was an increase from below 1 per cent. to 1.3 per cent., and between April and September this year the figure increased to 1.8 per cent.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

How does the Minister intend to retain those recruits once they are in the forces?

Mr. Henderson

I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for his helpful contribution. We must try to retain black, Asian and other ethnic recruits in the same way as we retain other recruits: through valuing their contribution to the defence of the nation, looking after them well and trying to improve the conditions in which they operate. The same applies to black, Asian and other ethnic recruits as applies to everyone else.

We must also ensure the provision of an environment that is free of harassment and discrimination. That will be crucial not only to retaining the confidence of those who are already in the services, but to attracting others from those communities to them.