HC Deb 15 March 1999 vol 327 cc506-7W
Mr. Salter

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on steps taken to curb the activities of neo-Nazi groups reported to have infiltrated sections of the British armed forces. [75987]

Mr. Doug Henderson

[holding answer 11 March 1999]: Since coming to office we have made very clear our policy on zero tolerance for racism in the Armed Forces. Our priority is for the development of an organisational culture which welcomes racial diversity. Our policies, applied rigorously and reinforced by strong leadership from the Service Chiefs, are designed to ensure that racism is eliminated.

All personnel, of whatever rank, need to understand that there is no home or hiding place for racist attitudes or behaviour. This must be understood not only by serving personnel but also by potential recruits and society generally. The Armed Forces, as a major institution and public body, are taking a clear stand on this. Prejudice, when encountered, is being challenged. Those who transgress the high standards required are, and will continue to be, dealt with firmly. This will include discharge if appropriate.

It has long been the policy of the Armed Forces that Service life precludes membership of, or support for, groups or organisations whose purpose includes incitement to racial hatred and violence. All three Services already have in place regulations and instruction which give clear guidance to the Chain of Command on the rules, grounds and process governing membership of groups which is incompatible with Service life. This morning, each Service Chief has written to the Command Chain to remind them of the powers and procedures that are available to them and to ensure they are applied in all appropriate circumstances.

We are continuing to place a high priority on robust awareness training in equal opportunities. Racial equality is an integral part of this; and we have made it mandatory for all senior officers of Brigadier and equivalent level and above to receive such training. Training for remaining personnel has also been strengthened and is being kept under constant review to ensure our priorities are fully reflected and brought to the attention of all personnel at every opportunity.